Tag Archives: faith

Ego, The River of Life and God

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

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.

The Silent Harm of Believing Ourselves Merely to Be Bodies

Since the onset of the scientific era, literate humans have, over the centuries, come to view ourselves as merely bodies occupying space on the Earth as it travels through what we call “outer space.” We’ve amassed a vast body of published ideas shared widely among those who learn to read.  These ideas contain biases and assumptions we rarely question but instead allow to point us ever outward in a relentless exploration of expansively more outer space.  Which ideas are published and made available to the public is, for the most part, determined by a publication industry that has adopted the same biases and assumptions, resulting in the continuing promotion of biased reporting of ideas, not the diet of vigorously robust, broad-ranging ideas upon which the human mind may feed to thrive and grow stronger.  As a result, our minds are starving for more nourishment than typical publications provide.

Our mental diet is anemic, lacking in vital nutrients necessary to sustain humanity’s existence. Why?  Because we are not merely bodies but have unquestioningly adopted the assumption that we are.  This silent assumption neglects the features of humanity that are not physical and promotes violence towards our physical health as well.  We are neglecting our wholeness because of our assumptions in favor of the false primacy of our physicality.  We still have time to free ourselves of this deadly trend and reverse the harm it has caused.  In challenging the assumption that we are merely bodies we will discover the healing and restoration of wholeness that we need and so desperately desire.  We can remain literate without remaining ignorant of the more holistic truths that will set us free from violence and its harm.

As a consequence of the assumptions upon which our current focus of literacy is based, we’ve become convinced that the ultimate truths most essential for understanding life await to be discovered “out there” by someone bold enough to go “there” personally or by some form of technology. In the process we’ve become enamored with technology and our ever increasing capacity to see and explore beyond the Earth as well as into features of Earth both at macro- and micro-physical dimensions.  We spend billions of dollars based on the biases and assumptions unquestioned within our materialistic, scientific viewpoint on life.  Sciences tend to examine the outer, physical world in greater and greater scope and detail without questioning whether we may be overlooking other areas of inquiry vital to our understanding of life.

In relatively recent times, scientific investigations have turned to seeking greater understanding of our minds. Our minds are not assumed to be “out there” beyond us but instead to be somehow “in here,” within of us.  Some investigate the mind as an individual phenomenon inherent in each person.  Some investigate the individual mind as having a capacity to connect with other individual minds so as, perhaps, to form a collective, single mind of all humanity. Where might individual minds and a collective mind exist, if they exist? “Out there” or “in here?” The investigation of the mind’s nature includes studies of the physical organ, the brain, that we associate with our mind.  But many investigators do not assume that the mind is limited to the brain.  How the brain relates to the phenomenon we call “mind” remains a mystery we continue to explore.  But at least the study of the mind has caused scientific investigative methods to no longer be applied only to exploring “out there.”  Now, we use scientific methods to explore the possibility of a realm of experience “in here.”

The expansion of science into exploring the possibilities of “in here” has brought science and mysticism into closer communication and proximity. It might challenge scientists to call science “scienticism” in parallel with mysticism to demote it from the sacred pedestal upon which we’ve set science for centuries. Might it be possible that scientific methods are no more and no less reliable a means for discovering truth than mystic methods?  Might the assumption that mystic methods are inherently unreliable be a product of the biases and assumptions that arose during the dawn of science in medieval times and now be in need of re-examination? Do we really want biases inherent in science since its birth to rule our world today? Might scienticism be the way of the left brain (analysis) while mysticism be the way of the right brain (intuition)?  Might we more completely understand life if we were to honor both as avenues of discovery and blend their inputs into an integrated whole?

The birth of science coincided with the onset of published ideas during a period of human history when we assumed many things that we’ve since proven to be incorrect. For example, we no longer believe the Earth to be flat nor the center of the Universe.  We have recognized the role of previously undetected “invisible” micro-organisms in the transmission of diseases, the digestion of nutrients and the recycling of debris.  Simultaneously our means of publication have evolved as have the scope of ideas included within the “sciences.”  Yet have we failed to examine the possibility that becoming capable of reading published science-biased ideas and incorporating them into our daily thinking may blind us to other avenues of exploration and to truths not discoverable through science?  Might it reflect an unhelpful bias to characterize all “nonscientific” methods and ideas as “superstitions?’  What if the past centuries of examining all things physical and material in greater detail and scope has drawn us unwittingly away from other means of investigating truths that are not limited to the physical world “out there” and more likely to discover important features of the nonphysical world “in here?”

My proposition is that we’ve become blind to the value of what might be called “nonscientific” methods of inquiry that are of great value to humanity’s understanding of life and promise to reveal truths essential to the long-term welfare of humanity. Do we really need to wait for scientists to conduct research based on research methods biased by centuries of unexamined assumptions about the material nature of life?  Suppose we stopped assuming that we are merely bodies and bundles of atoms structured together to create the physical systems of which our bodies are composed. Suppose we attribute to life other qualities than physical and material, qualities that must be sensed by means not currently developed by any form of science?  Might we not make more rapid advances in understanding essential truths about life that would save humanity from extinction and save Earth as a habitat fit for life in all forms? Suppose humanity is a habitat for divinity that we’ve allowed ourselves to appreciate too little because of the assumption that we are merely bodies.

I offer these alternative propositions because I believe that we need to consider them for the sake of our children’s future. I ask questions and offer alternative ideas on behalf of the minority of humans who currently do experience ourselves as more than mere bodies. There is a minority who truly experience themselves as forms of energy not adequately explained alone on physical terms now or likely to ever be adequately explained according to the biases and assumptions now limiting scientific inquiries.  Will the majority continue to disregard the input of this minority at the expense of humanity’s welfare?  Might those who have become enamored with science because they know how to read and consider themselves to be well-educated be willing to set aside the biases and assumptions of their social orientation and listen with more open minds to input from what is typically characterized as “unscientific” methods of inquiry?

Among those who experience themselves as more than merely bodies are intelligent men and women of integrity who earnestly desire to share what they sense about life for the benefit of the collective entity we call “humanity.”  We are individuals who care about the welfare of the whole of the human race and every individual in it.  That’s a mystic’s orientation.  It is not a sexual or gender orientation. It is not an orientation defined on the assumption that sex-linked or gender-linked features of our bodies or social orientations are the defining features of life.

Mystics do not define ourselves by our bodies. We define ourselves by our inner experiences and yet concern ourselves with the whole race who are largely focused on their outer experiences.  Mystics don’t generally need to be funded for our research or inquiries into the inner experiences “in here.”  We simply set aside time and opportunities to go inward to seek answers to questions that concern us, often questions of universal concern to all human beings.  Ours is a method of inquiry all members of the human race can master without needing to first acquire extensive formal education or even needing to learn to read published ideas.  It’s entirely feasible to learn to sense ideas “published” within our hearts and minds as if they are broadcast from a Divine Source for the universal benefit of all humankind.

Mystics have learned to tune into transmissions broadcast as energy in the inner realm of human experience by tuning out the alternative messages so abundantly transmitted by technological means “out there.”  Do we listen inwardly or outwardly? It would be wise to master the discipline of listening in both directions without blinders imposed unwittingly by unexamined biases and assumptions carried over from medieval times when mystics were purged, driven into exile and burned at stakes because their orientation offended the politically powerful who were then fighting for dominion in an increasingly materialistic world.  The fight to build political empires across the face of the physical Earth and beyond need not doom us to extinction.  We can stop competing against each other for dominion and learn to share the Earth as divine beings experiencing ourselves as bodies as for the purpose of building our character and exploring how to share life on Earth as life is shared in Heaven.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

The Privilege of Connecting with Another Who Sees

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

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

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

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

Wanderer above the sea of fog Caspar David Friedrich

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

 

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

 

Trump or Triumph?

Let us be grateful to Donald Trump for his exaggerated display of the political option. Maestro Trump magnifies what is true of all politicians – that each seeks to cater to a slice of voters by matching the voters’ prejudices and playing on their fears. Lincoln said it this way, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Recognizing this wisdom, political candidates generally seek to cater to a collection of slices of the voters who remain fooled long enough to vote the candidates into office. After the election, the need to keep the slices fooled diminishes.

Relying upon the shortness of voters’ memories and their lack of attention to issues that really matter, when the next election cycle comes around, politicians can engage in the same process all over again. Being caught in their irrational incongruities (sometimes referred to as “hypocrisy”) rarely deprives a candidate of office. (A scandal that the media finds juicy and marketable may deprive a candidate of office, but not hypocrisy, which is so commonplace as to merit little media attention.) In fact, being an accomplished juggler of inconsistencies often merits ascension to a higher office. We can be grateful to Mr. Trump for not making much of an effort to conceal his contempt for voters who actually try to think about deeper issues that matter and remain determined to build upon their understanding from election to election rather than remain focused on superficial issues and reboot their thinking each election cycle. Such thoughtful voters may be too tiny a minority to sway any election.

Is there an alternative to candidates’ trying to out Trump each other? Yes, but it’s not a political alternative. It won’t get a candidate elected to office. It’s more likely to get him or her scorned, ostracized and crucified as it did Jesus. The true alternative to Trump is Triumph. The small difference of two letters and the hugely significant qualities they stand for make all the difference in the world towards which each candidate leads. The spiral of Trumping and overtrumping leads followers into a ditch down one side or the other of the slippery slope of self-deception. These ditches are mirror images of each other, more similar than dissimilar. They represent the lower reaches of humanity’s decline, the lowest common denominator upon which fractions can be added to achieve temporary political alliances and win elections. “On which side do you stand?” is the politician’s primary question in wooing voters. “Into which ditch do you want to head with me in opposition to the ‘others?’” would be a more candid way to put the question, but candidates rarely are that candid.

The alternative Jesus presents heads in triumph along the high ridge formed by a chain of mountaintops beyond the downward sliding world of politics where “others” oppose each other to gain the power in an “us” vs. “them” worldview. In the mountaintop perspective of mystics (among who Jesus is a prime example), all humanity is one, not composed of oppositional factions but unified by truth and love as one divine family. Jesus lived the mystic’s alternative in which he believed and demonstrated the nature of its power to comfort, heal and bless everyone inclusively as each person chooses to repent of the politically oriented power-grabbing of his or her ego and surrenders instead to the power of God’s grace, mercy and love. As individuals lay their issues at the feet of Jesus, he accepts them as sisters and brothers regardless of what lifestyle they may have led before deciding to put their faith in him. In response to their repentance and surrender, he gives them new life beyond the ego’s false idols and substitutions for life as God created Life. What Jesus gives he gives from the Father from whom all good gifts come. Jesus shares generously all that he has received from the Father of us all. What politician offers that resolution to the issues that plague humanity with divisive violence and grief?

The “i” missing from Trump stands for “integrity,” a quality of life that embraces wholeness of person and shalom of heart and mind. This quality Jesus embodied and offers even now to help each of us embody. The “h” missing from Trump stands for “humility” and “honesty,” two qualities absent from the ego’s orientation and an anathema to political success. Humility coupled with honesty would require that most candidates simply withdraw from attempts to win voter approval to be a leader. It would require admitting that neither humility or honesty is popular among the masses and will not win votes. Voters tend to prefer leaders who are committed to arrogance and ignorance instead so that voters might be confirmed in their similar commitments. It is so much more convenient to formulate off-the-cuff opinions and vote according to them based on ignorance than to do the homework necessary to generate a deeper understanding and vote according to it. It is also more convenient to copy the answers off of another’s answer sheet, especially from one who seems to have the approval of the crowds, than to formulate an answer after much inner scrutiny and self-examination to identify and release internalized prejudices and fears that otherwise sway our choices.

Let us be grateful to Mr. Trump for clarifying just how lacking in integrity, humility and honesty we prefer our political candidates and the political process to be. We no more want a leader who holds us up to high expectations and ideals than we want Jesus to be Lord of our lives. Let us admit that we prefer to be rescued time after time from our individual and collective social follies as we hope Jesus will save us time after time from our spiritual ones. Who among us wants the burden of integrity, humility and honesty thrust upon us all the time? If one takes such ideals seriously, one becomes exceedingly unpopular in a world driven mad by ego’s internal conflicts and insatiable cravings. Who wants to take seriously the notion that to be great one must serve in humble positions and care about the powerless and weak at least as much if not more than about the socially elitist powerful? Who really wants to be assassinated like Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi because we held ourselves to higher ideals of excellence in service to the masses than the masses can tolerate considering for ourselves?

Let us be kind to Mr. Trump. He is serving God’s grand purpose to remind us that there is a clear choice to be made between ego and God. The ego darkens our lives with insane ideas that eventually reveal themselves to be absurd. God enlightens our lives with the only true alternative of sanity so that the truth might set us free.  Mr. Trump is doing us all a favor by publically displaying the extreme limits of absurdity and insanity so that we not mistake the political race for the race of which a devoted disciple of Jesus wrote long ago as recorded in 2 Timothy 7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Let us long not for Mr. Trump’s or any political candidate’s appearing but rather for Jesus to return as Lord to rule the Earth with love and cause mercy and justice to roll down from the heights of Divine Glory to satisfy all who hunger and thirst after righteousness as God defines the term. In doing so, let us also be open minded about the meaning of that term and not claim to tell others what God means by it. We may all be surprised to witness what it means when God thanks Mr. Trump for his bumbling service as a contrast to Jesus’ Triumph. If God did not work through imperfect instruments and have a sense of humor coupled with all-prevailing grace, which of us could claim to serve Him/Her or have any hope of heaven?

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Social Justice Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

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

Jesus’ life, by word and deed, reminds us that we are all one within God and with each other because we are all (each and every one of us!) created in the image and likeness of God, expressing God’s divine nature.  Long ago, a fundamental flaw crept into Christian theology when elitists bent on accumulating power over the masses adopted the concept of “original sin” or “inherent flawedness.”  This transparent lie helped to keep the masses controlled by their constant fear of being condemned by God, for whom the elites conveniently claimed to speak to the terror of the masses who already feared the elites.  The elites equated their neglect and abuse of underlings with the way God saw and treated humanity. How convenient to claim to speak for God to justify one’s own cruelty!  What a complete undoing of Jesus’ ministry to call believers back to the religious self-righteousness of Judaic elitism with which Jesus so fervently contended.

The concept of “original sin” is such an insulting idea in its disparagement of God as Creator that Jesus has to constantly serve as Redeemer to correct it.  We who faithfully struggle with how to relate to God need a Redeemer only because we believe false ideas trumpeted in the marketplace by those who hog the soapboxes and pulpits as socially aggressive personalities who crave social approval so much as to demand that they set the standards for social approval. They are like bullies who take over the clubhouse and declare that they now can ban whomever does not please them.  As their craving for political power as a false substitute for spiritual power corrupts their minds and hearts, these religiously garbed bullies do all they can to lead others astray with them. How else would they have followers if not to lead them to embrace the same errors that bullies embrace to justify their dominance? Those who question such absurdities are colored as heretics and blasphemers and made to serve as martyrs and scapegoats for religio-political heroes/bullies.

Who sets the standards?  Man or God?  Woman or Goddess?  Jesus says that his (and our) heavenly Father* sets the standards. He modeled that truth so radically that he submitted his own lesser will to the greater will of the Father even unto death on the cross so as to demonstrate the power that arises from Oneness lived to its most radical extreme. We are called today to do likewise, but few are willing to endure the merest hint of social disapproval (let alone the public humiliation of a cross-hung criminal) to do so.  We mistakenly keep expecting religio-politicians to approve our “deviations” from their critically acclaimed social norms and flinch when they disapprove instead.  How timid we are compared to Jesus and his original disciples!  As a result we cling to our pathetic powerlessness and declare that the age of miracles has closed when in fact it is our own timidity as disciples that has caused miracles to cease to flow.  We are the cause of the lack of divine healing in the modern world.  We thwart God’s will by failing to surrender our lesser wills entirely to the Father’s will as Jesus modeled.  God’s grace permits us to defy Him but to do so costs our children dearly.  Violence, harm and chronic suffering flood our modern world in place of the outpouring of divine miracles God stands ready, willing and able to set free if only we’d listen and heed His call.  Long ago He said it, “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  God is entitled to set conditions for our receiving His blessings.  He has clearly stated those conditions in many ways.  Jesus’ example is an entirely integrated and sufficient restatement of all God wants us to know about how to relate to Him.

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

It’s all a developmental thing actually.  The human race’s diversity expresses more than mere diversity of surface appearances and actions summed up as “images,” “lifestyles” and “cultures.”  In addition to expressing our demographically measured diversity of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, educational level, economic class, veteran status, etc., humanity also expresses our developmental diversity.  We are all arrayed along steps or stages of development as each of us has achieved some steps or stages ahead of others.  With respect to the multifaceted range of human wholeness God designed us to master, most if not all of us are as yet incompletely developed or evolved.  Since we develop in response to our social environments, we tend to develop different facets of our gemlike wholeness on different timetables depending upon the social environments to which we have been exposed so far.  (Do we not sometimes say, “He is a product of his environment?”)

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

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

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

Freedom to be authentic and whole beings of integrity and love as God created us to be is scary – yet it is also the essence of social justice.  It implies letting go of social structures we once depended upon to guide and protect us on our journeys as if social approval were the only purpose of our lives.  In His quest for our highest good, our Father does not intend that those social structures with which we become so familiar during various phases of our development become our imprisoning status quo of traditions or “laws” (rules, roles and rituals).  Like the gantry of a rocket that once enabled the rocket to stand erect and not fall over while it was assembled, equipped and fueled, social structures must at some point release us to soar beyond them.  When that happens we are dependent on our internal guidance systems.

The more our internal guidance systems are attuned to God’s will, spirit, heart and mind the more at peace with God we’ll be as we journey onward in our quest for more elegant mastery, deeper enrichment and more lasting satisfaction as our Father’s servant-sons and -daughters. Those who serve with grace achieve a high orbit from which to envision and embrace the whole of humanity as God’s family of beloved and much favored children.  From that orbit it is increasingly possible to understand and live within the terms of Micah 6:8: “O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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

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

Copyright by Art Nicol 2015

How Does Faith Provide Relief Beyond Life’s Pressure Cooker?

When you feel like your life has become an emotional pressure cooker, my services as a Faith Consultant and Coach may help you not only find relief but also make great progress in personal growth.  The pressure cooker generated by acute pain and confusion piled atop chronic stress can become an incredibly productive opportunity for personal growth.  All that is required is a large dose of devotion to your own best interests mixed well within a solution of helpful resources developed as your personal health tonic.  The healthy energy boost you both need and desire becomes available to you as you seek it intentionally, with renewed faith in your personal value and capacity to overcome pain, confusion and stress to rise again on even better terms than you’ve encountered in the past.  In short, as some would put it, miracles of personal benefit to you are waiting around the corner for you if you’ll move forward by faith in their presence even before you see, hear, smell, taste or feel them. It may sound too cliché, but here’s the silver lining in life’s storm clouds that threaten to overwhelm you with grief.

Miracles of relief and personal growth are not at first physical.  They begin to form by faith in energy realms beyond the physical dimension – realms invisible to our physical senses but accessible by faith.  Perhaps even as you read this article, an inner sense within the core of your being is resonating, tingling with that “knowing” bell that rings when you encounter Truth.  Because the Miracle Provider has faith in you, the miracles you need are already simmering on the Divine Stove even before you may decide to have faith in yourself and the Source of Miracles.  As your faith grows, it encounters the faithfulness of others and of the One from Whom all Faith flows and the reconnected world of faith opens doors for you through which miracles enter your life to comfort, heal and bless.

Stress and tension are normal features of healthy life.  For example, the tension between a relatively drier atmosphere and a relatively wetter inside of a plant draws moisture from the plant into the atmosphere in an attempt to arrive at an equal distribution of moisture inside and outside of the plant.  Because a plant is designed to release moisture from its leaves through transpiration, the attempt to equalize humidity levels occurs at leaves.  Moisture leaves at the leaves!  This departure of moisture increases the tension inside of the plant between moisture levels lower down the plant’s channels and at the leaves where moisture is escaping.  By a natural process, moisture is then moved gradually along the plant’s inner channels towards the leaves from the roots.  If moisture is available in the soil around the roots, it is draw into the plant’s inner channels through the roots and moves towards the leaves where it eventually exits. As moisture moves along the plant’s channels, it carries nutrients from the soil throughout the plant and carries the products of photosynthesis and other chemical reactions throughout the plant as well.  In this manner, the stress of differing tensions helps the plant maintain health and is not destructive to the plant’s health.

In similar ways, tension can play helpful roles in human life.  For example, if our mind encounters a problem that we don’t know how to solve, the problem’s existence creates a tension within us that we can feel as a desire to know the solution to the problem.  If the problem has little value to us, the tension is relatively slight, perhaps even nonexistent.  We encounter a lot of problems throughout our lives that have little or no value to us and cause little or no tension or hunger to solve them.  However, when we value a solution to a problem greatly, we invest a lot of emotions in “not knowing” the answer.  The tension resulting from “not knowing” rises as our emotional investment in solving the problem rises.  Being exposed for a long time to emotionally troubling unsolved problems generates chronic stress, an abiding sense of being stressed out under intense tension with little hope of relief.  Sometimes we adjust to chronic stress by ignoring it and doing our best to survive without knowing the solution we’d prefer to know.  Sometimes a newly arriving problem reminds us that we’d still like to solve the “big one” that has long caused us chronic stress and, although supposedly ignored, left us feeling vaguely tense in our bodies, minds and hearts.

Fear of the unknown is a fear common to all humans.  It is a fear that causes tension and stress until we learn to be comfortable in the presence of mysteries we’ve not yet learned to solve.  Fear of the unknown can be coupled with fear of change (and perhaps accompanying fears of loss of control and powerlessness), the combination of which causes us to feel paralyzed or mired in stagnation, discontent with the status quo but unable to move forward in any direction to find and implement the change we’d prefer.  Or that same combination can cause us to become overactive, chasing our tails in search of a solution not to be found in our nose-to-tail closed circle of futility.

Fear-inducing dilemmas appear like unsolvable puzzles to our minds.  We feel caught on the horns of a dilemma without relief from the painful confusion it causes.  It can even feel like a form of torture because we’d much prefer relief from the pain and confusion and don’t know how to find it.  Because we’ve learned to take pride in our competence-driven achievements, we feel ashamed at having too little competence to solve The Problem.  We may even feel like extreme failures or losers for becoming skewered on the horns of such dilemmas in the first place, as if no winner ever faced them without overcoming them on his or her own.

The truth is that dilemmas arise periodically in everyone’s life because they are a natural consequence of growing on account of one’s experiences.  Every person who has ever discovered increasingly rewarding and enriching ways to live life has faced challenging dilemmas and resolved them satisfactorily according to his or her own values and priorities.  One key factor in finding such resolutions seems like a paradox: that is, that the door through which one must pass to find life’s deepest satisfactions is opened by a mechanism called “interdependence” or “collaboration.”  The door remains closed so long as we continue to resort only to self-reliance or independence as individuals and refuse to trust anyone to assist us in opening the door.

As we stand before such a door in the middle of a tension-filled, dilemma-plagued phase of our life, we can knock and probe for access points on our own without success in opening the door – no matter how great our individual competences and achievements may be in other realms of life.  It may seem like magic but it’s really a matter of faith.  So long as we stand in front of such a door demanding “I want inside!  Open up for me!” we will be frustrated by the unresponsive silence.  Only when we revise our declaration to say “We want inside!  Open up for us!” will we hear a reply and find our way into the sanctuary beyond the door.  The door to relief from painful confusion opens to “us,” not merely to “me” or “you.”  It swings open on multiple hinges, not just on one.

Discovering this truth about multi-hinged doors and their use is one of the primary personal benefits of enduring life’s pressure cooker of faith.  The pressure cooker insists that we discover it.  The truth that brings relief is “None of us is alone.”  Through long training in the ways and myths of self-reliance and independence-at-all-costs, we’ve been misled into believing that we are alone in the world.  We may come logically to believe that we were born into the world alone, leave the world alone at the death of the body and have to endure life in between birth and death largely alone too.  That’s simply not true.  We can try to survive according to that belief for a long time.  We may even reach our death bed still believing it.  But it’s not true.

If we feel alone, it’s merely because we’ve bought into and not yet re-examined the common social training that assumes such a belief to be true.  That an untruth is assumed to be true by many people does not make it true.  Truth remains truth whether none, few or many believe it.  Believing that we are alone in the face of fearful dilemmas and belief-disrupting problems creates massive stress and tension.  The first step in relieving this harmfully stressful tension is to discover that you are not alone in facing anything in life.  In fact, you have people ready, willing and able to stand with you as assets and resources to help you, even if you’ve not yet met them.  And beyond people in whom you can place trust to help you, there’s a Higher Power waiting for you to invest your faith so that this Higher Power can be helpful too. You don’t have to start out believing in such a Higher Power to benefit from my coaching.  This Higher Power believes in you and that’s enough at the beginning if you allow it to be.

Once you recognize that you are under excess pressure and don’t know where to turn for relief, your next step is to seek help until you find competent people you trust, in whom you can place your faith so that your faith in yourself is renewed.  It is not an accident that many of the people in whom you discover you can place your faith most securely have already been through tension-filled, heart-rending problems and dilemmas of their own.  Such experiences prepared them well to be here for you with the greatest power to help you restore faith in yourself and in humankind.  They are also likely to have discovered a renewed or new faith in a divine power greater than ourselves who favors and aids us.  They will help you make the same discovery if and when you decide you want to make it.

Copyright Art Nicol 2014

What Might God Want Us to Know Most of All?

Buried beneath centuries of rhetoric “about” God is the reality of God.  For many centuries, religious leaders, parents and others claiming to speak for God published accounts of God’s nature and attitudes towards us by word of mouth — through only the spoken words of authority figures who had the ear of audiences who could listen and repeat what they had heard.  Since most people fear authority figures because the authority figures control their society’s resources and power to reward and punish, include and exclude and degrade or upgrade the quality of life for individuals and their loved ones, the masses will not question what they hear authority figures report about God.  Instead, they will soak up all of the messages unquestioningly, memorize the messages as if they are all true and repeat them to others to prove that they were listening and remain loyal to the authority figures.  Verbal traditions have been handed down generation after generation by this method as newcomers heard, accepted, believed and adopted as true whatever their forebears declared was true. By this chain of traditions, humanity has largely been held in slavery to the “higher ups” in the social chain as if there’s a food chain by which humanity is consumed by its own fear of error in regard to our relationship with God. Woe be to the heretic who dares to think differently!  Bemoan the fate of any whose heresy reaches the ears of the authority figures!  Heretics must repent or be doomed!

(By the way, “heresy” only means that you risk daring to think for yourself rather than automatically conform to the ideas of others around you.  If you’re reading this blog, you may be a risk-taker too!  Perhaps you are considering being a nonconformist or even now emerging as one.  If that scares you too much, stop reading.  If it excites your curiosity, you’re welcome to read along with me as these words pour forth for our consideration.)

Then in our story of idea-sharing along came the printing press and subsequent advances in the technology of recorded words and their sharing through mass production — until now, in the days of the Internet, mass media is available to many individuals with relatively little censorship by authority figures of publishers or audiences.  Instead of censors successfully marginalizing and silencing heretics, opinionated heretics are marginalizing and disempowering the censors.  Presses that printed a few copies on paper soon gave way to presses that mass produced copies on reams and rolls of paper which in turn gave way to electronic media that advanced from radio, silent movies and black-and-white TV to the Internet that is not only never silent but speaks in millions of voices to millions of minds moment by moment with little delay between thinking of a thought and its widespread publication.  Ideas held by self-declared authority figures pour forth into the minds of massive audiences of every kind.  And so do the ideas of others. The merit of the ideas of both authority figures and nonauthority figures rarely plays a role in determining whether an idea is widely published.  In fact, the more absurd an idea may be, the more it may draw attention.  There is no end to the streaming and often screaming messages that bombard our minds, many of them enhanced in their impact by seductive visual images and music.  Singing, dancing, acting . . . so many forms of performing and graphic arts are now employed to get a persuasive point across and make it unforgettable.  Politically connected figures, paid publicists and advertising agencies no longer monopolize mass media nor control its contents.  As traditional rules, roles and routines dissolve, the battle for attention of our minds rages on as if chaos and confusion are valued over orderliness and reason.  Perhaps it is time ask, “To whose advantage do chaos and confusion work?”

Amidst centuries of published ideas, there are now many unforgettable misrepresentations about God beneath which the reality of God is buried because it has for millennia served the purposes of society’s authority figures, and now others, to enhance their position, prestige and power by associating their values and priorities with God’s.  To the extent that the masses have allowed authority figures and others to tell them all they know about God, the masses have allowed themselves to be duped into believing about God what serves elite authority figures and other attention-grabbers for the masses to believe or at least hear for entertainment value if nothing else. In democracies where personal opinions are honored as automatically of value, the truth about God is buried deeply because it does not serve egos that it should ever surface.

Yet it is only the ego that fears the truth about God because it is only the ego that disappears in the Presence of God.  The reality of who we are as human beings beyond our egos shines ever brighter in God’s Presence, not diminished but empowered to increasingly more radiant brilliance.  As we learn to forget the supposedly unforgettable misrepresentations “about” God and instead experience God’s Presence directly, we shed our egos and our encounters with divine love draw us ever closer to the core of our true selves where we surrender to God’s loving embrace and are finally aware of being once again home within our hearts where God has been waiting to welcome us all along.

Some of the core misrepresentations about God that society’s elite authority figures and other attention-grabbers want us to believe are true (or at least entertaining) include:

1) God has entrusted exclusively to society’s elite authority figures truths that God does not entrust to common folks.

2) God has entrusted exclusively to society’s elite authority figures the power to determine whom God favors and whom God does not favor, including to whom God grants the ultimate reward of an eternity in heaven and whom God condemns to the ultimate punishment of an eternity in hell.

3) God has a default setting that presumes we’re defective, never will get it right and might as well forget about winning divine favor. It’s nearly impossible to overcome God’s presumption against us. The best we can do is suffer all of our lives to prove how much it matters to us to somehow win God’s favor and avoid eternal condemnation to hell.

4) God has actually created a form of eternal condemnation and punishment or at least allowed some power nearly as great as God to do so.

5) God is in some kind of pitched battle for supremacy with a form of power that is a close rival for God in terms of power by whatever standards we measure power.  God barely has the edge in this battle and seems sometimes to lose it for reasons unknown to us but largely assumed to be beyond us to understand or address because, after all, we are powerless compared with God and this other powerful being.  We are mere collateral damage and bystanders on this divine battlefield and may as well duck and run for cover behind the walls of our egos.

6) Winning God’s favor is a lifelong struggle that we’re not likely to win without the approval and encouragement of those who claim to speak for God in our current times.  So, second best to winning God’s favor is winning the favor of the authority figures who rule our society and dispense its rewards. With their favor under Plan B, perhaps we’ll slip into heaven on their coattails. We can never know for sure so it’s best to keep their favor for life rather than risk exploring on our own.

7) Being “good” in God’s eyes and welcome in heaven = being socially approved of and escaping the notice of critics who search for targets to condemn.

8) There really is no divine Supreme Being and we may as well become accustomed to living life on our own terms, surviving as best we can on our own before our bodies decline and snuff out.

9) Our gender, race, religion, gender orientation, sexual preferences, history of misconduct or some other insurmountable obstacle(s) will always prevent us from ever winning God’s favor and experiencing divine love so we may as well become accustomed to living life on our own terms, etc.

10) Although others seem to be free to overcome the obstacles between them and God, I’ll never overcome mine.  I may not ever become other than vaguely afraid and may always fail to clearly identify what those obstacles are for me. Instead of gaining clarity and being shown how to overcome any obstacle, I’m more likely to remain perpetually confused and in doubt all of my life because, for reasons unknown and unknowable, I’m convinced that God’s out to get me and won’t ever give up trying to find fault with me. Regardless of how merciful and forgiving God seems to be towards others that will never happen for me.

Freedomwise.com is one of many sites now available on the Internet to allow us all to explore the truth about God so as to allow God’s Presence to surface and be known to us in our own personal experiences.  I hope you find the sites that help you best in this quest for the truth that sets you free to know God and be known by God as your heart yearns to know and be.  To be or not to be you is key.  If this site can assist you in discovering the truth about yourself as a divine loved one of a most loving Supreme Being and to enjoy the fullness of that experience for the rest of your life, I will be blessed along with you.

© Art Nicol 2013