Tag Archives: power

Trump or Triumph?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Art Nicol 2015

 

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

Cancer in the Body of Believers in Jesus

Cancer begins as a few cells rapidly multiply without the purpose-driven orderly structure that controls the growth of healthy cells elsewhere in the body.  These rapidly multiplying, disorderly cancer cells form masses of tissue we call “tumors” and may eventually spread throughout the body to generate out-of-control cell-production that proves contrary to the purpose of the host organism.  Once the cancerous cells populate too much of the host organism, death looms as the original life-purpose of the organism is lost amid the disorderly purposelessness of the cancer cells.   Cancer is characterized by a disconnect between the main organism’s life-oriented purpose and the process of cell production and tissue regeneration.  Some people say that cancerous tumors “grow.”  But if the term “growth” applies only to orderly cell production that aligns with the life-orientation and purpose of the main, overarching organism then cancerous tissues do not grow.  They merely expand in a disorderly fashion that mimics growth but does not contribute to life.  Once the main organism’s health declines enough to bring about death, even the cancer cells die. They have sabotaged their host to their own detriment.

If Jesus’ institutionalized Church is Christ’s body of believers on Earth then what might be the cancer that is causing the Church’s decline and bringing the body of believers nearer and nearer to disintegration and ultimately death?  I suggest that the cancer can be spotted in every idea and resulting practice that disconnects the Church from the life-oriented purpose God gave it through Jesus.  Ideas and practices not in alignment with the God-given purpose of the Church are generating cancerous cell-production throughout the Church that mimics growth but does not contribute to the life of the Church as God defines that life.  These forms of illusory “growth” are sabotaging the Church and contributing not to its life but rather to its decline.

I believe that God is working through paths of faith other than the one associated with Jesus. Be that as it may, I’m devoted to the path of faith along which Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to lead all who believe in him.  As a believer in Jesus, I seek to hear the leading of the Spirit within my heart and to heed its guidance and honor the wisdom it transmits to faith-oriented believers in Jesus.  I accept without qualification Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.  John 16:13.  That is why this article is devoted to spotting the cancerous ideas and practices at work within Christ’s Church rather than focused upon the possible shortcomings of other paths of faith.  Until the Church of Jesus Christ has submitted itself to healing of all cancerous ideas and practices at work within it, it is in no position to point out the possible ills of other paths of faith. The Church must allow the Holy Spirit to point out and remove logs from its own eyes before it tries to point out splinters in the vision of other paths of faith.

To whatever extent any other path of faith may be failing to adhere to God’s purpose and plan for that path of faith, it is the responsibility of faithful adherents to that path to assess those shortcomings and take steps to rectify them from within the borders of that faith as a follower of that faith. Within the body of believers in Jesus we have our hands full addressing the ills of Christ’s institutionalized Church and cannot afford to cast our eyes upon other religions or paths of faith until we’ve resolved all of our own issues between us and God.  That is to say that the fact that I take up the task of identifying some of the Church’s blind spots does not imply that there are none present in other paths of faith.  It means only that I adhere to the principle of the Fourth Step of the 12-steps and suggest that believers in Jesus must focus on taking our own inventories and repent of our own ill-conceived ideas and sabotaging practices that have led to the decline of the Church at large. Once we’ve humbly submitted to the Holy Spirit’s removal of the logs from our own eyes, we can seek God’s guidance about what to do next with our clarified vision.  In the meantime, to honor Jesus as the head of our body of believers, we need to refrain from violating his principle of not judging others.

In this article I do not pretend to present an exhaustive list of the ideas and practices rampant within Christ’s Church that are proving to be cancerous.  I intend here only to highlight a few so as to contribute to a dialogue within the Church that may lead the Church, its leaders and its members of all stripes and flavors to humility, repentance and healing.  I believe that the process God calls us to engage in is akin to the repentance that Jonah’s message to Nineveh invoked.  Ideas and practices not aligned with God’s holy purpose for the body of believers in Jesus are “wickedness” (failure to adhere to holiness) in the eyes of God whether or not they qualify as “wicked” under popular definitions of the populace at large. If God’s people who are called by His name desire with all their hearts to see the world healed of all forms of violence and oppression and the resulting harm, we must heed God’s definition of “wickedness” in order to humble ourselves before God and participate fully in the conditions that permit healing to flow from God unlimitedly.

In saying that I have identified a few of the Church’s misalignments with Jesus’ directions to his followers is not to say that I mention them in order of significance or priority or have cited the most important ones.  To contribute to the dialogue about Church-wide humility, repentance and healing, I cite only these for now:

  1. The error of judging people of other faiths, as mentioned above. We are not qualified to assess from beyond the borders of any other path of faith how that path of faith is best lived. That is an internal affair as to which responsibility rests with those who claim that path of faith
  2.  The error of citing quantifiable statistics as signs of growth while measures of quality are neglected. When quantity is valued over quality, the Church has dropped the ball that Jesus handed off to the Church. Throughout the Scriptures referenced by Jesus and the Church are many passages indicating that God is more concerned about the quality of life people are experiencing than about the quantity of people who are claiming to believe in Him. God has often preferred to rely upon a few people to accomplish His goals than to rely upon great numbers to prove His significance. In short, God is not concerned with social approval ratings as if God is a politician or Earthly monarch. God does not put His mind upon the things of man. God puts His mind upon the things of God whether or not humankind approves of God’s values, ideas or priorities. For the Church to express God’s orientation, the Church will have to stop catering to social approval, no longer seek to amass quantities of members or money and focus on God’s values, ideas and priorities. To measure the success of the Church by numbers is to measure by the same measurements attributed to newly released movies or TV shows. Audience ratings are not symptoms of the health of the Church except to the extent that high popularity may be a symptom of poor health. Ratings measure the cancerous illusory “growth” and call it admirable. Not so in God’s eyes.
  3. The error of measuring the quality of a believer’s faithfulness to Jesus by the financial prosperity or social popularity of his or her lifestyle. By his example, Jesus revealed the true measures of a believer’s life while he was on Earth. He was neither financially prosperous nor popular. In fact, he allowed himself to walk through life with few possessions and admonished his followers to do likewise. He traveled light but he did not travel far. He remained focused on a relatively small territory of personal concern rather than roam throughout the wider territory using means of transportation then available to him. Today the industrial/technological world has developed means of transportation that enable humans to travel the globe. The Internet empowers our minds to travel everywhere at any time. The practice of traveling widely is promoted by commercialism and mass media as “good.” Good for what? Good for profit-making by purveyors of travel-related services, including the marketing industry. Good for allowing those with wealth to congregate as mutual admirers around the globe and fancy themselves to be participants in a diversely multicultural world when in fact all they are doing is sharing their escapist activities and self-indulgences with other members of their economic class while remaining indifferent to the plight of other classes. I suggest that God disagrees with the standards of the world on this point and prefers that believers focus on local concerns in-depth, moving among all economic classes and other indices of human diversity as Jesus did, rather than spread themselves so thin as to have little significant, long-term impact on anything anywhere. Jesus impacted the lives he touched in significant, life-transforming ways (called “miracles”) and predicted that those who were his true disciples would do likewise, even having greater significance and impact than he had. Jesus was able to perform miracles because he developed relationships locally and allowed the least of these in his locality to have access to him personally. Although he participated in discussions with elites and allowed himself to be interviewed from time to time by representatives of the media of his day, he did not make a priority of doing so. Instead he remained directly accessible to the masses and most importantly to individuals who separated themselves from the masses to approach him one on one. In interacting with Jesus’ energy personally people were brought to faith and offered opportunities to act upon their faith to receive miracles of healing. The Church’s mass-media-influenced values and priorities today turn Jesus’ values and priorities upside down.
  4. The error of catering to worldly powers rather than serving those that worldly powers look down upon, exploit and oppress. The Church has become an apologist for those who wield social power instead of being an advocate for those the powerful disdain. Nowhere in Jesus’ model of life to which he called his disciples did he serve in the role of sycophant to the elites or aristocrats of his time. Moses set captives free. Jesus set captives free. For the Church now to cater to those who hold powerless people in captivity is an anathema to the Father who loves all of us. The modern world is awash with captives of all kinds. Many workers around the world are held captive in one way or another by their employment’s meager returns and harsh conditions. The worldwide trade in sex-for-money in all its forms imprisons participants on all sides of these transactions within walls of secrecy and shame. To help build prisons and justify their existence rather than to visit prisoners and help them never to return to prison ignores one of Jesus’ most strident quality control standards for his followers. To fail to invest its all in helping the least of these to take up lifestyles of freedom and no longer risk going to prison, being homeless or exploited or going without the necessities of life, including personal dignity and the capacity to provide for one’s children, indicts the modern Church.

Christians believe that God’s nature and priorities were expressed in a physical body through Jesus and that Jesus intends the Church as an institution to continue to express God’s nature and priorities.  After starting out so well in Jesus’ life, it may be hard to understand how Christianity drifted so far afield from the truth he promised would set us free.  But it’s vital that we admit the drift and correct the errors if ever we want to allow the truth to set us free from mistakes humans made in the past.  Self-examination, repentance, correction of errors and granting and receiving of forgiveness are not the ego’s talents because these disciplines to which Jesus calls us are expedited by humility and resisted by pride.  So long as spokespersons for Jesus filter their information through the ego and water down their ideas and their experiences – their principles and their practices – to suit their egos no significant correction will occur and the power of forgiveness, once so radically illustrated by Jesus, will remain stillborn.

It is essential to rise free of and beyond the ego to correct the errors that the ego has so diligently preserved.  Overcoming the ego is what the passages in Chapter 3 of Revelations beginning with “He who overcomes shall” refer to.  By the power of diligent self-examination, change of mind and forgiveness of errors, we can join together to resurrect the Church from the tomb into which popular opinion has shoved it by crying out for the crucifixion, censorship and silence of minority members of the Church who have called the Church to account for its harm.  It is a mistake to focus on errors as guilt-and-shame-ladened “sins.”  To encrust our errors with barnacles of guilt and shame only makes them all the more difficult to acknowledge and shed.  Let’s stop adding to the difficulties of the task of resurrecting the Church and simply let Jesus call us forth from the grave as he once summonsed Lazarus, as a friend he missed and wanted to see alive again.  We are each Jesus’ friend, no matter how far we may have gone astray.  He has not forsaken us.  We need no longer forsake him.  By God’s grace, we have the power to redeem our error-prone lives and live lives renewed by forgiveness and mercy and overflowing with liberty and justice for all.

The Church’s healing from spiritual cancer awaits us as individuals who accept healing on behalf of the whole.  The healing begins one by one and gains momentum as the healed ones gather as a healed body of believers.  Healed twos become healed threes, fours and so forth until the heart-count becomes too numerous to quantify.  There is no need to count because once we are healed we are all one.  When Jesus calls you to join the healing movement by submitting yourself to its heart-cleansing flow, remember that you as an individual do not need the permission of anyone else to participate in the healing. All you need to do to respond to Jesus’ call to be healed is to declare with all your heart, mind, body and soul, “I can, sir,” in the face of the Church’s cancer.  As we each do our part as Jesus did, God will do the rest.

© 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

 

 

A Diablog about the Movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Might anyone be interested in a dialogue about the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey?”  Frankly, I don’t intend to see it but I’m interested in opening up a dialogue about it with anyone who has seen it.  I recently read an article about the sex toy industry that is blossoming in response to the book and expected to blossom even more on account of the movie.  It reminds me of the marketing of so many spin-off products related to other movies.  Apparently we are removing the social taboos about the openness with which the marketing of sex toys and instruction in their use is occurring.  What promises, pitfalls and perils await us in this development?

What I’m wondering about and would like to diablog with others about are these points, at least for starters:

1) Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” a dramatization of a man who has become trapped in intertwined addictions to sexual pleasure and power over others?    Does power corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely, as Lord Acton long ago suggested?  Does this story reveal how all addictions are progressive diseases that spiral increasingly out of control as they descend into the depths of depravity in pursuit of greater “highs” when past practices no longer produce the same appetite-satisfying results?   Does this movie warn us of the patterns predators use to groom and seduce their prey?  Does it warn us of the naivete involved in not being prepared to recognize and steer clear of predators instead of being fascinated by their charm and claims of pleasure and power beyond our wildest dreams?  Does it enlighten us at all about the numbing of emotions and acceptance of self-devaluing required to engage fully in any addictive practice?  Does it reveal how ruinously dehumanizing addictions are for all participants once they become entrenched?

2) Does the exploitation of life for fun and profit always lead to a declining quality of life?  Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” merely a string of product placements, a multiphase infomercial for sex toys others hope to market to naïve consumers who do not understand the risks of becoming sexual addicts themselves?   How completely unethical are the movie producers and sex toy marketers in their willingness to throw their market members to the wolves of predatory addictions and promote the decline of modern society so long as their profits pour in?  If the movie were about the cocaine drug trade, would there be no serious questions if retailers began to openly sell and promote the use of cocaine?  Are we aware enough to note that the chemistry of sexual pleasure and the social dynamics of dealing in and consuming sexually stimulating products parallels the chemistry of drug-induced pleasure and the social dynamics of dealing in and consuming chemically stimulating products?  Are we wise enough to discern how to respond to these potential parallels and steer clear of the hazards of addiction latent in them?

Because I’m not going to watch this movie, please pardon my ignorance about it and my unwillingness to critique it or take a stand in favor or against it.  I’m interested in allowing this movie to benefit society in any way it may raise interesting questions and promote a dialogue about the wisdom it may or may not suggest is not yet operative in modern society about addictions and the path to entering into one and becoming unwittingly bogged down in it.  What does this movie tell us about the distinction between healthy intimacy and the alternative of exploitative relationships that can only lead to harm — physical, emotional, mental and otherwise?  Does this movie help us have a clearer vision of this distinction by pealing back the cover from one man’s secret lifestyle to allow us to learn from his dilemma of being out of control and never satisfied with life?  Does it educate us in any way about the danger of pretending to be satisfied with gaining increasing power over others while we feel more and more utterly powerless in our own private lives?  Does it educate us about how it feels to have lost all control to compulsive activities we may have once thought of as innocent fun?

I’m interested in learning about this movie secondhand, not so much to focus on the movie itself but instead to focus on the lessons it may offer us, intentionally or otherwise.

Pure Cooperation Enriches Life

Do you want to tap into the power of the Divine Life and experience its flow through you as Divine Love’s joyful radiance so that you know who you are, know why you are alive, understand how to reap value from hard times and feel deeply satisfied with your life? This essay tells you why purified cooperation frees you to receive increasing power, insight, understanding and satisfaction as you purify your motives for cooperating.

The more you purify your motives for cooperating with another person, the more Divine Power flows through you as Radiant Love that fulfills your heart’s desires, including your desire to be empowered to pursue your passions and to feel deeply satisfied with yourself.  Ulterior or mixed motives for cooperating dampen Divine Power’s flow. To share in and reap the benefits of Divine Power’s miracles, it’s necessary to purify our hearts so as to live as God’s lives towards others. Purity of motives matters maximally in God’s Life Enrichment Plan. One benefit of purifying your cooperative connection with the Divine is that God creates the future and will help you have the best future possible.  If you tend to worry about the future, focus instead on purifying your cooperation with God now and leave your future in God’s hands as you help others to enjoy and appreciate their lives more in the present.

Spiritual teachers are plentiful these days.  Many promise to teach you how to experience more power by tapping into your inner realm where power waits to be released through you into your life experiences.  They are pointing in the right direction.  Much of what they teach is good as far as it goes but it does not go all the way to the heart of the matter.  Your power does abide within you, in the core of your being. It’s there waiting to be tapped into and drawn to the surface to be expressed by you as you.  I want to add a tip of wisdom to your endeavor to tap into this power.  The wisdom is this: don’t mistake your own puny power to develop your own “improved” lifestyle as measured by personal convenience, wealth and social status as Divine Power.  That’s the measure many teachers use to entice you to pay attention to them.  They seduce you with promises of increased convenience (a parking space!), prosperity and social approval. If that’s all you seek as a goal, then you’ll not be interested in the wisdom tip I’m sharing here.  However if you’d like to experience Divine Power as Radiant Love and a promising future on God’s terms, keep reading. The most direct way to tap into Divine Power is to cooperate totally with its Divine Purpose.

Divine Power is God’s to share with all who seek it on God’s terms for God’s purpose.  God’s terms do not focus on our personal convenience, wealth and social approval.  God’s terms focus on our learning to deliver to others experiences of divine love, heartfelt comfort, healing oneness and blessings of life in abundance.  Please take note: The key is our capacity to deliver the goods to others, not merely our capacity to soak up the goods for ourselves as if we are the end consumer of God’s Divine Power.  If we truly want to experience Divine Power in all of its miraculous nature and scope we simply must cooperate with God on God’s terms and not try to dictate terms to God or impose our limited purpose for its use.  God’s terms include God’s wholehearted commitment to demonstrating God’s oneness with all people. Most people are not comfortable with humbling themselves before God so as to receive as generously as God is willing to give.  Their egos get in the way because their egos are rooted in belief in separation from God and from one another.  God’s purpose of demonstrating the Oneness of Life, within which all things are interconnected, violates the ego’s basic premise that separation is real.  The ego resists humility because humility offers no place for ego.  If you want to receive and deliver to others the divinely enriched good life that God has in store for you, be prepared to cooperate with God even when your ego protests that you’ve offended it and all it values.

Here’s the scoop:  God has always wanted every human being to receive Divine Power and all of its life-enriching benefits.  It’s never been God’s will to shortchange anyone or leave anyone unfavored. There’s a way to share Divine Power among all of us that God knows and reveals but our egos ignore and obscure. We are each created to express Divine Power but we adopt egos as false social identities to survive in our society where egos and ego’s values and priorities determine how social approval and disapproval are distributed.  If you want to set Divine Power free to flow through you, be prepared to encounter turbulence as your own ego and egos around you react to your violation of ego’s rules, roles and routines and accuse you of being a boat-rocker and rule-violator – too “different” in your attitudes, beliefs and social orientation for a conformist society to approve of – while you are not a social deviant except to the extent that you exceed social standards by deviating towards excellence. The ego may declare you a hero one moment, a scapegoat the next and then do its best to ignore you entirely as it exiles you from its company. More than likely our ego-based traditionalist society will do its best to make you feel unwelcome and regret siding so radically with God as to value God’s will that Love reign supreme over our pathways to freedom and joy. You will not experience the flow of Divine Power as your natural inheritance until you reclaim God as your Divine Parent and participate fully in Divine Family Life, treating every other human being as your brother and sister, as beloved of God as you are.

Purifying our hearts means letting go of all fear so as to allow Divine Love to radiate where fear once imposed the gloom of separation and loneliness onto God’s celebration of oneness and companionship throughout all circumstances from lovely to harsh and back again. Purification of our hearts is a process that conflicts with modern practices and principles now widespread throughout our fear-based, fear-saturated society. Social norms support our maintaining hearts filled with fear as if that’s a desirable goal. Purification sets our hearts free of fear so that we become social nonconformists (even sometimes feeling like a freak) until being pure of heart becomes the new social norm. In the transitional phase during which society shifts from being fear-based, fear-saturated to being love-based, love-saturated, mutual encouragement to make the shift is vital.  We most need to learn to no longer fear Divine Love and instead to share it generously with mutual appreciation for all we are daring to be and to become.

In modern times, while fearing Diving Love, humanity mistakenly subscribed to the lie that human life evolves towards an ideal standard of improvement on account of the “survival of the fittest.”  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The ideal standard of improvement for humanity is an increase in the flow of Divine Power to comfort, heal and bless us all. (Students of A Course In Miracles may recognize this statement of Divine Purpose.)  Human life evolves towards increased flow of Divine Power through the service of the fittest in promoting the welfare of the whole so that all members of the human race thrive, not merely survive.  Service by, not survival of, the fittest is what matters. In other words, empowerment for humanity is not about outdoing the competition by being fitter for survival than others.  It’s about being fitter for service than others may currently be.  Empowerment and life-enrichment happen naturally from learning to be more helpful towards others – with pure hearts, based on motives as pure as God’s.

Those who serve others on God’s terms (e.g., not co-dependently, compulsively or fearfully) are models of humanity’s divine nature as they serve the best interests of the whole, including those who may at first appear to be least suited for survival or service. It is wise for honored leaders of society to be spiritually oriented servants of those with the least social status.  When those at the leading edge of humanity’s social privileges reach out to aid those at humanity’s trailing edge and lift them forward along with the whole of humanity, we all move forward together. Within the dynamics of service of “social bottoms by social tops,” progress sustains itself because those previously at society’s trailing edge learn to participate meaningfully on leadership teams at society’s cutting edge of positive developments.

In sum, God’s plan for humanity’s progress in awakening to our divine nature is a wrap-around process that leaves no one out of the circle of mutual service – the Circle of Life. Humble service means that socially privileged people do not use spiritual principles and practices to continue to feather our own nests and expand our experiences of convenience and privilege. Instead we adopt humble lifestyles that free our discretionary resources to be applied voluntarily to benefit less privileged members of society, elevating everyone together into a sustainable range of lifestyles that are totally adequate but not extravagant or self-indulgent.

How can this idealistic “bottom served by top” social dynamic become reality? It is guaranteed to become society’s new reality when we commit to cooperating with it wholeheartedly because God’s orientation to humanity is as our Wholehearted Supreme Servant.  Serving us all with Divine Delight, the Ultimate Top will orchestrate the creation of the new society rooted in purified cooperation. God asks not that we serve Him/Her but that we serve each other while we also allow God to serve us all without imposing any restrictions on God’s faithfulness and generosity towards all of us through each other.  We become God’s means of equity, liberty and justice as well as creativity and multimedia beauty when we cooperate with God’s will.  While we have been uncooperative with God instead of serving each other with grace and joy according to God’s divine plan for our evolution (awakening), we have learned to crucify (do a disservice to) each other by habits of our egos while we know not what we do. We are ignorant of what we are doing because our buried guilt and shame numb our sensitivity towards others and cause us to ignore how we are harming them (and ourselves) emotionally as well as in other ways. Our natural sensitivities that would alert us to our wayward ways are offline because development of an ego and its social habits requires that we deny our hearts, tune out our emotions, limit our listening, defend against change (including improvements offered by God) and turn away from each other in distrust.

A forgiving, attentively listening, trusting God waits patiently for us to repent and turn back to Him/Her to be restored to awareness of our innocence (free of guilt and blame as well as pride and shame) so that we might once again walk with God in humility to love mercy, do justice and liberate all captives of the ego – setting them free to walk, dance and sing along with God as well.  Universal mutual service will set us free of ego’s cruel tyranny and resurrect us from the deadening effects of benumbed hearts and painfully confused minds. In serving each other’s best interests as God defines what is “best,” we will regain clarity of mind as we regain purity of heart. God’s mind is clear.  God’s motive for serving all of us is pure love.  To serve as God serves and become living channels of service under Divine Authority, we must purify our motives by learning to love as God loves and to trust one another as God trusts us.

“Let he or she who would be greatest among you be servant of all.”  Such a calling strikes at the heart of the heartlessness of the egoistic culture modern society has become.  In modern times, shrines are built to egos while hearts are shrouded in despair.  Their kinds and styles vary but the purpose of each shrine is the same – to glorify to a lesser or greater degree an ego-imprisoned person who has failed to serve with humility on behalf of the health and happiness of many who would have benefitted from a life lived egolessly.  Pervasive neglect of the needs of others and studiously maintained ignorance of God’s divine plan to bless us all hide behind every enshrined failure of an ego-bound person to serve others.  Some who are popular in the eyes of fans (or Facebook friends) may protest, “But I mistreat no one!”  Yet all of us are at risk of allowing our craving for social approval to cause us to be more concerned about cooperating with other people’s egos than about cooperating with God.

Eager to get along (survive) socially, we please others at the cost of being empowered (thriving) spiritually. We protest against being called “indifferent” towards the needs of others only because we are unaware of the many we could serve but fail to serve when we focus our energies and resources on cooperating with egos to conform socially instead of cooperating with God to transform spiritually. We are more inclined by ego’s habits to use our resources to insulate ourselves from people in need than to come into contact with them personally as we naturally would do if we serve them with all our time and resources. Once society makes cooperating with God its standard procedure, we’ll be able to conform both socially and spiritually.  But not yet while social norms ignore God’s offer to enrich our lives through service empowered by purified cooperation.

Under the ego’s current reign, with few exceptions, the socially privileged are blessed and yet of little blessing to others.  In catering to our egos, we divert into shrines of varying degrees of personal isolation, convenience and self-aggrandizement time, energy and other resources intended by God for the welfare of others.  God blesses us to empower us to bless others, but we restrict the flow of blessings by diverting them into futile attempts to satisfy insatiable egos. In so doing we continue to mislead generation after generation of children to believe that the path to greatness lies along the ego’s way and not along the way of service to those God calls us to serve. All shrines, tiny and elaborate, divert resources. It is time to awaken to the error of the ego’s claim upon our lives and rise free to serve as our hearts’ wiser nature is restored to its rightful preeminence as guide and counselor in place of ego.

For centuries, men and women have clambered over each other to acquire greater fame and fortune through socially valued achievements ranging from minor to major in the eyes of other ego-oriented people.  Today we accept the approval of others and amass wealth in excess of our basic needs on account of our performances as employees, employers, entrepreneurs, professionals, politicians, captains of industry, entertainers, sports figures, experts, critics, religious leaders, middle managers and other paid and unpaid roles – and as common citizens who allow social approval to be our false god.  We admire others for their performances, allow others to admire us (often for our pretenses as much as for our performances) and bask in the glow of spiraling social approval as often as possible.  Often we blindly accept our social approval ratings and fail to point our admirers to God as the only Being truly worthy of admiration and imitation as a role model. Instead we accept praise as if it were truly due us.  If we mention God, we do so only in passing. We tip our caps to God but do not topple ourselves from the pedestals our adoring fans and friends erect for us – or emerge again from the tombs of shame we may endure if we offend our fans and friends. To be clear, there’s only life-enrichment to be gained through expressing and receiving heartfelt gratitude and genuine compliments. It is awe and worshipful praise we must reserve for God alone.

Of course, because we are not A-list celebrities and rarely attract media attention, most of us will deny that we are heavily invested in self-serving lifestyles and continue to participate in moderate mutual admiration societies we call friends, co-workers and other restricted-entry social gatherings. By the ego’s trick of comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves “not as excessive as ‘them,’” we justify our modest participation in a society that is blind to God’s plan.  But ego’s success in diverting our attention and investment of our lives from God’s plan is still controlling our decisions and blinding us to the truth of how God would have us serve if only we were more cooperative with God and less cooperative with egos.

We prefer to applaud and admire the few who serve in exceptional ways and call then “heroes” than to become one of them according to God’s calling in our hearts. If we share a portion of our wealth and other resources with others, we do so only according to some token measure that assuages our guilty conscience but does not honor God. Our tokenism reveals our egoism.  All we have received we hold in trust as endowments from God yet we give back to God only the little that legalistic social conformity requires.  A tithe perhaps, but not the whole.  We trust not God’s promise to return to us a thousandfold all that we might give cheerfully to God. We trust not the engine of universal prosperity that would function for the benefit of all if only we would honor God and give all to divine service as God gives so generously to us.  We take credit for God’s part in our successes and fail to express our gratitude to God as fully as God expresses His/Her generosity to us. Today there are many who continue to make excuses for glorifying ourselves according to the ego’s subtly deceptive model rather than step entirely free from self-serving lifestyles to serve God and let God be glorified. The time for undiluted, uncompromised cooperation with God has arrived to save humanity from extinction.  It’s likewise time to be entirely free to love as God loves and to be loved in return with equal power and commitment.

Our devotion to the ego’s way results from competition that epitomizes the deceitful proposition that survival of the fittest causes humanity to evolve.  As evidenced by events and conditions worldwide, the truth is that competition dehumanizes the human race and causes us to dissolve, not evolve.  Cooperation is the way of Life – of ever-expanding Vitality. Symbiosis and mutuality of living are features of Life. The ego belittles being truly helpful as humiliating and debasing “obedience” as if living humbly in harmony with God’s will is evil or at least an embarrassingly nonconformist way of life to be avoided at all cost.  The ego declares generosity to be a sacrifice instead of a sacrament that expresses God’s nature and an opportunity to live in oneness with God, with one another and with all forms of Life according to God’s plan of creation and sustainability for us all.

Life is God’s to design and implement.  When we gracefully serve God in all humility with joy in our hearts, we return to God the grace God first extended to us with divine joy.  By grace, we participate in Life fully and it flows through us as joyfully as a bubbling brook of crystal clear water.  Many are those who come to the Water of Life that God shares through us when we cooperate with God and serve as God serves.  Only then can we declare as protector of the socially less powerful “Such grace as has been given to me I give unto you” and open the way for the healing of our lands through the healing of our hearts.  Such gentle generosity and grace compose the way of true power because it is the way of life amid which we encounter and embrace God as He/She encounters and embraces us.

Life is not a process primarily characterized by disintegration and lack of integrity as ego’s false version of life presents.  Life is a process primarily characterized by continuously upgrading integration of creative ideas around a core of integrity that is eternal as well as internal.  Spiritual principles and practices of many paths of faith invite us to experience the wonders of this expanding process called “Life Everlasting” or “Limitless Creation.” An apt analogy for this expansion from the inner core outward is found in the growth rings, spreading branches, abundant fruitfulness, towering majesty and longevity of ancient trees.  That is one reason the Tree of Life so frequently appears as a universal symbol of Eternal Life.  Our pure cooperation with God creates a reality that will outlive all physical symbols used to convey its nature through human languages other than the universal nonverbal language of love found in smiles, twinkling eyes, heartfelt laughter, music, dance and other signs of peace and goodwill among all peoples of the earth.

How did we go astray from God’s plan for a continuously upgrading integration of creative concepts around the core of timeless wisdom? We strayed off target when we mistakenly equated our lives with the physical expressions of other kingdoms of life – of minerals, plants and animals – and failed to recognize 1) the human kingdom’s unique identity and qualities as the pinnacle of God’s creation and 2) our developmentally unfolding wholeness as an expression of God’s nature being progressively revealed throughout humanity with some individuals unfolding in time ahead of others.  We misunderstood our status as God’s most exalted creation as an excuse for exercising power over all other kingdoms of life without regard for the counterbalancing responsibility that comes with greater power.  Even Spiderman had to learn that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  It is time for humanity to learn that lesson too.  When we wield power over others for the sole purpose of serving supportively under those we serve we achieve the delicate balance required of stewards of divinely augmented power wielded on behalf of all.  Through this spiritually enriched, ethically administered paradigm of power we achieve the greatest good for the greatest number by ensuring the best for all in the long run. Such are God’s ethics.

Each of us can personally wield the power of life ethically if we wield with wisdom and committed cooperation the power God entrusts to us.  As we grow in wisdom in its wielding by allowing God to purify our hearts, God entrusts more power to flow through us.  We maximize this power’s potency and perseverance by minimizing our ego’s intensity and interference.  We cause death – and impose upon others fates worse than death – through all forms of abuse and by a thousand slices of neglect when we fail to exercise our divinely entrusted power wisely with pure motives.  God is relying upon us to master the art of wisdom so as to cooperate with Him/Her fully before all forms of life upon the earth are damaged too heavily to sustain life for human beings.  God ensures the sustainability of all other kingdoms of life.  They will thrive well without humanity’s presence if we humans insist that they do so.  They will thrive well with humans present only if and when we are present as God is present in relationship to all such kingdoms and serve them well so that they may continue to serve us well in turn.

We have a choice to live in harmony with God and all created kingdoms of the earth and thereby share in the mutual benefits that flow from the symbiotic miracles of nature or to defy God’s plan of creation and render it unsustainable for humanity.  The other kingdoms will recover from our abuse and neglect once we are gone.  The issue is only whether we want to render ourselves extinct on account of failing to cooperate with God and with each other as children of God or prefer to perpetuate our race as one race under God with liberty, justice, beauty and grace for all – for all of Life in every form created.  To choose in favor of purified cooperation with God – with total commitment to accepting and adjusting to its terms and conditions – is to choose to be true to ourselves as expressions of God, to perpetuate the human race as God created us and to place our futures in the hands of a Most Competent Supreme Servant who knows how to lead us into the experience of our Divine Home on earth modeled on Heaven’s Home now imagined to be only reachable beyond earth. We need only imagine that Heaven is already here on earth for us to begin the transformation God has in mind for all of us.

© Art Nicol 2013