What Is Power?

Reich

Quote by Charles A. Reich, author of “The Greening of America”, from a lecture he gave on power and the law:

“Power means to me pretty much the same thing as freedom. Power is the thing that everyone wants the most they can possibly have of. That is, skiing is power, sex appeal is power, the ability to make yourself heard to your congressperson is power. Anything that comes out of you and goes out into the world is power. And, in addition to that, the ability to be open, to appreciate, to receive love, to respond to others, to listen to music, to understand literature—all of that is power.

“By power, I mean human faculties exercised to the largest possible degree. So, in a way, in a large sense, by power, I mean individual intelligence. Now, when you reach out to another person, through the energy and the creativity which is in you, and that other person responds, you are exercising power. When you make somebody do something against their will, that, to me, is not power at all. That is force. And force, to me, is the negation of power.”

More quotes by Robert A. Reich

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Karma — where are we and how did we get here?

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by Michael Maciel

We can look upon the world as a great mind, a house, if you will, in which there are many rooms. Each room has been decorated by the current and former occupants in ways that reflect their beliefs, their desires, their fears, and their ideals.

As points of individual awareness (souls), we wander through the halls of this House of Mind checking out each room as we pass by. Some rooms look attractive, some don’t. We tend to hang out for a while in the rooms that suit our tastes.

When we see all that we want to see, we move on to different rooms. But we take with us those things to which we have become accustomed in previous rooms. Therefore, each new room we visit shares stronger and stronger characteristics of the rooms we have frequented in the past.

This is what we most need to understand about this House of Mind — it was here before we showed up. It was built long ago by countless billions of occupants. Each room was laid out by committee, so to speak, built up over vast periods of time, each room in accordance with its original theme.

city

We navigate through the House of Mind with our imagination. Our ideals and fears act like room keys. The images we hold in our imagination guide us to the rooms that best match what we hold in our hearts.

There is nothing static about the House of Mind. Each room is a work in progress. It is constantly being remodeled and redecorated, and there is always lots of people in the hallways checking out different rooms.

Some people even take up residence in several rooms at once. These rooms are usually close together, but sometimes far apart, even on different floors. The people whose rooms are separated like this tend to be conflicted. They can’t make up their minds about which room to live in, and so they are constantly being pulled in two directions. Those whose rooms are closer together have an easier time of it.

Because our imagination moves us from room to room, we tend to believe that we are making it up — our life — when in reality, we are merely stepping into a creation that was there all along, or at least for longer that we are capable of imagining. Other people created it, and we are stepping into their creation.

Most of the ideas, thoughts, and feelings that we experience in each room that we visit have already been conceived, thought, and felt by countless previous occupants. Their experiences have long since been turned into the furniture and wall hangings that we see when we enter the room. As we settle in, their experiences become our experiences. Hence, the room and its theme are perpetuated indefinitely.

buddha

 

For some reason we don’t quite yet understand, however, this House of Mind has rules of occupancy that demand a certain amount of tenant turnover. Maybe it’s because the rooms tend to get overcrowded or overdecorated. Or maybe it’s because the furniture gets out-of-date or worn out. Whatever the reason, there are some people whose purpose for living in this particular house is to work on the imaginations of the current occupants of the different rooms, giving them new ideas — visions of better rooms — so that they will be encouraged to step out into the hallway in search of greater possibilities.

Some people see these introducers of new ideas as visionaries, others see them as agitators. Those who see them as agitators are the ones for whom the layout of their room works well exactly as it is. They know the rules and they are good at playing the game, so they have no reason to move. They usually find a way to evict the agitator.

 

jesus and mary

Those who see the introducer of new ideas as a visionary tend to gather around him or her and practice imagining the new vision. When their imaginations have become strong enough, the introducer of new ideas leads them out into the hallway and escorts them to their new room. Such rooms always have more windows and better furniture.

Once they’re set up there, the introducer of new ideas returns to the previous room to try again, this time maybe adjusting the vision to something more compatible with those who like it where they are, and sometimes by introducing a variety of discomforts that will make them like it less, sort of like the way restaurants turn up the lights at the end of business hours so that the customers will leave.

Before the introducer of new ideas escorts those who are enraptured with the new vision to their new room, he leaves a note pinned to the wall that informs those who are determined to stay that he will someday return and that they should maybe try to reconsider his proposal, hinting ever so slightly that it might be in their best interest to do so. This note subsequently becomes a hotly debated topic that will span the entire period of his absence.

This entire house, complete with its many rooms and floors, comprises what we call “Karma.” In fact, we could rename it the House of Karma rather than the House of Mind, but really, the two names are synonymous, because it is our beliefs, which are the distilled products of our imagination, that make up its structure.

The hardest thing to accept is that this house, whatever you want to name it, has been around far longer than we have. We are perhaps one of many groups who have taken up residence here, the previous occupants having vacated long, long ago. We have no way of telling how long. But what we do know is that when they moved on, they left their furniture and wall hangings behind. What we regard as our own ideas, thoughts, and feelings are really theirs, and we have merely stepped into them thinking that we made them up. We add our own touches, to be sure, but by and large the rooms remain pretty much the same.

We don’t really know how many rooms or floors this house has, or whether there are other houses out there beyond the walls of this one. I think it’s a pretty good bet, however, that the neighborhood is much bigger than we think. Maybe, as we ascend to higher and higher floors of this house, we can get a better view and finally see where we are. But for now, all we can do is work our way up, trying to envision the highest form of life we can, always looking upwards, always seeking out the rooms that have the most windows and the best view.

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Michael Maciel is the author of The Five Vows and World Priest, available on Amazon.

 

The Five VowsWorld Priest cover

 

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How Do We Obey God?

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by Michael Maciel

Normally, we think of obedience as doing what we’re told. We obey the rules, we obey our bosses, we obey traffic lights. And in our spiritual life, we follow the instructions of our teachers, or we adopt a practice and make it central to our lives. Pretty straight-forward, right? But there is a spiritual dimension to obedience that’s not so obvious.

The deeper definition of the word “obey” is “to hear.” This makes sense because we have to listen carefully to a command or set of instructions before we can meaningfully and successfully carry them out. If we don’t hear what’s being said, or we don’t hear it correctly, then how can we be obedient? Doing what we think was said is not the same as doing what was actually said. So, what does this mean? It means that we not only have to hear the words with our ears, we also have to take them in. We have to accept them. We have to let down our guard and allow the words to bypass the filters of our opinions, our preferences, our biases, and to do so without reacting or arguing with them.

Even if we don’t understand what we’re hearing, we have to let it in. In addition to that, when we’re listening to another person, it’s not just their words but also their tone that we’re receiving. It’s their intention, the context in which we’re interacting with them, their wisdom, and everything else that they’re conveying along with their words. Sometimes, if the moment is right, a mere look from the other person can speak volumes. We sometimes hear the look even more clearly than we hear their words.

This is profoundly important when it comes to inner guidance, the still small voice within, our intuition, our pipeline to the Mind of God—whatever you want to call it—because this is where obedience as a spiritual principle really lives.

Let’s unpack this:

When we seek inner guidance, we are (by definition) seeking an intelligence that is greater than our own. We’re not just trying to access higher levels of our own mind, we’re trying to access the Mind of God, the one that transcends our best abilities to see clearly. You can argue that this is our mind, that we are one with God, but it’s actually more helpful to see it as a thing transcendent than a thing innate. If it’s innate, it becomes too easy for the ego to get involved, whereas seeing it as transcendent automatically requires the ego to step aside. Seeing God as a transcendent Being is simply more practical, even if it is technically incorrect.

So, we approach the Infinite Mind with the expectation that it knows more about our situation than we do. And since it is bigger than what we can currently comprehend, it is highly probable that we are not going to understand what it wants to tell us. We might hear specific words that we can understand, but if that’s what we’re waiting for, the vital information that doesn’t necessarily come in words could go right over our heads.

This presents a dilemma. If the only kind of information we’re willing to accept is information we can understand, there is no chance for us to grow. The only thing we will be able to hear is more of the same intelligence that got us into trouble in the first place. This is kind of what Einstein meant when he said that problems cannot be solved at the same level in which they are created. I believe that we can take this in an ontological sense as well as an intellectual one. In other words, in order to receive information from the Mind of God, we have to rise up into a higher order of being.

This is easier said than done because a “higher order of being” is generally what we’re seeking when we ask for inner guidance, is it not? Intuitively we know that we can’t solve our problems unless we can reach higher ground—we cannot understand the solution to our problems while we are at the same level in which our problems exist. Some of the dots we need to connect are invisible because they exist in a realm we cannot access, much less articulate, even to ourselves.

So, what are we to do? This is where the definition “to hear” comes in. You see, we have this idea that obedience means to act upon, when in reality, that is farther down the causal chain. What we must do first is to let the information sink in, whether we understand it or not. Why? Because the information, like the words (and looks) we perceive in other people, contains much more than intelligible concepts. It contains discreet information that we can only understand subconsciously. More often than not, the information we receive from the Mind of God comes to us in a foreign language, the language of the soul. It speaks to us in symbols, in images, in feelings and hunches, and in synchronistic encounters in the world. It won’t necessarily spell it out in terms we’re familiar with or in ways we can understand.

When we allow information of this sort to sink in, it’s a little like what happens when we eat. First, the food is broken down into its constituent parts. Then it is assimilated into the body. Then, it is converted into energy and subsequently into action. We can’t just throw food into a blender and then inject the solution into our bloodstream. That wouldn’t work. Why then do we expect to get clear, unambiguous guidance from God?

I’m not saying that we can’t. Sometimes a clear, unambiguous “yes” or “no” is all we need. But in order to change us, in order for the information (which is far more than words) to raise us to a higher order of being, we have to let it in—like food—and let it change us from the inside out. It has to go through the natural/spiritual processes before we can be transformed by the truth. And believe me, the information we get from God is ALWAYS the truth. Knowing this is what it means to “have faith.” The universe always gives us what we need when we ask for it. It never misleads us or tries to destroy us. Being is essentially benevolent in this regard.

We can always simply follow the instructions we get, and we should. But unless our obedience has been integrated into the core of our being, and by that I mean at the subconscious level, our actions will only proceed from our intellect and not from our heart. It’s not what we do that counts but what we do automatically. It’s our automatic responses to life that define us a person, not how well we follow the rules. Our conscious choices are variable—our unconscious responses are not. Unless we can be obedient from the unconscious level, any outward form of obedience only shows our willingness, not how much we have transformed. Our transformation is our Wedding Garment, the one Jesus spoke of in his parables, the one that we must be wearing before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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Why Is the Resurrection So Damned Important? (an esoteric viewpoint)

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by Michael Maciel

In a practical, psychological sense, the doctrine that says “Jesus died for our sins” only makes sense if we take it in the context of the One Mind, the collective consciousness of humanity that spans the entire evolutionary progress of the human race. Otherwise, we’re left with a horrific, dictatorial god that will only forgive us if his son is tortured and killed in our place. This might fit right in with ancient Greek mythology, but it’s hardly congruent with the Christian notion of a loving God.

First, we have to define our terms: What does it mean to “die” within the context of a spiritual teaching? Certainly, we’re not talking about a physical death, because there is nothing unique about that. Everyone dies. No, in terms of spiritual awakening, “dying” means much more. It represents the process of spiritual evolution, stepping off of one rung of Jacob’s Ladder onto the next. And what does “sin” mean in this context? It can’t simply mean that we have broken the rules of ethics and morals. It means that there is something wrong in our programming. We had a “virus,” and like a coding expert, someone had to go in and fix it.

Somehow, in ways that aren’t easy to understand, Jesus was able to transcend the limits of the One Mind and break through into Christ Consciousness — the one, overarching stream of conscious intelligence that informs the Life Principle on this planet. He opened the way for humanity to continue its upward evolutionary momentum, rather than succumb to the entropy brought on by the loss of a general understanding of the initiatory path. The Egyptian and Greek mystery schools had failed, and the Essenes were facing extinction at the hands of the Romans and their own policy of celibacy. Unless something was done, the lineage of wisdom teachings could come to an end.

In some way, perhaps by going through the higher initiations consciously and physically rather than in an out-of-body state, the way that the Egyptians and the initiates of other mystery schools had done for thousands of years, Jesus altered the fundamental architecture of the human spiritual body, making it possible for people to continue to evolve. If he hadn’t done this, then we would have eventually cut ourselves off from the Life Spirit, which ultimately would have led to our extinction.

Whether his death and resurrection are historical facts doesn’t really matter. What DOES matter is that he somehow changed the interface between heaven and Earth in a way that allows us to keep evolving. In order to do that, he had to make changes to the spiritual body, which at that level is a singular entity feeding all spiritual bodies with the intelligence of the One Life. This explains, from an esoteric standpoint, why Christian doctrine emphasizes the physical death and resurrection, why you can’t be a Christian if you don’t believe these things literally happened. They DID literally happen, only not in the way a literal-minded person thinks they did. Something happened, and Jesus was instrumental in it.

Mainstream Christianity’s insistence that these were literal events underscores the importance of how we live our lives, because our actions have a direct bearing on how our physical bodies evolve. And since we are God’s eyes and ears on the physical plane, according to Meister Eckhart anyway, then the health of our body/mind/spirit is of the utmost importance to God. Without us, he is blind on this plane of existence, a concept that is hard for a traditional Christian to grasp. It’s not that God loves us, it’s that he REALLY loves us, because he needs us and thus intensely cares about our long-term viability.

If we don’t look at it in this way, then God becomes a cruel dictator who demands the death of his son before he will forgive the sins of the world, making Jesus a kind of Noah’s Ark that will save the faithful from the flood of God’s wrath. This way of looking at the Redemption is the main reason why atheism is becoming so popular, and rightfully so. Atheists have to cling to their materialistic worldview, because if they admit that there’s something more, their entire argument falls apart.

But none of this makes any sense whatsoever without the acknowledgment of the One Mind. Unless there is a universal medium that transcends the apparent physical nature of the world, the only other explanation is a hopelessly superstitious, overly literalized rendition of Christian mythology, which is what makes Christianity so vulnerable to rational criticism.

But everywhere we look, there is an underlying intelligence in Nature, from the sub-atomic level to the grand sphere of the Cosmos. Every taxonomic group derives its operating system from a higher order of being, stemming all the way back (or in) to a Primary Source.

That source is the Word, the Logos, or what in Christianity is called “The Christ.” It’s more than any one person or even an entire species. It’s a universal impulse that is conscious and intelligent, with an unrelenting penchant for self-exploration and self-expression, one that will make use of any outlet, any platform, in any place within the vastness of the Cosmos.

And way down here, on this little planet in a faraway corner of it all, the Life Spirit is playing out the drama of finding a way to save us from ourselves. I, for one, certainly hope that it succeeds.

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Love, God, and the Expanding Universe

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by Michael Maciel

What is love? Does it seem crass to try to explain it? Will we lose something by taking it apart, by examining it, how it works, and what its purpose is? Or, by not understanding it, have we lost the ability to love, practicing instead a kind of vague sentimentality or unhealthy attachment? If we can agree on anything, we can agree that love is central to our lives, so wouldn’t it behoove us to know more about it?

Let’s begin with a stripped-down, unvarnished definition of love:

—Love is the reciprocal action of giving and receiving.

This definition allows us to look at love as a principle, one that can be applied at any level of the real world. You might think of it as the process of exchange, one that relies on connection, as in the completion of an electrical circuit. It is the means by which current flows. It’s not the current itself, but without connection, a current cannot exist. In this sense, love (as connection) is the source of all power, but it itself has no power. Processes enable power to flow, but a process is a state of activity, not a thing in and of itself.

Between two people, power flows when a connection is made. Both agree to maintain the connection as a way to experience the flow of life energy between them. This connection is primarily a psychic connection, which is why some say that the largest sex organ is the brain. It’s also why cynics say that love is nothing more than the mutual recognition of shared neuroses. But like love, the connection isn’t the thing itself. It’s what makes the flow of energy possible, regardless of what kind of energy. Connection is the process, not the energy.

The next important component of love is the act of receiving. The flow of psychic energy must be accepted by the one to whom it is being directed. If they don’t receive it, no connection can be made, and therefore, no energy will flow. It’s either a yes or a no, and no amount of force can make it happen. This is why in love, establishing a connection is everything. Without it, nothing is generated. I once worked at a desk in the showroom of a furniture outlet. One of the young women on the sales team was the target of the unrelenting attention of one of the young men. She had absolutely no interest in him. But over the course of several weeks, I was able to observe his slow, methodical construction of a connection between him and her. Because of her job, she couldn’t avoid him, and so he used that to his advantage by cornering her into conversations, which slowly but surely established the connection. Eventually, she went out with him. It didn’t last, of course, because he had essentially forced himself upon her. Once he achieved his goal, he was no longer interested.

In retrospect, no relationship was possible between them, because there was no reciprocity. He was the sole giver in their relationship, bombarding her with talk. He made it impossible for her to ignore him and continuously sold her on his qualifications as a partner. Her mistake was that she could not resist the attention he was giving her, even while knowing that a meaningful relationship wasn’t likely to happen. In short, he wore her down.

The real world runs on the movement of energy. Everywhere we look, we see either the transfer of energy or the potential for a transfer of energy. This is true at the molecular level, the social level, and even the weather. There is always a surplus that wants to give to a deficit and a deficit that wants to be filled. The secret to a happy fulfillment, however, relies entirely on one thing: reciprocity. Unless there is a mutual exchange that takes place without too much resistance, a viable relationship cannot be established. In other words, both sides of the equation have to benefit from the exchange. And the purpose of the exchange, regardless of which scale it occurs on, whether chemically, emotionally, socially, or meteorologically, is the creation of an expansion of the possibility for new life.

The one receiving has to see the incoming energy as the potential spark that will ignite their inner potential. There has to be a match. There has to be a feeling of lack—the awareness of unrealized potential—before the attention of another will feel attractive. This is why people who are happily involved in a committed relationship are relatively uninterested in the personal attention of others, because that circuit is closed.

Of course, there are other levels of connection besides one’s deep, inner potentials. There are superficial levels, such as ego-satisfaction and emotional needs, which is what makes emotional infidelity a real thing. And while the initial rush of energy can be titillating, these kinds of connections are usually short-lived, because once the vacuum is filled, there is nothing left to negotiate or to hope for. All the energy has been spent.

This is why there has to be more to a relationship than filling each other’s needs. There also has to be something to which the generated energy of the relationship can be directed in positive ways. This can be any number of things, such as children, family, shared interests, or a common goal. Energy always has to have something to do, or the flow stops. And it can never be to simply fill a void, because once the void is filled, there is nothing left to do. Energy is not set up to work in such a limited way. In other words, it’s in the very nature of energy to create new patterns, new circuits, in which it can both fulfill itself and to further expand its possibilities for greater fulfillment. Instead of achieving equilibrium, the primary goal of energy is to create ever-increasing levels of complexity within which it can more fully elaborate its potential field of action.

What this means is that in order for love to be love, it must be creative.

Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a static electric discharge. But then, some people are into that – they are addicted to the zap. But that’s not how the universe works. If it was, the whole thing would have petered out a long time ago. Instead, the cosmos is not only expanding, it’s accelerating as it expands. It’s speeding up! Like a living organism, it is growing.

So, if you’re religious, and you like the idea of “God is Love,” consider the full ramifications of that statement. Maybe, just maybe, God isn’t a thing, or a person, or a “power.” Maybe “God” is a process—The Process—by which everything comes into being. And if you want to bring more of God into your life, perhaps participating in The Process will do that. It’s worth a shot.

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What Does It Mean to Rely on God?

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) by night, under the Magellanic Clouds

by Michael Maciel

Does it mean give up, surrender, do nothing? I suppose in certain circumstances it could, as in when you’re really suffering and you’ve run out of options. But what about when things are going well? What about then?

Relying on God can be fun when you’re engaged in a project that fires you up. In fact, intuition and bursts of insight ARE what happens when you reach up into the rarefied parts of your mind and allow what’s there to filter down.

Everyone has their own definition of what God is. Unfortunately, it usually involves great distances in space and time. Remote. Aloof. Ambiguous. What kind of God is that??? I prefer the kind that is closer than hands and feet, the kind that WANTS to engage with me in the most mundane parts of my life, like a little kid who wants to help.

That’s the kind of God I can LIVE with.

The next time you have a task, a chore, or an assignment, picture it already completed, and then let that finished state pull you through the process to its completion. Don’t think about it. Thinking just gets in the way. Let it SHOW you what to do.

Or, if that doesn’t come easily, choose an outcome that you really want in your life and write it down as clearly and completely as you can. Write it as a FACT. Then, read your statement every morning, noon, and night out loud to yourself in private. Read it forcefully, knowingly, and positively. Do this for twenty-one days – three weeks. Then keep your eyes open for the changes that occur. Even the bad ones will move you closer to your goal.

Whatever your definition of God is, just realize that the word itself implies something larger, greater, and more capable than yourself. It is your highest conception. And even if your highest conception doesn’t come anywhere close to the reality of God, at least it’s pointed in the right direction. And like a radio antenna, it will pick up the signal.

And, oh…don’t forget to say thank you. Otherwise, you might start thinking that you have some kind of superpower, when really it’s a gift, not something you did all by yourself.

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Who’s In Control?

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by Michael Maciel
If “faith” is the confidence that God will take care of us, then faith itself is a way to control what happens, is it not?
 
Control is a part of living as an adult. When we are children, we rely on our parents to take control. The more they do, the more secure we feel, if their control is loving and consistent.
 
But part of growing up in God is learning to take responsibility for ourselves, and taking responsibility is learning how to take control of our lives, at least inasmuch as we are able.
 
Taking responsibility means that we have to control what we think, what we allow ourselves to believe, and to moderate our emotional responses. We “design” how we are going to be in the world, and then we stick to the design. This is control.
 
Faith is knowing that God will hold up God’s end of the bargain, that God will bring us the lawful fulfillment of our expectations, according to the design we have created for ourselves.
 
Another way of saying “design” is “character.” What kind of character are we building (designing) for ourselves? Whenever we decide in advance how we are going to make moral choices and then follow through when life demands those of us, we are taking control of our lives.
 
These decisions are very much in our control. Faith is having confidence that our choices will have their intended outcome. For example, the more honest we are (as a moral choice), the more clarity we will have in our life. You cannot know the truth if you do not accept the truth.
 
This is what we call the “promise” of God. The Bible refers to this promise as a “covenant.” In today’s language, the word is “contract.” Will God honor God’s contract with us? Faith is knowing that God will.
 
What makes us spiritual adults is our willingness to hold up our end of the contract. How true will we be to our word? Being true to our word requires discipline, and discipline is control.
 
It is true, however, that we cannot control what other people will do. Or is it? Can you not think of any case where people are controlled by other people, whether by force or by subtle means?
 
Take advertising, for instance. If it didn’t work, corporations wouldn’t spend billions and billions of dollars on it every year, would they? If we dare to think that corporations are wasting their money on advertising, either we or the corporations are phenomenally stupid.
 
What about persuasive argument? Is that not a way in which we control the outcome of events? Don’t people decide what they are going to do based on what they believe is right, or at the very least expedient? And what controls their beliefs? Is it not persuasive argument, showing the benefits of a particular action in a clear and powerful way? Human history is the record of how persuasive arguments have changed what people think and what they believe. Change a person’s beliefs, and you change the person.
 
Control is important, whether we are building our character or driving our car. If we’re going down the road and a pothole causes us to lose control, do we give up? Do we just let go of the steering wheel, close our eyes, and “have faith” that everything will turn out okay? Of course not. We do everything we can to regain control. So it is in every single aspect of our lives.
 
It is vitally important that we be persons of faith. But it is also vitally important that we be strong. Strength is good, especially when life’s road is full of potholes. Potholes happen. We can count on that. How we respond to them is what counts, and responding well requires strength, and strength is what makes our ability to respond (response-ability) possible.
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Letting Go

letting go

by Michael Maciel

When the God-Self shines outward from within us, as a result of our seeking God, it activates all the dross in us, the stuff we need to let go of. As it comes up, it can be tempting to say, “That’s me…those are my sins.” But letting go of these things is what we have to do. How? By not identifying with them. Just recognize that what you are seeing/feeling is stuff that is on its way out. If you identify with it, that’s the same as hanging onto it. Just let it go. It’s not you. You’ll be surprised how good you will feel!

The mind doesn’t have hands with which to hang onto anything. The mind’s “hands” are its propensity to identify itself with what it perceives. All kinds of strange cause and effect conclusions can arise from this. The more you identify with an event/activity/idea/feeling, the more it becomes part of what you are “speaking” into the Creative Intelligence we call the Mind of God. The less you identify with it, its power to recur in your experience is diminished.

Studies have shown that detailed analyses of where the chains of events began, the one’s that seem to have us by the throat, are not effective in helping us to let go; in fact, they tend to reinforce the belief that they are us, which is exactly what we don’t want! So, take away their sticky-power. When they parade themselves in your awareness, just say, “Hmm…that’s interesting. Glad to see that that’s moving out,” and let it go. The worst thing we can do is to feel shame about it, which can only happen if we identify with it. That can only lead to suppressing it, which is the same thing as hanging onto it.

Let it go!

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How to deal with True Believers

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The Birth of Venus, by Botticelli

by Michael Maciel

In our Post-Truth world, we need to find a way to interact with those for whom belief is more important than facts. And nowhere is this more important than in the arena of religion and religious beliefs. Unless we find a way to understand why so many people are adamantly against science, the world’s political climate will continue to heat up, and we will all be the worse for it.

The problem lies in the antagonism between the scientifically-minded and religious believers. Each side denies the legitimacy of the other side’s views because each side holds their views as sacred. Any view that contradicts their views is, by definition, sacrilegious. And that’s just cause for going to war. One side doesn’t understand the meaning of “myth,” and the other doesn’t understand its purpose.

Let’s look at one example of a sacred myth, the Virgin Birth of Jesus. It has both a symbolic meaning and a scientific purpose. Once these are understood, its historical meaning will become obvious.

The literal version of this story is essential. Because it is a scientific impossibility presented as a supernatural fact, it causes the rational mind to reboot and dig deeper into its version of “reality.” This is important because unless it does this, a wider, more inclusive perspective is impossible. We cannot see what is new until we are at least willing to put in abeyance that which is old.

The mind, you see, is set up to protect what it knows and to reject what it doesn’t. (Failure to do this results in cognitive dissonance.) This is what myths are for. It’s what Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are for. It’s what the New Testament miracles are for. They are a way for the ideas they symbolically represent to gain access into our conscious awareness without being shot on sight.

We all have a need for the transcendental, the supernatural, the mystical. These stories make them available to us by poking a hole in the filter of the rational mind, letting us experience a broader, more holistic view of reality, one that includes the physical but also transcends it.

Let me say that again: INCLUDES but TRANSCENDS. The significance of this will become evident shortly.

Myths have a very definite function (like icons in the Orthodox Church and the statues and paintings in the Catholic Church) which is to “hack” the filters of the conscious mind. They are designed to get around the ego, which automatically and aggressively rejects anything that threatens its sovereignty.

Spiritual adults (those who have their egos under a modicum of control) don’t take the icons or the myths literally, but they don’t dismiss them, either. In fact, most of us hold them close to our hearts where they are protected from the ravaging brutality of the rational mind.

Like King Herod who sought to destroy his competition while it was still in its infancy, the rational mind wants to kill any new perspective that presents itself, before it has a chance to threaten it’s position of authority. The mind has a way of vetting new knowledge with extreme prejudice.

On the other hand, the symbolic interpretation of a myth is for those who have provided the literal interpretation a safe haven in their hearts, in the “cave” of their being — the stable of the Nativity. Having been denied a room in the inn (the rational, conscious mind), the seed idea is sent around back, out of public view. Allowing it to enter into our awareness in the form of a belief makes it possible for the mind to accept it without too much scrutiny. But if we disallow it, even as a belief, then the seed idea will be lost altogether, and the benefits of a wider, more inclusive understanding will be lost along with it.

The reason why this is so important is because it’s a link, a bridge between science and religion, between the rational and non-rational functions of the mind. Myths serve a scientific function in that they give us a way to circumvent the filters of the rational mind, which is incapable of transcending itself. And without transcendence, the mind’s ability to form new thoughts atrophies and eventually devolves into superstition. In this way, faith and science go hand-in-hand; faith is the doorway through which rational thought can expand its horizons.

This is what drives fundamentalists in their insistence that the literal interpretation of Scripture is the only interpretation that is true. They sense that it’s important, but they don’t know why. Their own rational mind has inappropriately assumed that the myths are literal facts, and this has caused them to morph into superstitious beliefs. And in so doing, they have succeeded where Herod failed.

When asked by a fundamentalist whether we believe in the Virgin Birth (or any other icon), a spiritually mature person can in good faith say yes, because he or she understands the nature of beliefs and how they function. But if we deny it, then we deny ourselves access to the spiritual energies (gifts of the Spirit) the higher levels of thought convey.

Accepting stories such as the Virgin Birth in ourselves is a matter of what we were brought up to believe. The child part of us lives within us throughout our entire lifespan. The adult part of us can be very abusive to it by not allowing it to keep its childlike views, which are important to our ability to transcend the limited aspects of the rational mind. “Except you be as little children…” and all that. As adults, we should be protective of those things that are under-developed or still growing, including the cherished beliefs of others who have not yet adopted a wider view of religious symbols and iconography.

The important thing, I think, is to recognize that beliefs have a role to play in our lives — an important one. If we can allow that in ourselves, then we can allow it in others, and that would go a long way towards world peace. At the same time, we have to push for a greater understanding, which will be a lot easier if we don’t deny the reverences of others.

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What Is Faith?

cathedral

by Michael Maciel

The word “faith” describes the universal presupposition that there is a truth, overarching and eternal, a single principle that governs the universe with absolute inclusivity and at every level, even though we do not know what it is or if we will ever fully comprehend it. As a principle, faith is the guiding light of all forms of human understanding—science, art, spirituality, philosophy—and the higher we rise in consciousness, the more these separate forms begin to merge, until at last they become one.

Faith is the innate knowing that there is something greater than ourselves, something larger, something whole and complete that knows no separation or conflict, no internal disagreements. And no matter what you call it, what name or -ism you ascribe to it, it is the same for all people and all times, in this universe or any other you can imagine.

The problem comes when we begin to think that we can encompass this One Truth, that we ourselves are large enough to comprehend it, that the truth is a “thing” that we can possess, a noun, an object we can own, a weapon we can use to dominate others, to make them wrong and ourselves right. This is NOT the truth, neither is it what is being pointed to by the word “faith.” When the truth is objectified, turned into a thing that can be possessed, THEN and only then can it be used to dominate others, and this is why we fear it. We fear it because we do not understand it, either its nature or its purpose.

It is out of fear that truth has been relativized, fragmented, and divided up into separate compartments—science, spirituality, philosophy, art. No one wants to be told that the end of truth has finally, once and for all, and for everyone been determined. Why? Because intuitively they know—we ALL know—that that can never happen, that that is NOT the nature of truth nor its purpose. We all know, if only deep within ourselves, that the truth is a living, breathing reality, a PROCESS by which life and living are made possible, not a definition, not a set of laws, not even an ideal, because it is bigger than any ideal we can conceive of.

Faith is an ACTION. It is the action of receiving from the higher mind what IT knows beyond what we are capable of knowing by ourselves. It is based upon the intuitive knowing that such a mind exists, that there is something that actually knows more than we do.

But HERE’S THE RUB: Because we are not perfect in love, we fear that what that mind knows will somehow limit us in what we can experience, what we can explore, and what we can create. It somehow implies that some things might be FORBIDDEN and therefore irresistible and that because of that we will somehow be found GUILTY and be PUNISHED. (I put these words in all-caps to identify them as the NAILS IN THE COFFIN of our potential for happiness and self-fulfillment.)

But all of this is due to our misunderstanding of what faith is, what truth is, and what the will of God is. We see God as a dictator, a strict father, angry, and jealous—all the worst parts of the Bible. Therefore, truth must be a set of laws, commandments, restrictions, speed limits, prohibitions—spiteful, vindictive, ARBITRARY. Who wouldn’t REBEL against that? When truth becomes someone else’s, we go out of our way to become liars.

Here’s the HEALTHY understanding of truth. God is creative and we are created in God’s image, which is to say that WE are creative, that creativity is the reason for our being. It is why we are here. It may be true that there is nothing new under the sun, but the possibilities are INFINITE, and God is just as eager as we are to find out what those possibilities are.

Do you get that? We are not here to “behave.” We are not God’s pets. We aren’t here to please or to placate some superior intelligence under threat of being punished if we get out of line. We are here as the EXTENSIONS of the One Intelligence—call it what you will, it doesn’t matter. We are “children” of It—that’s what “extension” means. We are not created “things.” God didn’t “make” us like one would make a loaf of bread. We are AGENCIES, we are the tips of God’s fingers, the retinas of God’s eyes, the love of God’s heart, and the thoughts of God’s mind. There is only one WILL and it is surging through us every moment of every day. Our will is God’s will. It’s only when we forget that that we begin to act out of fear and then hatred and then violence. We forget that God is what we ARE, that we are one with the One. What else could we be?

Faith is an open window, an open skylight, through which pours the infinite intelligence of the ONE THING, Its life, light, and love. The more we humble ourselves and admit that we don’t know…well, anything…that we can truly find out what there is TO know. And there is no end to that. There is no point in our evolution where we will know all there is to know or be all there is to be. Never. Life is continuous and ever-evolving at the point of being. We will know of ourselves AS WE LIVE. And that process never ends. If it had an “end,” it could not have a “beginning.” We were never born, and we will never die. That’s life eternal.

The essence of faith is this: QUESTIONS ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN ANSWERS. Learn to stand in the question without always looking for an answer and you will have mastered faith. The best questions, the ones that create the most possibilities, are the ones that raise more questions and, therefore, more possibilities. What are possibilities? They are FREEDOM. Possibilities are open doors; answers are doors that have slammed shut. For life to exist, its channels of expression must remain OPEN. Have faith. Be open. Keep moving. Movement is the surest sign of life.

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