PRACTICAL LESSONS IN CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
(The introductory lessons)
INTRODUCTION TO THE LESSONS
As a young man, I had spontaneously become aware of the inner light, sound and flowing of the Holy Spirit. We are all born with natural inclinations of one sort or another and a natural inclination to experience the Holy Spirit has always been mine. My godfather is a catholic priest and was aware that my inner experiences and perspective on life was, shall I say, a little different than most. When he asked me to be his spiritual director, I wrote him a letter describing a few of my experiences with the prayer of the heart, higher states of consciousness and comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I wanted him to know in advance what he could expect from the Holy Spirit should he choose the path that Christian mystics like St. Teresa of Avilla and St. John of the Cross had walked.
Another parish priest visiting from out of state was given the letter and asked if I would expand on it so that he could use what I wrote as a study guide for a course in Christian mysticism and the prayer of the heart that he was about to teach. Well, how does one write a series of lessons on their inner visions of the Holy Spirit, of the higher states of consciousness beyond the thinking mind and of the deep things of God that the Holy Spirit reveals? I am not a writer and don’t even enjoy listening to myself carry on, so I found that I could only express my understanding of the nature of existence in a very natural way: Only by telling the story of what I had experienced and what I believed to be true. Just by telling it all: The absolute good, (oh so many wonderful experiences) the bad, (The spiritual cleansing process is not always wonderful) and only once, (It’s not too smart to do battle with the Holy Spirit) the ugly truth of my inner experiences. These lessons contain all of this and are the result of those two parish priest’s requests but they are not written with the formality of a text book or treatise. It’s just me speaking from my heart about some very personal experiences; actually my whole adult life worth of very personal experiences.
Anyway, I wish to thank both priests for giving me the opportunity to serve. Lmr
THE SPIRITUAL PROCESS
Jesus said this about what the nature of the spiritual process would be after he had left this world:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 (New International Version)
The apostle Paul said this: But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:6-10)
The Holy Spirit does not require that we believe in just the right way for it to reveal its truths or that any of us understand the end before it takes us to the end. As Christians, all that is necessary is that we open our hearts each day so that the Holy Spirit can take us to the deep things of God culminating in the direct experience of the soul’s true nature in God, what the bible calls born again and the earliest Christians called to state of perfection.
FINDING THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN, a personal experience
When I was five, my aunt and uncle had asked their friend, a locally famous psychic in Las Vegas about their sister and her family. They were told that two of her sister’s children were going to grow up to be normal people but the middle one, me, was different and would have a different view and experience of life. That’s fine; that pretty well nails who I am but what’s odd to me is that when they told my parents about the prediction they also said they could not tell them the whole of the prediction and they couldn’t tell them why they couldn’t tell them the whole of the prediction.
Since it was about me, I have wondered, what could be, in the future for a five year old child, so dramatic that you can’t tell the parents the whole of the prediction. Different is the only word my mother had. Over the years of my childhood, my mother said that she had asked my aunt and uncle about the prediction several times but was always given the same answer: We can’t tell you the whole of it and we can’t tell you why we can’t tell you the whole of it.
I don’t really think it was that I was going to be a terrible person because it was quite evident that I was well liked by my aunt and uncle, even spending a couple of my whole summer vacations from school with them. And I do take bugs out of the house instead of killing them. Except roaches. I hate roaches. But anything grand, I can’t even relate. I don’t guess I will ever know the truth of it. Both my aunt and uncle had passed away before my mother even told me about the prediction.
My father had recently passed and I was trying to give my mother some bit of comfort by telling her of an experience with my consciousness outside of my body: That I felt as a matter of fact that consciousness extends beyond the physical and that by personal experience I believed we were not just lumps of clay: That the soul had a body and lived after the body was gone. This led into a brief discussion of my experiences with the Holy Spirit, intuitive consciousness and visions of the nature of existence. Not that my mother (an atheist like my father) understood or believed anything that I had to say but only then did she tell me about the prediction.
Parents are wonderful like that. Here’s a prediction about me so dramatic that the whole of it can’t be told to my parents and I’m not told about it until it is impossible for me to find out what it was for myself. Talk about adding a little mystery into one’s life. I know that I was born with a natural inclination to experience the Holy Spirit but as for the rest of the prediction, I will probably never know.
When a young man, one afternoon, I felt drawn to look within; I don’t know why. Without really knowing what I was doing, I simply closed my eyes and was drawn to look behind the darkness of my mind. It just felt like something was in there waiting for me. Go figure. With each exhalation I imagined that I was falling deeper and deeper into the ocean of darkness before me. Suddenly I seemed to fall inside myself and as this happened, a stillness, a quietness of mind began to creep over me. My face began to feel wooden; my body lost all physical sensation and became numb; My consciousness became lifted, with my mind becoming still and crisp and light and so much more aware than normal and as this happened the beautiful golden light of the Holy Spirit wrapped itself around me, filled my awareness and brought a comfort and peace I had never known in life. It seemed to fill just absolutely everything, permeating the very essence of my being, lifting me above my normal intelligence and awareness.
It is difficult to explain. But if you can imagine the difference between normal thinking awareness and the fog that a person might wake up in when they have not had enough sleep, it would seem the same distance between this still, crisp, light expanded awareness I was experiencing and what now seemed the heavy normal thinking awareness I had always known. The cognitive ability of this new expanded awareness coupled with the peace and joy brought by the light of the Holy Spirit was simply incredible to me.
I rested for a short while, absorbed in the golden light of the Holy Spirit but as soon as I started to mentally analyze the Holy Spirit, you know, trying to be absolutely rational about the whole thing, I dropped out of the intuitive awareness and the Holy Spirit mysteriously faded away. As I left the intuitive awareness and dropped back into my normal thinking awareness, it felt just like the description I had read of the process a few years later: “As if putting on soiled clothes.”
I had just had the most wonderful experience of my life: AND I WANTED IT BACK! The next day, trying to experience the same golden light of the Holy Spirit and intuitive awareness that I rested in the day before, I again looked behind the darkness of my mind for the Holy Spirit. With each exhalation I again imagined that I was falling through the darkness of my mind into it. For the second time my body went numb, my mind became still, I became lifted into the light, crisp mental state that I later learned was the intuitive awareness that the prophets and early Christians experienced when having prophecies and visions. And the golden light of the Holy Spirit wrapped itself around me again and filled my mind with the same peace and joy I had felt the day before. Before this, I had never read a single book on meditation, knew nothing of Christian mysticism, mysticism in general or that states of consciousness existed beyond the mind’s thinking processes.
So this is how my journey to find the deep things of God began; spontaneously being lifted into the intuitive mind, wrapped in the Holy Spirit’s arms, not understanding anything but the wonder of it all.
There is a wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit and its bringing of the intuitive awareness that takes us to the deep things of God. This part of the mind is further away from the subconscious than normal thinking awareness is from it. This is why, when experiencing intuitive awareness, everything feels so light and crisp and clear. When you considered that intuitive awareness is the platform upon which the Holy Spirit takes us to the deep things of God, this light, crisp, more fully aware state is really a blessing. As I said earlier, fully developed, intuitive awareness is the platform for the Holy Spirit revealing the visions and prophecies and such of the prophets and early Christians. When praying from our hearts, the Holy Spirit lifts our consciousness further away from outside and subconscious influences. It’s the only way to directly and consciously experience God’s presence. We cannot experience God’s presence through the thinking processes of the mind. We have to become like and empty vessel to become filled with the Holy Spirit and allow it to fill us with experiences of the deep things of God.
In those early days with the Holy Spirit, I soon learned that when my mind was actively thinking about God, actively thinking about experiences, actively thinking about scripture, actively thinking about thinking or anything else, the intuitive awareness that opens one to the Holy Spirit would and could not happen. I soon learned that it was only when I would became like an empty vessel and I would stop thinking and just sit silently looking behind the darkness of my mind and longing for and imagining that I was falling into the Holy Spirit’s arms that an intuitive calmness would envelop me which would allow me to experience the Holy Spirit. It is the only way that I know of to get far enough away from the subconscious and outside influences (that will not allow and do not want us the experience the Holy Spirit) for us to experience the Holy Spirit’s presence. The thinking mind just hates being calm, loves going from one obsession to the next and subconscious and outside influences; well, I am not even going to go there.
What I found that worked best for me in quieting my mind and focusing my attention on God is the prayer form used within Christianity from the beginning. For me, when my mind would not still, using the simple devotional word, “Father” was as if all of my longing for God was summed up in that very simple word. I noticed how much more quickly I dropped into the intuitive calm when using this method than others. At the beginning of each devotional I would slowly and heartfeltly repeat “Father” while I looked behind the darkness of my mind, with each exhalation imagining that I was falling into the Holy Spirit’s arms. In short time I would drop into an intuitive calmness. When my mind started to become active I would return to repeating “Father” with each exhalation, again imagining that I was falling deeper into the Holy Spirit’s arms. It’s not the word; it’s the devotional feeling behind the word. Often there is no word but just that feeling of devotion that I would bring up again and again into my awareness. The reason the process is called the prayer of the heart is because we are literally praying through our hearts and not from the thinking processes of our minds. For me this method has been the most natural thing to do and so I have stayed with it to this day, now 40 yrs later.
THE WINGS OF ANGELS
A short while after becoming open to the Holy Spirit, I began to hear the creative power of it within. There is a vibration within the light of the Holy Spirit. I did not know it was going to be there. I just began to hear inner sounds and they eventually led to the pure vibration of the Holy Spirit. In Revelations the sound of the Holy Spirit is described as the sound of many trumpets, in Ezekiel the vibration of the Spirit is described as the sound of the wings of angels. Both accounts are descriptions of what the Spirit sounds like when we are totally absorbed in it.
After a few yrs of steady practice, I began to feel the Holy Spirit flowing throughout my nervous system, first with sensations of electrical type feelings and eventually the heat, the fire of the Holy Spirit that is created from the flowing of the Holy Spirit up from the bottom of the spine.
I guess the main and first thing I want to stress in the lessons is that Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit to us is not an abstract concept. The Holy Spirit can be seen, heard and the flowing and heat of it can be felt within all of good heart, no matter their religious affiliation or none.
THE PRAYER OF THE HEART ( a History)
Jesus said: “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father in private.” (Matt. 6:6)
One of the Desert Fathers, the 3rd century monk Abba Isaac, wrote this commentary on the tradition spoken of at Matt. 6:6:
“We need to be especially careful to follow the Gospel precept which instructs us to go into our inner room, and shut the door so that we may pray to our Father. And this is how we can do it.” “We pray in our room whenever we withdraw our hearts completely from the tumult and noise of our thoughts and our worries and when secretly and intimately, we offer our prayers to the Lord.” “We pray with the door shut when, without opening our mouths, and in perfect silence, we offer our petitions to the one who pays not attention to words but looks hard at our hearts.” “We pray in secret when in our hearts alone and in our recollected spirits, we address God and reveal our wishes only to him in such a way that the hostile powers themselves have no inkling of their nature. Hence, we must pray in utter silence to insure that the thrust of our pleading be hidden from our enemies who are especially lying in wait to attack us during prayer. In this way, we shall fulfill the command of the prophet Micah, ‘keep your mouth shut from the one who sleeps on your breast.’”
A text used in many monasteries in the 5th century, written by Dionysisus the Areopagite and called THE HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, counsels:
“in the earnest exercise of mystical contemplation, you leave the senses and the operations of reason and all things that the senses or reason can perceive, to the end that you raise yourself by this unknowing to union with Him who is above all being and all knowledge,”
We can call the methodology what we will but the truth is that experiencing the deep things of God is as simple as being quiet (for enough time each day and enough years) and following the natural impulse of the soul to know it’s true Self as what it truly is.
“We are not forced to take wings to find Him, but only to seek solitude and to look within ourselves.”
(St. Teresa of Avilla, 1515-1582)
The catholic monk Thomas Keating (born 1923) writes:
“Let thoughts come, let them go. No annoyance, no expectation. This is a very delicate kind of self-denial, but it is more valuable than bodily austerities, which tend to fix one’s attention on oneself. Waiting for God without going away, giving the usual time to prayer, and putting up with what goes on in the imagination are the most effective practices for acquiring true devotion. The observance of them will lead to a complete change of heart.”
Evagrios the Solitary (born 345), in On Prayer writes:
"When your intellect in its great longing for God gradually withdraws from the flesh and turns away from all thoughts that have their source in your sense-perception, memory or soul-body temperament, and when it becomes full of reverence and joy, then you may conclude that you are close to the frontiers of prayer." "Stand on guard and protect your intellect from thoughts while you pray. Then your intellect will complete its prayer and continue in the tranquility that is natural to it. In this way He who has compassion on the ignorant will come to you, and you will receive the blessed gift of prayer." "You cannot attain pure prayer while entangled in material things and agitated by constant cares. For prayer means the shedding of thoughts."
St. Hesychios the 5th century monk, in On Watchfulness and Holiness writes:
"... When there are no fantasies or mental images in the heart, the intellect is established in its true nature, ready to contemplate whatever is full of delight, spiritual and close to God."
"We should strive to preserve the precious gifts which preserve us from all evil... These gifts are the guarding of the intellect with the invocation of Jesus Christ, continuous insight into the heart's depths, stillness of mind unbroken even by thoughts which appear to be good, and the capacity to be empty of all thought."
"Because every thought enters the heart in the form of a mental image of some sensible object, the blessed light of the Divinity will illumine the heart only when the heart is completely empty of everything and so free from all form. Indeed, this light reveals itself to the pure intellect in the measure to which the intellect is purged of all concepts."
"To human beings it seems hard and difficult to still the mind so that it rests from all thoughts. Indeed, to enclose what is bodiless within the limits of the body does demand toil and struggle, not only from the uninitiated but also from those experienced in inner immaterial warfare. But he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him, as the Prophet says (cf. Jer. 17:16.LXX). Because of Jesus' beauty and sweetness he will not desire what is merely mortal..."
"... the delighted intellect delights in the light of the Lord when, free from concepts, it enters into the dawn of spiritual knowledge. By continually denying itself, it advances from the wisdom necessary for the practice of the virtues to an ineffable vision in which it contemplates holy and ineffable things. Then the heart is filled with perceptions of infinite and divine realities and sees the God of gods in its own depths, so far as this is possible. Astounded, the intellect lovingly glorifies God, the Seer and the Seen, and the Saviour of those who contemplate Him in this way."
The Desert Father, Abba Cronius writes:
"If the soul is vigilant and withdraws from all distraction and abandons its own will, then the spirit of God invades it and it can conceive because it is free to do so"
All of these quotes are from different monks, from different monasteries, in different centuries, describing the same two thousand year old tradition of the prayer of the heart. The prayer of the heart is not something from outside the Christian faith but the very prayer form by which the first Christians ready for the deeper teachings and those later mystic Christians who have followed could open themselves to the Holy Spirit and have it take them to an understanding and experience of the deep things of God, culminating in directly experiencing the presence of God in and as the true nature of the soul. It has never been practiced by the mainstream Christian and probably never will be but for those who wish to experience the Holy Spirit in their lives, to directly experience the true nature of the soul in God, it is and has been the traditional Way of our faith.
AN EXPLANATION OF MY PRACTICES
I am not as eloquent as the monks that I have just quoted or even close to the understanding and realizations of some of the mystic greats but from my own forty year experience with it, I will try to describe the mechanics of the prayer of the heart and why I practice it as I do.
First, there isn’t one magical thing about this type of prayer. For me it has always been one of the most natural things I have ever done. I have to admit that my experience with the prayer of the heart is not the norm and I don’t even do it exactly like those teaching it say to do it and I certainly do not describe the mechanics of it like anyone I have ever read but you know, each of us is unique and whatever you do needs to be done your way or for me, my way, as the case may be.
Most learn the prayer of the heart and practice 15 to 20 minutes twice a day and enjoy the peace and comfort of the process. But from the beginning of learning about the prayer of the heart, everyone I read of who had ever made substantial spiritual progress put in at least 3 hours a day devotional time for 20 years or more. Since substantial spiritual progress is the only thing I have ever been willing to settle for, I have always strived for 3 hours a day but have only been successful at this on and mostly off throughout my working life. My guess is that most working people with families and bills and such have the same problem with the amount of time available to them and few people would even feel the need for this amount of devotional time in the first place.
But now that I am just 65, semi retired and just work part time, I am beginning to have the time that I need. I hope to be steady with 3 hours daily devotional time for the rest of my life. With a normal life span, there is still plenty of time to finish the spiritual process that we usually begin much earlier in life, so I don’t think we should unduly worry about what we can’t do yet. (that took me forever to realize) Be content with doing what you can under your existing circumstances and try to patiently wait until you have the time. For me, it was when I semi retired. With our spiritual foundation laid earlier in life, with a normal lifespan, when we retire, we should still have enough time to fully experience the deep things of God and even rest in His house.
Ok, I might have had a more dramatic beginning than most but even so I need to do my practices as faithfully as anyone else. I do my practices first thing each morning. First I do an hour to an hour and a half of a breathing exercise similar but not identical to the exercise practiced by the Eastern Orthodox monks, written about for over a thousand years, practiced, I don’t know how much further back in years than that.
I have talked with a couple of priests in the Greek Orthodox Church who are practicing the breathing exercises as originally taught and I have been told by them that they are quite effective. Although I was never able to learn their exact method, not being in their denomination, the statement below does give us an idea of the technique used.
“You know, brother, how we breathe: We breathe the air in and out. On this based the life of the body and on this depends its warmth. So, sitting down in your cell, collect your mind, lead it into the path of the breath along which the air enters in, constrain it to enter the heart together with the inhaled air, and keep it there. Keep it there, but do not leave it silent and idle; instead give it the following prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.’” Taken from the Works of ST. NIKODIMUS AND ST. MAKARIOS
I have used a somewhat related practice for about 30 years now. Like what the Eastern Orthodox monks do, it is designed to encourage the full flowing of the Holy Spirit throughout the nervous system, cleansing it in preparation for the higher states of consciousness and the gifts of the Spirit to come. Then I end with an hour to an hour and a half of the prayer of the prayer of the heart exercise that has been practiced by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox monks for almost two thousand years. For someone living out in the world, I guess that makes me a really old school monk oriented type Christian but the main thing is that the exercises work for me. With a minimum of 2 and better 3 hours a day practice each morning and when possible, short periods of the breathing exercises during the day, I feel the activity of the Holy Spirit throughout my nervous system day long. Then I live a normal life: That is if you can call feeling the activity of the Holy Spirit throughout the day normal. But it is what’s normal for me.
A PHYSICAL EXPLANATION FOR A SPIRITUAL PROCESS
Understand that the Holy Spirit resides in each of us, good and evil alike. It is God’s finger of creation and the enlivening power of all living things. Its activity within is what makes living things different from rocks. It is also its activity within our nervous system that makes humans different from the animals around us. The Holy Spirit is always here in our hearts, waiting to take those of open heart to the deep things of God.
If a person wants to be a professional musician they will generally put in hours and hours of practice each day for years. They are literally forming the brain cell connections necessary for them to be aware of the tones and rhythms that most of us are not aware. The brain scans that have been done on professional musicians demonstrate that their brains in that area related to music are more fully developed and actually larger than with the average person.
They did the same type of scans on taxi drivers in London, where the drivers have to be able to remember every street in the city as well as everything related to those streets and found that in those drivers, the part of the brain related to memory was more developed and larger than with the average person.
It is no different with the Holy Spirit and God. The awareness of both the Holy Spirit and God are innately within every human on this planet. In order to become aware of both, just like a professional musician, we need to put in enough practice time to create the necessary brain cell connections to make the awareness of the Holy Spirit and God a continuous part of our lives. There is nothing supernatural, nothing magical about any of this. Bringing the spiritual into the physical body is a brain cell and nervous system thing. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. (mostly)
If we were born perfect (in ancient Greek, telios), say with the genetic profile of Jesus or the spiritual impulse of his soul, we would never have to practice anything but being quiet. The strong underlying impulse that develops the brain cell connections to experience God and the Holy Spirit would already be there. All that we would have to do is grow up enough for our nervous system to mature and to automatically make the nervous system connections and we would be continuously aware the Holy Spirit and God in our hearts for the rest of our lives. To me this is what the story of Adam and Eve was really about: The soul’s loss of the continuous awareness of God (the Garden of Eden) and through using the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus coming to give us a way to bring it back. (Revelations)
Be ye therefore perfect, the early Christian view
Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit and also a path to follow to the spiritual.
St. Clement, the bishop of Alexandria (150-215) speaks of this path as it was originally taught and of the condition of the existing Christian teachings in his lifetime. (A mere 150 years after Jesus)
He wrote: “Another consideration shows us clearly how much of this early teaching has been lost. The church now devotes herself solely to producing good men, and points to the saint as her crowning glory and achievement. But in the older days she claimed to be able to do much more than that. When she had made a man a saint, her work with him was only just beginning, for only then was he fit for the training and teaching which she could give him then, but not now, because she has forgotten her ancient knowledge. Then she had three definite stages in her course of training-Purification, (The opening of the heart and the diminishing of the ego.) Illumination, (The Holy Spirit revealing the deep things of God.) and PERFECTION (The soul feeling the innate presence of the infinite consciousness we call God as its true nature.).” THE STROMATA OF ST. CLEMENT.
St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (69-155) wrote in his epistle, chapter 7 that he hopes those he was writing to were: “well versed in the sacred scriptures and that nothing is hidden from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted.” And continuing after relating what had been revealed to him, he wrote: “…though I am acquainted with these things, yet I am not therefore by any means PERFECT,…”
This use of the word perfect by St. Polycarp, perfection by St. Clement when describing the last stage of church training and how the word perfect is used in the gospels and the writings of Paul seemed odd to me when speaking of anything to do with the human condition. So I looked up the Greek word that is translated as perfect in the King James translation of the scriptures and this is what I found.
When the Greek word teleios is translated from the Greek scriptures of the first Christians into the English word, perfect, as we see it in the King James Bible, we have a meaning in English that comes to our minds: Usually flawless or if applied to a person, sinless. But Strongs’ concordance, the 1982 edition that I used, lists the literal meaning of teleios as used in the ancient Greek language as “completeness”. The concordance gives an example of a person who grows up, gets married and raises their children being considered “teleios” in the ancient Greek language. They would not be considered sinless as the English word perfect might infer but to have attained “completeness” in life. When referring to the soul, the first Christians used the word (teleios) with the esoteric meaning of the soul attaining completeness in God; literally feeling the presence of God in the soul, the awareness making the soul complete. I looked up every single use of the Greek word telios in the Christian Greek scriptures, you know, what’s called the New Testament and what follows is a little of what I found.
With “teleios”, completeness of the soul in God in mind, listen to what Jesus said: “If thou wilt be (teleios, complete in God) PERFECT, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Matt. 19:21
“Be, ye therefore (teleios, complete in God) PERFECT, even as your Father which is in heaven is (teleios, spiritually complete) PERFECT.” Matt. 5:48 (That is, directly experience that the Father, completeness, is the fundamental nature of the soul.)
“The disciple is not above his master: but everyone that is (teleios, complete in God) PERFECT shall be as his master.” Luke 6:40 (That is, those who feel the presence of God in their souls will have attained the same awareness as Jesus.)
“I in them and Thou in me, that they may be made (teleios, complete in God) PERFECT in one;” John 17:23 (That is, the awareness of God in the soul can be awakened in the disciple through the master and they will literally be one in the awareness of the Father.)
And of course my favorite scripture quoted by the Apostle Paul: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are PERFECT ( telios, complete in God), yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom,.... But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:6-10)
About now, given all of the quotes from the early Christians I have just gone through, I think a question that you should be asking is: With all of this history so easily available. why don’t we modern day Christians realize that there is a far deeper relationship possible with God and the Holy Spirit than just believing that they exist and occasionally making a show of giving them praise that they could care less about anyway? What happened to mainstream Christianity that it forgot all this stuff?
Well, for the most part, two things. First, from the very beginning, mainstream Christianity was never told about this stuff and second, Constantine, who was the very best thing for spreading the Christian Church around the world and in my opinion, the very worst thing that has ever happened to Christian spirituality. I will try to explain with even more quotes. Sorry.
THE ESOTERIC TEACHINGS OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
In every society throughout the history of mysticism the deepest truths and the power of the Holy Spirit have only been revealed from mentor to disciple when the disciple was capable of understanding the truth being given and open enough to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember the relationship between Elijah and Elisha?
It is obvious from reading the scriptures and writings of the early Christians that the prophets, and also Jesus and the early Christian mystics closely followed this tradition. Considering the society of his time, Jesus gave good reason for this. Blood sacrifice and an eye for an eye societal mentality are not very high on my spiritual scale of things.
Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before swine. They will trample them under foot at best, and perhaps even tear you to shreds.” (Matt. 7:6)
Jesus had to be careful with giving too much spiritual information too soon to his own disciples. He said: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” (John 16:10)
The apostle Paul followed the same tradition. He wrote: “Brothers, the trouble was that I could not talk to you as spiritual men but only as men of flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, and did not give you solid food because you were not ready for it.” (1 Cor. 3: 1,2)
Origen writes: “But for those who are wise he has always the higher teachings, which are given only to those who have proved themselves worthy of it.”
And: “I have not yet spoke of the observance of all that is written in the Gospels, each one of which contains much doctrine difficult to be understood, not merely by the multitude, but even by certain of the more intelligent, including a very profound explanation of the parables, which Jesus delivered to “those without” while reserving the exhibition of their full meaning for those who had passed beyond the stage of exoteric teaching, and who came to him privately ‘in the house.’”
Origen wrote in ON FIRST PRINCIPLE: “The scriptures have a meaning not only such as is apparent at first sight, but also another, which escapes the notice of most men. For such is written in the forms of certain Mysteries, and the image of divine things. Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the whole Church, that the whole law is indeed spiritual, but that the spiritual meaning which the law conveys is not known to all, but to those only on whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is bestowed...”
Origen wrote in ORIGEN AGAINST CELSUS, this response to the Roman emperor Celsus’ charge that Christianity was a secret organization teaching half truths to the masses. He wrote: “But that there should be certain doctrines, not known to the multitude, which are divulged after the exoteric ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems in which certain truths are exoteric and others esoteric.”
St. Clement of Alexandria writes: “those who are still blind and dumb, not having understanding, or the undazzled and keen vision of the contemplative soul, must stand outside of the divine choir. Wherefore, in accordance with the method of concealment, the truly sacred Word, truly divine and most necessary for us, deposited in the shrine of truth, was by the Egyptians called “adyta”, and the Hebrew ‘the veil.’ Only the consecrated were allowed access to them.”
And again: “He who has been purified in baptism and initiated into the little mysteries becomes rife for the greater mysteries for the gnosis, the scientific knowledge of God.”
Jesus: “said unto them, ‘Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they hear, and not understand.’” Mark 9: 33,34
The brief summary of quotes that you have just read took me ten years of reading (pre-internet) the early Christian writings to be able to come to a conclusion about. There were two levels of understanding in the early Church: An exoteric understanding for the masses and those new in the faith and another esoteric understanding for those who had progressed far enough in the faith to be ready for it. It is the most natural way to teach. A physician needs to go to kindergarten, grade school, high school, college, med school and then serve an internship to be proficient. The Jewish prophets and early Christians didn’t want to teach med school materials to kindergarteners. (I guess)
Even considering the primitive nature of the societies of the time, I just don’t think the basic truths of existence should ever be hidden from society.
True, God and the Holy Spirit are kind of like this person our friend (who doesn’t really know this person that well themselves but pretends or imagines he does) keeps telling us that we need to meet. Our friend keeps talking and talking, telling us this and that and everything they can think of including that they are almost best buddies. Then we meet this person, get to know them and wonder who it was our friend was describing because that’s a different person. Not that our friend lied: It’s just that everyone innately has their own limited view, coupled with their own subconscious and often conscious agenda. It’s no different with writing about God and the Holy Spirit. Saint as well as sinner, gossip as well as scripture: It’s a part of the human condition.
But if we want to truly know a place, then reading a travel book on it and or being told about it is just the beginning. We have got to go there to even get a taste of it. And then we will not begin to know it until we have been there again and again and again. That’s how it is with the kingdom of God.
We have to have a relationship with a person to know them. You can’t just go by what you have been told about them by others and believe what you have been told, to honestly say you that have a relationship. You have to spend time with them, talk to them and more importantly listen to them to get to know them. That’s how it is with the Holy Spirit. We need to inwardly see its light, be absorbed in its vibration and feel it flowing through our nervous system to know the wonder and power of it. We need to rest in its arms to know its comfort. We need to listen to its guidance to know its wisdom. We need to turn our backs on it and have our hearts torn shreds to know its resolve. And we need to repent and again feel the joy of its presence after losing it to know its forgiveness.
To have a relationship with our Father, that infinite consciousness we call God the almighty, we have to go to His house and knock on His door again and again, until it opens. And then we just can’t visit a couple of times and say that we know Him: We have to rent a room in His house and spend time in His presence every single day for a lifetime to just begin to truthfully say that.
You have just heard me describe the mystical journey of directly experiencing the Holy Spirit, God and His kingdom as I believe it to be. All of these things are possible by reaching beyond our egos’ rationalizations, by praying through our hearts and then giving ourselves enough time to let it all come together.
A VERY BRIEF CHRISTIAN HISTORY (as I see it)
In my opinion, we can lay the loss of so many original Christian understandings and the influx of understandings and traditions that did not come from original Christianity at the pagan Roman emperor Constantine’s feet (AD 274-337) or if not him directly, the church officials of his time that he controlled, for he gave them the power and direction to do what was done to Christianity over the next couple of hundred years.
Most everyone who has read anything of Christian history knows the story. As a pagan Roman general, Constantine saw a vision of a cross in the sky and he used this symbol as his standard when he won the battle with another Roman general that made him emperor over the eastern Roman Empire.
No one really knows what this vision was but I suspect it was the large meteorite that landed two hundred or so miles north of Rome dated to that exact time. The display that a large meteorite causes very well could have been interpreted as a cross in the sky by someone of the period. At the time, every comet, every eclipse, every natural disaster was considered an omen from the gods.
Regardless of what it was, and although he didn’t become baptized as a Christian until he was about to die many years later, when Constantine first became emperor (AD 306) he took on Christianity as the states religion and although he was not a Christian himself, he formed a council to organize Christianity according to how he thought it should be run.
Before this time Christianity was wonderfully diverse. It seemed that every ethnic group and nationality looked at who and what Jesus was with their own unique view. The Nag Hammadi library found in 1945 is an example of this diversity. There were still mentor disciple relationships like the apostles had with their disciples and becoming open to the Holy Spirit and having it take them to the deep things of God was still being taught through these relationships.
Well, Constantine, with a Roman general’s mentality for organization, was having none of this diversity (He would see it as utter chaos) and as emperor he had the power to do something about it. He Romanized Christianity; that is, he took a diverse faith with many factions that at its heart stressed a one to one relationship with God and spiritual insight though the guidance of the Holy Spirit and turned it into a singular faith of Roman military and or political structure that said that the Church was Gods’ representative on earth and everyone had to go through it to be saved. Forget about personal experience; that was for monks, hidden, out of sight and of no influence. Over the next couple of hundred years, the now centralized Church killed, exiled or silenced any Christian who wouldn’t toe the line. They burned all of the esoteric writings they could get their hands on as well as any writing not approved by the hierarchy of the Church. Except in a few monasteries out of the centralized Church’s view, there went the master-disciple relationships, personal knowledge of the deep things of God and personal guidance through the Holy Spirit. Just believe as the Church tells you and toe the line and you will be saved. This was a perfect way for a pagan Roman emperor and later Church officials to have power over the masses and that was all it was about. There went most any mainstream Christian’s chance of learning about a one to one relationship with God for the next thirteen hundred years.
A few hundred years ago, with Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the protestant reformation, things began to change just a little. As Protestants, Christians could now have a personal relationship with God and along with believe in our church’s teachings and not the other guys, the standard became “Believe in Jesus as we teach and you will be saved.” For the most part, the top down structure of these new church organizations stayed pretty much the same. For the vast majority of Christians, this is how it still is to this day. Most have no idea of early Christian spirituality or that a far deeper and more personal relationship with God is possible. At least the Protestant members were allowed to read the bible for the first time in over a thousand years.
It is understandable that the new Protestant organizations would keep the same Romanized beliefs about Jesus etc. For the most part, they had no way of accessing the writings of the first Christians; the writings before the Romanization of the Church. The translations weren’t done and if they were done they were stuck in some obscure library where they were not accessible. Today all you have to do is run a search on Google. If you want to know when this new belief in the in the rapture started, just run a search on the (history of the belief in the rapture) on Google. THEN, and more importantly run a search on one of the early Christian scholars views who wrote something before the time of Constantine. That will give you the early Christian view. The Christian scholars before Constantine were second and third generation Christians. More than anyone later, they knew the teachings of the apostles.
Take St. Clement: (150-211, pre-Constantine scholar) During or upon his conversion “He set out from Greece and travelled through southern Italy, Palestine, and finally Egypt, seeking everywhere the society of Christian teachers.” (Quote from a biography.) The logic baffles me when some new religious founder, 2,000 yrs after the fact can dismiss everything this saint and those like him have to say because their writings are not in the bible. Who better to know what was taught by the apostles than those taught by the apostles? The school where St. Clement became bishop was founded by the apostle Mark.
On the nature of the soul: Are we a soul in a body, are we a body with a soul, or are we a body that is the soul that perishes at death to be resurrected later? OK, let’s say you want the early Christian pre-Romanized view. I did a test for these lessons and ran a search on (Origen of Alexandria view of the soul) He was a pre-Constantine Christian scholar who lived from 185 to 254 AD. It took 37 seconds for me to pull up Origen’s views. I ran the same search with St. Clement and it took a few seconds more but less than a minute to find his views.
I know, I got off the subject but finding the origin of things has always been important to me in my own beliefs and I thought you should at least know how I try to do it. If you are comfortable with your beliefs and don’t care of their origins; wonderful. The Holy Spirit doesn’t care at all.
Anyway, for a very few, things began to change in Christian spirituality in the 1960’s. This is when the first yogis began coming over to the West talking about the deeper and more personal relationship with God that was possible. Yogis are said to be devotees of the Holy Spirit, that is Shivites: Shiva in yoga being that aspect of God which in Christianity is called the Holy Spirit. Anyway, this is how the next part of the story goes and I have no reason to believe that what I have been told isn’t true. All of these students were flocking to this famous yogi’s retreat, you know, the Beatles guru and on the way they had to pass by, I believe, was a Trappist monastery. Many stopped to ask directions to the yogi’s retreat or to go to the rest room or something like that. A couple of monks looked at all this crowd going right by their doors and knowing that Christianity had its own history of a deeper and more personal relationship with God buried in the monasteries for the last 2000 yrs, decided to teach about it openly. Forty years or so ago these monks formed the Contemplative Outreach organization and here we are at this time in the history of Christianity. A very few in Christianity have begun to practice the ancient Christian prayer form called the prayer of the heart, now called contemplative or centering prayer. It is not quite like paradise returned: No one seems to have the power of the Holy Spirit that the first Christians had but even so it is a new beginning. With this new start, it’s not like we have Jesus or the apostles around to draw from their strength, so we just have to do the best that we can and let Christian spirituality and the power of the Holy Spirit build with the coming generations. I am quite confident that it will.
Please understand that this brief history that you’ve just read is my own study of the facts. I don’t belong to an organization that has laid out anything that I have to say or whose agenda I need to follow. I think what I have written is accurate and that is all I can say. I don’t have an agenda of my own to push either way and most important; none of our relationships with the Holy Spirit depend on history. It just is what it is.
A WIDER VIEW
It is not quite as easy to find the actual truth of or underlying origin of a belief as just running a search on a pre Constantine Christian scholars’ views and I did not mean to sound simplistic. Just because someone was taught by an apostle or even the fact that an apostle himself believed something doesn’t make it so. New doctrines are always wrapped in the context of old belief systems.
A modern example would be all of the societies that the Catholic Church is in. If you take Haiti where voodoo has a strong influence you will find that the old voodoo beliefs and rituals are not that different under Catholicism. They just have new names. The same thing is true in Peru with ancestor worship and the leftovers of the Inca civilization: New doctrine wrapped in old beliefs. It is that way in every society the Church has gone into and it was no different with the Romans and Christianity. They just wrapped Christianity around their old rituals and beliefs.
Jesus was born and taught the deep truths of the Holy Spirit in a Jewish society and it was natural for his followers to wrap his teachings within a context of the experiences and beliefs with which they could relate. It always happens that way. It’s how we humans are. Each new wrapping does not change the deep truths, only the way they are presented, only the surface of things. Just understand that the modern Christian belief system is a belief in the teachings and nature of Jesus that was first wrapped by Jewish beliefs, then the Jewish context was later wrapped in a Roman belief system and this Jewish wrapped by Roman context is always wrapped in each society’s culture and previous beliefs that Christianity has gone into around the world.
Each wrapping may or may not be true when viewed in and of itself but still when viewed as a whole, the wrappings help each of us to relate to the original teachings in our own way and all of the cultural and sectarian diversity of Christianity around the world I see as a very good thing.. Diversity is simply the natural play of the Holy Spirit, the natural work of the finger of God in the physical universe. The strength of any system, whether it is biological, social, political or religious comes from its diversity. Besides this fact, we souls are born into this physical universe to interact. The worst thing I can think of is for everyone to look the same, everyone to be taught the same, everyone to be of the same sect, everyone to have the same view, everyone to worship the same way or everyone to experience the deep things of God the same way. We should embrace our diversity. The us and them, we are right you are wrong attitude is a product of our egos and our personalities ego structure is the single mechanism that keeps us from experiencing the Holy Spirit.
Underneath all of the diversity that rests on the surface of Christianity are the deep things of God that rest in the depths of our faith and are the unchanging infinite consciousness of God things. This is where Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit to all of us comes into play. AND As I will endlessly repeat: Jesus’ gift to us, the gift of the Holy Spirit doesn’t care about any of the diversity on the surface, only the openness of each individual’s heart.
THE HIGHER REALITY
Well, I might as well get into the most difficult concept for everyone to come to grips with. If you can get through this understanding, this one reality that is the basic experience for all the mystical understanding of all the great religions on this planet, you will begin to look at life from a whole new perspective. The rest of the lessons are relatively easy, for they are nothing more than practical advice on the path to the direct experience of this most basic truth of existence.
This lesson is about the soul's physical relationship with God. It is not about a belief in anything or anyone but the soul's innate being in God and simply said: It also is what it is. It is said by all who have directly experienced the soul's innate being in God, what is called union in modern Christianity, perfection by the earliest Christians, enlightenment in yoga, Nirvana in Buddhism, bliss by the Sufi's and born again in the bible, that the true understanding of it only comes from the direct experience of it. So anything said about it is not the whole of it. More than in any other lesson I will try to quote from as many different saints on this understanding as I can. From these quotes, the reader should be able to easily see that the direct experience of the soul's true nature in God, union, born again, enlightenment, nirvana, bliss, perfection or whatever they want to call it in the various religions around the world, it is not limited to any one time, religion or person but is universal in nature and is spread throughout the whole of Christianities and most other major religions existence. Try to keep in mind that regardless of one’s orientation, it is the same experience for everyone who has progressed far enough along the spiritual path to have the direct experience of it. When we come to grips with the fact that this single experience is the corner stone of all the world’s major religions, we will come to realize what an ego trip it is to think “I am most certainly going to heaven and they are most certainly going to hell.”
Well, what is this Truth of God, soul and the nature of all manifest creation, hidden by what the Egyptians called “adyta”; hidden behind “the veil” of the prophets, hidden within the parables of Jesus, hidden within key words and phrases of the scriptures and writings of the saints? What is this truth of the nature of existence that has been and still is so far out of “those outside of the divine choir’s” reality that if heard will be trampled underfoot and in some religions even get the teller of this truth torn to shreds?
The answer is in a child’s song.
ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT
(live your life)
GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM
(with love, throughout all your years)
MERRILY, MERRILY, VERILY, VERILY
(with much joy but in all seriousness)
(Everything we do, think and believe, everything that happens to and around everyone and everything on earth or in heaven)
IS BUT A DREAM
(is but Divine Consciousness individualized as each soul and all that is manifest, dreaming the dream of creation)
Perhaps I need to explain.
THE DREAM REALITY
When we dream we enter a partial reality; a dream reality that is only a small part of the awareness that makes up our fully awake self. It is like having blinders on to who we really are. Each night we play a myriad of roles and while dreaming each role, absolutely believe that we are the various personalities we are dreaming ourselves to be. In our dreams we are hurt, we love and are loved, we harm others and others harm us; we are chased by evil and are consumed with visions of grandeur. Yet the roles we play in our dreams are illusionary, having no independent reality from us dreaming them and each morning we awake, with the fundamental nature of who and what we are untouched by the previous night’s roles that we have played out in our minds.
When individualized Divine Consciousness (the soul) is born into the world and lives its life, it enters a partial reality, a dreamlike reality that is only a small part of the full awareness that makes up its true Self. The soul lives its own waking dream, playing a myriad of roles, hurting and being hurt, loving and being loved, manipulating others and others manipulating it, absolutely believing that it is the personally of the role it is playing. It feels isolated, separate from God and even life, unaware that it is an individualization of the Infinite Consciousness that is in actuality dreaming the dream it is living.
The apostle Paul describes it this way: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Cor. 13: 12)
In other words, When our consciousness expands beyond the dream reality into the higher reality that so many of the saints have experienced we will come to know ourselves as God knows us.
Those who have awakened, (are “inside the house”) begin to live life from a different and expanded reality. Paul says: “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1Cor. 13: 10)
The saint’s who begin to rest in this higher reality begin to experience their true nature as individualization's of infinite Divine Consciousness. They begin to experience a profound peace and joy, a sense of absolute completeness, of oneness with God and life that only comes from having the soul’s full awareness restored. The soul begins to see clearly and becomes untouched amidst the din and clamor of the world. No matter the role the soul plays or the personality that it may have assumed, the soul feels and knows itself as a wave in the infinite ocean of consciousness that is God the almighty.
The saint’s who have experienced the higher reality speak of but one truth. “Outside God nothing has any existence at all. “ (St. Veronica Giuliani)
“The soul, when purified, “(wrote St. Catherine of Genoa), “abides entirely in God; its being is God.”
“If I am to know God directly, I must become completely He and He I, so that this He and this I become and are one I.” (Meister Eckhart)
“and thus we are brought forth by God, out of our selfhood, into the immersion of love, in which we possess blessedness and are one with God.” (Ruysbroeck)
“To understand the nature of this union, one should first know that God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it may be that of the greatest sinner in the world. This union between God and creatures always exists. By it He conserves their being so that if the union would end they would immediately be annihilated and cease to exist.” (St. John of the Cross, 1542 to 1591)
We are not and cannot be separated from God because our being is innately one with the whole of Divine Consciousness. We can’t go anywhere but within our own nature to realize the truth of our own nature in God and find the reality that is our true Self. We can’t go out and get it when we are already it. We can only work to remove whatever is obstructing our realization of already being it.
“A ray of sunlight shining upon a smudgy window is unable to illumine that window completely and transform it into its own light. It could do this if the window were cleaned and polished. The less the film and stain are wiped away, the less the window will be illumined, and the cleaner the window is, the brighter will be its illumination, The extent of the illumination is not dependent upon the ray of sunlight but upon the window. If the window is totally clean and pure, the sunlight will so transform and illumine it that to all appearances the window will be identical with the ray of sunlight and shine just as the sun’s ray…The soul upon which the divine light of God’s being is ever shining…is like the window.” (St. John of the Cross)
Cleaning and polishing the window to the soul in God is a lifelong process. Saints come to know that there is nothing of lasting value for oneself outside of the refinement of one’s own nature in God.
“No one can be saved without self-knowledge.” (St. Bernard)
Jesus said in another way that is harder for a person who is attached to the objects and pleasures of this world to achieve the unfolding of individual consciousness as Divine Consciousness (entering the Kingdom of God) than it is for a camel to traverse that ancient pass known as “The Eye of the Needle.”
He said: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20,21)
Therefore in order to realize the “Kingdom of God” within each of us, “Let us enter the cell of self-knowledge.” (St. Catherine of Sienna)
DIVINE CONSCIOUSNESS AS SOUL
All of the saints who have directly experienced the true nature of God tell us (In ways that they think the followers of their denomination can best understand) that God is not a "big person” in the heavens.
Evagrios the Solitary in On Prayer writes: "Be on your guard against the tricks of the demons. While you are praying purely and calmly, sometimes they suddenly bring before you some strange and alien form, making you imagine in your conceit that the Deity is there. They are trying to persuade you that the object suddenly disclosed to you is the Deity, whereas the Deity does not possess quantity and form."
St Cyril of Alexandria (378 to 444) writes that God is "incorporeal, immaterial, impalpable, beyond quantity and circumscription, beyond form and figure."
In other words, God is not staring down at His creation, rewarding and punishing mankind like some petty Roman deity. God's true nature is far beyond the concept of a personality that can be located in time and space, up there somewhere. The far greatest part of Divine Consciousness is like an infinite unchanging sky, an omnipresent consciousness that rests behind creation as an infinite unchanging, formless and unmanifest presence. But at the same time this formless unmanifest presence manifests on the surface of Itself that which dreams the dream of creation that is each soul and all that is manifest as the heavens and earth.
I will try explain the best way that I know how: With an example that came to me many years ago while doing my practices in the desert followed by another commonly used example. Hopefully between the two examples, I can get my and other mystics understanding of the soul's true nature in God across clearly enough for you to understand the concept even if you choose to totally disagree with it.
The first example is in this way. Souls are a part of manifested Divine Consciousness; very much like the little whirlpools of air that I have so many times seen in the desert are a part of the sky. Called dust devils, the little whirlpools might seem different from the sky from which they are made but this is only because of the debris each has picked up on its journey across the land. It is illusionary: For it is only the movement, support and flowing of the whole sky that is carrying the dust. The whirlpools have no separate existence from the whole of the sky and can only maintain the appearance of an individualized structure as long as there is a creative impulse that is supporting them. Remove the creative impulse and the whirlpools are “immediately annihilated.”
As St. John of the Cross explained, the same concept is true of the soul. Expressing itself through the substance of creation, the soul is that pure Infinite and omnipresent Consciousness, individually focused as each soul by the creative impulse, the wind of God. By identifying itself with the captivating and illusory structure of creation (the bejeweled angel Satan) into which it is born, the soul is deceived about it’s true nature and temporarily loses its awareness of its own perfection and unity in God. The soul becomes lost in its’ own dream, its’ mistaken sense of separateness. (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and casts itself out of the garden of the awareness of its own structure of individualized Divine Consciousness (the tree of life) into a self involved, self created world of thorns and thistles. This is my understanding of the meaning behind the story of Adam and Eve.
Through the action of the Holy Spirit, on earth or in the heavens, it is the innate impulse (the grace of God) and natural evolution of the soul to eventually burn away the dust, look to its true nature and find that it is not the substance of creation after all, but rather “I am that” greater reality and individualized Infinite Consciousness behind the personality I have dreamed myself to be. As an inseparatable part of Infinite Consciousness, as a wave in the ocean of infinite consciousness that is God, each soul exists as one of the countless individualizations existing within the whole. Each soul will eventually come to realize the simple truth that Moses spoke: “I am that” and will come to rest as “I am”.
Extending everywhere, within and as everything, Divine Consciousness (God) is all there is, ever has been, ever will or can be, and souls as well as all of creation as individualization's of It, are not now, never have been and never can be separate or apart from the whole of It. The soul as well as all manifest creation would “immediately be annihilated and cease to exist.” if Divine Consciousness was not it. The truth is that only Divine Consciousness exists. All things are One Thing. There is only God.
Nicholas of Cusa, (1401 to 1464) writes: "From the infinity of your mercy, I see, O Lord, that you are infinity embracing all things. There is nothing that exists outside you, but all things in you are not other than you. You teach me, Lord, how otherness, which is not in you, does not exist in itself, nor can it exist."
St Symeon, The New Theologian, (949 to 1022) writes: "How then was the Word everywhere before making the world and, when He had made it, how was He shining in it without the world comprehending Him? Pay careful attention: God "Who is everywhere present and fills all things" was not, Scripture says, separated from it by location when He created this sensible world, but by the nature of the glory of His divinity, it being evident that nothing created approached or comprehended Him at all. Indeed, being inseparable from all He is as clearly in all."
Echoing the Christian mystic’s understanding of the nature of God the Hindu scriptures repeatedly say, THOU ART THAT
St. Catherine of Siena, (1347 to 1380) speaking to God writes: You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea: The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you. You are insatiable, you in whose depth the soul is sated yet remains always hungry for you, thirsty for you, eternal Trinity, longing to see you with the light in your light.
You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soul's selfish love; you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light. In your light you have made me know your truth: You are that light beyond all light who gives the mind's eye supernatural light in such fullness and perfection that you bring clarity even to the light of faith. In that faith I see that my soul has life, and in that light receives you who are Light...
Truly this light is a sea, for it nourishes the soul in you, peaceful sea, eternal Trinity..... This water is a mirror in which you, eternal Trinity, grant me knowledge; for when I look into this mirror, holding it in the hand of love, it shows me myself, as your creation, in you, and you in me through the union you have brought about of the Godhead with our humanity.
Take the example of the ocean. In the whole of it, you cannot isolate any of its waves from the body from which they come, the body that supports them and upon which they owe their existence. Their substance cannot be removed and isolated and have them remain waves. Waves are more like impulses created by the wind or other creative forces that as impulses travel across the surface of the sea. You must realize that the particles of ocean water do not travel the thousands of miles from land to land that make up the birth (individualization) and death (reabsorbtion into the whole) that is the lifespan of a wave; that only the impulses travel and can be said to be waves. The waves have no substance of their own that they can say this is me and not the ocean. Take away the wind or other creative impulse and what happens? Is not the whole of the ocean still there? Not one particle of it is missing but the waves cease to exist.
The same is true of the soul. There is no point at which you can isolate the soul's being from the whole of God. Like a wave, the soul is an impulse created by the wind of God that rides upon the surface of the body of Divine Consciousness. The saint's who have directly experienced God repeatedly tell us that the soul has not substance of its own that it can say this is me and not God. If the Wind of God should stop blowing, what happens? The whole of Divine Consciousness is still there. Not one particle is missing but the impulse, the manifested divine consciousness returns to formlessness, returns to that point in time before manifestation and souls as well as all else that is manifest as the heavens and earth will have ceased to exist.
Have you ever wondered, why, with infinite endlessness behind and infinite endlessness ahead that there should even be this spec of time, this wisp of a movement of matter and energy that we look at as the last 12 to 15 billion years of the creation that is the physical universe? In all of eternity, why now? In the eternity of the past, was God without creation. It makes little sense to me.
It is pure speculation, but perhaps, all of creation's manifestation to merging back into the whole is but one day in the infinite past and infinite future life that is the forever and continuous now of God. Perhaps if each period of manifestation is followed by an equal period of unmanifest, formless rest it would make up the day and night of one day to God. If this is so, as some mystical traditions put forth, this would certainly explain why at this point in time in the vastness of eternity, the creation of the universe and the universe's and each soul's destiny in this vast eternity of time: For then everything is a continuous process. The whole existence of the universe would only be one day in eternity, in an endless series of days and nights in eternity.
But if creation is a continuous process throughout eternity, as it seems it must be, would not souls keep growing in number throughout eternity? How can there be an infinite number of finite manifestations of God? It is pure speculation on my part but perhaps there is also a natural process to the life of the soul; a day and night so to speak. We all have experienced that the soul is naturally born into ignorance and in the beginning is totally absorbed into the material, knowing nothing else of itself. But perhaps the soul lives and gains experiences on earth and then in the heavens, and over millions or billions of years becomes less and less associated with the material and mental realms and more and more associated with universal Divine Consciousness. Perhaps this is a natural process where in eternity all souls born in ignorance eventually become so disassociated with the physical and mental realms and so associated with Divine Consciousness that in some period of their development each soul chooses to drop all of that which is not its’ real self and become absorbed back into the whole. As with Christ, would not this be the perfect union? Only that which is not the soul is cast off. Not one drop of Divine consciousness is lost. Again, this is only my speculation on the nature of things that I have no way of knowing and perhaps neither does anyone else, for let’s face it, the souls that would choose to become absorbed back into the whole would not be around in any individualized form to answer your questions.
On a more personal level where I do have an understanding, one of my students wrote this question: "You have stated that God is not a personality. Does that mean, that God is not personal? That we do not have a relationship with God as a human son and father would have, as the Gospels seem to portray Jesus having with His Heavenly Father?"
Answer: We cannot have a more personal relationship than that which we have with God. Divine Consciousness is the very core of our being and most mystics relate to God in a very personal way. This is the soul’s nature. But this does not mean that the ocean of Divine Consciousness, that is the Father, Christ and Holy Spirit, are personalities or a single personality that relate to us as we relate to them. The saints tell us over and over again that God is not a big person in the sky that we can point to and say that God is there and not over there. The essence of our being is infinity, just as God is infinite but the soul is individualized infinity; infinity with a single focused point of individualization through which it relates. From this viewpoint it tends to personalize most everything. The ocean of Divine Consciousness, God, is not individualized and relates to each soul from the whole, from infinity. God is the closest thing to us and yet is totally impersonal with us as well as everything else that exists within the whole. Knowing that it is His own dream playing out within Himself, it is as if God has stepped back and is simply watching the love, hate and drama of the play.
But at the same time, through the Holy Spirit, God seems to be intimately available to His creation. At the many times that I have reached out to God, through intuitive consciousness or even in moments of distress, I have sometimes been answered with very personal responses in the nature of visions, comfort or understanding. But over the course of many years and many experiences I have come to a much better understanding of the nature of these responses. I am not saying that it is not God who has responded but only that I have come to a better understanding of how something so completely impersonal can respond so personally. It is probably one of those revelations that instead of being told, should be experienced over the many years of one's life and then only after we have stepped back far enough from it all and have taken a deep hard look at it all before the truth of it all can settle in. My first dramatic experience with comfort from the Holy Spirit is as follows. I think this experience illustrates how something so infinite and impersonal can at the same time be so personal.
COMFORT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
I was a young man, married to a woman of fundamentalist faith with a couple of children when the light of the Holy Spirit came so suddenly into my life. Not knowing anything about what was happening except how wonderful it all was, what is the first thing I did? Tell everyone I knew of the experiences and ask everyone what it all meant. Most thought I was totally out of my mind. Intuitive conscious above normal consciousness, never heard of such a thing. Being enveloped in the golden light of the Holy Spirit, this guy thinks he is Jesus Christ. No sane person has these experiences: Totally deluded.
I told my wife everything of these wonderful earth shaking (to me) experiences. She told her pastors and they told her I was possessed by the devil. She was afraid to be in the same room with me for the rest of our marriage. She didn’t believe in divorce, I didn’t believe in leaving my kids without a father. I know, old school, I just felt that personal happiness was far less important than duty. I still feel that way. Am I out of touch with the times, or what?
I hadn’t learned anything of the formalities or background of the prayer of the heart and didn’t even know that there was anyone in modern Christianity who had any deep inner experience with the Holy Spirit. I felt that I was totally alone in my experience and with no understanding of anything, I just sat down each morning and tried to become open to the Holy Spirit as best as I could.
One day, I cried out to God in my dismay. Why does no one understand? Why am I the only one? Why, just why am I being punished like this? I should add a really big disclaimer here but all I can do is relate how the following experience felt at the time. The reality of it is, well my understanding of such things has changed with 40 yrs time and so many more wonderful and sometimes (to me) earth shaking experiences. It’s just that this was the first time I realized how personal the Holy Spirit can be.
I was deep inside wallowing in my dismay. There was a rip in the heavens, I felt it. Out poured the Holy Spirit, I saw it with my physical eyes. It descended like a golden cloud and wrapped itself around me as if I were a baby in its arms. It rocked me back and forth for a time and when it lifted from me all of my grief over no one else understanding and my isolation from the world lifted with it, never to return. I cannot describe the peace, comfort and joy. I still can’t, it will still bring me to tears. The reality of the experience, do the heavens rip? I was really young in the Holy Spirit and knew nothing of the inner path.
Jesus said it better than I can. Do not cast your pearls before swine because they will tear you to shreds. Especially if like me and so many others, you start having experiences and do not understand the process yourself. No one around you is going to understand and when you start telling them of your wonderful experiences you are going to lose friends and even family because they are all going to think you are crazy or worse. Believe me, I know better than most. I will say it again. Learn silence as a virtue.
This experience leads me to bricks. These bricks are my personal deep things of God observations. They should not be your absolute anything.
BIG AND SMALL BRICKS
From birth we all build a mental library within our minds of our experiences, and things we have read or have been told and hold to be true. It is that part of the mind through which we view the world around us and try to make sense of it all. In mysticism the only way to make that library solid is by our own personal experiences. Any mentor of worth is always going to tell his students to never take anything said or written as the absolute truth but to build your library out of your own personal experiences.
These experiences of the deep things of God may be massive life changing revelations to a person, like the first experience with the Holy Spirit in my life was to me. To have my first experience to be falling into intuitive consciousness, which I did not know existed, immediately followed by being enveloped in the golden light of the Holy Spirit which before this I figured had run away and hid somewhere after the death of Jesus and the Apostles, was absolutely life changing, blew down the old library and putting in a massive new corner stone that will carry me through the rest of my life type of deep thing of God experience. Those may happen only one or two times on the path to God. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit and having it start flowing up the spine was another for me and the experience you just read of my first major comfort from the Holy Spirit wasn’t all that bad either. And a later experience written about in these lessons, of having the Holy Spirit tear my heart to shreds was probably the frosting on the cake of my first years with the Holy Spirit: All massive life changing experiences (to me).
But our library is also built of a multitude of small almost insignificant little experiences that probably would never mean anything to anyone. Like this simple observation. It was summer. The Holy Spirit was active. I went outside to do some work in my back yard without a shirt on. When the sun hit my chest I felt a ball of energy build in my heart and very distinct fingers of energy spread throughout my torso. My conclusion was that there must be some form of the Holy Spirit or sub atomic particle akin to it radiating from the sun that scientists know nothing about. Well, unless you are a nuclear physicist this observation is probably meaningless. Or you might come to the conclusion like I did that spending just a few minutes bare chested to the sun every week might be a good thing to do.
One or two massive cornerstone type deep things of God experiences, a multitude of little seeming unimportant deep things of God experiences, with numerous bricks of in-between size deep things of God personal experiences, over the years build a library of mystical personal deep things of God observations and understanding that cannot be blown down by anything, even death.
IT’S ALL ABOUT OUR HEARTS
Very early in my spiritual life I was doing some personal research into the lives of the Desert Fathers. In order to bring the Spirit close, they would try to get their disciples to develop a deep sense of sorrow. They write that it is a sorrow that you do not want to get rid of. This seemed to be a really, really, really stupid thing to cultivate. I have always been sorry for my sins. I have always rather hurt myself than another. But I could not understand why a person would want to go around in a state of sorrow, mentally beating themselves up over their sins. Just get over it and do better the next time.
Feeling a little bit irritated, I put the book aside for my devotional time. I rested in the intuitive calm for a few minutes and the Holy Spirit lifted my awareness above the minds thoughts. Suddenly a sorrow poured through me that was so deep it went all the way down into my bones. It was beyond feeling sorry for one man’s sins. It was like feeling all of the pain and suffering of the world at once. But as the Holy Spirit filled my mind, I understood the grace of God extending to me and to all of humanity. Oh, what sweet sorrow that I did not want to lose.
But I was totally mistaken in my previous thinking: Because for me, the sorrow had nothing to do with my petty sins or the worlds but everything to do with the Holy Spirit opening my heart so deeply that my soul could reach out and feel beyond its ego sense and embrace its own innate humanity. Without the Holy Spirit opening my heart and bringing the experience of it directly to me, I would have never understood in a million years.
The bible says that the seat of our emotions is in our hearts. Of course, it is not our literal hearts but the heart center in our spiritual body that is the seat of the soul’s ability to feel beyond itself, to feel its humanity, to experience the deep things of God and eventually the very presence of infinite consciousness within. The whole spiritual process that Jesus left to us is nothing more than a war between the ego mechanism of our personalities and our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and diminish our ego sense and take us to the deep things of God is how this battle is fought and won or lost. As St. Clement wrote: Diminishing the ego sense and opening our hearts (purification) is only the first step on the spiritual path. But to me, it is also seems the hardest step
The spiritual goal in this life that so few of us attain or even strive for is to have diminished our egos and opened our hearts to God, all of humanity and existence as much as possible before leaving this world. The reason that we see the gifts of the spirit around some of those that we call saints and not mankind as a whole, is that these particular saints have opened their hearts and diminished their egos to a point of selflessness. The full power of the Holy Spirit will not function through the ego or egocentric individuals. The reason for this is that the full power of the Holy Spirit can only be used by the mind after it has risen through the opened heart. True, we will sometimes see miracles around ordinary people but this usually only happens at a point of crisis where the thinking processes of the mind have collapsed and the only thing left is the heart in its pureness crying out to God.
THE NATURE OF THE MIND
Many times the visions we have in contemplative prayer are not of the outer world but of our own nature. During one period some mental mechanism had unlocked or moved away from me slightly. Instead of looking through the mind at the world, I was somewhat apart from the mind looking not through it but at it. It was as if I had become temporarily detached from its usual influence. For a couple of days I went around touching everything. The shift in consciousness made everything seem so much more crisp and clear; almost like getting a new set of glasses. Before this I had read that we are not our minds but this time, I for the first time, felt it. As we progress on the spiritual path we will go through a number of shifts in consciousness. Usually they happen so gradually that we don’t notice them until we look back at how we were a few years before.
A student wrote of this experience: "I know it’s not the end of the month yet when I normally write to you but I did want to relate some recent events to you and ask your advice. The Spirit seemed to be very busy, moving between the crown of my head, the point between the brows and the center of my brain, I couldn’t do anything else during my devotional after the breathing but watch this movement. I think I finally had a small experience of what you refer to as “looking beyond the darkness of my own mind.” I felt myself falling away from my busy mind. I was sort of looking back or sensing my busy mind from a place just beyond it where the stillness was. I was feeling a stillness I had never felt before. It only lasted a few minutes but my breathing practically stopped during that time. It felt as though I had actually stepped away from my mind."
The mind can be our best friend. By this I am speaking of the rational or thinking part of the mind coupled with the subconscious. Properly trained, it is what gives us the momentum, the inertia to find God. This is what I mean. If the mind is trained to move in a particular direction, its natural inclination is to keep moving in that direction. If you properly train the mind to meditate between seven and eight in the morning, it will try to do that every day. The mind seems to like to stay in set patterns. Most meditators of even short length have had the experience of not being able to meditate at their regular hour only to have the mind at that hour, try to meditate in the middle of what they have been distracted to do. It is for this reason that it is a much easier path when we do our devotionals at regular times.
For those seeking God, the mind left untrained, left unbridled, can be their worst enemy. The unbridled mind is constantly trying to seek greater activity and sensation. Eastern mystics call it the monkey mind. Try to calm the untrained mind too quickly or too strenuously and like an outraged monkey it starts going into all sorts of contortions. This is perhaps the greatest problem for new meditators. Training the mind for quiet meditation needs to be a long gentle structured process, so be patient and gentle with yourself and give yourself the proper length of time to let your efforts come to fruition.
The main problem with the mind is that for most of us it distorts everything it sees. For most of us our minds are not yet clear panes of glass but are as St. John of the Cross explained; muddied and rippled. Looking through the clutter we cannot see reality or ourselves as we truly are. The subconscious part of the mind holds pain, fear, misemotion, all of the distorted opinions and tendencies that from childhood up have been imposed on us from others and society in general, as mind stuff whirlpools. The whirlpools spin off ripples of irrational opinions, fears, hatreds, compulsions and unworthy habits that sometimes dominate our lives. Because of the minds programming, clutter and distorted vision through which it is experiencing life, the soul cannot see God or its true nature clearly. It gets even worse: It’s not just the mind it is also the personality that controls the mind.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
The problem is that for most, our personalities and even our basic views of life are programmed into us and even seem to be etched in stone before we are even old enough to do anything about it. Our personalities seem to rest in some almost inaccessible part of the subconscious and are extraordinarily difficult to change once the programming of our youth is set in place.
Each soul’s personality is formed and acquires its basic opinions about life and how it sees the truth of things by the circumstances in which it is born and raised. For most souls, if they are born of conservative parents, in a conservative environment with conservative peer pressure, they will be conservatives and will have a thousand perfectly good rationalizations as to why their conservative view of life is the only correct one. But if these very same souls were to be born of liberal, religious, nonreligious, other religious, racist, nonracist, nationalistic or pluralistic families in a like environment they would be born and raised of this new view and also have a thousand perfectly good rationalizations as to why each one of these views of life is the only correct one. This very basic fact should tell us straight out that our basic views of life and how we think things should be, have less to do with the truth of anything than they do with how we born and raised.
The problem is not the particular view or even whether it is true or not but the irrational motivation behind the rationalization (even when the rationalization is accidently correct) It is the us and them attitude that our personalities always seemed compelled to create that is the real problem. In every rationalization that the personality uses to justify each of its own views as being separate and better than others, no matter what the us and them may be about, the ego does little more than strengthen itself, bind the soul to the material and close its heart so that the soul is incapable of experiencing its true spiritual nature.
The soul is not born into this world knowing its true nature or knowing much of the truth of anything for that matter. It is not in every way but mostly born with a clean slate. What we are all born with is an ego mechanism (our personality) that gives us our individualism but also a feeling of separateness and isolation from everything else. The technical reason for this is that our egos are closed operating and rationalizing systems (just like Windows or Mac for the computer) and without the opening of the heart to reach out and feel beyond this closed system, the soul is utterly incapable of feeling beyond its own thinking processes and fixing its condition. There has to be an impulse from outside of its own thinking processes to do this. (reprogramming by the Holy Spirit, so to speak) The more tightly wrapped the soul is in its ego, the more the soul feels itself to be the ego, the less connected it will feel with everything around it and the more right it will feel in its own rationalizations and the less able it will be in finding any basic truth outside of its own thinking processes.
The ego and its wrappings around the soul, that is, the us and them attitude of life that we so commonly see is the basic mechanism that occludes the truth of existence from us, keeps the power of the Holy Spirit from entering our lives and is the single factor that traps the soul in the material. If we want to know how long we will be trapped in the material universe and barred from the spiritual realms, we just need to look at our us and them factor.
You know, how much smugness and delight do we take in the rightness of our own views? How much distain do we have for other views that do not fit in with our own? How much pleasure do we feel in the embarrassment and pain of those that do not fit in with us? How often do we dismiss others’ views before even hearing them because the person has the label of liberal, or conservative, or not of my religion or race or nationality? The what is meaningless: Whether it is politics, religion, race or nationality; it’s all unimportant. It is only about the mechanism. It is the egos mechanism of separation that binds and occludes the soul from realizing the truth of existence and only this.
IN EVERY ASPECT OF GOD’S CREATION, THERE IS ONLY US IN HIM.
Paul said: (For now we see through a glass darkly but then),
When we come to the point where our consciousness reaches out beyond our egos
THEM WILL NOT EVER EXIST AGAIN.
Anyway, this mistaken feeling of separateness, this mistaken feeling of isolation from the whole of existence is the basic human condition into which every one of us has been born. We have been thrown out of the Garden into a world of thorns and thistles! Opening our hearts and embracing our humanity and all of existence in God is the only way that I know of to open the gate to the East and to walk back into God’s welcoming arms. We must learn to reach out to the Holy Spirit and God through our hearts. They and our own true nature in them cannot be found through the rationalizations of the mind. And even when we understand the mechanism, even when we know what the problem is, it will still usually take a lifetime of meditation to have the spiritual strength to go beyond it. If it was all that easy, we would all be doing miracles.
RELIEF FROM PAIN
Even when we are not old, many of us have a terrible time with pain and illnesses. I am not saying that deep prayer will cure the problem but it may help us cope a little better. Perhaps my own personal experience will help explain. For several years I had been doing a type of production work that strained the muscles on one side of my neck. The muscles on that side became stronger than the muscles on the other side. The long term problem that resulted was that when I would sit down for my devotional time, (trying to sit with spine relaxed but erect) very painfully my neck would continually be pulled to one side. My devotional time was two hours in the morning and two hours at night but after an hour the pain would become so intense that I could not handle it and would have to stop. Eventually I decided to stay with it and put in the whole two hours no matter how bad the pain became. For an hour the pain kept building until it was almost unbearable and I would normally stop. This time I focused more deeply and continued. Within a few minutes of deeper concentration, I heard a small snap inside the center of my head and was instantly numb from head to toe, resting in a wonderful peace. I had not been lifted into intuitive consciousness to experience this. I seemed to come as a natural course of deeper focus during my devotional time.
Throughout the period of the neck problem, in my devotional time I would feel the pain build for a while, then there would be a snapping sound in my head and after for as long as I wished, I could continue my meditation in total comfort and peace. Think of the blessing being able to do this could be for those who are recovering from injury or illness. The most important point of all this might be that if we are not strong enough or willing to work through the pain or periods of spiritual dryness, we may never have the opportunity to open ourselves to the blessings that can result.
A student writes about her similar experience: "I just wanted to thank you for sharing your contemplative journey and allowing others to learn from you. I have practiced contemplative prayer for about 5 years and am currently at the lonely stage of “nobody like me.” I have read most of St. John of the Cross’ writings and also St. Teresa of Avilla. I am also drawn to Brother Lawrence for I wish to do everything for the love of God, for Himself, not for reward, experience or any other reason. That is my desire, and the Lord is working in me by the power of the Spirit to grant the desire of my heart.
I discovered, quite by accident one day that contemplative prayer does relieve pain. I have had reconstructive surgery for a birth defect that went unnoticed until I was 35. I now have fibromyalgia, an arthritic disease of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It is an invisible illness. and that is difficult sometimes, for I appear well, but sometimes suffer excruciating pain.
God has taught me much through that pain, and continues to use it to strengthen me spiritually. But when it is rough going, resting in the Spirit virtually removes all pain except for the most vicious. And the Spirit gives me the strength to bear that, until my medicine for attacks begins to work. You are right about this in your contemplative prayer lessons, it would be wonderful to share this ability with people who would benefit from it. ..........
I thank you for the help you have given me. It is much food for thought and prayer. I also thank you for your library resources. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,"
THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE
One day, while resting in the intuitive calm, I became lifted by the Spirit. It pulled my awareness above where it normally rests in my head and I seemed to be floating above. From this awareness I looked down into my body and it was as if I were viewing the basic structure of creation, the smallest particles of existence. I could feel the spaces between what seemed like an ocean of hollow spheres of light in constant swirling motion.
I realized that over the years my eyes had not told me the whole truth; for there is nothing solid in this universe. To exist in this universe everything must be in constant motion. By the nature of this universe everything must always be changing. This applies to our bodies, our experiences, our lives, our loved ones, our world, our religions, our social and political institutions; everything. In all of the manifested realms of existence, including the heavens, nothing can or will stay as it is. There is a saying that “This to will change” and it always will. Trying to keep people and circumstances as they are is as futile as trying to stop the changing of the tides or trying to swim upstream. It is best to live with the ebb and flow of the Holy Spirit, the ebb and flow of life.
Another time I was resting in the intuitive calm and became lifted by the Spirit. The whole universe seemed to appear before me. It looked like a giant Christmas tree ornament hanging on nothing. While in this state I clearly understood that the whole of God is not to be found at the center of the myriad of stars within each of the billions of galaxies that make up the immense strands and clusters of matter and energy that exist as the physical universe. The whole of the physical universe that mankind feels is so vast is more like a small cluster of diamonds resting on one of God’s fingers. (as if He had fingers)
The heavenly realms, each brighter and larger than the last, would make up the other jewels that rest on God’s other fingers. This illustration is appropriate for all of manifest creation is only a fraction of the size of the Consciousness within and behind it. The heavens are not a single place. Did not Jesus say “In my Father’s house there are many mansions?” The heavens are more like a series of separate universes divided by vibrations of consciousness. Mohammed speaks of consciously being taken through seven heavens. The physical universe is at the bottom of the rest and has the coarsest vibration.
As we develop spiritually, our consciousness will become higher attuned and will increase in vibration. When our bodies die and we leave the physical realm, the more higher attuned our consciousness, the more it has expanded and developed in this life, the higher we will be able to go into the heavens and the less restricted we are when we get there. Only those whose consciousness is fully developed (Born again unto the Spirit) can roam the series of universes known as the heavens at will and fully choose how they wish to serve God. Sorry, that’s just the truth of how it works.
WHAT ABOUT HELL?
I have to agree with what Origen has written about no soul being lost forever. I also do not believe that going to heaven is going to solve all of our problems. So many people think that they can solve their problems by moving away to some new place. Once they get to their new location, they find that they have carried all of their personal problems with them. I believe it to be no different when we leave our bodies and enter the heavens. Our desires and fears will still be with us eventually at some time in our existence needing to be worked out. I believe it to be true that at the end of our lives we are judged by the Christ but I believe that it is the Christ aspect within each individual soul that on a much deeper level than the conscious mind, judges the soul and decides how it is best for it to learn and progress in God’s Kingdom. This may call for a period of attitude adjustment or pay back if you want to call it that but never forever. Eventually all souls are destined to climb to the top of the mountain in God’s kingdom. (When each soul has learned what it needs to learn.) If the soul refuses to learn, it only means that it stays at the foot of the mountain for a longer period of time but I do not believe that any soul is destined to stay at the foot of the mountain forever.
St. Isaak of Syria writes: “If something has become deeply united with your soul, you should not only regard it as your possession in this life, but believe that it will accompany you into the life to come. If it is something good, rejoice and give thanks to God in your mind; if it is something bad, grieve and sigh, and strive to free yourself from it while you are still in the body.”
THE EVOLUTION OF MAN’S SPIRITUAL NATURE
The journey to the realization of God as soul for everyone on this planet and everything in all of manifest creation is actually the evolution of the individualizing structures that manifest Universal Consciousness as individual consciousness. On the physical level, the journey is the process of the Spirit’s unfolding the spiritual capacities located within very specific areas of the human brain and nervous system. These areas are where the soul’s spiritual body impinges on the various nerve plexus of the soul’s physical body. These very specific areas are the gates to the higher levels of awareness that we must develop in order to investigate the Kingdom of God and become aware of the soul’s true nature. It is the Holy Spirit that opens these gates; or more accurately, it is the Holy Spirit that stimulates the growth of the nerve connections within the brain necessary for the soul using the physical body to realize the higher reality. It is no different than learning any new skill. The proper nerve connections must be in place before the skill can be achieved as a part of oneself. The evolution of mankind's consciousness is the gradual process of mankind's nervous system becoming more and more attuned to the Holy Spirit.
It is quite apparent to me that the Holy Spirit is the guiding hand behind the evolution of the human species. In another few hundred thousand or perhaps million years the human nervous system will probably have evolved to the complexity necessary for mankind to naturally (any process that innately follows God’s will) and spontaneously develop an awareness of the higher reality and gifts of the Spirit. When one considers that the last species to rule this planet, the dinosaurs, lasted 300 million years, a few hundred thousand to a million years for the human species is but a drop in the bucket of planetary time.
THE PROCESS OF DYING
Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember you Creator in the days of your youth,”
12:5: “Because man goes to his lasting home and mourners go about the streets,”
12:6: “Before the silver cord is snapped...”
Early in my spiritual life as I would sit in silent contemplation I would come to a stage where my awareness seemed to rotate inside my body: A rather odd feeling because my body would be facing forward but my awareness would be facing in a totally different direction. One day, while in this state I looked down at myself. What I saw was two bodies. My physical body and partially outside of it a silvery white spiritual body. Connecting these two bodies is a silver umbilical cord. At death this cord snaps and the soul’s relationship with the physical comes to an end.
12:6: “and the golden bowl is broken...”
(The halo, the same golden bowl that Zechariah writes of, the highest center of consciousness in the spiritual body)
Many years ago, again early in my spiritual life, I was sitting in a library. I had been reading and my eyes were very tired. I was casually looking over everyone with my eyes slightly out of their normal focus when suddenly I began to see and electrical type field around everyone. Close to the body it was bluish gray and it extended out in various colors. I could see the field around each hair on a persons head. Further out from everyone's head was a small field of gold; resting over each persons head, just like an upside down golden bowl. On spiritually advanced souls this center of consciousness is so bright that it is seen as a halo.
12:6:”...and the pitcher is shattered at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.”
And the physical body can no longer utilize the Holy Spirit flowing through the channels and centers of the spiritual body.
12:7 “...and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the breath of life returns to God who gave it.”
A student wrote of an experience she had before reading my lessons: "I must tell you that I read your contemplative prayer lessons and found them inspirational. I had an experience a couple of years ago when I was trying to understand how to become filled with the Holy Spirit.. ....... Well upon waking one morning I experienced a light feeling and looked down and saw myself and my husband asleep below. I rose through the ceiling so fast I shot up through the sky and could see the stars around in the dark night. I looked down and saw this silver cord that you spoke of. I got frightened. And suddenly I was whisked away back into my body. I woke up terrified and did not know who to discuss such a situation with. I did not know of anyone that would understand what I was going through at the time. I let fear get in my way and did not realize that my seeking understanding was bringing me closer to the answers that I was searching for. Well I stopped trying and now I realize that there is nothing to fear. That someone else has gone through similar experiences and that it brings you closer to the Holy Spirit. I will start to pray in search of the Spiritual closeness that is meant for me to endure and not let fear turn me away. I thank you for your contemplative prayer lessons on the internet. I know it will reach many who are seeking understanding of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
THE VISION OF ZECHARIAH
Zechariah writes of a vision that he had of the soul’s spiritual body while he was in a superconscious sleep state.
4:2: “I see a lampstand all of gold,”
(The Spirit within the human spine, the tree of life)
4:2: “with a bowl at the top:”
(The halo seen around the heads of the saints, the highest center of consciousness in the spiritual body.)
4:2: “on it seven lamps with their tubes,”
(These are the wheels of light spoken of by Ezekiel. They are the seven main centers of consciousness in the spiritual body and their connections to the lamp stand of the Spirit within the spine. They are associated with the spiritual body where it impinges on the various nerve plexus located along the human spinal column and into the head.)
Just as the physical body is not a lump of clay but a complex structure, so it is with the soul’s spiritual body. In the physical body the main distribution channel for the Spirit and grosser nerve forces is the spine, the brain and various nerve plexus. In the spiritual body the main channel for the distribution of the Holy Spirit and higher spiritual forces is described in this vision as the golden lamp stand with a bowl at the top and the seven lamps with their connecting tubes.
The seven lamps are the gates to the seven basic realms of existence (The seven heavens that Mohammed traveled) within the Kingdom of God and the seven basic states of consciousness that the soul travels through to God realization.
THE SPIRITUAL BODY'S CENTERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
“The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” Ezekiel 1:16
On many occasions during deep contemplation, I have been drawn to the front at what mystic’s call the gate to the East, and have seen the golden light of the Holy Spirit, as a wheel of light around the deep blue light of the Christ aspect of divine consciousness and even the white light of the Father. These many experiences with the light have not come from super consciousness as seems to be the case with Ezekiel. But then his visions seem a lot more dramatic then what I have experienced.
As our consciousness in the physical body is located within the brain, our spiritual body has it’s consciousness located within very specific areas of its body. Each area of spiritual consciousness has its own very specific vibration of the Holy Spirit and resulting color from this vibration seen inwardly as a wheel of light that comes from each area. (It is no different from splitting a full spectrum of what appears to be clear light into its different vibrational colors.) Each area in the spiritual body can be heard and seen inwardly as different frequencies of vibration of the light of the Holy Spirit and can be felt outwardly where these areas impinge on the physical body.
I was listening to some music when I began to feel the vibration of the centers of consciousness along my spine and into my head. Each center had its own unique frequency that would be stimulated and I would feel physically when the music hit the note at which the center vibrated. I felt seven areas of vibration along the spine and into the head, exactly where the great mystic’s have written they could be felt. The area at the base of the spine had the lowest frequency of vibration and the areas increased in vibration with the area at the very top of the head having the highest frequency of vibration. All areas seemed to vibrate within the human range of hearing or perhaps its harmonic. As the vibrations poured through me, moving up and down the spine with the music, it felt as if I had become a musical instrument being played by God.
It is obvious to me that it was the different colors of the wheels of light and different vibrations of the Holy Spirit located within the centers of consciousness in his own spiritual body that Ezekiel experienced with his visions of light and sound.
“And I looked and behold, a whirlwind come out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire enfolding itself, and a great brightness was about it, and out of the midst therefore was the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.” Ezekiel 1:4
“as the appearance of a sapphire stone” Ezekiel 1:26
“And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it,” Ezekiel 1:27
A student wrote this question about his experience: "Could you please tell me of the significance of the appearance of a circle of white light after doing contemplative prayer and the breathing process and later the appearance of a smaller blue light in the center of the circle of white light?"
Answer: The three main aspects of Divine Consciousness are seen as the golden light of the Holy Spirit, the blue light of the Christ aspect and the white light of the Father aspect. When seen as circles of light you are probably looking into one of the centers of consciousness along the spine or into the head as you practice your exercises. It is a good sign of becoming more sensitive to the Spirit. Lmr
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Revelations 2:1 “The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven lampstands of gold (The wheels of light of Ezekiel, the seven lamps of Zechariah) has this to say...”
2:7: “I will see to it that the victor eats from the tree of life which grows in the garden of God.”
The description of the inner battle to return to the garden of unity in God is written about symbolically in Revelations. We read that it is a time of tremendous strife, turmoil, family separation and battle. But I believe that it is a battle with our own bigotry, desires and attachments (our family) that is being spoken of.
When the soul has fully opened the seven inner gates in its spiritual body (the process of climbing Mt. Carmel, writings of St. John of the Cross) and raised its consciousness to where it can no longer tell where it ends and God begins; when it has won the battle with its own bigotry, fears, desires and attachments (a many headed beast) and finally comes to know itself as a part of the whole of life; for it and each of us who fights and finally wins the inner battle, the Christ (as Self) will have come again.
CONSCIOUSNESS AS LIGHT
“When the mind is completely freed from the passions, it journeys straight ahead to the contemplation of created things and makes its way to the knowledge of the Holy trinity.” (Maximus the Confessor)
There is only God and God is Infinite Consciousness. In a myriad of forms, only consciousness exists. There is a main trinity of aspects to this Infinite consciousness that we call God that inwardly manifest themselves to us as light.
Usually the first that we see inside of ourselves is the Holy Spirit. We are standing on it, breathing it and our bodies and minds are made of it. It is God’s hand extending to all individualized creation. (souls) Becoming open to it is not the end of the path; it is only the very beginning of a life long cleansing process culminating in the direct experience and knowledge of God and soul. But of what value is the boat that carries us to our Father if all we do is occasionally read the operators manual and never get in the boat and let it take us anywhere? The boat is the wonderful golden light and sound of the Holy Spirit. It is here for each of us: If we will only reach out just behind the darkness of our minds for God’s hand.
The light of the Christ aspect of God is a more subtle perception than that of the Holy Spirit. It usually takes many years of silent prayer, when the center of consciousness in the middle of the head, the Gate to the East, begins to open, before it can be seen behind and within the light of the Holy Spirit. (For me it took approximately twenty years of meditation, three to four hours a day, before I could rest in it regularly.) The Christ aspect is the cosmic intellect of Divine Consciousness. It is that part of the triune nature of infinite consciousness that using the Holy Spirit, directed the creation of the heavens and earth, that is, all manifest existence. Souls are individualized through this aspect of Divine Consciousness. All souls are of the body of the Christ of God. This aspect is seen inwardly as a luminous deep blue ocean of light. Only after we rest in the light of the Christ and more, will we begin to understand the peace that Jesus gives.
The Father aspect of Divine consciousness and true nature of the soul is an even more refined perception of light than that of the Christ. It is seen just behind and within the light of the Christ. Everything is contained within Its nature. If you hear a description of its true nature, that is not it. Its nature as each and all must be experienced to be understood. It cannot be told. When this aspect is first seen within, it will often look like a white star floating within the deep blue ocean of light of the Christ. When we enter into the light of the Father, it will expand as our true self into infinity and seem brighter than a thousand suns.
Over the years, as we fall deeper and deeper into God’s arms, we are actually experiencing deeper and deeper levels of Infinite Consciousness manifested as light.
ESOTERIC AND EXOTERIC SCRIPTURE
From the few examples of scripture provided in the lessons, it should be obvious that there are at least two levels of consciousness being referred to in the bible. We need to understand the reason for scripture being written as it is. The tradition in that part of the world was that the average person was not capable of understanding the higher realities of God and was therefore only given surface duties to do: Be good and follow the law. This is what the early Christians referred to as the milk of the truth. Much of the bible was written as a parable. On the exoteric side the scriptures were written as morality plays but underneath they were explanations of the nature of existence in God. This is evident from the first of it in the parable of the Garden of Eden, where the soul looses it’s awareness of God, to the last of it in Revelations, where we are told of the battle that the soul goes through to regain full awareness in God. Everything ties together in between. For good reason, the number seven is symbolically described throughout: Seven lights, seven stars, seven candles etc. are all symbolic of the seven centers of consciousness in the spiritual body, the seven basic states of consciousness the soul travels through to the realization of God and the seven heavens or basic realms of existence in God’s kingdom.
There are seven basic states of consciousness. Each state of consciousness has its own vibrator rate. Each vibrator rate corresponds to one of the seven realms of existence know as the earth and heavens. In the spiritual body, there are seven main centers of consciousness that as each is developed gives the soul access to that realm of existence. The journey to directly experiencing God is the opening of these centers. When seen inwardly the centers appear as circles of light within circles of light. When seen in another they might appear as lights branching off of the spine or as described by Zechariah as seven lamps on a golden lamp stand; the Holy Spirit within the spine.
I remember going through the bible after having so many mystical experiences and thinking ”experienced that, touched on that, now I understand that etc.” Most of the spiritual revelations in the bible are fairly standard experiences that we all will generally go through or at least touch upon as we travel more deeply on the mystical path. When understood more deeply, the bible is a very mystical book.
The first twelve years of my practices were really quite enjoyable: Visions and higher states of consciousness, hearing and seeing the Holy Spirit within, mildly feeling the movement of it, resting in intuitive consciousness, coming to a basic understanding of the spiritual process of soul development, coming to a basic understanding of the nature of existence, (the deep things of God) developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit, coming to understand how the mind works and beginning the process of diminishing the egos’ influence: All pretty much standard stuff that most practicing contemplative prayer at any depth will eventually experience.
Well, that was what I look back on as my beginning years and things were about to change.
BAPTISM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
For many years I could not understand why the Holy Spirit was so active in early Christianity and not in modern Christianity. In early Christianity there were only a few thousand members of our faith but people were being healed all over the place. There were occasions like Pentecost where everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. As I recall one of the apostles placed his hands on a piece of cloth and this cloth was sent to an ill person who was healed when it was given to them. Today we have hundreds of millions of Christians but when it comes to the activity of the Holy Spirit, Christianity is more like a barren desert with only a rare oasis of the Holy Spirits activity seen in a very few special individuals. Modern day Christianity has lost something that the early Christians had and this is what it is.
Luke 3:16: John (the Baptist) answered them all, “I baptize you with water…He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.
When Constantine took over Christianity and Romanized it, our faith very quickly lost its master-disciple relationships and with that the power of the Holy Spirit being passed on from generation to generation. Before getting into my own personal experience, I will try give an understandable biblical analogy of the difference in path of the Holy Spirit to enlightenment of the early Christians and the more intellectual path to enlightenment of the modern Christian contemplative prayer community.
If you will remember back in the lessons a little bit, I tried to explain how the many visions and outright references to the lamp stand with its seven lamps were actually references to the Holy Spirit within the spine and head with the seven corresponding centers of consciousness in the souls spiritual body: The circles of light of Ezekiel’s vision, the lamp stand and the seven stars in revelations, the wheels at the well in Ecclesiastes and on and on in the scriptures being the same analogy.
As the Holy Spirit breaks through the mental, spiritual and physical debris in a center and begins to flow freely through it, that spiritual center, that intertwined nerve plexus in the physical body, that lamp on the lamp stand begins to radiate the light and heat of the Holy Spirit. I have specifically said spiritual, mental and physical because all three aspects of our being are so intertwined you just can’t separate the spiritual process into one and not include the others.
Now the center at the top of the head, seen in Zechariah’s visions as the golden bowl on top of the lamp stand and usually called the gate to the East by Christian mystics, the sahasrara center in yoga, and seen as the halo around a saints head in religious paintings, is the center of consciousness that when opened gives the soul the direct experience of its true nature in God; that which is called enlightenment, bliss, nirvana, unity, born again, etc, depending on a person’s religious affiliation. The other lower centers of consciousness on the lamp stand do other things and bring other gifts of the spirit.
In the modern contemplative path to enlightenment, over a lifetime’s meditation, usually only the centers of consciousness in the head are opened and they will radiate their light, just like lighting a lamp on top of a lamp stand. Those with opened eyes will see the light and if close enough sometimes feel the heat of the Holy Spirit radiating from such a person.
Those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire will start to feel the intense flowing of the Holy Spirit, usually starting with the Holy Spirit building pressure at the bottom of the spine and over the same period of time as with the more intellectual path, the Holy Spirit will rise through the spine opening each center, lighting each lamp, ending with the center of consciousness at the top of the head (the halo, the golden bowl), also bringing enlightenment. Same amount of time, seven times the intensity as with the more intellectual path.
With the whole lamp stand burning, even those who walk around with closed eyes, when close enough, will sometimes feel its heat. Baptism by the Holy Spirit and the process of setting the whole lamp stand ablaze is what the fire that John the Baptist said that Jesus would bring to us is all about.
The realization is the same on both paths. Enlightenment is enlightenment, the soul experiencing its true nature in God is the same regardless of the path to it. And many on the more intellectual path feel that since the realization is exactly the same that is not worth all of the extra discomfort and hassle that opening each center of consciousness and lighting all the lamps on the lamp stand brings.
The difference that I see is in the soul’s ability to help others around it through the Holy Spirit: To baptize others in the Holy Spirit and have the Holy Spirit take them to the deep things of God. The difference is in the size of the Fire. I don’t care how much harder it is, the path that Jesus left to us is not just a path of self realization for those who can get there but of helping those around us with the power of the Holy Spirit and passing this power on from generation to generation. Do you recall the power of the Holy Spirit that was passed from Elijah to Elisha? This passing on of the Holy Spirit is a very old tradition that was included in but in truth existed long before Christianity and still exists in some traditions outside of Christianity to this day. The Holy Spirit is in every person on this planet. None of us own it but if allowed, the Holy Spirit will take all of us to the one truth in God.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIRE, a personal experience
I had been practicing the prayer of the heart for about twelve years and the breathing exercises for a couple of years when, a new friend told me that when he was in the presence of a yoga teacher he knew, who happened to teach the same breathing exercises that I was using, that he felt the movement of the Spirit within. That year I went on a week’s retreat to see the yogi. At the end of the week, in a very simple ceremony, he blessed all attending by placing his hands on each person’s head, (and I would imagine) silently willing (there was no fuss or public emotional display of his abilities) or asking the Holy Spirit to come into their lives. I thought it was going to feel like lightning or heat or visions of light or something great. But not nothing! I had averaged two to four hours a day in devotional time for twelve years. I had averaged five to six hours a day in devotional time for the last year and a half and still I left the retreat feeling very disappointed that I somehow had not properly prepared myself for the meeting.
But the next day when I arrived home and started my regular devotional routine, the wind of the Holy Spirit that Ezekiel and other prophets allude to, began blowing throughout my body. The Spirit would concentrate upon very specific areas along my spine and into my head. During one devotional the Spirit seemed to rise up through my body; gently bending my spine backwards, holding me like this for a few minutes. As it continued to flow upward into my head, the Spirit flooded into my eyes making them spasm mildly.
Every day during each devotional and even during the rest of the day, storms of the Spirit began flowing through me. When the Spirit flowed into my heart, it was as if my heart had been set on fire. It would burn and burn. I have read of the saint’s referring to the fire in the heart. The biblical scholars had stated that the early Christians were speaking of religious enthusiasm. So much for religious scholars with no experience of the Holy Spirit: Now I knew what they were really talking about. The heat felt is from the intense cleansing action of the Holy Spirit. As it clears obstructed pathways within the physical nervous system and spiritual body preparing us for higher states of consciousness and the gifts of the Spirit to come, we may feel heat throughout.
I would do my regular devotional routine and the Spirit would start flowing into my heart. My heart would start burning and I couldn't get it to stop. There would be so much energy that the burning would go into my lungs and couldn't even take a comfortable deep breath. My devotional routine was mostly the breathing exercises at the time and it would get so bad that I could no longer do them. I would stop my devotional routine and in a week or so the flowing would subside. Only then could I could take a deep breath again and continue with my normal daily spiritual routine.
My lungs went out on me six times that first year: The last time for nearly a month. I went to a doctor and he could find no physical reason for it. How do you tell a doctor that the Holy Spirit has really been rough on you lately? I didn’t.
I was determined to press the flowing of the Spirit to the limit and was not about to cut back one bit on my exercises. In my naivety I figured that if I could keep up this pace, keep the Holy Spirit this active, I would probably be enlightened in short order. So I called the Self Realization Fellowship (kriya) yoga monastery where I had learned the breathing exercises and asked for someone to send me diet instructions for handling the heat and discomfort. I had read somewhere that adding clarified butter to the diet would help.
Instead of a letter, the monk in charge of the spiritual practices of the rest of the monks at the monastery, a brother Adonay or something like that called me on the phone. I do not know what his position is called but this monk rested in continuous non-duality, continuous Christ consciousness. It is a blessing to ever even get to talk to someone like this. Few of the greatest mystics that we all have read and admired ever attained continuous non-duality. He was ever so kind but was quite blunt about my situation. He said that I was not yet spiritually advanced enough for the hours of my routine and that if I didn't cut back on it I would permanently damage my nervous system. So much for my ego. (One more time.) When I cut back on my routine the problem never happened again. Now many years later I am doing more hours than what I had to cut back on then. It all works out in God's time, the Holy Spirit’s time for us not in our time for us. This might be one of the hardest things to learn. It has been for me.
WHEN A LAMPSTAND BURNS BRIGHTLY
In the middle of all this “stuff”, I was attending a class on the comparative study of the bible and the Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred of the Hindu scriptures. At the end of the class, we would all hold hands and the person conducting the class would offer a prayer. After a few weeks, I began to notice that a lady attending the class would always make sure that she would be holding my hand at this time. She would almost push people out of the way to make sure of this. Finally, I pulled her aside and quietly asked her what was going on. She said that she was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and wanted to avail herself of it flowing from my hands: That she had never felt it in anyone that strong. All that I knew was that my hands would get very hot at this time.
Well, this was the first indication that I had ever had that there might be an outward manifestation that others might feel of the inner flowing of the Spirit that I had begun to feel. Now, I want to stress that as far as I still am aware, there was no sudden change in my consciousness. I had not suddenly become a saint or something. Before this, I had always thought that one would have a gradual evolving consciousness that others might begin to feel over the many years of a person’s increasing spirituality. It just didn’t work out that way (for me). Without any noticeable increase in spirituality, the Spirit started flowing and others sensitive to it started feeling it: No change in attitude, no new holiness, no major shift in consciousness for this to happen. The spiritual master broke the dam, (baptism by the Holy Spirit) the Holy Spirit flowed and when close enough, others begin to feel it: So much for holiness and the Holy Spirit.
It’s not quite as easy as I just stated. It is as St. John of the Cross stated. Illumination is not dependent on the light. The light is there. Illumination is dependent on how well we have prepared ourselves, how well we have cleaned the window to our soul. Most who are baptized in the spirit by a spiritual master feel nothing at all. Some will have flashes of light or electrical type feelings in a few days. In my 40 yrs on this path, I have only met one other person who has had the baptism by the Holy Spirit by a spiritual master initiate the rising of the Holy Spirit up the spine and this was with a different yogi than the one I had gone to see. What does that make: One in thousands certainly, maybe one in a million. But perhaps I should get out and see more people. Maybe there are more out there than I think. I hope so.
Experimenting with my new found ability, (A child playing with a new toy?) I found that if I had a person take my hand and place it over their heart and I put my other hand on their head, in a few days they would often call me about the visions of light and electrical type sensations that were running through their bodies since a day or so after I had done this. I guess this is baptism by the Holy Spirit. It’s just that I didn’t feel newly holy with this ability: Same old me with all the same old problems, same inner demons I had always had and now a new problem from the outside began to develop.
During these periods of the intense flowing and building of pressure of the Holy Spirit in my nervous system, I had total strangers come up to me asking about what they were feeling when around me. I once had a minister come up to my car that I was meditating in and ask about the white light he saw surrounding it. I found that I could just look at a person sensitive to the Holy Spirit, mentally ask the Holy Spirit to come into their lives and sometimes they would immediately feel it. One time I did this with a sales lady who immediately broke into tears, went into some kind of catharsis and totally lost it in the middle of trying to sell me advertising for my small business. It turns out that I needed to be more careful with asking the Holy Spirit to come into someone’s life than I thought. Once I had a lady I had never met and who nothing about me, walk behind me three or four times while I was sitting on her floor doing some repair work related to my business. She then came up to me and asked who I was that I made her feel like she did. I had another lady I had never met and who nothing about me, just stand there looking at me and finally come up to me and tell me she had been waiting for me to come into her life (To save her from what, I still don’t know?) And many more less dramatic experiences like this when the Holy Spirit was building intensely in my nervous system.
These people knew nothing about me but had felt the radiating of the spirit and had asked about what they felt. I had never told any of them that these things might happen. How do you tell a stranger you have never met “Oh by the way if you feel odd sensations around me, it’s just the Holy Spirit and please don’t make a big deal about it?
The strong flowing of the Holy Spirit within is what it is and I see no need to make a big deal about it. I have been around long enough to know that this intense flowing that people felt was not me, just something I have carried around with me occasionally. And I do mean occasionally because when the Holy Spirit is not building intensely, I might as well be a lump of clay standing next to someone. Until a person’s consciousness is stable at the end of this cleansing process, ending in enlightenment, the flowing of the Holy Spirit and other’s feeling its influence will not be stable. Even with some looking at me as if I were something special, in understanding this, it has not been that difficult in not buying into the “oh look at how special I am thing”. It’s not me they are feeling, it’s the Holy Spirit and it’s not consistent.
Understand, I’m not going on an ego trip here in relating these experiences. You just need to know that I actually do know from my own personal experience what I am talking about in this next statement.
I know as one of the basic facts of my life and want to firmly stress that the flowing of the Holy Spirit and the ability to help others through the flowing of the Holy Spirit is not in any way an indication that the person with this ability is more special than anyone else, more knowledgeable than anyone else, more kind and understanding than anyone else, more spiritual than anyone else and especially not any more moral than anyone else. Throw out the window all of your assumptions about how holy or righteous you think those people must be who experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit. No one on this planet is even close to perfection.
Anyway, if you are progressing on this path and people feel things around you, get over yourself. It’s not you they are feeling. It’s the Holy Spirit and it’s just passing through you and only will continue to do so if you keep your ego under control.
And if you have this wonderful charismatic teacher with supposedly special gifts, you know, the one that is driving a new Bentley while you’re driving a 10 yr old Honda Civic with bald tires and he is asking you to put all of your money or your panties on his alter of wonderfulness: You need to take a long step back and take a good look at what’s really going on.
On the other hand, if you are so foolish as to throw these things in his direction, it’s on you and you will have earned your empty wallet and the heartbreak that you are destined to receive. Do you really believe that you are the only one so special to him? Give me a break and put yourself on a very long list. Truly spiritual people are not those you see strutting on pulpits or TV showing off (fake) miracles and healings. Truly spiritual people are as ordinary acting as you can get. It’s only our egos that need to put on airs and show the world how special we are. Well, that’s the end of my moralizing, take it or leave it.
I do not know how it has been for others like myself. In 40 yrs, I have never even had a conversation with anyone experiencing the intensive buildup of the Holy Spirit that I have experienced. I am not saying they are not out there: Only That I have never talked to anyone about it who has any experience with it. But for me the buildup of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing process has come in waves: Seven main nerve plexus along the spine and into the head in the physical body, seven connected areas of consciousness associated with them in the spiritual body which means for the Holy Spirit to start flowing through each of these there has been a period of intense building and then flowing of the Holy Spirit necessary to break through of each of them.
The intense flowing of the Holy Spirit has usually built for about six months each time at a very specific area starting at the bottom of the spine and over the years broken through each area, eventually rising into my head. It seems like many feel it around me during this build up and after the break through there is a period of a few years of mild activity in between with no one feeling it when around me.
You might think that the Spirit would choose special moments of devotion or significance to make its most dramatic moves but that is not my experience with it at all. The Holy Spirit seems to have little or no concern about what we think it should do.
It was Thanksgiving Day and I had just finished my third helping of everything I could hold. This is just one of those wonderful traditions we all need to do at thanksgiving. Completely full and content, I went outside to be by myself and enjoy the moment. (You know, to figuratively go belly up to the sun like an overstuffed lion) I sat on the porch for just a few minutes. I must inject here that I knew the breakthrough was coming sometime soon. I could feel the spot of heat building at my throat for about six months and I had been running full body heat on and off all day long for a few months. I had been spaced out like with an allergy problem for as long and was feeling the occasional periods of nausea that had always come with the past buildups of the Holy Spirit: All of the normal symptoms that happen and I had come to expect as the nervous system tries to cope with the intense build up of the Holy Spirit within it.
Back to Thanksgiving day. Everything I have ever read on the subject has always said that heavy food just kills the Holy Spirit’s activity, so it wasn’t like I was looking for anything at that moment. As I sat there, my sinuses cleared with the air flow becoming perfectly even between the two nostrils. Now, that’s a good sign that the Holy Spirit has just started to enter the central channel in the spine and is moving upward through it. I began to feel the movement of the spirit breaking through the center, the nerve plexus at the throat. Flowing upward from there, the Holy Spirit spread out into my ears and then it poured into my head, feeling like some kind of an electrical storm. It then flowed into my eyes causing them to spasm mildly. Well, that’s how I sat, filled with turkey and trimmings in the stomach and filled with the Holy Spirit in my head.
At this time I have been through most but not all of this cleansing process. The Holy Spirit has risen through the centers of consciousness in the spine and is currently working in my head. After this there is no further place to work on or clear. (that I know of)
I do not know if the intenseness of the Holy Spirit will continue for me after the cleansing process is finished (with even strangers sometimes feeling it) or whether it will be more like the years in between the buildups (with no one next to me feeling it). I do know that when I was standing next to the yogi who baptized me in the Holy Spirit, I felt nothing but when he put his hands on my heart and head, well, that was an experience that changed the course of my life. Then again I have read (but not met) of a very few enlightened where you could not even be in the same room with them without feeling the Holy Spirit. And totally on the other side, it seems the majority of enlightened: Most of those in Buddhism, Zen and even the Christian contemplative prayer community have taken a more intellectual path to enlightenment and seem to have no personal relationship with the Holy Spirit or ability to help others through it. Since I do not seem to have a single intellectual bone left in my body, I will have to leave a full explanation of the intellectual path to enlightenment to those others who are familiar with this path.
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
How can I tell the best and not tell the worst. But then, sometimes the worst was in truth the best or perhaps even when it doesn’t feel like it, the worst is the best for us after all. Sounds Zen but then who but the enlightened knows what one hand clapping sounds like. It’s just that I have changed my mind about telling the next experience so often that it leaves me in a fog.
So until I change my mind on it again: It has been twelve years since first becoming open to the Holy Spirit. With my family circumstances, I have learned to meditate in my car, before work, at lunch, after work, add infinitum. I have meditated for months outside on my porch, in below freezing weather with a blanket around me, out in the desert at above a 100, in noise, in every distraction, in the rain because I could and there’s a snap in my head when I meditate and my body goes totally numb.
I have studied yoga, hard core. Buddhism, Taoism, the Sufis, all hard core studies: None of this new age soft stuff. For the last few months the Holy Spirit has been flowing up my spine and I suppose for a westerner I thought that I was something else and of course totally humble. But ask me how much sympathy I have for those who need everything to be perfect before they can meditate. Ego, ego, ego, a beast with so many heads. Cut off one and two grow back.
A few months later the yogi that had baptized me in the Holy Spirit has asked me to work at his retreat answering student letters from around the world. (Answering student letters: I don’t have to put myself out anywhere or in front of anyone. I don’t have to keep explaining that just because you feel the Holy Spirit when you are around me doesn’t mean that I am anything special. I can do this.) And on this day I have decided to agree to do this. Why? In the last twelve years I have never met a single Christian who has ever seen, felt or heard the Holy Spirit within themselves. Not one. Yoga is where I belong. As devotees to the Holy Spirit, yogis are more like the original esoteric Christians than modern day Christians are like original esoteric Christians. I quit. Kids are on their own, I am so tired of being treated like a second class citizen at home, meditating in my car because my fundamentalist wife freaks if I meditate in the house: You know, opening the house to the devil and such.
I am so out of here.
Next morning, deep in meditation, this matter of fact little voice, soft like my closest friend:
“No you won’t.”
WHAT! I said.
I don’t hear voices. They don’t talk to me. They don’t tell me what to do. Not once, not once in the last twelve years of meditation has a voice spoken to me or told me what to do or in this case what not to do. I have thought over this decision for months and now that I have made up my mind to answer student letters at the yoga retreat and I hear this. This; this is not a vision. This has nothing to do with intuitive consciousness. This is a stupid little voice trying to sound like my best friend but is really just my subconscious pushing me around. I haven’t even left Christianity and already I’m having withdrawal symptoms.
I said to myself: “This is coming straight out of my subconscious and I’m not going to tolerate it.” I gathered up my strength and pushed the voice out of my head willing it to die a horrible death. I don’t just want you dead. I want you to suffer: The indignation of having my subconscious pull something like this and all..
I finished my morning meditation feeling quite proud at how powerful I knew I really was: Me, Lawrence Michael Richardson, the thought killer.
Next morning; deep in meditation, matter of fact but soft like my closest friend whispering in my ear:
“No, you won’t.”
In disbelief, my exact words to myself were: “Oh, my God, ………….I’ve got a real problem here.”
Maybe you have not been around enough to know how horrible this was to me but I knew the full implications of having my subconscious pull something like this. This voice brought to my mind the kind of mental instability cult leaders experience when they do terrible things they think God is telling them to do.
I remember saying to the voice: “I am not going to change my mind over a decision I have thought about for months. This will be to the death of one of us and I don’t die easily.”
This was not a fight over what to do or not to do. This was an all out battle over who is control of my mind. Does Jim Jones or David Koresh ring a bell? So I said to it: “Whatever you are, you might as well kill me now because I’m not going there.” I took every single ounce of mental strength that I had and again pushed the voice out of my head.
It didn’t work.
A black cloud descended on me. Yes a literal black cloud of the most incredible grief I have every felt in my life, along with a vision of stabbing Christ in the back enveloped me. I sat in tears for the remaining two hours of my morning meditation refusing to change my mind. Yah, almost 40 and that powerful guy I just described sat in tears over a stupid little voice in his head. No, I wasn’t sobbing, just tears.
Next morning: Same thing only worse. Again, I refused to change my mind. More tears.
This went on for seven days: Each day this black cloud wrapping itself tighter and tighter around me. Each day, the grief getting more and more invasive into my mind. It felt like a death shroud. After seven days of this, it got to a point that I could not bear the grief.
I remember standing in my yard not being able to get my feet to work.
I broke inside. I’m the boss of my own destiny just died. Tears streaming down my face, (well, that was normal for the last seven days), I looked up into the heavens and whispered to God, “I give up. I don’t know what you want of me but whatever it is I will do it.”
Immediately the grief lifted and I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a way I had not felt since the Spirit had come from that rip in the heavens twelve years earlier, wrapping itself around me, bringing with it such incredible comfort. Again words fail to describe what I felt, frozen there, standing in that yard for I don’t know how long with eyes turned up to the heavens.
I wonder what the neighbors thought?
I did not have enough experience with the flowing of the Holy Spirit (only a few months) to understand how powerful it can be as it brings into fruition the deepest needs and desires of those souls who have become open to its intense flowing: What the soul is born to do on this earth so to speak. Perhaps what the psychic saw when I was five. The truly spiritual powerful (and I’m not putting myself there) have to be very careful with the play of their minds, for the Spirit will immediately start to bring this play into reality. It is how it works with the flowing of the Holy Spirit and those open to it.
Ok, I just told God I would do whatever He wanted from me. Evidently, you wanted me doing something other than answering student letters at a yoga retreat, so what now? You know, a little help here God. I’m just treading water for a few weeks now. But the truth was I was so glad that God wasn’t beating up on me that I was happy to take a rest.
Two months pass and I have just been lifted into intuitive consciousness during my morning devotional time: You know the intuitive state of visions and prophecy and such of the prophets and early Christians. Before me is standing the saint from India who brought the breathing exercises to the West that I practice. He had died a number of years earlier and over the years, I had asked for his blessing often before beginning my breathing practices. He stood looking at me but never spoke. Thoughts just formed in my head. “I will always be with you but you are not meant to be in yoga but to stay in Christianity and teach what you know and here is where you need to go to find others like yourself.” And then he disappeared.
This vision was not a go out and save Christianity from itself speech but more like, go do your little part in the present unfolding Christian spirituality and you will find your place.
Less than a year later I have been baptized catholic, my godfather, the priest that baptized me, has asked me to be his spiritual advisor and I am just finishing the first of the lessons that another priest has asked me to write for his course in Christian mysticism. The lessons will eventually be put on the web and I am doing for Christians from around the world what I had been asked to do at the yoga retreat, answer letters, now email from around the world, with questions on the path and giving spiritual advice. A few thousand people read these lessons every year and I have received letters of gratitude from as far away as India, China, Japan, Australia and from all over Europe and the Americas. People have written and asked if they could use parts of the lessons for college treatises, if it was ok to use parts of the lessons in their web sites and an ex-catholic monk who rests in continuous nonduality asked if he could use quotes from what I have written in a book he was writing.
For 12yrs I could not find a single Christian who understood the deeper relationship possible with infinite consciousness and with one little nudge from the Holy Spirit, Ok maybe not so little, and less than a year later, there seemed to be interested people everywhere. I am still amazed that such a simple story has generated this kind of interest. But the truth is that it says much more about the world wide spiritual need than about anything I might have to say.
But in looking back upon this time in my life: Was the whole thing nothing more than a mental or spiritual meltdown caused by the initial rising of the Holy Spirit through the spine? I have read of that and I can live with that. I fought so very hard to stay in control to a point where I could no longer function. But I was so thoroughly and completely defeated that pieces of my shattered ego must still be laying on that lawn. I have wondered if the person before the person who was told to stay in Christianity and teach what he knew is even the same person two years later. Certainly what was left of my ego was never to be the same.
Call it coincidence if you want. I can live with that. Don’t think for a second that I am so foolish as to believe that I have been chosen by God to do anything. And the truth is I really don’t care about the how of it. Pick which ever version you like, or create your own. It is not how I have gotten to where I am in life that I care one cent about: It is the feeling of absolute rightness of place that tells me that I am where I need to be: Doing my little part in whatever the Holy Spirit would have me do. And this is the story, my little drama of how I came to teach in Christianity and write these lessons.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I HAVE EVER LEARNED
Unlike the experience with the Holy Spirit that you have just read, here there was no singular point where I broke inside. After a number of years and being humbled by the Holy Spirit to the point where my own strength was no longer enough, there just didn’t seem much left in me to break. My only hope for not only continuing on this path but also in just existing, seemed to rest in learning to live through God’s strength, His grace. That’s an awful easy thing to say: Learning to live through God’s grace. The first thing every single person reading these lessons is going to say is “Of course I live through God’s grace.”
Well, mystics don’t call the period leading up to actually learning to live through God’s grace as the greatest part of our being as “the dark night of the soul” for nothing. To complete the journey to the direct experience of the awareness of the presence of God in our hearts and souls as an actual physical presence and not just some emotional or intellectual concept but as the greatest part of our being, we will need to have come to a point where there is only God’s grace for us. Only then, will we actually come to feel it as a part of ourselves. Only then, through God’s strength, can we complete the spiritual journey.
As the individual circumstances of the dark night of the soul are different for every mystic who progresses far enough along the path to go through it, I have no need to go into my particular circumstances. The end of the experience is always the same anyway: That is learning to live through God’s strength as the greater part of our being.
The spiritual path is often like being a wave in the ocean that is travelling on a solitary journey. There must finally come a point in this journey where the wave, through whatever circumstances, will be forced to look deeply enough into the depths of itself to become aware that it is the whole ocean that is supporting it and allowing it to do what it does: That it has no strength of its own: Not only that it cannot complete its journey by itself but also that it never even started its journey by itself but only through the strength of the ocean which has always supported it. This is learning to live through God’s grace.
For me, visions, comfort from the Holy Spirit, intuitive consciousness and other spiritual experiences have come and gone. True, they have affected me in lasting ways and I hold them in my memory but the feeling that came at this period in my life of being incomplete without God’s grace has never left me. It lingers in my heart like a very subtle and delicate sorrow that I am not ungrateful for. The reason for this gratitude is that with this feeling in my heart it seems to allow very little room for ego in any spiritual experience I have ever had or in anything I am currently doing in my life and I am very thankful for this.
I believe the holding of this feeling in my heart to be my further understanding of the sorrow that you don’t want to get rid of that the Desert Fathers tried to get their students to find within themselves two thousand years ago. At least it feels like that. Before, it was all about my experiencing God and the Holy Spirit but in truth this is an ego thing, a solitary journey. It was me experiencing spirituality.
I had a very limited and naïve understanding of God’s grace. But through the years I have learned that God’s grace is not something that comes from up there to down here as in God is forgiving us of our sins: Nor is it a result of devotion or praise that comes from down here to up there. Nor does God give it to some and not to others. God’s grace has always been here for everyone. It will always be here for everyone. You can’t earn it, it is already given. It is the supporting essence of God’s being. It is not something He gives but the very substance of what He is. It exists everywhere and supports everything. We cannot take a single breath or stand on our own without it and even when we feel like we are standing on our own, it’s only because God’s grace is supporting us and we simply aren’t aware of it. The most important thing we will ever accomplish in life is to learn to live through it.
St Teresa of Avilla said this:
” in such spiritual activity as this, the person who does most is he who thinks least and desires to do least: What we have to do is to beg like poor and needy persons coming before a great and rich Emperor and then cast down our eyes in humble expectation.”
This is relying on God’s strength in our spiritual activities and learning to live through God’s grace in our lives.
With how the Holy Spirit had come to me, with the comfort it has given me, it is understandable that I would be devoted to it but devotion to the Holy Spirit is not the recognition of God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is God’s hand that is usually the first thing He extends to us and it is of course an aspect of God’s grace but not the whole of it. I have been blessed in that from the beginning I have always felt the Holy Spirit as a physical presence but only as a separate physical presence from myself. If we reach out for God’s hand, the Holy Spirit will take us to God’s deep things and understandings and eventually to rest in God’s arms as the supporting physical presence of God’s consciousness as the greater part of ourselves: Not separate from us but as us. This is a whole different and much higher level of awareness and the culmination of God’s grace.
Praise is not going to earn us God’s grace. Belonging to the correct religion or sect doesn’t mean a thing in God’s grace. We already have it. We just need to be aware of what we already have and learn to live through it. That’s the whole of the spiritual journey: To come to live through God’s strength as the greater part of ourselves, felt first as a belief and an emotional feeling but eventually as the physical presence of God in and as greatest part of our souls.
There is no more than that. There has never been more than that. There will never be more than that.
CONCLUSION to the introductory lessons
I don’t know that I would want everyone to have to go through the dark night of the soul or whatever the Desert Fathers put their students through to be able to hold God’s grace in their hearts as a sorrow you don’t want to get rid of but both experiences only seem to come when we are humbled to the point of despair, stripped of our egos and there is only God’s grace for us. I don’t know that everyone needs to be humbled like this. Perhaps both experiences are a uniquely Christian attitude: Although I have heard other traditions confirm our Christian belief that to complete its journey, the soul at some point must come to rely on God’s strength and not its own.
I have come to think that it is best and also easiest if just to whatever degree we are capable, first we try to become aware of God’s grace in our lives as the starting point of our journey: Then, through holding this attitude in our hearts, to experience the deep things of God and other gifts of the Spirit if they come but not as the focus of our spirituality.
For many years my prayer each morning has been the recognition that it is not me in charge, not me doing anything but trying to get the little part of myself out of the way and rest in God’s grace as the greater part of myself. I am content in Him.
I have found that there is a curious and wonderful thing that happens when we look to God’s grace and the Holy Spirit begins taking us to the deep things of God. The smugness in our own beliefs begins to disappear. There is no place for this in God’s grace. The disdain for other beliefs that do not fit with our own also begins to disappear: No place in God’s grace. Eventually, as we give ourselves over to God’s strength as the greater part of ourselves, we are not sure that we are absolutely right about anything. The only thing left that is absolute is the absolute majestic ever growing wonder of all of Gods’ creation, the deep things of God and the simple things alike.
And perhaps for a few others this single prayer that keeps repeating itself over and over in my mind:
FATHER, DO WITH ME AS YOU WILL.
THE FULL SET OF LESSONS
Along with the introductory lessons, this book contains a detailed (how to) explanation of the breathing exercises that I practice, a self-healing exercise, additional advice on this path and student experiences with Q&A. It can be found on Amazon.com.. Just type in (Practical Lessons in Christian Mysticism) and you will pull up the book. It is in the kindle e book format so you will need to have a Kindle or have downloaded the free Kindle for pc app.
The introductory lessons that you have just read are also on Amazon.com for $.99 under the title (An intimate journey with the Holy Spirit) if you want them in that format. lmr
If you have any questions or comments on the lessons, I can be reached at