What Can You Do for the World?

by Michael Maciel

Let’s say you’re a spiritual person. You believe in compassion. You believe that love is the most important quality anyone can have and that without it, nothing else really matters. You not only believe these things but you try to live them as much as you possibly can. And you meditate so that as you go about your life, you can be a source of peace in the world.

You’re firing on all cylinders. 

But then you turn on the news, or you go on Facebook, and you find yourself getting swept up in the drama of major events. It’s so upsetting. And before you know it, there goes your compassion, your love, and your peace—all of the things that made you feel spiritual. 

What do you do?

You’re tempted to drop out, to withdraw from contentious issues, to avoid conflict, and to only hang out with people who think like you. But this isn’t really dropping out, right? It’s retreating into a safe zone where conflict isn’t allowed. And you can tell it’s not really working because whenever someone says something that does produce conflict, you’re back to square one and all of your hard-won spirituality goes right out the window. 

So, you’re left with two choices. One, you can be more careful not to allow contentious people into your life, or two, you can turn away from the news and social media altogether. You might even retreat even further into yourself and become increasingly more isolated, which is easy these days in the lockdown era. If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we know that none of these things is going to happen. Maybe for a couple of days but then the urge to engage kicks in and overrides our best intentions. 

I’m sure you can see the dilemma here, can’t you?

The real question, then, is how to engage. But intuitively, you sense that anything you do from your safe zone is going to be neither spiritual nor effective, because you can’t love some people and not others, nor can you have compassion only for those who are like you. That’s not spiritual. And what good is peace if it’s only present when you’re in your safe zone with people who never question you?

In order to be in integrity with yourself and with God, you have to put your highest conception of the Good first in everything that you do. If it’s love, then you have to put love first. If compassion, then it comes first—in every situation. You don’t get the luxury of condemning people who don’t believe the same things you do. Why? Because your spirituality does not depend on your beliefs. It doesn’t even depend on what you do. It depends entirely on what you ARE. 

But, integrity comes with a price. 

You have to give up the drama. You have to give up belonging to your favorite group. Instead, ALL of humanity becomes your group, the group you identify with, regardless of what they believe or say. And that’s hard to do. It’s a huge sacrifice. You have to give up being right and start loving even those who you know for a certainty are wrong. 

Compassion? It’s not compassion if you’re feeling sorry for those poor, misled souls who don’t know any better. Condescension is not on the how-to-be-spiritual list. Instead, you have to give them the space to believe whatever they believe without breaking your connection with them. Believe me, they WILL notice because almost no one does that. 

Connection is the essence of spirituality. If you want to be a spiritual person, and you realize that you can’t simply retreat from the world and remain in integrity with yourself and God, then there’s only one thing you can do without separating yourself from others. You must remain connected with everyone you come in contact with. You have to know that they are a living human being just like you. They have a heart, they have feelings, they have things that are important to them. Just knowing that and giving them the space—in your heart and mind—to be who they are will guarantee your spiritual integrity.

That’s what the world needs right now—people with integrity. And if you can do that AND maintain a high level of spiritual consciousness, then you will be doing the most anyone can do for the world. 

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If you like this sort of thing, be sure to subscribe to my Substack page, The Urban Mystic. And check out the videos on my YouTube channel, The Mystical Christ with Michael Maciel

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How to Avoid the Streetlight Effect

by Michael Maciel

There’s a joke about a man looking for his car keys under a streetlight. 

A cop comes up and asks him what he’s doing. He says, “I’m looking for my car keys.” 

The cop asks him, “Is this where you dropped them?”

The man answers, “No, but this is the only place I can see.”

When you contemplate God, are you doing it solely within the framework of your current understanding? Are you looking in the only place you can see?

Maybe your streetlight is the religion you grew up in. Maybe it’s the experiences you had while in a spiritual group. Or maybe it’s your assumptions about what’s going on in the world. 

How can any of these limited strategies possibly work?

Diversity of thought. Spirituality is not the sole property of religion. Nor does it necessarily fall under the category of “spirituality.”

Because, what’s the goal? The goal is to know what’s the most real thing. Religion and spirituality, at their best, are the quest for ultimate reality. 

What other ways are there for looking for what’s real? 

  • Science
  • Literature
  • Art
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • And all other forms of pattern recognition

Wisdom is the principal thing;

Therefore get wisdom.

And in all your getting, get understanding. 

– Proverbs 4:7

What is wisdom? Wisdom is recognizing patterns that span multiple domains of meaning. That’s what we do. That’s what higher brain function does. It makes sense of the world by cross-referencing everything it sees. 

So, what are you seeing? It depends on where you’re looking, right? 

Stop looking where you’ve already looked. Get a flashlight and start exploring. Learn to think like a detective and start looking for patterns—patterns of meaning, patterns of function, patterns of reality.

Be a mystic, yes. But be a thoughtful mystic. 

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Buddha Mind, Christ Mind—the mysteries of oneness

by Michael Maciel

There is only one mind

The analogy is true—there are many mountains but only one summit.

Religions are vehicles custom-tailored to the people for whom they are made. And like all vehicles, they are designed to get you from point A to point B. Religions bind us to a task—they harness the unconditioned forces of our natural mind and then move them in a particular direction. 

The word “religion” has the same root word as “ligament.” Without a connecting tissue, our bones would be useless. The word “yoga” means to yoke two oxen together so that they can pull a cart down a path. Direction is implied—why hitch up a team if you don’t have a destination in mind?

But vehicles are limited to their purpose, just as religions are limited to theirs. If you’re driving your cart from the field to the barn, once you get there, the cart’s purpose is done. The oxen can be unhitched and allowed to graze in the pasture. They know exactly how to do that. They don’t need your help. So it is with religion. When you reach your intended destination, you no longer need it.

What do you do when you get there?

When you reach your destination, you have two choices. You can either abandon your vehicle and explore your new home, or you can be like a bus driver and go back and pick up others who would like to be where you are. In this analogy, bus drivers are priests. They have devoted their lives in service so that the directionless can also find their way home. 

But each time you return, you bring a little of the air of that place with you. You become a little lighter, a little less troubled by the sorrows of the world, more perceptive, and less reactive. Your presence in the world gets stronger, your words clearer, and your mind less conflicted. Disturbances affect you less, your joys are more exalted, your sorrows deeper, and the direction of your will more defined. 

There is no “there” there—or is there?

Language is tricky. It’s a tool made for a particular plane of consciousness. But you always want to use the right tool for the job. This is why the farther your religion takes you up the mountain, the less useful language becomes. It’s simply the wrong tool. 

Meditation, you might say, is moving beyond the world of words into the world of pure consciousness. It’s becoming aware that you are aware and then just being that. The Christian vehicle does this through contemplative prayer. They call it “union with the Divine.” The Buddhist vehicle does it by eliminating the contents of awareness in a process they call “neti, neti,” which means, “not this, not that.” By a process of elimination, they clean the slate. And when the slate is clean, they get rid of it, too. 

The two vehicles are doing essentially the same thing. They are carrying the practitioner away from the world of words into the world of ecstatic union. What is that, you say? There are no words. There is no “there.” 

Bye-Bye self

Words are the visible manifestation of the matrix of meaning that holds this plane of consciousness together. This is why some people say that we create our own reality. That’s true, but only insofar as we can create our own language. Most people can’t do that. So they share the reality that has been spoken for them. 

Sharing a meaning matrix is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it saves a lot of time. Each person can build on what others have figured out. They can learn what works best and avoid what has been proven to be pointless. And since there are so many vehicles to choose from, they can shop for the one that suits them best. Usually, it’s the one that they were born in. For them, the vehicle is a bus.

Nothing facilitates this better than identifying with the vehicle—not as a matter of pride but by consciously taking it on. As does any apprentice, you identify with your trade. You look, act, and speak like a carpenter, a nurse, an accountant, etc. By doing this, the accumulated knowledge and experience of everyone in your field (your bus) becomes yours by osmosis. It’s an enormous advantage. 

But it has a downside. You can get locked in. You can become a traditionalist where nothing is true that hasn’t already been tested and proven. This has obvious disadvantages, in that mistakes can become institutionalized. You can also become siloed in your thinking where you’re only aware of your trade and no one else’s. This creates an unrealistic loyalty to your bus. Your actions become more and more disconnected from the real world. You lose sight of the big picture. Everyone else becomes irrelevant at best and annoying at worst. Your thinking (and your language) become insular and laden with jargon. 

If your vehicle becomes who you are, you won’t be able to leave it. You will always be on the road, never reaching your destination. You won’t be able to think (or speak) in any other terms but your own. And you can’t be a good priest because you will only be able to pick up passengers without ever taking them anywhere.  

How to hijack the bus

If you want to destroy a meaning matrix, destroy its language. Take certain keywords and change their definition. Take other words and prohibit their use. Introduce new words that have no meaning. In this way, you destabilize, dismantle, and deconstruct the matrix. 

By doing this, you also destroy the vehicle, because the vehicle needs words in order to orientate its passengers. Subvert the meaning matrix that words support, and you destroy people’s sense of direction. Then, in the midst of the utter chaos that this generates, you step in with a new language, a new direction, and a new vehicle—a new bus. 

Understandably, the bus driver isn’t going to like this. He knows the route, the schedule, and the destination. He’s been there before. So the bus drivers have to be removed. You do this first by discrediting them, by questioning their abilities, and by telling people that the destination doesn’t exist. In short, you get the passengers to throw him off the bus themselves. As a strategy, this works amazingly well. It’s organic. 

The problem with this is that you lose the accumulated knowledge and experience of those who have gone before. And while you might have the noblest of intentions, the odds that your ad hoc solutions will ultimately succeed are close to zero. No one is that smart, that prescient, or that noble. The new dawn you point to will most likely turn out to be the glow of a forest fire. And people will naively rush into it with a jihadic frenzy. 

Buddha Consciousness, Christ Consciousness—The Great Reset

Everyone needs a break from the world of words. At least once a day, we all need to go into the silent part of our mind and sit there without an agenda and without the need to go anywhere. Words are inextricably linked to time. That’s their domain, which is why they cannot describe timelessness. They are specific to place, which is why they can never describe the Already Everywhere. 

Christians attempt to describe timelessness with the term “eternal life.” But this is usually misunderstood as being a really, really long time. They don’t have words for the Eternal Now. In a pictorial way, they get close to it with Christ’s death on the cross—the utter failure of an ignoble death, the “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” When there is nowhere left to go, your only option is to surrender to the present moment. The ego is slain. All of its sins are wiped clean. And when anyone does this, they do it for everyone. Even the bus driver has to get off of the bus at the end of the line.

So, take the time to step outside of yourself, outside of your time and place, and be replenished by the infinite—the unbounded, the unspecified. Gaze into the eyes of your lover and see yourSelf, the Sea of Awareness that you are. But then, come back. Engage. Be here now in the world. Pay attention to what you’re up to. Keep your eyes on the goal you have set for yourself. 

As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Take it on. It’s okay to identify with it, as long as you’re able to take it off at the beginning and end of every day. It’s not what you are, it’s what you do that counts. But you kind of have to be it, too. Play the part. And know your lines. But then know when to get off the stage. 

Your life is Life’s longing for Itself. Get out of the way and let it realize Itself in everything you do and say. 

“For it is only the finite that has wrought and suffered; the Infinite lies stretched in smiling repose.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Does Politics Have a Spiritual Dimension?

by Michael Maciel

There is a three-part, divine pattern at play in the two-party system. It’s based on the Holy Trinity, not as a religious symbol but as a Living Symbol.

I will try to explain what I mean by describing it in its ideal form, which is to say “in principle.”

First, there are two sides to politics: conservative and liberal. This is based on temperament, not ideology.

For example:

C’s want to preserve the existing order and L’s want to reform it. C’s want strict law and order and L’s want to protect people from the legal system’s impersonal machinations. C’s are for the letter of the law and L’s look for the spirit of the law.

C’s are really good at thinking inside the box. They pretty much invented “the box.”

L’s are WAY better at thinking outside of the box and are thus more innovative.

They say, “We have a better idea,” and the C’s say, “Prove it!”

L’s are better at starting new businesses but C’s are WAY better at running them.

These are just some of the ways C’s and L’s differ. There are always exceptions but I think you’ll find that they will prove the rule.

C’s are more interested in boundaries—boundaries between states, between towns, between countries, along with legal boundaries, such as property lines and public vs. private spaces.

Philosophically, they’re realists, whereas L’s are idealists—C’s prefer what has been proven to work over what “might” work—“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” L’s, on the other hand, think that no matter how well something works now, it can always work better.

Therefore, L’s are WAY more adaptive to change.

But C’s are cautious by nature and know that attempting to change large-scale systems can cause unforeseen negative consequences.

L’s, on the other hand, are WAY better at detecting when systems start to ossify and impede progress.

L’s are WAY better at coming up with new ideas for a better society, whereas C’s are staunch loyalists to tradition.

C’s like to minimize the risks in any new venture, whereas L’s are comfortable with risk—they actively seek it—because they instinctively know that great risks can yield great rewards.

But C’s are WAY better at telling when a bet is too dangerous.

The list goes on and on. Any thoughtful person can readily see that both temperaments are absolutely essential for a society to thrive. But the wise know that they will never agree—on just about anything. It will always be a dynamic relationship, never a peaceful one.

And that’s the way it should be.

The balance should always be lively because a static system will quickly die.

The “Holy Trinity” part of this equation shows up all over the place in our system of government, most conspicuously in our system of checks and balances:

–The Executive Branch

–The Legislative Branch

–The Judicial Branch

Each is designed to check the excesses of the other two.

The act of mediating between two warring parties demands impartiality. Or, shall we say, the best possibility for it.

This is the “three-in-one” spiritual principle as it’s instantiated in our political system. It’s designed to keep power distributed over as wide a base as possible, in order to avoid falling into the chaos of either populism or despotism.

Before our current crisis of extreme political partisanship and cultural polarization, these innate differences in temperament were better understood as the need for a dynamic balance in politics. This is why Democrats and Republicans could fight like hell in Congress and yet still have lunch together.

At times, one side would take the lead and the other would be ready to put on the brakes, but this is not unlike the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems of the body. One speeds up metabolism and the other slows it down.

This is why we say that the Constitution was divinely inspired—Man was created in God’s image and likeness (male AND female created He them).

Our Constitution was written by men (in accordance with the private counsel of their wives, notably Abigail Adams) by imitating the Divine Patterns of Creation. Most of them were Freemasons and some were also Rosicrucians, so they were experts in Divine Principles.

And chief among those principles is the Law of the Triangle—the tripartite nature of relationship in all human interactions, from the personal to the political.

This is the continual balancing act between the rights of the individual and the rights of the state—the family and the community, the community and the state, the state and the federal government.

These entities will always be at odds with each other. Always. There is no utopia wherein this would not be the case. The attempt to eliminate this built-in tension is called “totalizing,” or making everyone the same. But people are different. They have different temperaments and different preferences. A political system that attempts to use a one-size-fits-all model is called “totalitarianism.” It’s been tried a number of times in the 20th Century but it always resulted in the deaths of millions of its own people. Because in order to squeeze a population into a one-size-fits-all system, half of the “all” has to go.

One of the main reasons this country was founded was for the separation of church and state. But the people who came up with the Constitution were not irreligious men and women. They were deeply schooled in Divine Principles. They knew how Creation works. They knew Divine Law.

But they also understood human nature. They weren’t naive. They knew that someone would try to game the system. So they designed it to thwart that oh-so-human tendency. Demagogues and kings were to be intentionally and vigorously excluded from the political process. And the only way to do that was to design it in such a way as to make populist and despotic movements as difficult as possible to gain momentum.

That’s the one thing they could all agree on. In everything else, they fought like cats and dogs!

If you want to know what a return to tribalism (identity politics) would look like, just look at the world. It’s nothing but tribes. And it’s always at war.

Our system of government is a unique and daring attempt at preserving personal liberty while at the same time ensuring public order. And it’s attempting to do this in a pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-racial society. The only way it can succeed is if all people, regardless of their tribal identity, can all agree on the plan—the Great American Experiment—with liberty and justice for all.

It’s a work in progress.

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The Parable of the Rich Young Man—can you be wealthy and still go to heaven?

by Michael Maciel

Matthew 19:21 – Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

In order to interpret this story of the Young Rich Man mystically, we have to take it out of the context of space and time, which means bringing it into the context of you/me—here—now. All of the characters in this story are different elements of ourselves.

So, we have to ask, what part of me is rich and what part of me is poor? And what are our “great possessions”?

The theme of the entire chapter is possessions. But at the mystical level of interpretation, it’s talking about inner possessions, not outer.

It starts out with Jesus debunking the idea that wives are the possessions of their husbands by explaining that men and women were created equal. But because of the “hardness of their hearts,” the rules regarding property had to be applied. They had no “feel” for the truth. In Jungian terms, a spouse is one’s anima or animus (the sacred marriage). We cannot “divorce” ourselves from our inner feminine or inner masculine.

Likewise, children, too, were (and still are) considered possessions. But as Kahlil Gibran says, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” Here, “Life itself” is the Christ.

Children are continually learning. In Buddhist terms, they have “beginner’s mind.” They have yet to form an ego and so they possess nothing.

These first two sections of Chapter 19 are prologue to the Rich Young Man (you and me) whose possessions are possessions of the mind, the axiomatic presuppositions (the commandments) by which and through which we live our lives.

In order to enter the kingdom of heaven—to come into the realization that it “is spread upon the earth but men do not see it” (Gospel of Thomas)—we have to convert our axiomatic presuppositions into their raw energy (cash) and use that energy to pierce the veil of matter—the world of illusion—and see the reality of God everywhere, which is the mystical experience.

Like Socrates, we have to say, “I know nothing” and then use that as a lever to pry open that which appears so that we can get at that which is. 

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Be sure to check out The Urban Mystic, my page on Substack.

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The Law of Mind—paying for what you ask

by Michael Maciel

When summoned to a court of law, we take an oath to tell the truth when asked about what happened. We are forbidden to lie about it. We are also compelled to divulge whatever information we have that will affect the outcome of the case. If we withhold that information, we can be charged with obstruction of justice.

Obstruction of justice is when we intentionally interfere with the legal process, which includes the process of discovery – the ability of the court to obtain all the evidence. We cannot settle our disagreements unless we know everything that we need to know. So, if we hold back key information, we prevent the legal process from doing what it’s supposed to, which is to reach a just settlement to our dispute.

In terms of the Law of Mind, a “dispute” is the difference between a current condition and a desired condition. The current condition might be that we don’t have enough money to pay our upcoming bills. The desired condition is having enough money to make up the shortfall.

So, we go to work visualizing the money we need – we see see it either as cash in our hands, bigger numbers in our bank account, or the word “Paid” stamped on our bills. We don’t really care where the money comes from, because money is pretty much created out of thin air anyway. We’re not stealing it from anyone else; we’re simply allowing whatever mechanisms are available to put the money where it needs to be.

But here’s the rub. Whenever we use the Law of Mind to affect changes in the constellations of our affairs, something else has to compensate for those changes. This is where the Sufi saying comes in: “Ask for what you want and then pay for it.” When we pray for more money, something has to make room for it. And in order to do that, all of our cards have to be on the table, including the ones we don’t want others (or ourselves) to see.

When the universal mind begins its process of discovery, it’s going to want to examine our “books,” and we might not like what it finds. It might point out things we are unwilling to let go of, things we have inordinate attachments to, or things we simply are unconscious of but nevertheless are unwilling to part with. These are the ways in which we might be obstructing justice.

For example, we might need money for the next three house payments. At the same time, we own a vintage car that’s sitting on blocks in the driveway. Now, we’re VERY invested emotionally in this car – selling it would feel like failure. So we attempt to “hide” it from the universal mind’s process of discovery. This, of course, we cannot do, because the universal mind knows everything. It is the living connection between all things. It knows everything because…well, it IS everything, including the car. But we have the ability to obstruct its process of working the whole thing out by disallowing the car’s value and by our unwillingness to sell it.

If we envision our prayer as a petition in a court of law, the judge is going to want to see all of the evidence. If we withhold part of the evidence, or if we misrepresent it, then the legal process will be thwarted, and we won’t get the results we’re looking for.

Of course, we can’t hide anything from the universal mind, but we can hide it from ourselves. Whenever we use the Law of Mind to manifest something in our lives, our lives are going to change. They have to. If we resist the changes as they present themselves, we are, in effect, blocking our prayer. This is one of the biggest reasons why our prayers seemingly go unanswered.

According to the Law of Mind, if we ask for something in prayer, we will receive it—every time and without exception—as long as it doesn’t violate the universal law of compensation. If we ask for more money without first utilizing resources we already have, our ledger sheets will be even more out of balance. We will receive the extra money, but it will only make our problems worse in the long run.

We all know that lying about other people can ruin their lives, but do we know that lying to ourselves is just as dangerous? We cannot lie to God. That is impossible. But we can (and often do) lie to ourselves. Since the Law of Mind operates according to what we ARE more than to what we say (or think), the thing that most often keeps us from getting what we want is the way we are being (whether consciously or unconsciously) in the world.

Lack is an unnatural state. If we don’t have what we need, we are the ones responsible. Our thoughts are simply at odds with the will of God. It is against God’s nature to deprive anyone of anything. If we are out of touch with the realities of our lives, if we are being inauthentic in our living, if we are putting on a front, or in any way lying to the world about how we feel, then we will be in a continual state of lack. Why? Because we are obstructing the movement of God’s energy, the same energy that is trying to change the conditions in which we find ourselves trapped.

There is another saying: “Always tell the truth; it changes everything.” Someone asks you, “Do you love me?” Your answer could change your world. Your sixteen year-old son asks you to buy him a $75,000 Corvette. What could possibly go wrong? You’re tired of working and you want to take early retirement. How do you really feel about that? Will having less to do actually make you happier? People who lie to themselves are incapable of telling the truth to anyone, including God.

Have you ever wondered why unscrupulous people always seem to get what they want? It’s because they aren’t afraid to be who they are. It doesn’t matter how many people they lie to—they don’t lie to themselves. How are you being dishonest? Under what falsehoods do you labor? What sorts of pretenses are you trying to uphold? Which of your past deeds are sitting in the shadows of your unconscious, passing judgment on you every moment of your life? Wouldn’t you rather expose them to the light of day?

We are, in truth, our own worst enemy, especially when it comes to how we use the Law of Mind. Honesty isn’t just a moral or ethical principle by which we govern our relationships with other people. It should also govern our relationship with ourselves. This is why it is said that confession is good for the soul—it scrubs our inner mirror. And it helps to remember that honesty doesn’t necessarily make you a good person; it just makes you an honest one.

Being honest with yourself about yourself may show you things you do not like. So what? Whatever you find in your self-inquiry, make peace with it, because nothing changes until it becomes what it is. Hiding problems only perpetuates them. Go within, connect with God, and then proclaim, “I stand in the Light of Christ!” But don’t do it until you’re ready to let go—of everything.

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Is Empathy Enough?

by Michael Maciel

Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now

The mind really is the problem, what we think about things, more than the things themselves. It’s the “about” part that causes suffering.

Can you free yourself from the about? Can you observe something horrible without being sucked into the horror? Can you observe without judgement, without making it either right or wrong?

But it IS wrong! you might say, and you’re right. But does being right make a difference? Does it help? Does weeping and gnashing your teeth do anything to alleviate the suffering you see?

Deep down inside, you know that it does not.

But when we feel powerless to effect changes in the world, a reaction can feel better than doing nothing. At the very least, it reassures us that we are not part of the problem—we are not “them.” We are not the ones causing the suffering.

But in reality, taking the moral high ground only comforts ourselves. It does nothing for those who suffer.

What then, are we to turn a blind eye? Many are doing just that, you know. “It’s all too much!” they say. “I cannot bear it any longer.” They stop watching the news. They retreat into their preferred comfort zones. Instead of letting their light shine, they hide it under a basket.

Did you see the movie, Apocalypse Now, about Colonel Kurtz who retreated into the jungle because of the atrocities he had seen? His dying words were “The horror!” But besides driving him insane, the shock of those atrocities led him to commit even greater horrors.

He became the very thing he could not stomach.

So, I ask you, which is better, empathy or service? If you love God and you care about people, there is perhaps no greater question. How you answer it determines the kind of person you are. And it determines how effective you are in the world.

Which would you rather be, a feeling person or an effective person?

Can you transmute your feelings into action?

Without action, feelings are self-indulgent. And yet, without feelings, actions can be unnecessarily cruel. But in extreme situations, action is better. When there is pain, look first to what’s causing it. Address that first.

Here’s the catch. Can you distinguish your feelings from your emotions? Do you know the difference between empathy and reaction? If you don’t, your shock will turn into outrage, and your outrage will lead you into violence. And like Kurtz, you will try to cleanse the world with blood.

And that can happen in the blink of an eye.

Don’t let your light become a flamethrower. Don’t let yourself become that kind of person. History has seen too many of those. Instead, take your candle out from under the basket and let it be a beacon to the world.

Let it shine on the good and the evil alike.

Light acts. It does not react.

Light acts dispassionately, without favoritism, without rancor. It is never shocked by the horrors it sees. It has seen them before. It does not get swept away by emotion, the kind of emotion that can turn on a dime from sadness to outrage and from outrage to violence.

Don’t be that kind of person.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” You, too, can BE the light of the world.

Will you?

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Mary Magdalene’s Question

by Michael Maciel

In the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, it says:

8) And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me,

9) Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure.

10) I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?

11) The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision…

Mary is asking whether visions are memories or are they produced in the imagination. In other words, are we seeing an echo, or are we constructing an image that then speaks to us, the way one can imagine an invisible counselor and then ask it questions? 

Jesus says neither. A vision is a direct experience, not a product of the soul or the spirit, a memory or an ideal. It is a living, present-moment experience. He’s telling her that visions are real. 

The mind is between the sub-conscious and super-conscious—the mind that Buddha described when he said, “I am AWAKE.” That is where the “treasure” is. The awakened mind sees a larger portion of the spectrum of reality. This kind of expanded capability is implied in the word “vision.”

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Climbing the Wall – a visualization exercise

by Michael Maciel

See yourself in a compound, like a small village but one you can see in its entirety. You’re surrounded by the people and events of your daily life—family, co-workers, the schools you went to, the house you live in—everything that comprises “your life.”

See the colors, hear the sounds, watch the people as they walk around. If you can associate smells with the different things you see, do that too. Touch the surfaces. How do they feel? Involve as many senses as you can.

Since you’re visualizing this in your mind, there are no restrictions on time and space. Your elementary school might exist concurrently with the place where you work, different cities might exist as one city, childhood friends and partners you have had all live inside this world—the compound. This is your world as you experience it. 

See yourself fully in it now. Pay attention to the details and fill them in. Let each one come to life. Do this until you can look around and see everyone and everything as though they were real.

Next, let your awareness expand to the limits of the compound. See a wall surrounding it. The wall is about thirty feet high—very tall. And it prevents you from seeing anything except what is inside the compound. All you can see above the wall is sky. There is nothing to indicate that anything exists on the other side. The wall has been there so long that you’ve come to take it for granted, and you cannot remember ever having questioned its existence or what it might conceal.

Be with that. Let the feeling of it sink in.

You notice now for the first time that the wall has a staircase leading to the top. You wonder why you never noticed it before. The staircase is easily accessible, but you can tell by its appearance that it has never been used. Everything inside the compound now seems limited and self-involved. None of the other people in your compound have any interest in the wall whatsoever or in what lies beyond it. 

Now, move towards the staircase and stand there looking at the first step. You look back at the people and places inside the compound, seeing everything as one thing. Your entire life’s experience is summarized by what you see and feel in this moment.

As you begin climbing the stairs, everything in the compound grows increasingly remote. With each step, the air gets clearer and fresher. The sounds coming from the compound become fainter the higher up you go. The sky grows larger, the sun brighter.

When you reach the top of the wall, the surrounding countryside unfurls before you. What is it that you see? Are there mountains, rivers, lakes, other cities? Are there other people? Try to embrace the feeling that whatever it is you’re seeing has nothing to do with the compound you have just left behind. This is an entirely new world. The horizons here are distant and filled with possibility. It feels free and un-confined.

You notice that the wall is only one foot high on this side, an easy step into your new world. You look back at the compound and realize that it lies at the bottom of a large depression, separated only by distance and elevation. You also see that the new landscape completely surrounds it. And now there’s lots to explore all around you, behind as well as in front.

As you continue in your visualization, you can imagine whatever you want. You might see an information booth, or a friendly cafe with outdoor seating, perhaps someone inviting you to sit with them and answer your questions. There is nothing foreboding here, only lightness and ease and friendly faces. The sun shines brilliantly in the sky, and there is a soft, cool breeze. You feel like a welcome guest. 

Of course, you can always go back, and you will. But now that you know where this new land is, you can visit it at any time. And you should. There are no restrictions on how often you can return.

Find someone who is willing to talk with you and get to know them. Ask them questions. Ask them if it’s okay to visit with them again sometime, perhaps tomorrow. Maybe it will become a daily thing. And be sure to invite them to ask you questions. What will they ask you? Won’t that be exciting! 

When you see them again, maybe you could bring flowers or a picture you have drawn or a poem that you have written. Wouldn’t that be nice. Notice how your new friend reacts and what they have to say. Become familiar with their vibration and how they make you feel. What are they wearing? What color hair do they have? What color are their eyes? The more details you can discover, the better. Make the whole experience as real as you can.

Ask your new friend for a token, something that you can have that’s from here and that you can take with you when you leave to go back to your world on the other side of the wall. Put it in your pocket. Feel it with your fingers. Notice everything about it. And bring it with you when you return so that it can be recharged by the purity of the atmosphere of this place. 

When the time is right, say thank you, excuse yourself, and return to the wall. As you descend into your “normal” life, bring with you as much of the feeling and the impressions you received here. Let those radiate from you as you re-enter “your life.” You can maybe even bless the people and things in the compound, filling them with the energies you have brought back with you. The token in your pocket can be a reminder of what those energies are like. 

Then let go of the experience entirely. But don’t forget to go back! You’re sure to have new questions, and your new friend might have new questions for you.

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Prayer MUST be Creative

by Michael Maciel

Prayer MUST be creative. That is its one, essential aspect. Without that, there is no possibility for the power of God to move through us. It might move to us, and through our devotion it can move from us to God, but those two movements, which are also essential, are nothing unless our relationship with God is first and foremost creative.

Saying that God knows what we need before we ask is the same as saying that we don’t have to tell God how to do what we ask. God knows the “how.” It is our purpose and our role in this relationship to know the what. That is our purpose in God’s plan.

The purpose of our lives is not to acquire more and more things but rather to explore the full range of the potential of things. An artist isn’t so much interested in the number of paintings she produces as she is in perfecting her art. One painting or a thousand—it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the purity of the expression—the communication that comes alive in the medium. Does it express the spirit?

We are creative beings. This is the Good News. Jesus shows us how to be creative expressions of the infinite potential of God rather than merely collectors of ideas. The “rules,” which is how most people interpret the word “law,” are there to help us be more creative and not just blind replicators of what has gone before. Crystals replicate. Living things explore the full range of possibilities built into them by their Creator.

God waits to see what we are capable of doing. We are the means by which God discovers God’s own infinite potential. God needs us. We are God’s extensions INTO the world, not just to see what’s there, but to see what can be there.

It’s true that there is nothing new under the sun, but the possibilities are endless.

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