Tag Archives: nonconformity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2016

Let’s Not Yet Dismiss Jesus As Impotent and Irrelevant

In the United States, we are surrounded by massive evidence proving beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus is condemned to impotence and irrelevance within a nation that claims to adhere to consumerism-gutted Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas and accounts for large, if dwindling, attendance at churches who give lip service to Jesus as the divine entity they honor.  The overwhelming majority of jurors gathering at such places of worship have declared Jesus to be irrelevant as well as impotent within their lifestyles.  They prefer to substitute a watered down, plastic, artificially distanced version of Jesus in place of his living vitality at work within their hearts and minds.  They prefer to hold Jesus in a social chokehold, silence his voice and condemn him to a life sentence of imprisonment within their egos as they bar the door against wholehearted surrender to his call upon their lives.

Every foreperson of every jury handpicked by the prosecution in favor of violent reactions to other people’s violence has declared the verdict:  Jesus is “Guilty as charged” and condemned to oblivion!  Jesus has been on trial across our nation for generations and is now presumed to be guilty of irrelevance and impotence until proven innocent, of which proof there scarce is hope. The only evidence he ever sought to leave on Earth was the evidence provided through the lives of wholehearted followers in his footsteps.  Today few followers are willing to seek the faded signs of his divergent path among the crowded ways along which as lemmings we scramble towards the cliffs over which others have flung themselves. Thus the evidence he seeks to reveal is faint because we are faint-hearted.

The prevailing presumption in favor of Jesus’ impotence and irrelevance is the predictable outcome of our devoting the resources of our legal systems throughout our lands to exacting retribution for every perceived wrong committed by one person against another through all forms of legal process, both criminal and civil.  In the face of Jesus’ model of forgiveness, despite claiming to be a Christian nation, not one state within our Federal system offers its citizens the opportunity to experiment with non-retributive responses to wrongdoing across the board as a systematic norm.  Occasional programs of restorative justice and mediation notwithstanding, the social norm of a retribution-purposed legal system offers little room for Jesus’ voice.  His has once again become a voice crying in the wilderness.  This time that wilderness is our nation of violence and knee-jerk tendencies to use the law to augment personal anger into a national tragedy and twist all legal proceedings into venues for personal revenge.

In Romans 12:2, followers of Jesus are (note: “are” not “were”) admonished, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  In willful disregard of this admonition, the vast majority of those who claim to honor Jesus prefer to react to wrongs with the same patterns of thoughts, words and actions as the mainstream society around them.  Patterns socially engrained in our thinking since infancy are not readily uprooted.  Like dandelions casually yanked up by their tops, they spring back from deeply buried roots. They are tenacious weeds eradicated only by persistent application of the Holy Spirit as the universal herbicide for the mistake of putting our minds “upon the things of man instead of upon the things of God.”

Based on worldly patterns, we allow the early stage of grief commonly recognized to be “anger” to motivate our actions in response to wrongs we perceive to have been done to us and to others towards whom we feel protective.  Anger is the mainstream, deeply rooted pattern of motivation behind both criminal and civil “remedies.”  Although called “remedies” as if they offer some form of healing, they are not remedies but reminders of the vicious outcomes of cycles of violence perpetuated by anger.  They are institutionalized, socially conformist forms of revenge not anything close to what Jesus presented as the model response to wrongs of criminal or civil nature.

As an innocent human being, Jesus was subjected to harsh treatment as if he were a criminal.  Amidst that cruelty, as he hung at the behest of religious leaders of his era on a form of torturous death popular among the politically powerful, he hung there between two others condemned to the same cruelly prolonged death for their petty crimes.  There Jesus continued to minister mercy, acknowledging the humility of one of his cross-hung compatriots by welcoming him as a guest of Jesus in paradise.  Throughout his ministry on Earth, Jesus encountered, healed and welcomed many whom the mainstream, religiously self-justifying, status-quo-reserving law-abiders called “sinners” and would have stoned to death or banished from their “good company.”  He dared then to say (and would say again today howsoever unpopular it might make him), “And neither do I condemn you” to the woman caught in adultery (having no opportunity to say the same to her male collaborator in adultery since no one sought to stone him at the moment of the story preserved in the Bible).

On another occasion, Jesus taught that the person who visited an inmate in prison was counted among those who had ministered unto him.  It is doubtful that he had in mind that such a visitor would go to the prison to chastise and condemn the inmate as if he or she were chastising and condemning Jesus.  More likely, Jesus expected the visitor to show mercy upon the inmate and share kindness and other acts of mercy with the inmate as Jesus would have done.  He would have visited the inmate as an expression of God’s unconditional love.  How do we view and treat those we incarcerate or others whom we relegate to the margins of society as undesirables? How rigid is our caste system?  To what extent do we dare violate it?

In modern society (one that ironically we claim to be a civil one), we function like a gang of mobsters. We who claim privilege status within the “gang” we call society do not directly sully our hands in the dirty work of harming others.  We hire agents to do the dirty work, just as any seasoned gang leader does.  We hire prosecutors with orientations as bullies who lust for power and hunger to exercise dominion over others to accuse and condemn members of our society as scapegoats to contrast to the heroes we hold up as paragons of virtue.  Sometimes we are so disappointed with our heroes that we topple them off the media-elevated pedestals upon which we had previously installed them and cast them down as scapegoats of the most useful kind.  The media profits from both these false elevations to and the subsequent sensationalized falls from social grace.  In contrast, regardless of the judgment of people in dispensing social grace for temporary, shallow, self-serving reasons, God’s divine grace remains relentlessly extended to us all — howsoever others may judge and condemn us.  Such is an example of the pattern of the world as we put our minds not upon the way of Jesus as an exemplar of God’s way but upon some alternative our egos in our fear prefer.

Followers of the ways of the world who conform mindlessly to its patterns are not following the one who walked the Earth as Jesus, suffered upon the cross of social condemnation to demonstrate his divinity and would even today lead us all to co-create heaven here and now upon this Earth if only we would follow him in all our thoughts, words and deeds.  To do so, as Paul wisely and insightfully observed, we could not allow our minds to remain imprisoned within the patterns of worldly thought of our current, ego-confined, adolescent society but would instead intentionally and relentlessly allow our minds to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit until our every thought, word and deed revealed the perfect will of God as mature children of God according to our true identity.

As one who had throughout his life on Earth grown in “wisdom and stature in the eyes of man [and woman] and God,” Jesus’ life revealed the will of God in his thinking, speaking and acting.  We are called to do likewise to overcome our identity crisis and refuse to linger any longer in it.  To fulfill our high calling as inheritors of the Kingdom of Love, we must divest our energies from the false calling of condemning others and re-invest these God-given energies with steadfast, uncompromising devotion of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to ministering to the “least of these” as if each and every one of them is Jesus – without even one exception our egos would prefer to make because we are afraid to appear foolish in the eyes of those who conform to the patterns of the world.  Whom would Jesus reject from his ministry?  Which social leper do we condemn as if he would?

One pattern most fondly adhered to by the world who condemns Jesus to impotence and irrelevancy is the pattern of carving out exceptions to the lifestyle principles he both espoused and modeled.  If you claim to believe in Jesus, follow him as he has called you to do, not compromisingly or lukewarmly – at risk of being spit out of his mouth – but instead radically, wholeheartedly and passionately as if Jesus is not only your savior but your Lord as well.  Allow fear to carve out no exceptions to his mercy and grace lest you discover that the exception you carve out also encompasses you.  Seek full release from the pain you struggle to deny you feel as you fail to live according to your true identity as a child of God. It is that pain that causes you to believe you are being punished and sustains the guilt you feel.  That pain is not punishment.  It is merely the natural result of not allowing yourself to expand beyond your ego’s concerns and undertake your own growth in stature and wisdom.  It is the pain an eagle’s developing chick feels while confined within its egg.  Struggle to peck your way free of the ego’s imprisoning shell.  In the pattern of your creation, you are like Jesus, destined to grow relentlessly in your unique expression of God’s grace.  It is painful to allow your socially reinforced fears to stunt your growth and confine yourself within your ego as if it were your identity.  The ego is a false identity.  You are a good egg but more than an ego.  Accept your true identity as a sibling of Jesus within God’s family and let go of the pain of denying that identity.  Through letting go of your ego, you will discover the freedom from painful guilt and shame your heart desires.

No longer be careless about your heart’s desire to do the right thing even when it is socially unpopular to do so.  Instead care less about the opinions of those still entrapped in the judgmental attitudes of their egos and care more about the judgment of Jesus upon your life.  Seek his mercy as you extend yours.  Let divine love be perfected within you as it was perfect in Jesus so that love casts out all fears that might otherwise falsely convince you that some exceptions to the universal extension of unconditional love to all have merit.  Argue with if you must (as most of us do!) but eventually do not defy your Friend and Master.  Surrender to his loving, merciful wisdom so as to come to know your true, forgiven, grace-empowered nature as God’s child ever as much as Jesus knew and knows his own.  That is what it means to belong to him.  It is the path to service by which you come to know the fullest joy life offers.  It is the pathway to relief from grief that otherwise lingers when it need no longer linger.

To whose pattern do we conform?  Whose view of us matters most to us?  To whose image and likeness do we seek to conform so as to beam the radiance of God’s grace across the heartscape of our nation’s ills and bring forth relational healing instead of condemnation?  We have a choice between the pattern of the fear-filled, fear-controlled ego or the pattern of the love-embodying, love-surrendered follower of Jesus. Let go of ego’s reign and embrace the reign of love offered to you unconditionally by God through Jesus.

In that manner, let your heart not be troubled, nor let it be afraid that upon your death bed you’ll find yourself alone, while drowning in regrets and awash with grief you could have faced and overcome so many years earlier.  Why let the anger of grief rob you of years of peace, hope and joy that await you here on earth as a gift?  Accept the gift.  Linger no longer in the darkness of your prolonged grievances. Instead allow the light of love to shine forth from within you as you know in your heart you can and desire.

The impotence and irrelevancy you choose to assign to Jesus is actually a false belief in your own impotence and irrelevancy.  Neither you nor Jesus is impotent or irrelevant when you team up to respond with grace, mercy and love by faith in the Divine Parent whom Jesus called “Abba.”  The time of the grace of our Father/Mother God/Goddess is upon us.  Accept and embrace who you are and cease to hide isolated in the shadows as if you are impotent and irrelevant to making a difference in how others experience their lives.  Join love’s revolution as a welcome member of the team who wholeheartedly, without reservation embrace Jesus as our wayshower.  And find yourself welcomed home as you welcome others as your sisters and your brothers.

© Art Nicol 2016

Affinity for Divinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

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

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

 

Wholeness as the Pivot Point of Change

Let me keep this simple. Unless a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see (pursuant to Gandhi’s admonition) slips out of and beyond his or her ego, he or she will fail to participate in a true change. The ego is a master of disguises. To change from one ego-disguise to another is no change. For the world to outgrow violence as a norm and instead enter into a phase devoted to healing the wounds of past violence as a new norm, individually and collectively we all must become humble, ego-free healers.

Beyond the phase of healing awaits the phase in which no harm is ever done that requires healing. To reach that harmless phase, we must undo the harm that our harming stage has done.  To pivot away from ego requires what we pivot out of the ego’s closed system of thinking to enter into the only true alternative — open-mindedness to all creative possibilities.  Wholeness offers us the pivot point around which to turn all of the ego’s ways of thinking on their heads and emerge beyond ego as if we’ve entered into and passed beyond the worm hole into a whole new universe of grand options that set us free to be more than ego wants or believes we can be.  Freedom frightens the ego.  Freedom wisely lived requires no ego and thus no longer lets fear of change hold us back. Only then can we become the change in the world our hearts desire but our egos fear.

Phase 2 is upon us. We either elect to participate in Phase 2 as one of the healers of the harm done in Phase 1 or we remain a participant in Phase 1. Any attempt to remain loyal to the ego while claiming to do no harm is the cover-up of codependency and enabling that the ego employs to perpetuate its reign of terror. “Oh,” you may say, “but I’m a helpful person who never harms anyone.” Perhaps you truly are. Perhaps you truly intend to be but do not yet realize how your best intentions remain unfulfilled.  It is more likely than not that you are allowing your ego to fool yourself into believing you are doing no harm while it’s not true. Do I sound too harsh and unkind to you? Please forgive me if I seem that way.  In actuality, all I’m inviting you to do is move beyond the mistakes I made as a co-dependent enabler who failed to realize that my ego was still in charge of my heart and mind and running me in circles like a fool.

Despite the fact that I once desperately wanted to never be a fool, I was one. It was much more obvious to others than it was to myself, but that’s how the ego operates. It makes you look like a fool to others so that they in their own ego-oriented foolishness can comment upon, judge and find fault with your foolishness rather than see and address their own. It serves the ego’s purpose to make each of us look like a fool to others of us.  It serve the ego’s goal of perpetuating itself to generate controversy among us and set us to judging one another instead of seeing the ego at work behind the scenes. The ego achieves this ego-perpetuating status quo by convincing each of us to adopt one of its contrasting sets of values as “ours” and set ourselves apart from “others” by virtue of our chosen set of values. Sets of values that contrast with one another establish the basis for on-going, continuous conflicts, discussions to resolve conflicts and all out battles when discussions fail to resolve them. The ego does not want our conflicts resolved. So, my ego will do everything it can to justify my claiming the superiority of my set of values over contrasting sets of value and my unwillingness to see things through the eyes of others whose sets of values differ from mine.

Sets of values may in fact differ for a variety of reasons. But if the reason is not focused with clarity upon the role of ego in perpetuating conflicts and correspondingly upon the means by which we may rise beyond ego, then the sets of values conflict only in relatively superficial ways. Superficial differences among sets of values have historically been sufficient to justify all levels of conflict, including wars. That one group may raise three fingers while pronouncing a blessing while another group raises two fingers is nonsensically superficial. Other superficial differences that have seemingly justified violence by one group upon another may not be as obviously superficial and foolish, but they are. People who allow their egos to be in charge of their decisions resort to a wide variety of excuses for identifying other people as enemies upon whom the infliction of violence is seen as fully justified, even reasonable.

Wholeness is the alternative to the ego. That is why wholeness is the necessary, pivotal component of any path by which a person who seeks to be the change in the world he or she wants to see achieves that goal rather than remains trapped within the ego’s conflict-perpetuating worldwide status quo. A person must be willing to become aware of his or her wholeness and devoted to its nurture and perpetuation in order to stop participating in the perpetuation of ego-generated harm. Wholeness is health. Devotion to the nurture and perpetuation of wholeness in ourselves and others is healing. Without wholeness neither health (Phase 3) as a goal nor healing (Phase 2) as an interim path to that goal is possible. Why? Because the ego will successfully resist healing and health and preserve the status quo of ill-health and harmfulness in order to preserve itself as essential to the person’s sense of personal safety and personal identity.

We who have been raised in an ego-oriented society to believe ego to be our identity are like fish who have been swimming in water without being aware of the water. The only reason I become aware of the water is there came to be a time in my life when I felt like a fish out of water. Amid the discomfort of flopping around and suffocating on the shore, I awoke to the realization that my ego was not my true identity. On that shore, my ego died and yet I, the true me, was still alive. In that phase of my life, I suffered an acute identity crisis. If my ego is not I, then who am I? I spent several years on a quest for the answer to this amazing question I’d previously failed to ask. Who am I?

Early in my quest for answers to this pressing question, I was introduced to a work called A Course In Miracles. I devoted myself to studying this course with more diligence than I’d ever studied before. I had been a fairly good student of other areas of study in my past. This area of study motivated me like none had previously motivated me. In the past I studied other subjects to please others, not expose myself to the shame of public failure and achieve academic expectations and benchmarks set by others. In studying A Course In Miracles, I studied and applied what I learned for reasons far more personal to me, from motivations that arose from within me, as if Life itself called me to succeed. Through this process I awakened to and gradually accepted my true identity and discovered many answers as well as many continuingly unanswered questions. I learned to live by faith in the presence of the Mystery of the Divine, including of my own identity within the Divine.

Above and beyond all else that has motivated me have been the experiences of peace, hope, joy and love that my ego never allowed me to encounter and enjoy. On account of those experiences alone, and not for any argumentative reasons, do I now encourage you to enter upon your own quest for your identity beyond the ego and the path that will take you through Phase 2 into Phase 3 as you emerge to yourself and others as a whole person rather than remain disguised behind the masks and entrapped behind the walls of your false identity of ego. If you feel so called, come forth to join me and others in the realm beyond ego of which Rumi wrote when he penned,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

Let me here share a snapshot of my own version of that truth in the form of an illustration I invite you to contemplate for its value to you as your inner voice of Spirit counsels you to do.  More about this topic is available by clicking on the Heartbook tab on the menu.

Wholeness Archtype with text 2015

For more encouragement from Rumi as a source of inspiration and wisdom, visit http://launchyourgenius.com/2014/08/04/rumi/.

For more encouragement to understand how to use your own path of faith to grow beyond the ego’s confining definition of your past, present and future, make it a point to enter into your own personal quest for answers to the pressing question “Who am I?”  Our human race will not develop beyond its current adolescent stage until each of us asks this riddle of the Universe and learns to listen to the answer we receive within our hearts and minds.  I would be honored to encourage you to find deepest satisfaction in your quest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to Those Reaching Out to Outcast LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults

If you are reaching out to LGBTQ youth and young adults who feel unwelcome in their families, communities of faith, schools and other traditional social institutions, first let me say “Thank you” for your earnest effort to awaken dignity and self-respect in those harmed by the lies by which mainstream society surrounds them and inevitably fills them as these lies seep in to poison their hearts and minds. The harm is oftentimes mental and emotional before its toxicity builds up to the point of causing physical harm.   Self-destructive actions come along after self-destructive ideas about how life works take root and toxic emotions that naturally result from believing lies about being unworthy of dignity, respect and love color self-perceptions. Since self-rejection, self-hatred and self-punishment follows on the heels of social rejection, it is helpful to have society cease to reject and begin instead to wholeheartedly accept LGBTQ youth and young adults as welcome members of society. If given enough opportunity, self-acceptance, self-love and self-actualization will also follow from the healing power of social acceptance. But it is not enough to convert the shame of social rejection into the pride of social acceptance. Why? Because shame and pride are flipsides of the same coin by which an ego-based society enslaves us all. We need to do more than help LGBTQ youth and young adults to adopt the ego’s ways of being enslaved to social approval by pride and taken for the ego’s ride to a destiny unworthy of all human beings.  The ego’s way is not the solution. There is another resolution to the dilemma of being nonconforming or “different.”

Because a spiritually rooted and enriched life is the only true alternative to the ego’s seductive illusions, I especially want to thank those who are doing all they can to alert men and women who claim to speak for God to the harm caused by religious teachings that utterly denigrate the personhood and dignity of people with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations.  As a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to challenge those who claim to honor Jesus to do much, much more than to stop spreading the lies that purport to condemn people of all ages who live with nonmainstream sexual and gender orientations to lives of guilt and shame and doom them forever to hell as unqualified to ever enter heaven.  To end systemic and individual bigotry is a worthy goal because once it’s achieved, we’ll stop harming our youth and young adults who dare to feel “different” and as part of their feeling different struggle secretly or openly with “different” sexual and gender orientations than the mainstream may admit to sharing.  But ceasing to do harm is not enough.  We must invest ourselves without reservation in undoing harm already done and in healing broken hearts much in the need of mending.  Only then will we face within ourselves the adverse effects of ego on and within all of us and evolve beyond ego’s limitations to embrace lives flowing freely with love’s most desired and treasured experiences.

Until their hearts are healed, those who have been wounded by lies and social rejection carry emotional pain and will continue to act out their pain in ways that socially conformist folks will condemn as “proof” of the wounded’s inherent unholiness.  Inner pain is often acted out in socially nonconformist (even rebellious) ways in the face of the conformity that has caused the pain.  (Such acting out is a way of saying, “No, you cannot do that to me anymore.”)  We must educate conformists (adherents to traditions) to be aware of how their unreasonable, fear-based demands for conformity are themselves a root cause of psychic pain and of the resulting harm that flows from believing oneself to be utterly unworthy of and unavailable to God’s love.  Lies confuse our minds.  Confusion = a form of psychic pain that couples with feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, powerlessness and resentment to imprison a person’s mind in a dilemma from which there appears to be no escape but death.  Death looks like the only relief after forms of temporary relief like drugs, alcohol, sex and other thrills and pleasure-triggering pursuits prove futile.

We must learn to say to inflexible traditionalists “If, in order to please God and experience Divine Love in abundance, I have to be 100% like you and not deviate in any way from the model of human life that you have adopted, then you are saying that God did not create diversity within the human race even though God created diversity among all other realms of Nature.”  Minerals, animals and vegetables embrace diversity without judging any aspect of diversity unworthy of belonging.  We must be willing to ask “What other expression of Nature polices its members to demand conformity and penalizes by rejection the minority who may not conform? Are not other species wise enough to accept nonconformity as a source of new-and-improved versions of the species that may prove to be more adaptive to changing conditions and capable of causing the species to survive those changes? Might demanding conformity and rejecting nonconformity doom the human race to extinction? Might a holy race include nonconformist expressions of holiness in all innocence as a way of ensuring that the race thrives beyond its currently limited vision for itself? Might God’s vision for the future of the human race encompass more than past traditions have embraced? Might future traditions embrace more of life, love, liberty and laughter because ancestral traditions learned to be more open to God’s creativity as a (re)new(ed) tradition?”

I’m not qualified to address how people of other religious flavors may view the socially marginalized (social “outcasts” or “rejects”), but I am qualified to speak to my brothers and sisters who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, as their primary Teacher and Friend.  We who follow Jesus are called to go far beyond stopping the transmission of harmful lies.  Yes, we do need to stop spreading messages of condemnation in the name of the one who said to the adulteress “And neither do I condemn you.”  Her sanctimonious, self-righteous neighbors accused her of “sin” and then dropped their stones when Jesus reminded them to look into their own hearts at their hidden, unconfessed and unrepented shortcomings.  All “sin” means at its origin is “separation.”  Jesus came not to separate from but to reconcile us to the Creator of Us All who loves and favors each of us as the individual and collective apple of His/Her eye.

The shortcomings of followers of Jesus include not only 1) accusing others of different sexual and gender orientations of being lifelong, irredeemable sinners (forever “separatists” from God doomed to suffer throughout all Eternity) but also 2) failing to heal and comfort those who are condemned.  It is not enough to stop condemning.  Jesus is a healer.  His followers must take up healing as their primary avocation until the harm done by the Church (and others) is undone.  We must heed the call to be allied not against but alongside those whom less understanding members of society have rejected as unacceptable family members, friends, classmates, fellow worshippers , co-workers, etc.

As an example of the misguided conclusions researchers are coming to about how to respond to the harm such condemnation causes, I cite this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/lgbt-homeless-youth-survival-sex_n_6754248.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices.

As this article evidences, researchers tend to intellectualize their way through data to spot the harm (as if it needs to be proven, which it does only to those who otherwise restrict their lives to associating with other members of the privileged class and remain blind to the plight of the less privileged). But they know nothing of the response followers of Jesus are called to provide in response to such harm.  We are not called to study “the problem” in order to gain “insight into a little-understood world and demonstrate the need for more government-funded shelter beds and other resources focused on LGBTQ youth.”  Government is not the answer here anymore than government-run orphanages and foster care meet the needs of unwanted children and youth to be welcomed in homes where they are wanted.  Plenty of followers of Jesus have homes that have room to welcome unwanted youth to be included there as members of the family, as spiritually adopted children and siblings simply because they are already divine children of the Divinely Loving God Jesus called Abba.  We need not out-source the care of the unwanted youth and young adults to governments or any other resource beyond the Christian community itself.  We who claim to occupy the privileged status of having Jesus’ care and guidance must take into our hearts and homes those Jesus says he identifies with, whom the Bible says he called “the least of these.”

I urge you who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults not to settle for speaking to believers in Jesus as if the government is the resource Jesus calls upon to serve God in his name and nature.  Jesus calls upon his followers to serve according to his way, truth and life.  He says we will do what he did and greater things will we do.  He does not teach that his followers should badger politicians into spending taxpayers’ money to provide for the socially marginalized.  He calls for his followers to serve directly in accordance with the blessings that they have received, to dig into their own pockets as the Good Samaritan did to provide for the stranger found beaten and abandoned along the road.  Emotionally beaten and abandoned LGBTQ street kids (as well as LGBTQ youth elsewhere in society) need more followers of Jesus to heed their Lord’s commandment to love God and one another and to leave no one out of their circle of love.

Others may be free to insulate themselves from direct involvement in the lives of those whom the distorters of Jesus’ teachings have harmed.  We who live by the truth of Jesus’ teachings must step forward to demonstrate by the congruency of our words and deeds that the age of  hypocrisy is over and a new age of integrity has begun.

To those who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ youth and young adults and seek to serve their best interests, I say, “What you are doing is a much needed beginning to the age of integrity.  I encourage you to take it all the way and call upon followers of Jesus to confess their own shortcomings as followers, turn from their adherence to habits of falling short, take up their responsibilities and follow the One who sends the Holy Spirit to leads us into all truth.” And I repeat, the gratitude of all whom you serve and of the God of Love who watches over them goes with you always. May you be open to reaping as you sow from the One who sows generously within the hearts and lives of all who serve in the nature of truth and love!

© Art Nicol 2015

A Topic of Interest to Men: When Will God Man-infest?

The possibilities of how God will resolve the tendency of male human beings to resist surrendering to Divine Authority while preferring to assert their own ego’s impotent but prideful authority are numerous, perhaps infinite.  So, if you don’t like the ideas I offer here, please don’t fret.  Make up your own alternative solution.  If you use your imagination to listen intently to the Spirit that is always sharing wisdom and truth about love within your heart, you’ll find your own story to tell of how God will with men indwell.

My idea is based on looking at things oddly.  For example, most people have interpreted the fact that Jesus came into the world as a male as indicating that God favors men over women. Many interpretations of sacred teachings from many paths of faith have indulged in this same kind of error to justify male dominance of human societies (and, not surprisingly, to justify reserving to men the role of interpreting sacred scriptures as extra protection against loss of male privileges). I interpret the fact of Jesus’ human maleness differently.  I see in that fact a God who tackles the most challenging, stubborn problems head on and does not avoid them.  I see a God who seeks to lift the whole of the human race out of our attachment not to sin but to suffering by converting traditionally aggressive members of the race into superlative healers of all forms of harm.  We’ve been suffering escalating pain for so many millennia that we are psychologically bonded to suffering as if it is part of our identity.  Unless we’re presented with a clear alternative we cannot even imagine living without suffering. The best we can imagine is avoiding as much suffering personally as we can avoid while shifting suffering onto other people’s plates and off of ours.  We cannot imagine an end to suffering for everyone.

Yet, God can imagine it.  In fact, God wills an end to suffering for everyone and has set a plan in motion to bring that end into reality here on Earth.  We might call it God’s totally (that is, free) Affordable Care Act or Universal Healthcare policy.  God’s plan involves sharing God’s immunity to harm and suffering with us, all of us.  To set the Divine Plan in motion, he introduced an example of a starkly clarifying alternative into the human experience that stands in complete contrast to the human race’s normal experience.  That contrast is Jesus, not a contrast because he’s God while we are not but a contrast because he’s totally one with the human race while refusing to be a clone or copy of stereotypical maleness as defined by any human culture.  Witness, for example, that unlike men in most cultures, Jesus did not try to prove his masculinity by fathering children or prove his superiority by running roughshod over others.  Instead he showed that we are all God’s children and demonstrated what that looks like.  He exercised his power not to show himself off as superior but to show us all upward to God as our unconditionally loving Superior Parent.

Normally, male humans are more likely to inflict physical pain and suffering on others than women are. Because men are, on average, larger bodied than women, they tend to cause more pain, sometimes out of awkwardness towards smaller bodied humans such as women, children and smaller bodied men and sometimes quite intentionally to try to demonstrate external superiority while internally (in their secret heart of hearts) feeling quite the opposite in their undisclosed feelings of inferiority. Jesus confronted male stereotypes of social superiority by showing what true superiority on divine terms looks and acts like and teaching that all men as well as women and children have equal opportunity to access the same Diving Power.  God is an equal opportunity deployer of Divine Power, so Jesus says.

In human cultures, women are more likely to be involved in comforting the “little ones” and those who suffer and trying to relieve pain and suffering if they can.  Most human cultures distinguish masculinity and femininity based on factors like softness, gentleness, compassion and cooperation.  In most cultures women are permitted to be softer, gentler and more compassionate and cooperative than men.  Social training reinforced by rewards of social approval for successfully conforming to stereotypes shapes men into inflictors of pain because socially aggressive males are rated as more manly than less socially aggressive ones.  Most societies reserve derogatory names like “wimp,” “sissy” and “coward” for those boys and men who are reluctant to engage in aggressive behaviors and shy away from inflicting or experiencing pain.  To be a “real man” means to inflict and endure pain without flinching – and without crying.

To counteract this social prejudice in favor of casting men as sources of pain and suffering, God decided that the expression God would use to exemplify Divine Love and Grace in human form had to be a male.  God chose the least likely candidate through whom to express Divine Grace and Mercy – a man.  Had God chosen a woman to reveal Divine Qualities and Power, the human race would not have been so shocked.  It had to be a man through whom God manifested the Divine as a Supremely Gentle Nurturer and Healer.  So, in the man Jesus, God man-infected the human body to start the ball rolling. God infected Jesus with the power to not only “do no harm” but also to heal all harm that had already occurred.  In doing so, God challenged the human race to think differently at the core of our assumptions and social constructs about issues like gender identity and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.  He emphasized the absurdity of casting God as a stereotypical male figure as if God has a human body.  (Given God’s lack of a body with sexual traits, God’s qualities are more likely to be associated with androgyny than with either extreme of masculinity or femininity.)

Since being confronted by the Jesus model of manhood, men have variously faced and/or avoided the challenge of being like Jesus in all of his qualities and letting go of all socially reinforced but nevertheless incompatible ideas about what it means to be a man.  That challenge goes right to the heart of social assumptions that are rooted in the greater size and physical strength of the average man’s body in comparison to women’s bodies and in the fact of penetration by men to accomplish the act of sexual reproduction.  Women by physical nature and reproductive function are defined by their bodies as softer, smaller and more receptive of penetration than a source of penetration. When men identify with their bodies’ traits and functions, they are led away from identifying with the process of submitting or surrendering their lives to God in service according to God’s will.  Yet, the opportunity of men to serve God awaits in our allowing God to be in charge and allowing God to plant seeds of inspiration to gestate and come into fullness of time through male lives.  Images like being the Bride of Christ simply offend the socially reinforced standards for being a “real man.”

The ego, not exclusively a male tradition but prevalent throughout the human race, can be seen as a set of defenses against the truth of God’s plan to call us back home as Divine Children.  In 12-step programs, it is said that EGO stands for “edging God out.”  Jesus demonstrated how to allow God to edge back into our lives by opening our hearts and minds to the transforming power of the Spirit of Truth and Love that Jesus promised would be ever present with us to guide and comfort us.  Often this Spirit is cast as feminine in nature.  Imagine how contrary to a male’s upbringing it may be to allow a feminine power to be in charge and to enter into the depth of his being to create new life!  I believe that such a total reversal of male functions is a major obstacle for men in our quest for experiences of God.  We simply desire to be in charge and have a hard time admitting that God already is in charge.  Let us ponder in our hearts the reality of the Spirit’s abiding presence there and keep things simple by accepting as truth what is already true.

As I said at the beginning, if you don’t like my ideas, please feel free to contemplate at length to come up with ones of your own.  It’s worth our weight in gold to come forth as gold after suffering as Job suffered.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Going Beyond Out of Our Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how this eloquent writer spoke about love:

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

Intellectualism: Its Harmful Nature and Its Cure

During one of her talks, Esther Hicks presented her Inner Voice as saying, “Your Inner Being likes to skip and laugh and think about things; your Inner Being likes to offer compliments and feel appreciation and contemplate something that is not fully understood and then feel the understanding come forth.  Your Inner Being is just like your frisky two-year old who is eager for life experience.  To meet up with your Inner Being just be more like that now.”  That quote shares one angle on how to avoid the pitfalls of intellectualism.  For a corresponding observation we need only turn to Aldous Huxley who said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

Intellectualism is the practice or habit of using the mind to conceive of ideas that are heartless and cruel in their impact on others, consider them viable options and logically explain why they are most effective.  It’s the byproduct of a mind trapped in ego.  The ego requires that we deny our emotions and become progressively insensitive to own heartfelt emotions and the hearts and emotions of others.  When we cultivate our egos as our false identities, we must tune out our natural capacity for empathy to avoid being overwhelmed by the obvious messages of pain that ego causes us and others to endure as if suffering is inevitable.  Intellectualism assumes that suffering is inevitable and that the primary purpose of human life is to decrease the pain and suffering we encounter no matter what the cost of our decisions may be in pain and suffering that others endure.  To avoid pain and suffering, a person guided by ego can decide to climb over others on the way to the top because the top looks freer of pain or insulate oneself from others because separating from others looks like a way to protect from pain or at least from awareness of other people’s suffering.  Ironically, the ego’s tactics end up isolating us from one another, increasing our agonizing loneliness and leaving us feeling confused, betrayed and powerless.  In teaching us to be emotionally uninvolved with ourselves and others, the ego teaches us to avoid forming bonds of love, be alone and accept loneliness as our inevitable lot in life. It’s not our only option.  We can choose to reverse the ego’s trapping logic and let the truth in our hearts set us free.

The quotes by Hicks and Huxley emphasize the value of retaining our wholeheartedly childlike (but not childish) nature as we develop into maturity.  They underscore the truth that healthy maturity is not discovered in denying our childlike qualities but in extending ourselves beyond childhood into adulthood while retaining the best qualities of childhood.  Children are naturally curious, playful, care-free, sensitive, compassionate, innocently trusting and open to love’s natural flow.  Adults who abandon those traits in order to survive in the adult world impoverish themselves and help to fabricate an artificial adult world that inflicts pain and suffering on children and others as if to punish them for being childlike.  Such emotionally impoverished adults adopt intellectualism’s emotionless logic in some form to “explain” or “justify” their repeated decisions to abandon their own “inner child” in favor of neglecting and abusing it as they neglect and abuse themselves and others in order to prevail as an adult in competition for ego-valued rewards.   What’s really being “explained” and “justified” is the ego’s preservation of itself.  When one mistakes one’s identity for being an ego, one can only logically fight to preserve that false identity, remain trapped within its blindly clawing attempts to survive and intellectually excuse and rationalize its fight for survival as “survival of the fittest.”  In truth, no ego is fit because no ego can experience and share love.  Ego is the antithesis of our capacity to experience and share love.

Moralists try to counteract the “evils” of ego’s intellectualism by arguing for ethics and laws that control everyone’s actions by confining our permissible actions within limits that supposedly minimize the harm of pursuing ego-valued rewards.  Moralists argue in favor of drawing lines and enforcing them through systems of reward and punishment primarily because moralists are themselves limited by their cognitive development to thinking in terms of reward and punishment as the top level of adult maturity.  They conceive of “adults” as those qualified by age, longevity of service or elegantly and subtly manipulative (or mere brute) force to administer the systems of reward and punishment.  It’s understandable that those whose thinking is not yet developed beyond the reward-punishment duality will think in those terms and not realize that there is a more highly evolved alternative.  But it is not necessary that a whole society be run into the ground by the limited capacity of moralists to think simply because, in their fear of the unknown and uncontrolled aspects of society’s emerging diversity, they demand conformity, are persuasive and present their arguments forcefully by invoking religious texts to back them up.

Since moralists wrote most of the religious texts, of course these texts back them up.  Their argument that God totally agrees with them amounts to their citing dead authors’ claims to speak for a living God.  A living God does not need dead or living authors to speak for the Divine Truth that God shares with every one of us within our hearts.  If only we would learn to listen and receive what God shares in our hearts we’d know.  Hick’s quote makes that point by noting how our understanding will grow into increasing clarity through our life experiences not through memorizing or quoting dead or living authors.  As a living author, I encourage you to be frisky, take risks and encounter God and Divine love within your experiences, even those experiences that others may counsel you not to have.  Surely wisdom does seek to guide you but the fears of others are not necessarily the Voice of Wisdom.  It’s your responsibility to listen and decide for yourself what Wisdom is saying to you. Don’t take my word for it.  If you prefer to jump through other people’s hoops and submit yourself to their authority, by all means do so.  Perhaps in this stage of your life that’s what’s best for you.  I did that for many years in my life.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have teachers, mentors and other authority figures worthy of my attention and cooperation until I ran out of them and had to learn to listen to God as my eternal and internal Authority Figure.  God, as it turns out, is the only infallible source of Wisdom and Guidance.   Stop, look within and listen.  God is speaking to you in your heart even now, as you read this sentence . . .

It is one of the natural results of moralism for moralists to gain control of social institutions and use traditions to climb higher within those institutions so as to gain the power to write and enforce the rules as if they should apply to everyone.  Moralists are accomplished social climbers – and conformist and apologists for rigorously enforced conformity.  By imposing external rules on us all, they would make clones of us as if manufacturing Model-T Fords to roll off a single, rigidly controlled factory line.  (Witness the super-conformist Common Core Curriculum generated by intellectualism in service to a conformist society’s demands for more clones to fit into predetermined slots in a modern mechanistic economy – whether capitalistic, socialistic, communistic or otherwise defined by values that are materialistic.)  In fact, metaphors idealizing the mechanistic, replicative processes of the industrial age have heavily influenced the power of conformists to insist that theirs is the only way that works.  They can mask all of their inner conflicts and struggles behind their egos’ facades and pretend to qualify to be in charge of our materialistic, factory-like consumerist society.  When one of their club members reveals a moral lapse, the moralists gasp in surprise and oust the offender as their way of purifying their club and retaining claim to power over others.  Few among the intimidated masses notice or dare to point out that the emperor has no clothes on – in fact, that none of the emperor’s counselors and hangers-on are clothed with true authority to govern.

As the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes reveals, it takes a child to notice and speak the truth about the nakedness of those whose actions are motivated by their desire to have power over others that they acquire through competition.  The capacity to see with one’s heart and have the courage to speak up is a childlike trait that conflicts with survival in the adult world as a seeker of ego-valued rewards of competition.  The truth offends the ego and those who subscribe to the ego’s way of adulthood.  Most children learn to keep their thoughts to themselves for fear of losing rewards and reaping punishment.  Fear censors and silences the truth that we’d otherwise naturally observe and talk about if we were feeling safe to risk sharing what’s on our hearts and minds.  Intellectuals masquerading as moralists want us to feel unsafe so that we rely upon them to protect us from making mistakes and taking risks that might result in adverse consequences imposed by them.  Their logic is circular but fear often keeps us from noticing.  Bullies cow the rest of us into submission unless we simply don’t value what the herd heard and instead listen inwardly to our own Inner Voice.  The Inner Voice of our Inner Being or Inner Child conveys the wisdom of the ages to each of us but most of us have tuned it out.  No one warns us that tuning out our hearts and learning to be progressively less sensitive, less empathetic, less compassionate and less altruistic carries a price – a high price.  That price is the loss of the most rewarding qualities of life that wisdom would preserve, uppermost of which is Divine Love.

If you want to investigate the possibility of regaining your capacity to see life through the heart and eyes of a child and experience and share divine love, I highly recommend reading It Will Never Happen to Me by Claudia Black.  Read the second edition.  She applies her principles to all of us in that edition after describing them as applicable to survivors of alcoholic families in her first edition.  She espouses a simple solution to the dilemma imposed upon our minds by ego’s roles, rules and rituals.  She encourages us to risk violating the ego’s rules and learn again to trust, feel and talk about things that matter.  If you’ve appreciated reading this article you’ll likely find great value in reading Ms. Black’s book, not because she necessarily has all the answers but because she knows the truth about how each of us can regain our natural access to answers supplied to us in our hearts by the unconditionally loving Divine Being who leaves no one out of His/Her family.  We are all – every single one of us – a child of God favored by God, unforgotten and unforsaken by God.  Whether you prefer to refer to the Divine Being by God, Goddess or any other term, Divine Love awaits you as an experience as you turn inward to allow your heart to awaken and blossom under the influence of the energy of the Lovelight within you.  Perhaps it’s time for you to be under its influence instead of under the influence of any alternative mood-altering substance, experience or intoxication.   Try being high on Love.  You’ll enjoy discovering and returning to that high as the healthy alternative to all others.  It’s the only true cure for intellectualism.

As innocent children know it so can you.  Learn to let go of ego’s teachings about guilt and shame as if those painful features of your experiences are permanent.  They need not be permanent.  Suffering is perpetuated by the belief that pride is the antidote and cure for shame and blame directed at another is the antidote and cure for guilt.  Such nonsense only perpetuates suffering by recycling it.  Forgiveness lets it go and releases you from the cycle of suffering.  Only you can choose to forgive.  And no one else can prevent you from forgiving if you desire to follow your heart and be free of all the past that the ego says you’ll never be free of.  You may feel afraid of stepping beyond your ego. That’s understandable and only need be shared to be overcome.  By sharing your fears you’ll find within you the courage to overcome them.  By sharing your heart with others you can trust and talking about all that matters most to you, the True You will come forth from behind the ego’s shadow and discover that like the moon’s shadow the ego’s shadow only temporarily blocked the Lovelight of the Divine Son or Daughter you are.  Once you’ve tasted the Lovelight you’ll never really want to retreat into your ego for long again.

To quote another source of wise spiritual guidance on this topic, let me set out the text of Matthew 18:1-4: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (English Standard Version.)  To turn from the heartlessness of being an intellectualizing adult and once again embrace the endearing qualities of childhood allows us to resume our natural relationship with the Creator of Heaven, who is our Father.  As beloved dear ones of the Creator we know the qualities of heavenly love are ours to cherish and honor within our hearts and share with one another as sisters and brothers in One United Divine Family.  Intellectualism is one path by which we forget who we are and blindly stumble into treating each other as if we do not all belong within our Father’s family household.  By the power of paradox that defies our human capacity for reasoning, every one of us is greatest in the greatest kingdom.  No superlative outshines our Father’s love for each of us who stops thinking of himself or herself as an ego and instead humbly accepts his or her nature as a Divine Child. Within God’s family of sibling rivalry there is no need or cause because each is greatest.

© Art Nicol 2015