Are We Spiritual or Physical—notes on the Incarnation

14 temperance

by Michael Maciel

The New Age Movement has been criticized (justifiably, in my opinion) of being unable to think critically. Too much is believed simply because people want to believe it, not because it’s true.

The Holy Order of MANS would not be classified as a New Age group today, even though it identified itself as such in the beginning, because the term has taken on a much broader, mostly negative connotation. Much of what passes for New Age is merely imaginative and not related to reality—not at any level.

In order to think critically, we have to be willing to question our most fundamental presuppositions, which most of us have been doing for a while now. But there is still the tendency to adopt a rather anti-intellectual stance when it comes to the Teachings, a kind of prejudice against the mind, since the Self is, after all, “more than the mind of man can conceive.”

This prejudice manifests itself whenever we are faced with new information that pertains to consciousness and the reality of who and what we are. Understandably, we tend to be wary of neuroscience, biology, and psychology because these relatively new fields seem to push aside metaphysics, placing the center of our existence solely within our physical body.

Having seen the Self, however, we know that we are not our body, that we are a “spiritual being having a physical experience.” But our Western Esoteric Judeo-Christian Tradition has a much more sophisticated, nuanced, and (dare I say) intellectual take on this subject.

Saying that we are a “spiritual being having a human experience” is a holdover from a previous war—the war against scientific materialism, which said that there is no such thing as a “spiritual” reality. The advent of Eastern Philosophy in the West, championed by such people as Swami Vivekananda, Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant, and others, reasserted what Christian scholars and mystics had been saying all along but had been steadily beaten down by the Industrial Revolution and the scientific materialism that made it possible. Notions of “heaven” and “soul” became more and more untenable among the intelligentsia, and gradually religion of all denominations was demoted to mere superstition.

Then came the New Age Movement, bolstered by out-of-body experiences made possible in large part by psychedelic drugs, and the war against scientific materialism flared up again. Only this time it came in a non-scholarly, populist form based on a new kind of experiential, “faith-based” fervor that sought direct experiences over intellectual understanding. And as populist movements are wont to do, it devalued intellectualism, even though some of its most outstanding proponents, such as Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception) and Alan Watts were some of the most astute intellectuals of their day.

There were others, however, who taught a non-intellectual approach, and they drew much larger crowds, such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation) and Swami Prabhupada (Hare Krishna Movement), who eschewed intellectualism in favor of ecstatic bliss. They were the Eastern equivalents of the West’s charismatic leaders, those whom we would later identify more with Christian Fundamentalism than Catholicism, Protestantism, or Orthodoxy.

It is the fundamentalist style of the New Age Movement that today’s more critical thinkers find objectionable. They see it as anti-intellectual, anti-science, and prone to political populism (rarely, if ever, a good thing) both of the Right and the Left. It is always those who believe that they are doing God’s will who are the most dangerous, whether their god is spiritual or material (political) in nature. They are the ones who have proven throughout history to be the most destructive to civilization.

As it seems to always happen—spiritual ideologies tend to spill over into political ideologies, and vice versa. They tend to mirror each other, because politics is based on values, and values are based on beliefs. In these unfortunate days of extreme political polarization, both the Right and the Left have become more like fundamentalist religious movements than legitimate political movements. They are based on beliefs and are, therefore, not subject to rational debate. There is no possibility for either side to convince the other because dialogue itself is forbidden. Neither side will even discuss alternative viewpoints to the ones they have deemed self-evidently true. One has only to look at the current debates centered around political correctness and free speech to see that rational debate has succumbed to irrational stand-offs.

As a community of illumined and realized spiritually-minded people, we must be careful not to fall into the fundamentalist ways of thinking that have derailed countless spiritual communities in the past. We must instead embrace new knowledge as it evolves and never shy away from enlightened debate. If anything characterizes this New Age we find ourselves in, it is change. And it’s not even change itself that characterizes our times but the rate of change. What used to take years or decades to be discovered now happens on a monthly basis. Never before has humanity experienced an accelerated rate of change as we are experiencing now. It’s important, therefore, that we keep an open yet critical mind, especially when it comes to our own beliefs. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow, and what seems self-evident to us now may turn out to be our most profound blindspot.

This is not to say that everything is up for grabs, that there is no such thing as universal and timeless truths. But such truths tend not to lend themselves to populist political movements, nor do they fit well into fundamentalist religious (or spiritual) ideologies. What makes an ideology? Any time we believe that every problem has a single cause and that every question has a single answer, we become ideologically possessed.

This is why victim-consciousness is so pernicious and dangerous—the belief that all human affairs are based on an oppressor/oppressed narrative. This is why blaming all of life’s inequities on the “patriarchy” or “white male privilege” can only be, in the long run, completely destructive to our free and open civil society. Not because our system is perfect (far from it) but because any argument that declares power to be the sole determinator of social justice is doomed to failure, because civilizations do not thrive by power but by cooperation and mutual trust. Trust is our highest social ideal. Without it, there is only war.

If anything distinguishes the Western Judeo-Christian Philosophy from the East, it is our emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual, which means that each person must take responsibility for the spiritual health of the world. The concept of the sovereignty of the individual is not as much about individual rights as it is about individual responsibility. It is the duty of each individual to give him or herself to the good of the whole and to do that voluntarily. It is this last part—voluntarily—that forms the basis of individual rights. One cannot be responsible unless he has the right to choose. Otherwise, it’s just slavery. Rights and responsibilities are inextricably intertwined.

There really is no idea that is more spiritual than this. Not here, not in this earthly realm. Christianity is, after all, centered around one simple yet inscrutable truth—the Incarnation—not of one man at one time in history, but of every person at all times. It’s about bringing heaven down to Earth. It’s about the full embodiment of God in the Flesh—the atonement, the redemption, the Way.

We must never turn our backs on the physical part of our existence. To do so is to over-react to the false claims of scientific materialism. It is a throwback to the populist belief in extremes, which says that if your opponent believes one thing, it is your sworn duty to go as far as possible to the opposite extreme. When in the entire history of our human race has this worked out well?

Posted in Lessons | 2 Comments

Notes on the Book of Revelation

book of revelation

by Michael Maciel

The Letter to the Church of Ephesus has to do with the life-giving function of the desire nature. We have to look to the real reason we are doing what we are doing—what is motivating us? Earth is a training ground for the Spirit of the Law. It is not enough to know how and what we do—we must learn the nature of the ultimate end of our actions—our “works.”

Example: working on a piece of furniture, a cabinetmaker proceeds automatically, performing each step according to his training, for he has done this many times before. His original intent at the outset of his career was to create functional works of art that people could appreciate while they used them. The desire for beauty, harmony, and symmetry, and the appreciation of these, motivated him beyond the need to make a living, impress his friends, or perfect his craft. This was his “first love.”

Slowly, the demands of commerce shifted his attention to concerns about economy and efficiency, and the ideal began to give way to the expedient. Economy and efficiency are themselves aspects of beauty and harmony, and are worthy goals, but, for our cabinetmaker, they were not his “calling.”

In the highest sense, our “first love” is our soul’s love for God. In our everyday experience, God “wears” the world like a mask, so the world is the face of God for us. Included in the concept “the world” are all of our intentions and affections regarding it. For the cabinetmaker, his art is the face of God for him—he sees God as the perfection inherent within, behind, and the motivation for his art. His work, therefore, is his prayer, his devotion, and his yoga—his method for achieving oneness with God who, for him, wears the mask of craftsmanship.

If this cabinetmaker loses his vision of the face of God by succumbing to the everyday demands of efficiency and economy, and these become the sole motivation for his craft, then his desire nature (symbolized in the B of R as the Church of Ephesus) has become corrupted. The angel, the unrelenting spiritual pressure of his calling, then comes to straighten him out.

The Twentieth Century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein used the phrase “being in the world” to describe how Being and in-the-world-ness are inseparable. This implies that the face of God, as I’m describing it here in the example of the cabinetmaker, is the world—for us. How this translates in the current spiritual vernacular is that our actions are our prayers. God, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, is saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word [or prayer] you say.”

“To him who overcomes will the Spirit give to him to eat of the Tree of Life.”

When we keep our consciousness of our “first love” intact and not give in to the temptation to place the necessities of the world in first place, then the fruits of our activities will nourish us—life will feed us instead of devour us. The Tree of Life lives “in the midst of the paradise of God”, that state of Being (in Wittgenstein’s sense of the word) wherein all separation ceases. The world appears to us as immediately present and alive, its beingness emanating from within all things. This kind of Presence nullifies time, so we live in the eternal Now. When we consolidate our awareness of the Now, and it completely displaces the illusion of separation, we experience what Jesus called “eternal life”, and we become one with God.

The word “eternal” does not mean “a long time.” It has nothing to do with time. It is that state that pre-exists time, the same as the word “omnipresence” pre-exists space. To say that God is eternal and omnipresent means that God is “outside” the realm of time and space—time and space are epiphenomena of Being. They are effects of the existent forces of Being, the same way the spokes of a spinning wheel sometimes appear stationary. What we call “time” is a strobe-effect created by the brain, a digitalization of the “seamless garment” of reality.

When theologians claim that God is transcendent or “outside” of creation, it is the denial that these effects are real. The spokes aren’t really stationary—they only appear that way because of our perspective and the interplay of light. In the same way, time and space are “illusions”, because they are not ontologically primary—they are the result of certain intra-actions of Being. These intra-actions are what are being referred to in Hinduism when the creation is described as the “dream” of Vishnu, or in Western theology as God’s Self-contemplation. They are “the many that proceed out of the one”, the “ten thousand things” of Chinese philosophy, and the “jeweled net of Indra” where the light of every gem is reflected in every other.

Just as science calls a reflection an illusion or “virtual” reality, so do metaphysicians call the “world” unreal. It exists, all right, but only as the result of a deeper, underlying reality. It is this deeper, underlying reality that Wittgenstein calls Being. It is so foundational that it precedes our ability to conceive of It—It cannot be named or objectified. It is the Nameless One of our Western Tradition—the reason that Judaism prohibits speaking the name of Jehovah. The moment we name It, it is no longer “It”, but only a description of It. A photograph of a mountain is not the mountain.

When those same theologians claim that God is also immanent or “within” the creation, they are pointing to the fact that the phenomena we call time and space are the effects of Being. God is “behind” the effects, the same as an actor is behind a mask—a persona. The prefix meta- (as in metaphysics) means in back of or behind of. It implies that the physical world is an effect of underlying causes that are not physical in nature, such as Idea, Mind, Truth, Reality, etc., which are all aspects of Being. This places Being in the driver’s seat. When we thoroughly identify with Being and become one with It, we become, like Jesus, “in the world but not of it”—we are both immanent and transcendent. To be “of” something is to be at the effect of it, a derivative of it, or to come from it.

In metaphysics, words such as Mind, Truth, Idea, etc. are not regarded as products of the human mind. They are rather seen as the generators of the human mind. Consciousness is not a product of the brain, as most scientists assert, but the creator of it. The brain evolved into being, because Consciousness needed a way to experience this part of its own spectrum, or as one person said, “A physicist is the universe’s way of looking at itself.”

All of this points to the fact that Being and Wittgenstein’s notion of in-the-world-ness are inseparable, that the way to God Realization is through the phenomenon we call “our lives.” And the prime motivating factor of our lives is what The Book of Revelation calls our “first love,” that part of our lives that calls to us at the deepest desire level, the face of God, the mask that Eternity wears so that we can recognize It in ourselves.

We live our lives in a state of dynamic balance—every external action must reconcile, eventually, with our deepest convictions. When we act out our lives from the consciousness of our “first love”, which is our primary conviction, all of the outer conditions will conform, eventually, to the fulfillment of our calling. If we place too much emphasis on those outer conditions, and we get caught up in their demands to the detriment of our “first love,” our soul-ledger gets out of whack and has to be “justified.” St. Paul first used this word when he addressed the early Christian Community of Corinth, because, being traders, he knew they understood the language of debt and balanced ledgers. “The wages of sin is death,” he said. Our vitality suffers when we deny the inseparableness of our everyday lives and the Spirit within.

This inseparableness is the underlying message of the death of Jesus on the cross. The living Being is nailed to the cross of matter, affixed to it, so that the two become one. The image of Jesus on the cross is the central symbol of Christianity, and for good reason. It signifies the transformation of matter by its willing submission to Being—its “first love.” Five hundred years before Jesus, Buddha rejected the philosophy that the body and this world were irredeemable. He said that the wise man walks the Middle Path between total renunciation and total participation. The story of Jesus expands this theme, using terms like the Body of Christ, the Redemption, and Salvation to describe the transformative effect of Spirit upon its epiphenomenon—matter.

Beneath every intention lies the intention of God. Even the desire to commit murder has its roots in the intention to rid oneself of negativity, a misguided and insane attempt at purity. We project those aspects of ourselves that we cannot tolerate out onto our “enemies,” and we kill them, thinking that by doing so we rid ourselves of our sins.

The message of the Angel in its address to the Church of Ephesus has this quality to it: the real enemy is us. The road to spiritual perfection, therefore, is a road that leads within. Nothing is wrong “out there.” We need only to be true to our “first love,” and the vicissitudes of life will raise us up instead of dragging us down. Like Jesus, we will rise up out of the grave of our darkest hour and ascend into heaven, because our eyes are fixed on God, that part of our lives that calls to us from within—our “first love.” This is the desire at the root of all our desires, even those that appear to destroy us.


Posted in Lessons | 1 Comment

Oneness in Gender and Politics


by Michael Maciel

The best analogy for “Oneness,” I believe, is our apparently “dualistic” visual apparatus (our eyes) and the way they work together to give depth to our perception. One eye is not enough. It takes two, not one, and the two must be separate entities.

If we were to say that two eyes are a problem (in that they lock us into a world of duality) we would have to concoct a story such as having one eye in the front of our head and another in the back, giving us two separate worldviews. That would be dualistic. But our eyes work together by looking in the same direction. The distance between them is what makes stereoscopic vision possible.

In this analogy of having two eyes instead of one, 3D perception is what constitutes “Oneness.” Two separate views of the world are combined, one slightly offset from the other, producing a world that is far more real to us than anything one eye could provide. One eye gives us facts; two eyes give us a feel for what we’re seeing.

Too often, we try to realize Oneness by obliterating duality, when it is duality itself that makes Oneness possible. This is paradoxical, I know, but true. The eyes see best when both are strong. If we cover one eye, we flatten our understanding. We see half a world.

Philosophically speaking, the attempt to obliterate duality is the hallmark of Postmodernism, which says that all perceptions are subjective and are therefore capable of being interpreted in an infinite number of ways. This is actually true, and the Postmodern worldview has given us many valuable things, such as critical thinking and social justice.

But Postmodernism goes too far by claiming that there are no over-arching truths, no grand narratives (except its own), and no universal moral compass. It is, in effect, the “death of God.” Ironically, this too had its beneficial effects on our collective thinking, in that it helped us distinguish the God of religion from the God of spirituality. However, this made it far too easy to slip into relativism, to make the mistake of believing that all truth is subjective, which is solipsism—the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist, which is as dualistic as one can possibly get.

All of the dual aspects of our existence give three-dimensional richness to our perception of reality. They make our lives more real. What are they? Masculine/feminine, rational/intuitive, liberal/conservative, religion/science, work/play, facts/feelings—these are not separate entities, eternally at odds with one another, as though each were vying for moral superiority or greater socio-economic value. Rather, they are two perspectives, each being, by absolute necessity, separate and distinct from the other.

Trying to blur the lines between masculine and feminine, for example, is like trying to surgically combine two eyes into one. The unique qualities of each are lost in the overlay. But these strengths are also diminished whenever each tries to go it alone without the partnership and respectful cooperation of the other. This is also true in our relationship to ourselves—our own inner masculine and feminine. This is not to say that gender lacks a certain amount of fluidity, just that homogeneity is neither desirable nor helpful.

The reality of the Masculine Ideal and the reality of the Feminine Ideal cannot be realized except in their relationship to each other. It is the relationship that constitutes Oneness, not the erasure of gender differences. Relationship does not mean assimilation—one gender neither devours nor dominates the other.

Similarly, our intuitive abilities are greatly improved when we master concentration. Learning how to direct our attention strengthens our conscious mind, making it easier to think clearly. It also enables us to quiet our thoughts, which then enables us to hear the “still, small voice within.” Each aspect, when fully and independently developed, is better adapted to work with its counterpart. Oneness becomes their offspring.

Where Oneness is needed most today is in our American political scene. Republicans and Democrats are convinced that each other is evil. The mistake is not in their differences of opinions but in identifying with their respective positions. “It’s not that I embrace Liberalism, I AM a liberal.” Such a belief is irrational and turns what should be a perspective into an ideology. The more we identify with a group, the more we become entrenched in its worldview. Pretty soon, it becomes impossible for us to even consider an alternative perspective.

Oneness in politics (as it is in gender) cannot be achieved by blending conservatism and liberalism into a single way of thinking. Oneness can only be achieved through cooperation—each working with the other without either of them betraying their own fundamental platforms. Just as procreation requires two sexes, so does the sustainability of the body politic. One party speaks for the status quo; the other speaks for change. One voice protects the state; the other voice protects the people. Both perspectives are essential.

The world is in a continual state of flux—conditions change rapidly. So our politics also have to change in order to meet each new set of challenges. And to do that, we need the two parties to work together. They don’t have to agree on everything, because that would be inappropriate—they have fundamentally different agendas after all. Because sometimes policies need to be more conservative and sometimes more liberal. Every situation requires a unique blend.

So, the upshot of this is that Oneness and Duality exist together. You can’t really have one without the other. And if you think that duality is something that has to be overcome, you only make Oneness that much harder to realize. Each has its purpose. Oneness is not an escape from duality. Oneness is what we experience when we embrace more than one perspective.

Can you honor the differences between the sexes without insisting that men become more feminine and women more masculine? And can you do that without making one existentially more valuable than the other? And, can you convincingly argue both sides of the current political debate? Can you accept that the other side might love their country every bit as much as you do? Can you acknowledge that both sides of the political spectrum are not only valid but intrinsic to democracy? We speak of balance. We endorse it. But we tend to see ourselves as the ones who are doing all the balancing. It’s the other side who are out of balance, not us. And in that, we are alike.

Look at both sides of…everything. Use both eyes, not just one.

Posted in Lessons | 1 Comment

Prayer As a Remedy for Madness

meditation copy

by Michael Maciel

What is prayer? Is it a wishlist to God? Is it adulation, pleading for mercy, demanding justice, or calling for a lifeline? Sure, at times it’s all of those. But that’s not the kind of prayer that will save you from madness.

The saying “we are spiritual beings” is one of those ideas that when heard makes sense but cannot be articulated. Ask a hundred people what spirit is and you will get as many different answers. The same goes for prayer.

The term “spiritual energy” is equally problematic but for a different reason. What kind of energy are we talking about, electromagnetic? Somehow, that just doesn’t satisfy. It’s too mechanical, too impersonal.

There is a word that comes to mind, one that I hesitate to use, but I cannot think of a better one. It’s the word “vibe.” It contains the concept of energy because it’s short for “vibration.” But it’s unmistakably human. People put out vibes, power lines put out energy. And a vibe is personal — each of us has one that is unique.

Vibes are easy to detect. When we meet someone new, we immediately check out their vibe to see if it’s compatible with ours. If it’s not, it’s like trying to force the wrong ends of two magnets together. But if it is compatible with ours, we connect.

Prayer is vibe management. With our thoughts and words, we change the way we vibrate. But just because “prayer” is a religious term doesn’t make it holy. There is, as we all know, such a thing as a negative vibe. And having a negative vibe is textbook for madness.

Whether it’s your bad vibe or a roomful, the energy can only be destructive. Nothing good can come of it. But a good vibe is like fresh air. It’s uplifting, light, and refreshing. Muscles relax, faces smoothe, and breathing becomes easier. Connection is suddenly possible.

To create a positive vibe, our thoughts and words must be positive. But not positive in the sense of “good,” necessarily, but positive in the sense of definite. Because praying is like shooting an arrow — you have to know what you’re aiming at. And, you must be able to summon the willpower to hit the target. A wavering vibe misses the mark every time.

It’s hard, however, to create a good vibe on your own. It’s far easier to attune with one that already exists. That’s when the concept of “God” comes in real handy. No one really knows what God is. As with Spirit, definitions abound. But everyone pretty much knows in what direction to look. We can’t usually pin it down with words, but we all know how to get in touch with the Universal Vibe. It’s like what Krishnamurti said about the unconscious: “It’s not ‘un.’ You’re just not looking in that direction.”

Sometimes, simply getting in touch with the Universal Vibe is all you need to get calm and recentered. We call that “meditation.” But prayer is different because it begins with being centered and moves out from there. It’s like dancing. When you’re in touch with your center of gravity, anything is possible.

Vibes are like musical notes. You can strike a single key, or you can create a fulsome chord. It’s up to you. What kind of vibe do you want to create? Decide before you begin. Search your memory for the vibe you like best, and then use that memory to recreate it. If that doesn’t work, ask the Universal Vibe to provide it for you. That’s usually the best approach anyway.

But whatever vibe you choose, BE WITH IT. Be confident. Don’t waver. If you fall out of your vibe, do whatever it takes to get back in it. The only failure is the failure to begin again.

If you practice this, anger and confusion will go around you. It will be impossible for you to get carried away by the collective madness. Try it. Be precise with it. Outline a strategy and then act on it. Vibe management is like training a dog. It takes patience, consistency, and a good plan. Once it becomes part of you, you will see the world start to change.

As a Zen master once said, “Begin and continue.”

Posted in Lessons | Leave a comment

Frederick Nietzsche on the loss of myth:


“Yet without myth, all culture loses its healthy and natural creative power: only a horizon surrounded by myths can unify an entire cultural movement. Myth alone rescues all the powers of imagination and the Apolline dream from their aimless wanderings.

“The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, omnipresent and unnoticed, which protect the growth of the young mind and guide man’s interpretation of his life and struggles.

“The state itself has no unwritten laws more powerful than the mythical foundation that guarantees its connection with religion and its growth out of mythical representations.

“Let us now, by way of comparison, imagine abstract man, without the guidance of myth – abstract education, abstract morality, abstract justice, the abstract state; let us imagine the lawless wandering, unchecked by native myth, of the artistic imagination; let us imagine a culture without a secure and sacred primal site, condemned to exhaust every possibility and feed wretchedly on all other cultures—there we have our present age, the product of that Socratism bent on the destruction of myth.

“And here stands man, stripped of myth, eternally starving, in the midst of all the past ages, digging and scrabbling for roots, even if we must dig for them in the most remote antiquities.

“What is indicated by the great historical need of unsatisfied modern culture, clutching about for countless other cultures, with its consuming desire for knowledge, if not the loss of myth, the loss of the mythical home, the mythical womb?

“Let us consider whether the feverish and sinister agitation of this culture is anything other than a starving man’s greedy grasping for food – and who would wish to give further nourishment to a culture such as this, unsatisfied by everything it devours, which transforms the most powerful, wholesome nourishment into ‘history and criticism’?…

“For this is how religions die; the mythic premises of a religion are systematized, beneath the stern and intelligent eyes of an orthodox dogmatism, into a fixed sum of historic events; one begins nervously defending the veracity of myths, at the same time resisting their continuing life and growth. The feeling for myth dies and is replaced by religious claims to foundations in history…

“…Like a human being, a people has value only in so far as it can give its experience the stamp of eternity, for in this way it becomes desecularized, and reveals its unconscious inner conviction of the relativity of time and the true, metaphysical meaning of life.

“The opposite occurs when a people begins to understand itself historically and to shatter the mythical bulwarks that surround it. This generally goes hand in hand with a resolute process of secularization, a break with the unconscious metaphysics of its former existence, and all the ethical consequences that follow that.”

– The Birth of Tragedy, by Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted in Lessons | Leave a comment

Can you ever really know who you are?


by Michael Maciel

There is a spiritual experience called “Self-realization,” a term popularized in the spiritual movement by Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship that brings a person face-to-face, so to speak, with their own being. Call it a “point of emergence” or the “source of one’s light of life.” Whatever term you give it, it is the most real part of you. And when you see it, you can neither deny it nor forget it.

Self-realization is one of the most significant experiences that one can have in a single lifetime. It changes your perspective forever. You can no longer see yourself as a separate, finite individual in a meaningless cosmos. Rather, you are one with it, and that One is intensely and universally personal.

Imagine that you are a river. You know many phases of your existence—the canyons, the valleys, the woodlands—all the places that comprise the sense of who you are. You even know your delta, the place where you intuit that you will meet your “end,” merging back into your source, the great ocean. But then you are shown your headwaters—your source. At first, this is an amazing discovery. It’s like seeing the source of your life’s energy, the place where you begin.

But this isn’t who you are, it’s just another aspect. Who you are is the entire hydrologic cycle—the ocean, the sun, the clouds, the rain—not just the surface water flowing along its banks. You see yourself as part of a larger, more complex system, one that in the final analysis is YOU. The single river, the life-expression you are perceptually attuned to, is just an individualized part of the system as a whole.

So it is with the Solar System. Taken in its entirety, our Solar System is an organic being, like a cell, complete with a nucleus, a membrane, and organelles—the planets. And just as identifying ourselves with the organic substance of our flesh is insufficient to tell us who we are, so is looking at the Solar System as a huge rock collection orbiting a nuclear furnace insufficient to describe the totality of Life. We see only a small slice of the electromagnetic structure of which the planetary bodies are but a part. Nor do we see the underlying intelligence that holds it all together.

The experience of Self-realization is like opening a door to this greater reality. It’s the beginning of the initiatory journey of knowing who we are in terms of the Cosmos—the invisible as well as the visible.

The key to actually experiencing this Great Awakening is faith—the trust that you are capable of having this kind of experience, that it isn’t something separate from your being and therefore unattainable. No. If it’s who you are in reality, then what else is there? What could possibly prevent you from seeing it, from knowing it? All you have to do is look in its direction, which is inward towards the source of the Light of Life as you perceive it.

It takes desire, willpower, and sacrifice, along with a sense of awe and a heartfelt devotion, to reach this breakthrough of awareness. But once you experience it, you will never be the same again.

Posted in Lessons | 2 Comments

What Is the Illumination Event?

by Michael Maciel


The central reality of our existence is the Sun at the center of our Solar System. We are immersed in its life-giving energies, as though we were “in” the Sun and not merely revolving around it at a distance. The Sun is but the visible center of an organic cell — its nucleus — a cell that is over seven billion miles in diameter.

And it’s not so clear whether the Sun’s vitality isn’t due to being part of a larger network of similar cosmic entities, all of which burn with the same intelligence-laden brilliance, an intelligence not of ideas but patterns of organic thought. Their combined light is but the first visible manifestation of an ineffable, indefinable Well of Being, one that contains every possible form of life and life-giving power.

Our bodies are natural tuning forks to this combined celestial Life Wave. Why? Because they were created by it. They are the response of the chaotic cosmic soup of undifferentiated vibrations to a supra-physical formative power. God spoke and the worlds came into being.

As deeply as we may imagine, our structure — including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual — are enervated by this “spoken” impulse — the Word. It is that by which we exist on all the multi-planes and without which we could not exist, not even as a thought.

This “spoken” impulse is the Logos, not a particular person but many persons who have aligned themselves with it to such a degree that they have become vocal-points of its expression. When they speak — whether with their voice, their thought, or their actions — their Word tends to ignite the sleeping, potential spiritual energy of anyone who is capable of receiving it.

But unless receptivity is there, the Word barely makes a dent. The requirement for ignition to occur, apparently, is the willingness to hear, not with the ears as much as with one’s spirit.

Herein lies the necessity for preparation and spiritual development in order for the Illumination Event to occur.

How to prepare for Illumination:

The energies of life are cyclical. We know this because we can watch the ebb and flow of the vitality of our bodies, the rise and fall of our emotional exuberance, and the steady ascendance of our spiritual awareness. Nothing about us is stationary. Change and life seem synonymous — the surest sign of life is movement.

Knowing this fundamental, metaphysical fact of the cycles of life enables us to harness their energies by feeding them during their upswings and withdrawing our attention on their downswings. For example, in the morning when our energies are ramping up, we lift our awareness towards the highest spiritual states we can, while at night before bed, we retrospect the day’s events one-by-one and let go of them. This is working with the cycle, not against it. Similarly, in the beginning of our life, we strive to build constructive habits, while at the close of life, we relax them so that they do not bind us at the moment of death. There are many examples of how we work constructively with cycles.

If you are fortunate enough to have a spiritual teacher, he or she has been trained to monitor the cyclic activity of your spiritual vitality. To the untrained eye, what looks like a temporary depression can actually be the point at which the inner light is in its ascendancy. The outer mind is resisting the impending expansion and so believes that its identity is in jeopardy — hence the depression. Colloquially speaking, this where people “find God at the end of their rope.”

The seeming chaos in the outer is an inverse reflection of the reorganization of one’s inner reality. Conversely, an outer enthusiasm and enhanced physical activity is not always an accurate indication of a person’s readiness to “die on the cross.”

Confidence isn’t always a good thing. In fact, it is more likely to get in the way. This is why discursive means of study are discouraged, while contemplation and devotional readings are encouraged. The teacher may, in fact, work to undermine the student’s confidence so that surrender is made easier.

The sole purpose of mental instruction during the time leading up to the Illumination Event is to loosen the mass-mind beliefs that will prevent the student from letting go at the crucial moment. The proper kind of instruction during this phase is metaphysics — those teachings that contradict the evidence of sensory logic.

One of the best methods for this is teaching students how to get their prayers answered. Nothing blows a hole in the mass-mind wider than a good ‘ole demonstration of the Law of Prayer. When it happens, one’s entire belief system comes crashing down. The worldly mind doesn’t know what to do with the new phenomenon, and in its confusion (sometimes panic) all the doors and windows are left open, providing an excellent opportunity for the astute teacher to upload the most seditious seed-thoughts — seditious, that is, to the student’s mass-mind belief systems.

Much of this is basic psychology — reprogramming the mind so that it resonates better with divine ideas. But more is required than mere resonance. There has to be a deliberate ignition of the spiritual life force within the individual. Only a person trained in this kind of work can do it safely and effectively.

Sometimes, the Illumination event can happen spontaneously but only when the standard prerequisites are fulfilled, however that might happen, whether by design or by circumstance. One person I know experienced the sudden influx of brilliant white light when he was stranded penniless in India. He was starving and destitute, with no way of obtaining help from his family back home in America. It came upon him suddenly in the most unlikely of circumstances, not sitting in lotus position at a guru’s feet.

Others have experienced it as a result of the laying on of hands by a teacher who spoke the Word of Power, commanding the light to enter and fill the student’s body. It can happen in various ways, but the results are always the same — the direct, unmistakable experience of light within one’s body. Whether it happens in that moment or at some point in the future, it happens.

Some experience the Illumination Event in subtler ways. It might not be a profound experience of visible light. It might be an overwhelming feeling. But this can be the result of having experienced the light all throughout their lives and not knowing that it was anything exceptional. Because of its familiarity and their body’s lack of resistance to spiritual energy, their spine doesn’t light up like a Christmas tree. Instead, a sudden feeling of clarity and “lightness” comes over them. But no matter how it happens, their lives are never the same after the experience.

Illumination is real. It IS a distinct experience. When it happens, you will know it, believe me. It does no good to downplay it or to misconstrue it as an insight or greater understanding. When someone says, “I saw the light,” they are usually describing an “aha” moment, not the ignition of the Life Force made visible within their consciousness. That is not an aha moment. It is an event, one that changes you forever.

Posted in Lessons | Leave a comment

Where your treasure is…


by Michael Maciel

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Matthew 6:21
Jesus is telling us that we want what we value.
This is actually a straightforward observation of human nature. Whenever we move towards a goal, whether it’s a career move or a tasty snack, we say—via our actions—that the thing is more valuable than what we have now, that it is preferable to where we are in the present moment.
Jesus was using this basic fact of life to get his listeners to use this primary motivating factor of human nature to orient themselves towards spiritual goals. He knew that nothing in this world could be ultimately satisfying because nothing in this world lasts. If your value structure is based on material well-being, you will be continually disappointed, because conditions always change, and they don’t usually change for the better, given that all constructed things tend to decompose over time.
So, he was advising people to value things that do not change over time, namely the underlying principles of Being itself, which mostly have to do with higher states of consciousness and the beings who live there. He was saying that the real world is not the world that appears but is of a higher order that is motivated primarily by love, not by domination and exploitation, which seems to be what motivates people, mostly, here in this world.
It’s important, therefore, that we choose our values very carefully because they will be the predominant orienting factors in our life. We must have a North Star around which our lives revolve. It’s not enough to say that one value is no better than another, that all truths are merely opinions, and that there are no grand narratives by which we can orient our society in a direction that is both viable and sustainable.
If we abandon such narratives, we will drift, and drifting is no way to conduct oneself or one’s society. As the saying goes, “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Abandoning our cultural narratives—our mythic tales, the ones that represent our highest spiritual ideals—can only lead to disaster, because those stories exemplify the intrinsic value of the individual, and if we abandon that notion, then all we have left is tribalism—the antithesis of civilization.
Jesus’ teachings were not only for the individual but for society as a whole. They pointed to levels of cooperation and harmony that depend on voluntary participation. As such, they are extremely sophisticated in both their scope and their depth. Each person must accept the principle and own it personally. Otherwise, voluntary participation is impossible.
“Without a vision, the people perish.”


Posted in Lessons | Leave a comment

Another Way to Pray


by Michael Maciel

There’s one type of prayer that we don’t talk about very much—creative prayer. I’m not talking about asking God for favors or using prayer as a last-ditch effort to solve a problem, but rather as a way to create a condition that at present is still just an ideal—a dream—one that hasn’t yet materialized in your life.
This is the kind of prayer where you ask God for inspiration so that you can better see what’s possible for you in this life. At the very least, you can ask God for wisdom, to see what you’re doing wrong so that you can make the appropriate course corrections. That’s always a good place to start because it’s easier to stop doing what you know is wrong than it is to identify your ideal. Usually, we don’t know what we want, but we always know what we need to change.
Creative action more often than not requires some form of demolition. We have to dismantle what’s not working in our lives before we can ever hope to know what our true possibilities are. Because, while we’re in the midst of turmoil, the good is impossible to see clearly. This is where creative prayer comes in. We consult with God to find out what to do next. And that almost always entails cleanup work.
We may have dreams that we cling to, even when our lives are in utter chaos. But chances are that as we get rid of the habits, the possessions, and maybe even the relationships that are causing the chaos, our dreams will change. The higher up the mountain of clarity we climb, the farther we can see. As our horizon grows wider, so do our dreams. Creative prayer is the process of climbing that mountain.
Start by asking God what you’re doing that’s causing you problems. What do you need to stop doing? The answer will come immediately. Why? Because you already know what needs to go. But sometimes, you might be mistaken. That’s why you need to ask God. And don’t be surprised when the answer to your question comes as an outer circumstance. If your question is sincere, a day or two later you might get written up by your boss. This might be an indication that you need to find another job. But it could also mean that you need to clean up your act at work. It’s up to you to figure out which one it is.
What’s best for us isn’t always easy to know. It’s far easier to determine what’s bad for us. Once we get that straight, then the good will present itself by default. It will become more and more obvious as we clean up our life.
So, stop doing what you know you shouldn’t be doing. If you’re lying, start telling the truth. If you’re stealing time from your job, start giving back by making efficient use of your time while on the clock. And if you’re being mean to people, go out of your way to do something nice for them. You know what you need to do. Start doing it, and then watch as your horizons expand!
Posted in Lessons | 1 Comment

Notes on the Vow of Service


by Michael Maciel

The word “vow” seems antiquated, doesn’t it? It sounds so monastic, so religious, so restrictive. In my book, The Five Vows, I tried to develop the idea that vows, unlike the negative baggage they’re burdened with, are really more like states of consciousness. Instead of “taking” the vow of service, why not think of it as entering into the consciousness of service?

Entering into the consciousness of something presupposes a couple of things. One, the thing you’re entering into exists somehow independently of you and in some sense outside of you. This idea of an externality doesn’t sit well with most people, because we like to think that all things spiritual already reside within us and all we have to do is realize their presence and let them do their transformative work. But, while that might be technically true, it doesn’t really motivate us to move in that direction, whether inward or outward.

Two, it presupposes that the state of consciousness we’re aspiring to is larger than we are, that it is transcendent to our current state of being. This is very helpful because we all like something good and noble to shoot for, preferably something that is slightly out of our reach. It’s how we’re built—we naturally want to aim high. So, if we think we already have what we’re seeking, we don’t really try very hard. Plus, if we have any ambivalent feelings towards ourselves to begin with (and many people do), then why would we want something that’s part of us, flawed as we are?

No, there are very good reasons why we want to reach up and go for that which is truly greater—in every way—than we are. After all, if we were satisfied with ourselves just the way we are, why would we aspire to anything at all?

Entering into the consciousness of service has broader implications than you might think. Normally, we think of it as doing certain acts, such as volunteer work or giving money to the needy. But there are simpler, more integrative ways to live a life of service. Let’s look at one of them:

The consciousness of service is like a check valve in a pressurized water system. A check valve has a spring-loaded gate that only allows the water in a pipe to flow in one direction. Now, we all know that giving everything of ourselves all the time can’t be good for us, because we have needs, too, right? We have to take care of ourselves while we’re taking care of others, because if we don’t, we will burn out. Then no one is served.

But…WHILE we are giving to others, we want our energy to be a hundred percent giving with no thought of getting something in return. This is actually what Jesus meant when he said, “Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.” The ancient religion of Hinduism was already three thousand years old when Jesus came on the scene, and you can bet that he knew their teachings, including the one that says that the right hand is the hand of giving and the left hand is the hand of receiving. There are mudras (ritual hand gestures) that were well-known in that part of the world in Jesus’ day and they found their way into his teachings, as in “Sit, thou, at my right hand.”

So, the consciousness of service is a pure state of consciousness WHEN you are in the act of serving other people. It is an unconflicted state. There are no misgivings, no doubts on your part. You’re all in, not trying to take something out. The way you can tell if you’re capable of such purity in the act of giving is to observe whether you resist having others give to you. An experiment once showed that when strangers on the sidewalk were randomly offered a five dollar bill, most refused to take it. Why? Who knows. Maybe they were afraid there were strings attached. How many ways are people trying to hand you something of value and you turn them down? It’s worth thinking about.

Here’s the broader sense of entering into the consciousness of service. We all know the feeling of having to get up and go to work at the crack of dawn. It’s not good, not usually. We feel enslaved to our job and we feel crushed by our culture. Conformity, not money, can feel like the root of all evil. We are oppressed by it. People have expectations, and unless we live up to them, at least a little, they will make our lives a living hell.

But that’s what cultures do, isn’t it? They always have, regardless of when or where. What we don’t realize is that while our culture is hammering us into plowshares, it is also supporting us in ways that we inevitably take for granted. Life may be hard, but it is nowhere near as hard as it has been historically for humanity as a whole. Historically speaking, we live better than royalty did just two hundred years ago. By a LONG shot. We live longer, eat better, have more entertainment, more options for education, better health care, AND we have NOVOCAINE! Let us never forget that! It used to be that people tried to get rid of their teeth as soon as possible because they were nothing but a curse. The sooner they were gone, the better.

So, one of the easiest ways we can enter into the consciousness of service is to simply show up. Be a good person. Be a reliable person. Pay your bills. Pay your taxes. Drive safely. Obey the laws. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Be responsible. Contribute to the civility of the society in which you live. Develop a skill and use it to be a productive, contributing member of your culture. It has so much to offer you.

Sure, it may act like a judgmental father, it might feel like it’s watching every move you make, it might even penalize you when you make a mistake, but by and large, it WILL help you survive. And if you go along with its program (the parts that work), it will help you survive quite well, better than you could ever manage on your own out in the wilderness struggling to stay warm while you fend off wild animals.

The consciousness of service can simply be letting go of resisting contributing to your society in ways that make it better. Because when YOU are better, society is better. But when you get pathological—when you start to lie, to cheat, and steal—you not only take yourself down, you take everyone else down with you. Instead, be a good person. Show up. The world depends on it.

Posted in Lessons | 5 Comments