- About the Author
- An Introduction
- Bible 01 – How to Read the Bible
- An Easy(?) Way to Learn the Bible
- Bible 02 – Who or What Is God?
- Bible 03 – How the Writers of the Bible Saw the World
- Bible 04 – Cycles and Symbols
- Bible 05 – The Sermon On the Mount – Introduction
- Bible 06 – The Sermon On the Mount – Links to Hinduism
- Bible 07 – Blessed Are the Poor In Spirit
- Bible 08 – Blessed Are They Who Mourn
- Bible 09 – Blessed Are the Meek
- Bible 10 – Blessed Are They Who Hunger
- Bible 11 – Blessed Are the Merciful
- Bible Studies
- Consciousness Studies
- Faith and Grace
- Getting Started
- Humility 1 – A Quality of Being
- Meditation 1 – Contemplation
- Notes on Truth and Religion
- Prayer 1 – The Scientific Approach
- Recommended Reading
- Service 1 – Paying Attention
- Symbols and the Bible – understanding the usefulness of abstract thinking
Sometimes, an answer from the Self can come as a kind of CME (coronal mass ejection), producing not so much an “answer” as a boost upwards into a higher perspective wherein multiple answers reveal themselves, along with more questions.
We have the unique ability to turn around and look at ourselves. And when we do, we see a sun, a doorway into a field of infinite energy and intelligence—”more than the mind of man can conceive.”
Meditate. Meditate. Meditate!
You can see here in this video how Muhammad Ali has mastered the ability of being “untouchable.” This was confusing and disorienting to his opponents, because it was not logical. Ali, by not acknowledging their attacks, wore them out, not just physically but by causing them to doubt their own ability to reason their way through the contest. Then, when they were inwardly defeated, he took them out.
So it is in today’s political climate. One side relies on logic and scientific facts, thinking that these alone will persuade a reasonable people. But the other side refuses to acknowledge their logic or their facts, thus keeping their opponents confused and frustrated, wondering why the facts aren’t working. And so they wear them out in their futile attempts to change the world through reason.
Meanwhile, the untouchables work the crowd, playing on their insecurities and their narrow moral sensibilities. By focusing the debate on the most volatile issues, the ones that flaunt traditional values, and by supplying the media with the most provocative examples and avoiding any form of reasoned discussion, they keep their opponent off-balance and thus achieve their victory.
It’s not that the untouchables don’t believe in logic or reason. They believe in it, alright. It’s just that they know not to rely on it in a political fight. Their strategy is to confuse (how can they not listen to reason?), disorient (turn the crowd against their opponent), and frustrate (block every reasonable attempt to advance an opposing agenda). All the while, they taunt their opponents with blatant denials of facts and logic, not because that’s what they actually believe, but because they know that it will further confuse and enrage the other side.
Then, when their opponents have exhausted themselves by doggedly clinging to the rules of logic and their vain attempts to sway the crowd to their side, the untouchables move in and achieve the ultimate end to their strategy:
So you have to ask yourself: which side is smarter? Which side is more awake? Goodness is nothing without strength, and strength is nothing without goodness. But the most important thing, the quality without which neither goodness nor strength is sufficient, is to be awake—to see the world clearly for what it is—and in the face of that to retain our goodness and our strength.
Don’t be hoodwinked by the puppet show. The constant parade of ignorance before the public eye is meant for you, not for them. They know that, and you don’t. You have bought into the lie. The dumbest, absolute dumbest thing you can do is to believe that the other side is stupid. They’re counting on that.
“Be ye wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” – Jesus
by Michael Maciel
One reason why Eastern religions seem to differ from Western religions is in the way one interprets the words of the other.
Take the word “ego,” for instance.
In a culture that values individualism (the West), the word “ego” has a positive connotation. But in a culture that subordinates the individual to the society in which he or she lives, it has a decidedly negative connotation.
The West values the individual because of what that person might add in terms of value to the community, whereas the East demands conformity so that the community can preserve the values it already has.
The mythologist, Joseph Campbell, points out that in the East, the word “ego” means what we in the West would call the “id.” In other words, it’s not so much what a person thinks about him or herself, but whether they can control their animal nature.
In the West, we value each person as an individual. We place an individual’s human rights above the rights of society. But if a person loses himself to addiction—if his actions are no longer under his conscious control—then his value to society plummets.
Why? Because when people give way to these kinds of desires, they lose their ability to make rational choices. Their pre-frontal cortex shuts down and, along with it, their inner vision.
And in the West, the inner vision of the individual is valued the most.
In the East, it is the society as a whole that has the greatest value. The rights of the individual are only valid inasmuch as they serve the greater good. Individualism is frowned upon; conformity is the expected norm.
Why? Because the “ego” is equated with the irrational part of the psyche, so the individual cannot be trusted to form rational judgements.
We have to be careful when we adopt the jargon of the East. We may use the same words, but their meanings can vary drastically. Words such as “oneness,” “karma,” “desire,” and the concept of “doing nothing” do not translate well into the Western mindset. Unless we get the context right, nothing is going to match up.
by Michael Maciel
The following paragraph is from a Facebook comment:
“Some believe that the writers of the gospels found in the Bible came from a very particular group of early Christians who were Hellenes influenced by their reading of the Septuagint. They constructed their gospels on an Old Testament base to give them stability and selected the various sayings attributed to Jesus that matched their desire for an universal savior, which would give them appeal in the Hellenistic world. By the time of Constantine, their version had proved so powerful in building hegemony that they could dominate the debate about what the Church should be, its theology and its structure. They then proceeded to eliminate all dissenters.”
Intellectually, I find the argument stated here compelling. It’s obvious that the Christian Mysteries as they’ve been handed down to us are a blend of other more ancient mythologies.
I have intimate knowledge of the Ancient Mysteries, but not as an historian nor as a scholar. Instead, I am a product of the Mysteries. My knowledge is based upon experience and the perceptions that those experiences have made possible.
I have a confession to make: I have never been to Hawaii. I know many, many things about it. I know that it’s the largest mountain on the planet, measured from the ocean floor to the top of Kilauea, and I know that Kauai is called the Garden Island. But I do not know what the air smells like, nor have I experienced the phenomenon known as Island fever, where it suddenly dawns on you that you’re on a very small piece of land in the middle of a very large ocean.
When I’m around other people who have been to Hawaii, it doesn’t matter how much I have memorized about it. I do not have that “something” that they have, the thing that makes them different from me. My knowledge of the place simply cannot compare, qualitatively speaking, to theirs.
Now, if I wanted to, I could become a world-class authority on Hawaii—its history, its people, its biology, geology, vulcanism, etc., and I could make it so that I knew more about it than 99.999 percent of the people who live there or have visited there. And if I wrote books about it, I’m sure that my acquired knowledge would be both interesting and helpful to those who have had the direct experience of being there. But the essence of the experience would be lacking in my writings.
This is how it is with many of the books written about the Mysteries, especially the Christian Mysteries. Very few of the authors have “been there.” And boy do they stand out. Some of them have actually had some significant contact with the realities that the Mysteries point to, but in their search for “objectivity,” they have all but forgotten their experiences and thus base their writings on what they know instead of what they “gnow,” if you catch my meaning.
In all my years of studying writing, I have learned one thing: It’s not the words but rather what comes through the words that makes a difference in a reader’s experience. It’s the “transmission.” If you’ve got that, it doesn’t really matter what you say, what words you use, or what subject you talk about. Have that, and your words will open doors and not merely lead your readers down yet another hall of mirrors. This to me seems infinitely better, and no amount of scholarly expertise or amateur speculation can match it.
Study your desires. Find out what’s at the root of them. But don’t do it as an inquisitor; do it with love. They are your desires after all. Coax them, woo them, find out what they really want. It’s almost always not what they act out. They only do that out of rebellion—they will not be denied! But with love, they stop their self-destructive behavior, and their inner beauty shines through. The more you acknowledge their innocence, the faster they will reveal it to you.
Originally posted on The Mystical Christ:
Our creations tend to take on a life of their own, so beginnings are most important. One thing is certain: if our primary concern is success or security in the world, we will experience the ups and downs of the world. But if we seek a higher consciousness, a greater ability to respond to the promptings of Spirit, and a greater capacity for caring, then this is how we must build our lives.
The natural force of entropy will try to convince us that it is too late to start over, but our soul tells us that every moment is an opportunity to begin again. In fact, growth and perfection can occur in no other way. Evolution is indeed a spiral, but progression up the spiral is as fast as we let go of our apparent position on it. Each time we begin again, we move up a rung, regardless…
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by Michael Maciel
The human brain interprets and coordinates the signals it gets from the senses. This is its primary function. Every wi-fi device is a also a “brain,” interpreting and coordinating the signals it gets from its wireless environment. It sees the invisible information that we cannot.
The question you must ask yourself (if you are a truth-seeker) is this: “What information is invisible to my brain in its current state?”
This is dangerous. Because what you will come to realize is that the world you hear, taste, touch, smell, and see is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of reality, in terms of “truth.” Such a realization is unsettling, to say the least. Unless something more complete replaces it, this new perception will leave you in the void.
In mystical language, this is descending into hell, into hades, or the underworld. This is the initiatory step that Jesus went through when he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
If the world of the senses, that set of data for which the brain is best suited to interpret, is but a thin veneer laid over a much more complete set of data, one that is far more vast than the one we deal with every day, then what is that greater reality? And by what mechanism, what device, do we perceive it?
The answer is your brain. But not as it exists in its current state. To see deeper into reality, you must use the deeper parts of your brain. And that requires looking past the evidence of your senses. It requires a kind of “fasting” from the ordinary way in which you live your life.
It will require a kind of “death,” a descent into the void, and the willingness to go there without fear and without expectation. Because as the greater spectrum of reality begins to reveal itself, it will render this one unreal.
If you’re willing to make the journey, you will rise from the dead, just like Jesus did. But don’t expect the process to be comfortable. Our eyes are never opened without some degree of pain. The truth will set you free, but first it’s going to hurt you real bad. This is the “travail” of the spiritual rebirth. The real world, the one you’re not seeing, will resurrect in your brain, and your world, the one you’re used to, will begin to shake itself apart.
What I’m describing here is a step in the process of spiritual evolution. It is natural and ongoing. Every year we come around to this season, the season of Lent, and this is what it’s all about. And every year we have the opportunity to take advantage of the energy surge that Lent provides.
Will you take advantage of it?
by Michael Maciel
Men can get nervous around other men, especially when standing in line at the checkout counter in Home Depot. Lots of “can do” types. Alphas in t-shirts and bluejeans. The thought (you know the one) seems to hover overhead, waiting, just waiting, for the first male to reach up and snag it out of the air, the thought that one man often thinks when looking at another man, especially a stranger—”Can I take him?”
Now this doesn’t happen all the time. Some days, everyone’s in a good mood—lots of fresh air and smiling and friendly banter. But it’s there, hovering. The Thought. Like a succubus sniffing out testosterone. All it needs is for some of it to collide with someone else’s, and the inner evaluation begins. Muscle size: check. Body language: check. Hands (the hands tell it all): check—the instantaneous sizing-up of the other guy that either causes your confidence to swell or makes you tense and wary.
This is what men do. And it doesn’t matter if it’s at Home Depot or the floor of the Senate. The dynamic is the same. Can I take him? Can I outsmart, outfight, outwit, out-finesse this guy? Is it overt? Not usually. It might not even be front-and-center in one’s mind, but it’s always an option. Like a gun on the hip.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re a man, and you have sometimes felt this way around other men (and what man hasn’t?), there is a way to turn this around. In an instant. Instead of looking at the other man as a potential threat, try seeing him as a potential ally. Look at him and think, “This guy would be great to work with. With our combined strength, we could really get a lot done!” You will be surprised at how quickly the atmosphere changes. Testosterone doesn’t always have to be about fighting, you know. Sometimes it can just be strength. And that’s the beauty of it. There’s nothing more manly than a group of men working together in unison, their efforts fitting together like well-hewn blocks of stone. Each stroke of the hammer gets more precise with each swing; each element of the overall plan works as though it were being laced together with sinew.
But when testosterone gets the better of us, it’s too easy to assume that the other man’s actions are directed against us, and we get offended. And when he sees that we are offended, he gets offended. The cycle deepens and intensifies, and soon it takes on a life of its own, and no one knows (or cares) how it got started.
It’s not that aggression itself is the problem. It’s not. Aggression can be a fabulous tool, if it’s used properly. When channeled, it can focus a man’s efforts like no other emotion. Combine it with altruism, and you get genius. No force in the universe can rival a mind with a purpose, especially and particularly when that purpose is constructive.
Goodness and strength go together like hammer and nail, joining the world together instead of breaking it apart. When men come together in focused cooperation, pursuing a common goal, nothing can stop them. And there is no coalition so diverse in its constituency that it cannot find a goal that serves everyone’s interests. No task, when performed for the good of all, can fail to bring joy to everyone involved. The only time men find satisfaction in killing other men is when they believe it to be in the name of a higher good. But the reality always sinks in. It seeps through the most carefully thought out justifications and sickens the soul. Because no one is that different in their humanity that they cannot recognize themselves in the other. Thus killing another person is killing oneself. A piece of you dies when the other dies.
This is the task laid before us now, to find a way to work together instead of fighting each other. Never before in history has the world been smaller or more inter-dependent. The forces of competition can easily be turned into cooperation. It all depends on how men see each other. The more we cooperate, the more we care about each other’s interests, and the more willing we are to work towards a goal that raises everyone’s standard of living, not just our own. Because when we gain at the expense of others, something inside of us groans. We know that we have harmed ourselves. Strength without goodness will kill us. And goodness without strength goes nowhere.
There is a movement amongst the religious leaders of the world to end all human slavery by the end of the year 2020. Coming together in an unprecedented collaboration, representatives from all of the world’s major religions have signed a declaration expressing their mutual commitment to end human trafficking. This is a major advance in the life of the world’s spiritual community, not only because of its united effort at these highest levels of religious organization, but also for the opportunity it provides for all of us, both religious and spiritual, to come together to uplift the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
There are two ways in which we can respond to this opportunity. One is to say no to slavery in all its forms. It is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that slavery and human trafficking are wrong. It is to take the existential stance that when confronted with this issue as a force in the collective mind, you would deny its momentum, its influence, and its financial and popular support. It would be to look it in the eye and say, “You have no place in me or in this world; I reject you utterly; I command you to stop.” The other way is to picture in your mind’s eye what it feels like to emerge from the rubble into the light of day, just as those who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 or the people who have been pulled to safety in the aftermath of an earthquake. What indescribable joy they must have felt! Despairing for their lives, hoping against hope, to then be liberated from their captivity and returned to safety, to their loved ones, back to a normal life. To project this feeling into the minds of those caught in the grip of human slavery, held against their will, forced to do things no human being should ever be forced to do—this could be the ray of hope and strengthening of will that could empower them to break out of their captivity.
But no living prayer is complete until it embraces both sides of the equation. Imagine those who make their living buying and selling other human beings. What about them? As long as we see them as the enemy, we energize them to keep doing what they are doing. Push against the human will, no matter what its orientation, and it will push back. But, to recognize that the human spirit is the same in all of us, that God is the same in each person, no matter how “evil” that person might seem, this recognition is the beginning of healing. Those who perpetrate crimes against humanity do so against their own spiritual well being. One must be cut off from their divinity before they can do such things. At some level, they can feel their separation from their innate spiritual consciousness, and this separation must be a source of great suffering for them, suffering that from behind an opaque wall of ignorance gets distorted into a heartless cruelty and disregard for the suffering of others. What would they feel like if they were released from their captivity, released from the anger that causes them to do extraordinary damage to their own soul?
Harming and being harmed are the gyres that pull us down into the blackness of materiality. Victim and victimizer are the roles we play in this tragedy of Earth life. Each role empowers and perpetuates the other. We trade places , sometimes killing and sometimes being killed, exacting acts of revenge in exchange for preceding acts of revenge, blood feuds that extend so far back in time that no one can remember who actually started the cycle. And it’s believing that others deserve whatever we want to do to them that fuels the slave trade that has grown to epidemic proportions in our world.
What if we were all freed from these delusions?
An idea pictured in mind, combined with a resolved will and fervent feeling, is the most powerful force in the universe. It is more powerful than any nuclear weapon. But pitting that power against another human being diminishes its power exponentially. It is only by including everyone in our prayers that mountains will move. Each of us are at different levels of consciousness and therefore have different levels of responsibility. And just as parents set boundaries for their children, sometimes quite firmly, much to the dismay of the child, so too can we look into the blackness of human depravity and command it to cease its self-destructive behavior.
This is our responsibility to each other. For as surely as night follows day, we too will need, at some point in our soul’s trajectory, a corrective word and guiding hand from those above us. Let us not fail in this. Let us not turn our backs and do nothing when what is required of us is everything.
If you’ve been wondering why there haven’t been many posts lately, it’s because I’ve been working on my new book, World Priest. Here’s a draft of one of the chapters:
There are two powerful forces in our lives—desire and fear. We are born with them. It is as though we are an electrically charged particle either attracting to or repelling from the ever-changing circumstances of our lives. Rarely, except in brief moments of clarity, do we experience peace—deep, soul-satisfying peace. And for those of us on the spiritual path, this predicament can be hell.
In fact, every move we make towards God seems to precipitate an encounter with the devil. Like Luke Skywalker in his training with Yoda, in order to become a great Jedi warrior, we must first face our deepest fears. As you may recall, Luke had to enter the cave of initiation where he would face his unknown terror. In order to pass the test, however, he had to do so without reacting. From deep within the cavern, Darth Vader emerged with his sword drawn. Luke was overcome with fear and struck out at the phantasm and thus failed the test. His fears, like ours, can seem so real.
Our desires can undo us just as thoroughly as our fears. When I was a young boy, periodically I would be overcome with an intense longing to connect. My heart seemed to swell out of my body, surrounding me with an aching desire for something I could neither see nor name. All of the beauty in the world would arch itself skyward, pulling me without instructing me towards some promise, some prize of fulfillment, some homecoming that I could not identify. The feeling was simultaneously intense and sad. Of course, my ten or eleven year-old brain could only interpret this as wanting a girlfriend, even though no human person could ever fill such a gaping hole. It was as though my internal magnet had suddenly been dialed all the way up, so high that nothing on Earth could satisfy its longing. More often than not, this unfulfilled desire would leave me feeling depressed and alone.
This feeling eventually became internalized (read: buried) and I began that eternal pursuit for happiness in the world. But it was like looking for an oasis in a desert. My desire led me to extremes in all areas of my life, as though I were trying to crack the world open with the sheer force of my longing, thinking that somewhere within it I would find gold. Fortunately, I found a spiritual teacher, and with the adept hand of an accomplished master, he led me out of the desert and into my heart. He gave me a way to channel my longing, to redirect my searching away from the Earth and into the stratosphere of spiritual attainment. The heavens opened up, and I finally found what I was seeking. What once had seemed like a chasm of unfulfillment now spread itself out before me like a vast, overhead vault of stellar brilliance. He brought me into the light and into direct contact with the face of God.
With this huge infusion of cash into my spiritual bank account came all the problems that people who win the lottery encounter when their lives are suddenly upended by good fortune. Many of these people wind up destitute, because they cannot adjust to the increased energy in their life. Their normal inability to manage money gets magnified exponentially, and all of their bad habits come out in force like unwanted relatives demanding their piece of the pie. The exact same thing happens when our consciousness is suddenly expanded by spiritual awakening. Everything left unattended makes itself known with a vengeance. Even when one’s training involves combing out most of the inner tangles, as did mine, a whole new layer of convoluted problems gets exposed. What normally would take lifetimes to emerge into one’s consciousness now surfaces like a whale at speed, spouting fury and mayhem in a crashing roar. Awakening, it turns out, comes with a price.
Spiritual work—the expansion of consciousness into divine realms—is like taking the resistance out of an electrical circuit. When you lower resistance, you increase current. When current is increased, everything is “amped up”—more heat, more light, more energy for all of the surprises which up until now have been safely locked away in Pandora’s Box. In short, all hell breaks loose! Spiritual teachers throughout the millennia have asked themselves, “Do I tell him what he’s in for, or not?” They default in the time-worn way. They dress the experience up in story form, pitting a young hero against insurmountable odds, going through trials and tribulations, even death, only to be resurrected in a glorious victory. Sound familiar?
With every awakening comes a trial, every spiritual advancement necessitates a campaign to clean up what floats to the surface. Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, he is led into the wilderness to confront his demons. After his glorious encounter with the great ones of old on the Mount of Transfiguration, he is led into Jerusalem and Golgotha. When the light within us is turned up, all of the shadows get more intense. This is the blessing and the curse of spiritual awakening. It is why Jesus said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” and the 19th Century Indian mystic, Ramakrishna, said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” Anything short of this will not provide the momentum for your soul to achieve escape velocity from the cares of this world.
Here’s the kicker, the one thing that has proved the undoing of many a spiritual aspirant: You cannot talk your way out of this dilemma. No amount of intellectualization will defuse the demons that rear up as a result of you being energized by spiritual awakening. It doesn’t matter how many books you read or how many seminars you attend, there are no substitutes for the pick-and-shovel inner work you are going to have to do to clean this up. What you are dealing with is deeply ontological, and it is on that level that you are going to have to engage.
Fortunately, there’s a way out. It is clearly spelled out in the story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness—clearly if you know how to read it. First, you have to recognize that there is no external “devil” tempting Jesus. This is strictly an inside job. The temptations arise from within Jesus himself. These are his own unresolved issues that he has to deal with before he can embark on his mission as teacher and messiah. If he didn’t have unresolved issues, he would not have been able to overcome them, and we would not have a “way” to resolve them in ourselves. This is the “sacrifice” made by the Christ Being when It came to Earth in a physical body—to undergo the human experience in order to raise it up to its divine potential.
The temptations, three in number, are roughly this—satisfying physical appetites, succumbing to fear, and arrogance. Turn these stones into bread; throw yourself off of this cliff; use your powers to rule the world. The exact same issues come up for Siddhartha at the time of his enlightenment—the sexual advances of Mara’s daughters; a barrage of arrows flying at his head; the feelings of obligation to rule as his father’s heir to the throne. Understanding this precedent in the life of the Buddha helps us to understand the Three Temptations of Christ.
The important element in both of these accounts is this—neither Buddha nor Jesus resorted to intellectualization to solve their problems. They didn’t try to talk their way out of the situation. Instead, they appealed to a higher power. In all three stages of Jesus’ process, rather than argue with the devil, he quotes Scripture. He doesn’t give his reasons why he won’t give in, instead he lifts his consciousness to God. It was as though he connected one end of a wire to his inner conflicts and the other end to heaven. He equalized the potential through the medium of his own consciousness. Buddha did the same when he “touched the Earth.” This is how we do it. We don’t grapple with our problems. We lift them up to God.
When we find ourselves in the grip of our desires and our fears, it is our devotion that saves us. It is the power of the heart, not the mind, that grounds us in heaven. We need only to look up, to change the direction of our attention, taking it off of the situation and placing on that which is higher. How? Through meditation. This is the workshop of spiritual awakening. We go within. We take each issue as it arises, whether of fear or desire, and lift it up as we would a chalice at the altar. We lift it up and connect it to God’s consciousness, the infinite creative power of the Universe. We lift it up with the same intensity of feeling that a small child has when she strains to reach the cookie jar on the kitchen counter. That’s how badly we want it. We reach with our heart, not with our mind. This is devotion.
Luckily, we’re not always struggling with our fears and desires. But this shouldn’t keep us from reaching up to God with our heart on a regular basis. We stay in shape. We don’t wait until the morning of the race to work out. We train everyday so that when a crisis comes, we’re prepared. Too often, we wait until we are in the soup before we turn to God, and then we wonder why it’s so hard to rise above our problems. We need to make it a consistent practice, not just a port in a storm. We turn our relationship with God into a love affair—God as lover, not as sugar daddy.
It is through our devotion to God that we are “saved,” not the strength of our mind. The brain is fragile; the heart is an indomitable muscle. It’s easy to be loyal when you’re in love. Connect with God—be in love!