Tag Archives: mystic

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

 

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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

 

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

 

Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ã Art Nicol 2013

Deliverance from Suffering Delivers Us from Sin – Jesus’ Vision of the Way – Part 1

Although the relationship between suffering and sin may seem obscure, it may be helpful to realize that the Church that has purported to represent Jesus has obscured rather than clarified this relationship. Charged with spreading Jesus’ teachings about the relationship between suffering and sin, the Church has, for over 2000 years, failed to preserve and present his message as he first delivered it.  Instead of preserving the heart of Jesus’ message, the Church became distracted in preserving itself against political forces that resisted Jesus’ message and persecuted those who believed it strongly enough to live according to it.  In its fight for self-preservation, the Church fell into the same fundamental error that Jesus’ message is intended to correct and from which Jesus still intends to deliver all of humanity, with uttermost commitment to the proposition that all people are cherished children of God and with undying determination that no child of God be left behind.

The human cure for suffering seemed just as self-evident to Jesus’ earliest followers as it seems today to his current ones.  Peter exemplified it when he denied Jesus three times while Jesus was standing up to persecution by political institutions and enduring suffering at their hands.  The cure for persecution and its consequential suffering, Peter’s example teaches, is to not follow Jesus “too” closely.  Instead find safety by wading along in the shallows and not venturing into deeper waters as a follower.  Compromise your devotion when threatening political forces challenge you. Instead of standing up to them cozy up to them as closely as you can so that you present no threat to their social privileges.  Stay along the shore in shallow waters where the social elite frolic. Don’t dare them to swim beyond their safe comfort zone of social approval to encounter God’s grace that dispels all fear only when fears are fairly faced.

To human beings accustomed to surviving amid competing social pressures, the end of suffering seems most readily achieved by associating favorably with the most powerful cause of suffering so as not to be the target of its persecution. According to that theory, the goal is to shift violence away from a favored person or group towards unfavored persons or groups. The “favored” person or group hopes to remain within the protective shield of the “friendly” source of violence – and not have violence directed his, her or their direction (e.g., avoid friendly fire or being an injured bystander or collateral damage) – and to be protected from any violence potentially directed towards him, her or them from any other source of violence.

To achieve this end, systems of attack and defense are established to keep ahead of competing systems of violence.  Arms races and armed conflicts are examples of this competition. Other examples include systems of law enforcement and prisons, gated communities and security systems in response to crime, well-guarded, rigorously restrictive national borders, rival gangs, family feuds and domestic violence orders of protection when they are applied to sustain victim-victimizer polarization rather than promote restoration of peace and health for all parties.  The slogan of all such systems is “Join ‘us’ and be safe from ‘them.’” The idea of rethinking these systems is itself controversial because any de-escalation or modification of such systems renews our fears of the “worst case scenario” imaginable.  There is no end to the degree to which we might be carried away by our fears into greater commitment to the perpetuation of pain and suffering.

In contrast, Jesus took and still takes the position that suffering’s end will come only when we change our structures of thought and our implementing institutions that cause and maintain suffering and embrace instead the divine alternative way of thinking and implementing that Jesus modeled. In Jesus’ vision of suffering’s end, tradition-bound human institutions that cause and maintain suffering and their ways of thinking must be replaced by freer, more spontaneously Spirit-guided dynamics that do not cause or maintain suffering and that, by necessity, are based on another way of thinking.  This position he espoused when he declared, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  His declaration translates today into “Think differently about how to end suffering because present even now are spiritually oriented social dynamics and a personal way of life that cause healing instead of suffering and restore and sustain our health as well.”  Jesus anticipated Einstein’s observation that a problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which it was created.  He offered to show us how to access God’s thoughts, which are at a higher level than human thinking. There Divine Wisdom’s solution awaits.

By following Peter’s example instead of Jesus’ model, the Church learned to deny Jesus as Peter did to whatever extent necessary to avoid the persecution and suffering it had previously endured at the hands of political forces arrayed in opposition to God’s social alternative on earth.  Eventually the Church compromised with a Roman Emperor who supposedly embraced Christianity and made it the official state religion.  So as to remain the “official” religion of the Roman Empire and thereby placate and be cozy with the powers that once persecuted them, the Church knuckled under to the Emperor’s demands for conformity in the Church’s doctrines.  In what would prove to be a progressively more complete manner, the Church rendered unto Caesar not only what was Caesar’s but also what was God’s. Such is the progression of all forms of addiction and co-dependency.  The modern Church still suffers from this cowardly lapse into ill-health as it became the bride of Caesar instead of the Bride of Christ.  For centuries since its marriage to Caesar, the Church has sought for security through being a social insider rather than through being aware of God inside where Jesus said the Holy Spirit will access awareness of Truth’s courageous kingdom in our hearts.  Looking outward for its social cues from other social insiders, the Church maintains its marriage to socio-political institutions by collaborating with them much as an abused spouse collaborates with his or her partner because independence seems to come at too great a cost.

As a shrewd politician who knew that openly discussed and disputed differences in beliefs would undermine the value to his empire of Christianity’s system of beliefs, Emperor Constantine the Great demanded that the Church fathers clean up their act and stop tolerating controversy and diversity among themselves.  So as to line up his collaborators, subjects and slaves in unflagging allegiance rooted in their fear of suffering, the Emperor demanded conformity to his will from everyone who claimed to be his ally.  So, the Church fathers gathered at Nicea to find a way to provide it.  Eventually they found a way, a way akin more to Constantine’s politically motivated machinations than to Jesus’ spiritually motivated mission.  The key to avoiding persecution turned out to be for the Church to become an arm of the Emperor’s persecution and play the political game of eliminating all diversity of viewpoints.  In the process of purging diversity of beliefs, the Church fathers introduced the practice of justifying their persecution of those who disagreed with them by citing texts deemed sacred (known today as The Bible) as their “infallible” authority (while they, by no small coincidence, also simultaneously took up the twin role of defining which texts would be declared sacred and being the texts’ sole authorized interpreters).  In this manner, the Holy Spirit’s role as revealer of All Truth was subordinated to texts that supposedly already contained all the “truth” we’d ever need to know.

Thus began the Church’s devotion to its self-preservation as a political institution, its misuse of sacred texts to justify its actions and its sliding away from its devotion to preserving the message Jesus lived, died and rose again to spread to all corners of the earth.  To compromise this message of God’s eternal and unqualified grace as the true end to suffering eroded and eventually erased the message all together.  To temporize it destroyed the eternal nature of Jesus’ message.  To introduce favoritism based on political considerations undermined the unqualifiedly inclusive nature of the message.  In a stunningly short time it became only logical to adopt Constantine’s ways to enforce conformity within the Church: extermination of diversity of viewpoints as if penetrating contemplation, passionate conversation and patient consideration of what Jesus meant as he lived his life on earth were totally intolerable.  The hierarchical power structure of the Church came to emulate the top-down power structure of the Empire and other monarchies precisely because its aim and function were the same as that of other human institutions.  When self-preservation is the primary purpose of an organization’s life, it is only logical to develop structures that effectuate this purpose primarily.  A pyramid of loyal subordinates who are dependent on the leader’s power for their own self-preservation suits well the purpose of the leader to preserve himself in power – regardless of declining commitment to the organization’s initially stated mission to establish an alternative way of life awash with healing and health in place of suffering.

Once the primary purpose of the Church came to be its own self-preservation, the amassing of power to itself became a logical next step.  This step brought the Church into direct competition with other social institutions such as monarchies, merchants’ guilds and military engines that likewise were appropriating power, material resources and loyal adherents to themselves for self-preservation.  Power-hungry, politically savvy men (and less frequently women) gravitated to opportunities to amass personal power under the guise of aiding institutions in their struggle for power.  Political struggles and their corresponding manipulations of minds within and among these organizations inevitably became the main game. To accomplish their goals, monarchs, merchants, the military and missionaries joined forces in mutually supportive ways.  The Church’s claim to speak for God was one of its most useful contributions to empire-building by others.  Through fear of God, the Church recruited loyal followers and increased wealth to the service of the monarchs, merchants and military who in turn aided the Church’s rise to power. In addition, the Church pronounced divine justifications for God’s favor falling upon the Church’s allies instead of upon those who opposed the Church’s allies.  The Church’s rhetoric became increasingly and then unceasingly self-serving, inflicting suffering on those who opposed the Church in any sphere of life.

In tugs-of-war among power grabbers and megalomaniacs throughout history, even helpful human institutions suffered from abuse of their ideologies and rationales for existing.  Distortions of their purposes twisted them into convoluted structures and dynamics unrecognizable in comparison to their origins – converting them from helpfulness to harmfulness.  As a result, institutions of civilization of all types have risen and fallen because the sustainability of human institutions is based on honesty and integrity in remaining true to each institution’s purpose.  Wandering off target from the true purpose is called “hypocrisy.” It is a toxic condition that will not sustain life. No form of life that pretends to be something it is not can sustain itself.

Any form of life that fails to remain faithful to its true purpose inevitably disintegrates for lack of internal integrity as its immune system attacks the artificial aspects of its pretense and parasitic organisms convert it into their host for their contrary purposes. A self-deceiving life form topples as its infrastructures weaken. Its decay is the opposite of health. In the absence of continuously maintained healthy integration organized around its true purpose, an organism disintegrates and falls.  Splintering into pieces is one natural outcome of becoming excessively rigid while trying to maintain uprightness artificially and then falling down. Over the centuries, the Church, in the course of its cyclical decline, has splintered into many denominations large and small.  With few exceptions, most of these fragments of the professing followers of Jesus, in attempting to assert their independence from the declining Church, have taken on some form of political structure designed to promote the superiority of each splinter of a community that ironically purports to be one whole and indivisible body of believers in Jesus.

Splinters cause pain.  Shattering of communities into subparts that war against each other in their respective quests for members, wealth and power causes pain.  Instead of remaining true to Jesus as a Bringer of the Light of healing and the end of suffering, the Church in its many shards has become itself a source of pain and suffering.  In this manner, the Church has wandered progressively farther from Jesus’ unifying cry to all humanity, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  The Church no longer believes uncompromisingly in that cry or in the process Jesus introduced for implementing the Church’s divine charge to lead humanity into its unified destiny of oneness. Until the Church repents and believes again with a purity of faith in the mysteries of God and the Divine Wisdom of God’s Plan, both the Church and God’s Plan will continue to fail due to the Church’s noncooperation with the Plan.

God will not impose the realm of divinely inspired grace and love upon humankind against our will. We must choose freely to receive and enter into the experience of the realm of grace as an act of free will or we’ll not receive it at all.  By God’s choice to remain eternally faithful to humanity, divine grace continues to be available to individuals who single-mindedly determine to enter into the kingdom of God even in the face of the Church’s failure to carry forward with its divine charge to be God’s kingdom on earth.  The Church will repudiate these individuals as heretics until the Church learns to recognize them as the cutting edge appearance of the very mission that is its to carry out.  Such individuals are budding mystics (sometimes called Gnostics and heretics) whom the Church’s traditionalists scorn and reject because the traditionalists know not what they do. Today they crucify the mystics who dare to show up openly to fulfill the Spirit of the law and traditions just as the religious traditionalists of Jesus’ day on earth crucified him.

Meanwhile the dismembered Church will continue to teach and explain “about” Jesus through a variety of stories and doctrinal positions but it will not serve as his unified spokesperson on earth until its scattered elements, in concert, lean towards, listen to and loyally obey him as Lord.  The most the modern splintered Church is willing to do today is to acknowledge Jesus as the Church’s Savior when it inevitably fails to carry out its mission because it will not cooperate with Jesus as Lord (Chief Authority Figure of and within the Church).  To accept Jesus as Lord requires one to repudiate prevailing power Caesars (and their model of doing organizational business) and risk instead the persecutorial wrath of politicians near and far who serve and preserve the current empire as faithfully as one hopes to serve Jesus in the presentation of his divine message and mission.

A clash between the divisive faith agendas of political realms and the unifying faith agenda of God’s Plan to End the Suffering of All of Us is, by definition, unavoidable.  This clash of wills manifests in a variety of ways, chief among them being political persecution directed against any whose uncompromising commitment to God’s Plan remains unshakeable.  In the clash of commitments only a small minority of Jesus’ followers are willing to expose themselves to politicians’ lashings as Jesus did. The vast majority of his followers duck into the shadows as Peter ducked, compromising their personal allegiance to Jesus because it’s socially or politically rewarding to do so. So long as being popular or seeking votes matters, the likelihood is great that public displays of ugly ducking will continue to be more prevalent than courageous stands for justice on behalf of the least socially powerful, who are more popularly scapegoated as villains than cast as heroes and yet find an advocate in Jesus.

Another vital point to note is that serving Jesus does not require one to fight for his preservation.  He cannot die or otherwise be unpreserved.  By his very nature as an eternally alive child of God, he is already preserved by a Power greater than any power that might come against him to threaten his preservation.  That fact relieves his faithful followers of having to be concerned about protecting him. As he cowered in the courtyard during Jesus’ interrogation by the politicians of his day, perhaps Peter trembled in part because he felt powerless to protect one he loved as he loved Jesus. Perhaps he felt guilty and ashamed of his failure and was paralyzed with fear. Believing past stories of God’s wrathful relationship to humanity, Peter may have been confused about how he was to draw guidance from those stories to apply to Jesus’ strange manifestation of the promised Messiah.  Confusion is a form of pain that may have added to his paralysis and feelings of helplessness.

Perhaps it would have been helpful for Peter to know then what he learned later, namely that Jesus would overcome death and not be defeated by the worst that the politicians of his day could throw at him.  One can only imagine how it might have helped Peter to stand stronger had he known the outcome and realized how little Jesus needed Peter’s help to be preserved.  Perhaps then Peter might have been freer to consider how he might choose to relate to that mysterious new process of overcoming all fear that Jesus modeled. Had he known then what we know now, perhaps he too might have allowed Perfect Love to cast out all fear and stood alongside Jesus even in the hour of his appearing to be powerless.  Jesus tells us that when two or more gather in his name (and nature of the Christ), there is greater power than when one stands in his or her divine nature alone. Today we who believe in Jesus with all of our hearts, minds, wills and spirits are called to stand together to invoke the Divine Power of our gathering and allow God to manifest in all His/Her grace and glory as Love for all.

Today we know what Peter did not know.  Yet we who purport to follow Jesus while living comfortably as privileged members of society continue to cower in the face of suffering as if its power were greater than the power of the Father manifest through our Lord and Savior.  Like the rich young ruler who was dismayed by Jesus’ instructions to sell all he owned, give the sale proceeds to the poor and follow Jesus, we are dismayed by the prospect of no longer focusing our energies on self-preservation (or only on the preservation of our personal loved ones) and instead surrendering our wealth and welfare into the hands of God as Jesus modeled – for the benefit of all of God’s loved ones as God determines is best.  Understandably, we cower at the prospect of trusting God so utterly while yet continuing to witness the failure of any other approach to ending the world’s suffering.

Many are scared to follow Jesus as radically as he requires because they fear losing their current lifestyles and being ridiculed for being so overly idealistic.  They interpret ridicule and loss of social status and comfortable lifestyles as shame, a “sacrifice of pride” rather than seeing this “loss of pride” as a sign of humility gained to empower sacred lifestyles rooted in ancient wisdom.  God calls us not to be a sacrifice but instead to be a sacrament, not to martyrdom but to mastery of the art of thriving fully beyond the ego’s stifling criteria of shame and pride.  We need to lay down our former ego-based lifestyles for Jesus as our friend and Master in order to receive life back again with humility and God-defined purpose, far more empowered to enjoy life fully than we’d ever be in any other way.  We need to trust Jesus to be our Lord and Servant too.  We need to turn the world on its head as Jesus did to become aware that God’s call to service is supported by God’s promise to serve us as we serve others in God’s name and nature.  We don’t need “more faith” in God. Rather we need to know God more accurately as the egoless God who serves us as His/Her servant-children, not as a false, ego-bound God who expects our all from us without giving God’s all in return. The truth is that as we give our 100% to serve God’s purpose and Plan, God gives His/Her 100% back to us to the full extent that we expand our capacities to receive all He/She gives.  Surely this is an exchange that promises substantial benefits, many of which cannot be accurately foreseen and simply must be expected and accepted by faith.  It is not impractical to follow Jesus radically – from the very root and core of our beings where the Christ Light shines – but it does feel scary.

© Art Nicol 2013

Deliverance from Suffering Delivers Us from Sin – Jesus’ Vision of the Way – Part 2

Human authority figures often misrepresent the nature of God by demanding (as egos do) that those socially subordinate to them serve them rather than humbly offering to serve those who appear on social terms to be beneath them.  Pyramid-shaped structures of social power convey the idea that those at the bottom serve those at the top. We need only turn the pyramid upside down to see the truth of the power dynamics at work within God’s kingdom.  It is true that “He who would be greatest in the kingdom shall be servant of them all” because that is how humbly walking with God works miracles of mercy and justice by grace for those Jesus calls “the least of these.”

A chain mail of service extends from God to interconnect all who serve others on God’s terms of humility and grace. This chain does not restrain the freedom of God’s servants. Its links join every servant-child-of-God to the power that sets all of us free to serve ever more effectively on God’s behalf as agents and ambassadors of God’s realm of mercy, forgiveness, healing, justice and liberation from bondage to suffering and sin. This is the chain mail that offers all participants in God’s kingdom of mutual service constant relief from suffering because it heals pain on an on-going basis. To belong within such a network of servants requires that one participate in it as both giver and receiver, not just passively ride on its coattails as a parasite or wastefully dispense power through co-dependent activities as a host to parasites.  It works for all who serve with both heart and head made fully available to God: 1) hearts open to and connected with each other and with the Source of All Love with empathy, compassion and wisdom and 2) minds open to intuitions, insights and understandings conveyed by the Holy Spirit.  God is the Great Innernet Provider for this mutually supportive, interactive network within which every participant has his or her own mailbox through which to give and receive all the power needed to enjoy life as a rewarding experience to be celebrated with deepest appreciation and affection.  Not a pyramid of scared power seekers, God’s kingdom is a paradox of sacred power sharers that includes God Himself/Herself.

Once we realize that we only live in “sin” when we suffer and believe no relief is available, we will see the wisdom of God’s Plan to relieve all suffering through mutual appreciation and service in order to relieve all motivation to live the isolating, hypercritical and hypocritical lifestyles we label “sinful.”  In the final analysis, all actions declared by religious leaders and other judgmental folks to be sinful are actually symptoms of unrelieved suffering, unhealed pain and unrecognized loneliness.  The same suffering and pain that drive people to be hypocritical and also drive them to be hypercritical of others and themselves – and both conditions foster loneliness.

Let’s see how suffering and sin are linked by the Law of Cause and Effect.  Of the seven deadly sins, Anger (or Wrath) is merely an early stage of grieving, not a sin at all but rather a symptom of underlying pain and the fear that the pain will never go away.  Unresolved emotional issues give out false signals that healing is impossible and cause those in chronic pain to conclude that they will never find relief and must instead accept perpetual suffering.  Since the state of perpetual suffering feels like hell on earth, it can convince sufferers that they are destined to remain in hell forever and may as well stop struggling to live lives worth living.  Spiritual practices taught by Jesus relieve anger and its associated pain and suffering, both chronic and acute, because these practices connect practitioners to renewed awareness of their natural oneness with the Source of All Well-Being, a connection which feels much like heaven on earth. Renewed awareness of one’s natural place within God’s realm of inner peace and health is the antidote to anger because peace of mind and anger cannot co-exist. Anger along with all other symptoms of unhealed heartaches must disappear as heartaches heal in oneness with the Master’s heart.

Sloth, Gluttony and Vanity (or Pride) are likewise symptoms of unresolved grief, as depressed people lapse into inaction, eat to drown their emotions and busy their minds with distracting images and activities in order to escape from awareness of their pain.  Similarly Envy, Greed and Lust (for pleasure and for power over others) are symptoms of pain that manifest the sufferer’s desire to have what others pretend to have and amass material wealth, physical pleasures and power over others as false substitutes for true relief from pain they feel powerless to overcome on their own.  In sum, all “sins” are symptoms of the ego’s dominion of perpetuated pain, suffering and fear.  The ego presides over the illusion that earthly existence must eventually become a lonely hell on earth.

At the core of all “sins” is a “State of Sin” in which one who acts out due to pain believes and experiences himself or herself to be separated from God.  The perception of separation from God is the mental/emotional state called “Sin.”  Under the influence of such a state of mind and heart, acting “sinfully” becomes “normal” as the product of a mind driven to unhealthy means as well as unhealthy ends by pain. To believe that such a separation is permanent (a belief that the Church promotes for many people of whom Church leaders personally disapprove) causes agonizing fear of eternal condemnation to a state of perpetual separation from love and loved ones. When we suffer alone, we will not overcome the pain we’re holding onto because relief comes only through daring to share our hearts within the Innernet and letting others know about the emotions that are brooding and broiling around inside of us.  Jesus modeled a humble lifestyle of transparent connection with the Father as he allowed others to be aware of how he felt about life’s painful experiences, both in regard to his own pain and in regard to the pain he saw others suffering. He modeled how pain is released through grieving within a sacred community.  The ego’s pride, shame and denial of emotions arrest grief’s honest process that heals our hearts and actually matures them to be all the healthier, more resilient and stronger.

As an ego-free person, Jesus was and still is well acquainted with grief and the process of relief we call “grieving.”  He did not judge as “bad” and hold in contempt those who acted out their pain in ways that moralists and legalists judge to be “sinful.”  Instead, sensitively empathetic to the pain others carried within them and motivated by compassion, Jesus extended himself and the ego-free kingdom of God to those who suffered – offering to heal their wounds and illnesses and relieve them permanently of all their symptoms, including those symptoms that others labeled “sins.”  Jesus did not stop to see the symptoms. He saw beyond them to the pain and suffering, to the causes of the grievances that plagued those around him and to the reality of health and wholeness that remained restorable within each person to whom he ministered.  He gave his all as well as all he could download from God to aid those who believed in him, helping them to find relief in the form best suited to their needs and personal dispositions.

Rather than to cozy up to socially powerful elite, Jesus kept company with those the socially elite assumed to be out of favor with God and consigned to society’s lowest classifications. To each person of any social classification whom he encountered, Jesus offered permanent residency as a citizen within God’s unified realm on earth and heaven if only each would repent of ego’s perspective and seek first that kingdom and the “righteousness” or “native holiness (health)” of the One Who Created the Kingdom of Love.  To follow Jesus’ example, we must likewise seek that kingdom and its holiness as if it were as native to us as it is to Jesus and the One Who Created Us in the Nature of Divinity.  We cannot hold ourselves apart from God and God’s Plan as separate egos and still expect to participate in God’s Plan, manifest its power as God’s servants and reap its benefits.  We must make the choice to accept that God is reasonably and helpfully making the offer our hearts desire to accept and receive.  Grace is God’s gift to us but no gift is fully delivered until the recipient accepts it fully. Full acceptance of God’s gift of empowering grace is both our responsibility and our privilege.

In Part 1 of this essay, I described how the Church that followed historically after Jesus’ life on earth gradually turned his presentation of God’s generous gift of grace on its head and made a mockery of Jesus’ teachings.  The Church leaders converted God’s wisdom once again into human foolishness because they were afraid to suffer openly and honestly and instead indulged in what today psychologists call the “Stockholm Syndrome.” The Church leaders came to identify their safety with cultivating the favor of those who threatened their safety most. In this manner, they became unwittingly co-conspirators in perpetuating and exacerbating cycles of neglect (passive violence) and abuse (active violence). They cozied up to their abusers and made heroes out of bullies by offering the one aspect of life that the abusers believed they deserved the least.  Without first requiring repentance from their lifestyles of violence, the Church offered bullies a free pass into heaven that no violent person ever truly believes is open to him or her.  The bargain was that the Church would speak to God for favor for the bullies and abusers if the bullies and abusers would direct their violence towards others and stand guard over the Church’s accumulated wealth and social status too.

Unlike Jesus who conditioned entry into awareness of God’s kingdom within us upon repentance (choosing a new way of thinking based on forgiveness), the Church conditioned entry into a false heaven somewhere outside of us upon the bullies’ redirecting their violence towards those it considered mutual enemies (maintaining the old way of thinking based on revenge).  In doing so, the Church made those enemies into scapegoats to counterbalance the hero status it assigned to its violent allies. To preserve themselves in their state of perpetual fear of those they perceived to be threats to their hegemony, Church leaders made a pact with society’s leaders who believed that violence solved problems.  Once the pact was sealed between socially powerful bullies and the Church the system spun along on its inevitable course to become totally out of control – as do all dysfunctional social systems based on illusions of power behind which powerlessness and unmanageable lives (addictions and co-dependency) inevitably hide.  No one among monarchs, merchants, military and missionaries saw a need to repent so long as the system of deceit appeared to work for them because they did not examine it too closely and avoided noticing its inherent shortcomings and failure to provide long-term, sustainable benefits even for their own children and grandchildren.  Having chosen to rely upon the Emperor of Roman (and all subsequent empire builders) to protect them, the Church failed to point out that the Emperor had no spiritual clothes on.

In his time on earth, Jesus was aware that the socio-political system in place in his homeland was no different from all such systems that had been and ever would be in place around the globe. He saw the nakedness of raw power exercised for the benefit of the few rather than for the benefit of all.  The details might vary but the ultimate dynamics by which social power was and is distributed would remain the same.  Disregarding Jesus’ insights into the futility of politics as usual, Church leaders became stuck in the stage of grief called “bargaining” as they negotiated pacts with politicians. To maintain their bargains, Church leaders attributed to God the ego’s characteristics of violence and revenge that abusers and bullies exemplified and cast such politicians as doers of God’s will. To do so, the Church had to downplay Jesus’ teachings regarding forgiveness and love towards family, friends, neighbors and enemies alike.

It is a wonder that so many of Jesus teachings about forgiveness and love remained in the sacred texts that the Church authorized to be preserved.  To counterbalance the passages about the power of forgiveness to heal and bring peace that remained in the Bible and to temper their authority with contradictory positions, the Church found ways to put words into Jesus’ mouth that compromised the radical qualities of forgiveness and love he expressed throughout his life, death and resurrection.  Social elites have made good use of the confusion generated by these implanted contradictions and inconsistencies to maintain and justify their preservation of any status quo that favors their retention of power over others.  So far at least, people who are, in the main, unconsciously under the influence of pain-generated anger, sloth, envy, vanity, gluttony, lust and/or greed – and fearing themselves to be perpetually at risk of being powerless victims of suffering – have successfully conspired to suppress the gentle rebellion Jesus started. Instead of honoring his teachings, they turn distortions of them into propaganda in support of their campaign to dominate the world by violent means and maintain political institutions rooted in mistrust and awash with emotional dishonesty.

Jesus presented God’s kingdom as the one truly different social dynamic rooted in trust and awash with heartfelt emotional honesty and the divine power “victims” deny they can access while they remain trapped in unresolved grief.  So long as Jesus’ leadership of his gentle rebellion is ignored, ignorance-based violence and its consequential suffering will prevail throughout humanity. This is the will not of God but of the preservers of the status quo who fail to see the wisdom of resolving their grief, accepting emotional healing and submitting their wills to God’s will as Jesus did – and of those seekers of social approval who cozy up to the socially elite in hopes of currying their favor and avoiding their disfavor.  It is emphatically not the will of God that any man, woman or child should suffer.  But it is the will of God that the free will of every individual be honored with utmost patience while he or she is allowed the privilege of choosing freely for himself or herself to which realm on earth to pledge allegiance and dedicate his or her life without compromise. It is our responsibility to learn how to reconcile all of the implications of the gifts of grace, free will and the opportunity to complete our grieving and rise beyond suffering. Those who fail to forgive harm done to them harbor ill will, seek to turn the tables and march them themselves (and others) into a hell of unforgiveness of their own making.  Each of us has the power within us to march against this tide by forgiving those who trespass against us and not identifying with the ego which claims territory that is in truth neither its nor ours to claim.

So long as our grieving remains arrested at various stages, complacency and compromise will reign as social norms.  Whether compassion and commitment as Jesus modeled ever reign supreme will be decided by each of us one by one.  Perhaps in time compassion and commitment will become the new norm if Jesus’ followers all support each other in finding the courage to repent of our complacency and compromised positions and follow Jesus wherever he leads us in completing our grieving and in serving others in their grief and loneliness. Until this change occurs, we can only reasonably anticipate that suffering will continue to plague humanity and be excused by the Church as inevitably endless.  Suffering’s end awaits in the heart, head and hands of each of us. Even when social institutions discourage us from daring to believe and implement Jesus’ teachings about

  • forgiveness      as the pathway to peace,
  • faith      as the pathway to hope and health and
  • friendship      as the pathway to shared, ever-enriching freedom, power, joy and love,

we remain free to choose as individuals to implement them within mutually supportive, informal social networks that help us to finish grieving and to love ourselves and one another as God loves us all.  Perhaps that’s how Jesus intended for us to relate all along – informally as if it’s only natural to comfort, heal and bless each other that way. We can do so without the formalities and costs of religious institutions.  Religion without institutionalization may have its merits and be the baby we can wisely not throw out with the bathwater of unforgiveness.

Perhaps we need no social institutions with their rules, roles and rituals to impose upon us what is already natural to us and native within us. Only our egos resist such an outcome, urging us instead to obey fear’s dictates and maintain egos as our artificial concepts of who we are.  When we elect to come out of the closets of our egos and finish grieving, we will discover that God’s kingdom has been waiting patiently to welcome us all along. Only our egos justify the perpetuation of grief’s inner conflict and interpersonal violence in place of relief’s inner peace and interpersonal domestic tranquility with its resulting voluntary collaboration in nurturing the soil of unconditional love as our social norm. The ego resists God’s Plan because in the Presence of God’s love the ego fades like darkness fades in the presence of light.  We will cling to darkness only so long as we identify with our egos. Beyond our egos the Light of Love awaits.  To Divine Love’s call we hunger to respond as fully as our courage allows us to set aside our egos and be free – “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we free at last” as the words of Martin Luther King Jr. cry out to us to join with each other in liberty and justice for all – no matter what our respective religious affiliations (or none) may be.

© Art Nicol 2013