Find Victory in Failure

 

UFC 207: Nunes v Rousey

by Michael Maciel

Most of us are trying to make something of our lives. We have values, and we want to realize those values in our living—to make them real, to manifest them in the world. Having values is the same as saying that your life is oriented towards the good—the ideal you envision for yourself, your family, and for the society you live in. It’s the same because it’s impossible to want anything unless you value it. “Where your treasure [value] is, there will your heart [desire] be also.” The heart wants what the mind deems worthy.

We define setbacks in our life as those instances where we fail to reach our goals. We miss an opportunity, we reach but fall short, or we fail to meet an expectation, either of others or our own. This is the source of our anxiety—the ever-present possibility of failure. This fear is simultaneously our nemesis and our strongest ally, because it keeps us alert, and it goads us to try our best in all of our endeavors. But when our anxiety supersedes our desire to succeed, we take fewer risks. We cease trying. We tend to hunker down in the safety of the known, the tried and true. Too much fear stops us moving forward altogether. And since life never stands still, it leaves us behind, until we are cut off from our own vitality and die. In the face of our greatest challenges, it is fear that we need to conquer—“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”—not some external foe, real or imagined.

No one is perfect. “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” This is the number-one reason why Jesus told us not to judge. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” If you are a person of good will, you naturally want to do your best to expunge the world of evil. And evil is everywhere! But it’s not so easy to reconcile our own evil, the malevolence we carry around in our hearts, the desire to correct the extraordinary evil in others. We would do anything to eliminate the atrocities we see on an everyday basis. We might, if given the chance, murder those who commit them, because our zeal to do good can easily flip and become its own kind of atrocity.

Recognizing that we have the capability to do evil is in itself a horrendous failure. That’s why we don’t go there. We don’t sit with our propensities and acknowledge their existence, because to do so would show us that we aren’t good at all, at least not as good as we hope to be. So we try to bury it, we keep it under lock and key, like Pandora’s Box hidden away in the cellar of our psyche. But what we conceal in darkness has its way of oozing through the cracks, and we find ourselves doing strange things that we cannot control, things that we believe only strangers are capable of committing. And when we do them, we become strangers to ourselves. And that, dear friend, is our downfall. It’s when we surprise ourselves with our capacity to do evil that our lives are upended, either in big ways or small.

So, imagine what power there might be in getting to know the contents of the darker corners of our hearts, to go into each contest, whether external or internal, knowing that the evils we hate have already taken up residence within us. In fact, they have been there so long that we can hardly regard them as other. On the one hand, knowing that we can just as easily be bad as good can make us more compassionate. We’re not as quick to condemn, because we’ve “been there.” But, on the other hand, since knowing this about ourselves is a failure in itself (perhaps the biggest failure of all), we might want to simply give up, to write off the whole human endeavor, to see the world as hopelessly flawed and unworthy of our efforts to change it, since we ourselves are the problem we wish to solve.

This, however, is the greatest failure of all. It’s what keeps good people doing nothing, because there’s no better way to psyche out your opponent than to get inside his head and make him doubt himself. And those who are unabashedly evil-minded do not hesitate to do that every chance they get—to make you feel guilty, shameful, inept, and powerless. True heroes, however, already know that about themselves and enter the battle anyway. In a way, they know they don’t have anything to lose and are therefore the most dangerous. They have no badges of honor to defend, no purity to preserve, no inviolable standards to uphold, because they know that they have themselves violated all these values. They themselves have been untrue. They themselves have done the evil they seek to overthrow. Really accepting that eliminates any pretense in the combat. This is what makes the wounded warrior a formidable foe.

If you are serious about doing good in the world, understand one thing: there is no virtue in naivete. None. It does not give you strength. It doesn’t make you pure. It doesn’t mean that you are better than the evildoers you hate. It only means that you are naive. And realize this, too: If you are hellbent for justice, you are potentially the most hateful, malicious, and genocidal person in town. History is full of such do-gooders. And millions upon millions have died as a result of their self-righteous efforts to purify human society. Don’t be one of them. Not at any scale.

Let’s call it the vehemence of justice. Its tools are the flaming social-media posts, the student rallies at universities, the riots of tear gas, rocks, and broken glass, and, finally, the guillotine, the firing squad, the forced marches, and the death camps—all in the name of righting wrongs, of casting out the beams from the eyes of others, of ridding the world of evil. What we repress, we project. And God help those upon whom we project the things we are unwilling to look at within ourselves! Justice—real justice—never froths at the mouth. Real justice knows how to restrain itself, to make the punishment fit the crime, not gouge out the eyes of those who only knocked out a few teeth. Real justice doesn’t force anyone to do anything, but instead deals with the present moment without imposing a utopian vision that has room for conformists only.

“Judge not that ye be not judged” doesn’t mean to let everything slide. It means
stop condemning other people for displaying in broad daylight the things you are hiding in the dark. Stop that. Stop it now. If you see something you don’t like, something you wish other people would do differently, imagine yourself in their shoes. Chances are that if you do, they will fit your feet perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lose Your Religion and Find God

praise

by Michael Maciel

Too many people base their religious beliefs on ideas, and too few base them on deep, inner experiences. Language conceals more than it reveals, and beliefs almost always come in words. Even if your belief is predicated on a mystical experience, you have to translate it into words before you can articulate it, even to yourself. And once you speak about it, it becomes an idea, and the idea is far removed from the experience.

The idea that God is within you is also just an idea. Like a traffic sign, it tells you what to do, but it doesn’t do it for you. In order to actually find God within, you have to have some practical means by which to do so. Otherwise, it will remain an idea forever. There has to be a way to put the idea into action in such a way that the idea becomes an experience.

cars

The word “within” can be misleading. What does it mean to “go within”? Let’s try using the word in a different way, using a driverless car as an example. Most of the technology for autonomous vehicles (AV) is invisible, hidden away in its computers. So when we say “within” an AV, we’re not talking about a mystical component but real-life, albeit quasi-physical components in the form of programming. The most “mystical” thing about an AV’s architecture might be its internet and GPS connections – invisible sources of information coming from outside of the vehicle.

“Outside of the vehicle,” however, isn’t really an accurate way to say it, because the signals are everywhere, realistically speaking. The AV swims in a sea of information the way a fish swims in the ocean. This invisible information is, therefore, every bit as real as the AV, maybe even more so, because it’s bigger and more densely packed.

Our body’s “in-the-world” state of being is analogous to this information-rich environment in which the autonomous vehicle functions. For the most part, it doesn’t need us to navigate through most of the activities required for life on Earth. We don’t tell it how to digest its food, how to breathe, or how to circulate blood. It does all these things with mind-boggling proficiency. The sheer sum of all the different kinds of intelligence it takes to keep us alive and healthy is nothing short of miraculous.

In fact, our bodies are so adaptive and resilient in the face of ever-changing environmental conditions that it strongly suggests that they must be connected to a larger network. Their individual neural framework is simply too small. A larger, invisible “brain,” like the Internet and GPS networks that make AVs possible, must exist. This idea is far more plausible than each body being self-contained, having no broader connection with the world at large. This likelihood leads us to believe that the world we see isn’t so much made of matter but of information. Either that or matter IS information, only made visible, in which case it would be nearly impossible to discern where the external world ends and we begin.

The third thing we need to understand about this Sea of Information, this super-conscious, creative intelligence we live within (and that lives within us) is that it is wider and bigger in its field of operation than we are. In other words, it is capable of performing far more tasks than it takes to simply keep us alive. If matter somehow IS information, then the entire universe is one giant mind. It manages everything.

It can be argued that this way of understanding the universe is nothing more than equating God with Nature—“Nature IS God.” This would be true if the nature in question were comprised of only what we can see. But nature is more than that. Much more. The farther we look into its depths, the more mysterious it becomes. Take consciousness, for example. Science still has no idea what it is. No idea whatsoever. Our best guess is that consciousness is somehow epiphenomenal to mind, meaning that it arises out of a much larger field of intelligence than we are capable of comprehending. It is literally the “tip of the iceberg,” when it comes to the totality of our being. It is as though one part of the universal intelligence is looking back at itself, as in a mirror, and what we regard as “us” is nothing more than a reflection—a very small reflection at that. This makes us virtual beings, at least when we think of ourselves as conscious individuals.

This doesn’t make the world we live in unreal. It just makes it different from what we normally think it is.

temple 2

So, how do we find God? Well, we first have to start thinking in more realistic terms, which means that we have to investigate this idea that we live in a sea of information that is way bigger and far more intelligent than we are. Next, we have to enter into a two-way conversation with it. And since it’s bigger and more intelligent, the best way to approach it is by asking it questions. Asking questions is really the only appropriate interaction we can have, aside from simply acknowledging how awe-inspiring the whole thing is and maybe expressing how grateful we are to be in a position where we can appreciate the enormity of the existential environment we are fortunate enough to inhabit.

And—lest we slip into the false notion that we are dealing with a “blind,” machine-like intelligence, no matter how big and sophisticated—consider this: if this universal mind is more intelligent than we are by some unknown order of magnitude, then it’s more than a little likely that its consciousness is far more profound than ours, in ways that we can’t even imagine. So talking with “it” is not exactly like entering code in a program—it’s more like talking with another person.

If speaking to it in words doesn’t come easy, try showing it pictures. Use your imagination to form images of your highest ideal, your visions of perfection, your fondest hopes, and your most exquisite conceptions of beauty. And if images aren’t your thing, try feelings. In moments of ecstasy, when the goodness of life verges on being unbearable, share THAT. Sing to it, laugh with it, smile with everything you’ve got at it. And do all of these things with the expectation that you will be noticed and that it will respond to you in ways that are as varied and sophisticated as the ways in which you approach it.

Once you establish this kind of communication, your life will never be the same again. Then, if you want, you can go to church. You can adopt a religion. But without this, you might as well not.

 

 

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Find the Self

Tip of the Iceberg

by Michael Maciel

The Self does not exist on the Earth plane. Because of this, YOU do not exist on the Earth plane either. Because the Self (along with the soul) is who you are. If you do not exist on the Earth plane, where DO you exist? And furthermore, who or what is this person who obviously DOES live here, the one who thinks, is self-aware and is conscious of the world? Who is THAT?

When Jesus said, “I come from above,” he was speaking for all of us as our true, spiritual nature. He was saying that who we are is NOT a product of this body (which he referred to as a “temple,” one that could be destroyed and rebuilt in three days) but rather like the people in some of his parables who had traveled into a “far land” at the behest of their lord. Whoever we are, we are definitely in a far land.

What if everything you think you are is a fiction—even your consciousness? That would imply that the real you exists someplace else, would it not? It’s not so difficult to imagine that the self you have created is a false self, but can you imagine that the “you” that you think you are, the one that sits inside your brain looking out of your forehead as though out of a picture window, that that self is not you at all? What if the person referred to in the question so adroitly posed by gurus to would-be seekers, “Who are you,”—the one that feels more like a countermove in a chess game than an answer—what if THAT person is nothing more than an animated figurehead?

You have to consider (and I mean, REALLY consider) that consciousness is overrated. Maybe the Self is as different from your conscious self as your conscious self is from your toenails. And if that’s true, there is no way that your conscious self can lead you to Self-realization. You literally can’t get there from (t)here.

What then can you do? Well, the first thing is to recognize that God is WAY bigger than you are, that your true self—the Self (and soul)—is as close to “other” as anything you can imagine. Stop regarding consciousness as the totality of your being, because it’s not. In reality, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of you. Trying to get more of it will only separate you further from who you really are.

I know that this all sounds counter-intuitive, but believe me, it’s worth looking into. The Self is not what you think it is. It’s not “you” in the way you’re used to thinking of you. Nothing you can think from the standpoint of who you think you are will get you closer to Self. You have to lose “you” to find YOU.

Only by denying self can you find Self. The more you let go of the idea that you are already God and start to entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, that God is entirely outside of anything you can conceive, then you will stand a chance of finding the Self. And when it arises, you will SEE it. It will be as real as anything you have ever seen before. At first, it will seem external, something “other.” But that’s because you are the other. You are the one on the outside looking in. Doesn’t that seem plausible? No amount of empty affirmations will bridge that divide. The “you” who is making those affirmations is powerless. Nothing it says will make any difference at all.

This is going to demand some real worshipfulness on your part. You are going to have to admit that you don’t have anything—no inherent divinity, no “already there” mentality, no “God and I are one” justifications. You and God are NOT one, not when it comes to breaking out of the illusion of self. Self has no affinity whatsoever with self. None. But in order to discover the truth of this, you are going to have to venture into the unknown.

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Buddhism and Suffering

buddha

by Michael Maciel

Buddhism teaches that all suffering is caused by ignorance. And that’s kind of hard to argue with.

The word sin means to miss the mark. It’s an old archery term. Since we all have goals in our life, our success, to a large part, depends on how good our aim is, how intelligently we pursue those goals.

And not all diseases are inevitable. Some of them we bring upon ourselves, such as lung cancer by smoking. Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, and everyone dies eventually of something, but just as people used to die of cholera because they didn’t know the dangers of drinking contaminated water, surely there are many things we die of today because we don’t know what causes them. In other words, we’re dying of ignorance.

The term past life doesn’t have to mean reincarnation, and Karma doesn’t have to mean punishment. The mistakes we have made in this life are sufficient. And mistakes—actions taken out of ignorance—will, like any action, produce reactions, just as speaking ignorantly at a crucial moment can negatively affect one’s life for years to come.

These are basic wisdom teachings, and Buddhism is profoundly good at them.

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Does God Exist?

reflection

by Michael Maciel

Everyone has a god, whether they’re religious or not. If you take anthropomorphism out of the equation, your god is simply that which you hold in highest esteem. Maybe that’s intelligence or rationality. Maybe it’s money or wealth. Maybe it’s kindness and cooperation. Whatever it is, you have one—unless, of course, you’re a nihilist. But if that’s the case, who cares?
 
This question of God isn’t as complicated as most people make it out to be. It’s not hard to see intelligence at work in everything—from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest galaxies. It’s everywhere.
 
And consciousness? No one, and I mean no one, knows what consciousness is. Somehow, it is integral to physical reality—intertwined into the fabric of the universe—but no one knows what it actually is. Some people are better at using it than others, but even they cannot comprehend it in its fullness.
 
Maybe the question of God is the wrong question. Maybe it’s a question of YOU. Do you think YOU exist? That seems to me to be a far more pertinent question.
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Meditation can be easy…IF you know how!

meditation

by Michael Maciel

Mental discipline is key to spiritual development. Your mind is your vehicle, and just like your other vehicle—your car—it requires maintenance and improvements. If you plan to drive up a mountain or travel to faraway places (metaphorically speaking), you need to get your vehicle in shape. It has to be able to stay on the road. It has to keep from overheating, and it has to be able to go the distance, no matter the weather or road conditions.

Does this metaphor ring a bell?

Working on your vehicle—your mind—is important. It has to do what you want it to do. Just like a car, it has to be able to go in a straight line without having to fight the steering wheel (your attention). And you want it to have enough power to make it up a steep incline without bogging down, especially if you plan to take it into high places. But most important of all, you don’t want it to break down out in the middle of nowhere. Because nowhere isn’t a place you want to get stranded. Lots of people have perished getting stuck in nowhere!

Your car gets you where you want to go—to work, to play, to family, to friends. It takes you to all the places you want to go. So does your mind, but you have to know how it works. You have to know not only what to think but how to think. And, you have to know how to NOT think. The ancient Hindu philosopher, Patanjali, said in his Yoga Sutras, “Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the substance of the mind.” So, using the metaphor of your car, in order to work on the vehicle of your mind, you must first turn off the engine.

Have you ever seen those two-colored posters that have hidden 3D images that you can only see if you focus your eyes on a point behind the image? The mind is similar in that you have to look behind its surface images before that which is hidden can reveal itself. In other words, you have to master your attention so that it goes where you want it to go. In the outer field of experience, the number of points on which you can focus is infinite, so many, in fact, that the brain has evolved in ways to filter out most of them, so that the senses don’t get overwhelmed. In your inner world, you have to construct your own filters, because the place you’re trying to go is a place your brain knows nothing about.

But while your destination is supra-physical, your point of departure is always right where you are, which is in your body. So you have to understand how your body works and use its mechanisms properly. The first thing to understand is that the eyes and the mind’s attention faculty use the same neural circuitry. If you keep the eyes focused on one thing, your attention focuses, too. But if you let your eyes wander, so will your mind. So, if you want to quiet your thinking, don’t move the muscles of your eyes, neither the extrinsic muscles that move your eyeballs nor the intrinsic muscles that control the dilation of your pupils. It doesn’t matter whether your eyes are open or shut; if you keep them still, your thinking will naturally come to a halt. 

If your mind is prone to take one thing at a time and exclude everything else, then meditation will come easy for you. But if your mind is wired to pay attention to many things simultaneously, meditation will feel unnatural, and it will be difficult to learn. But regardless of your mind’s innate tendencies, the principle remains the same: your eyes and your mind’s attention faculty are inextricably linked. What you do with one profoundly affects the other. So learn to focus your inner vision as well as your outer.

Paying attention to one thing is a lot like using the fingers of your hand. If you like to focus on one thing at a time, it’s like putting your index finger on one spot. But if you like to keep your attention on many things at once, it’s like putting all five fingers on five different spots. It allows you to focus on something quite different from just “one thing.” It allows you to focus on the relationship of many things to each other. That relationship quality is also a “one thing,” only of a different order. Those who like to take one thing at a time find this approach impossibly difficult, while those whose natural ability allows them to pay attention to many things at once find it quite easy.

The eyes also share a neural link with the hands, which operates independently from your conscious decision-making process. The brain doesn’t see objects as objects. It sees them in terms of what the objects are for. In other words, you don’t see a cup. You see something to pick up and put to your lips. You can’t look at a cup without the muscles in your hand being put unconsciously on alert. Your brain begins to calculate the action, even so far as to activate your appetite and the muscles that control swallowing a liquid before you have a chance to think about it. If the cup contains something hot, like coffee, your brain will also activate the muscles of your entire body, the ones that will allow you to pick it up carefully. The entire process takes place automatically and below the threshold of your conscious awareness.

The purpose of this approach is to get these automatic mechanisms to work for you, not against you.

So, what you do with your hands while meditating is also important. Your hands can either make it easier or more difficult, depending on how you use them in relation to the attention faculty of your brain. Letting your hands just lay there flaccid is the same thing as letting your eyes wander. You have to focus your hands in the same way that you focus your eyes, because the two share a neural link. Hands, eyes, attention – it’s almost like they’re a single faculty. How do you “focus” your hands? You already know, but more specifically, your hands already know. Just imagine picking up a sewing needle.

The whole point of meditating is to quiet your thinking, to bring it to a standstill so that that which is hidden can be revealed. And just as the hidden image in the 3D poster springs into view, you will KNOW when the hidden dimension of your mind reveals itself. This is a profoundly life-changing event, one that transforms you. That which is hidden, the thing for which you’re waiting to show up, is not an image. It’s not a concept. It’s not a feeling. It’s an entirely new way of being, one that changes your relationship to yourself, to other people, and to the world. It cannot be described. It can only be experienced. And when you experience it, you will know that you have experienced it, and you will know it beyond all doubt.

The ancient spiritual masters, like Patanjali, really knew their stuff. Find out what they had to say about meditation and the purpose of meditation. It’s not just a stress-reduction technique. It’s not a walk in the woods or a way to expand your awareness of the world around you. Meditation is for expanding your awareness of the world WITHIN you. And for that, there are specific techniques. Learn them. And then put them into practice. Don’t stop until…you know…3D.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people who can’t see the 3D image in the poster, get one. And don’t stop looking at it until you see the image. Just the effort alone will teach you a lot about what it takes to meditate.

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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?

house

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.

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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?

contact

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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