Own It!—the deeper meaning of Thou Shalt Not Covet

excalibur

by Michael Maciel

I was halfway expecting the Ten Commandments to have a rousing finale or at least have an ascending order of punch, like David Letterman’s Top Ten List, saving the best for last. But no. The Decalogue reads more like journalism, putting the most important information up front and then filling in the details, sort of like a Terms of Use Agreement. You read the first two or three lines and then click Accept and move on. Keeping God first (or being true to your highest ideal, whichever way you want to read it) turns out to be THE most important point. Everything else hangs on that, which is as it should be.

So, we’ve cascaded through the Big Ten, finding, more or less, a conspicuous pattern that tells us, from an under-the-hood perspective, how to pray for what we want and get it. This isn’t prayer for the sake of devotion, nor is it full-blown adoration; it is simply the Laws of the Universe and how they avail themselves through the agency of mind. It is God telling us that we are SO loved that we have at our fingertips everything we need to shape our destiny and to do so without incurring the karma of preventing others from doing the same. The Ten Commandments tells us not only how to treat each other but also gives us an instruction manual on how to use the Law of Mind, the Law of Prayer.

And so now we’re at Number 10:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Right away, you can see that we have to update this one somewhat. After all, wives can pray just as well as husbands, and no one (not in my neighborhood, anyway) has indentured servants or livestock. The last enumerated item says it all: or anything that belongs to your neighbor. This was undoubtedly inserted in order to avoid the inevitable “what-abouts” that would surely arise around the campfire or in a court of law. You can just hear the judge saying, “What part of ‘anything’ don’t you understand?”

The keyword, however, can’t be found in the list of what-abouts. Instead, it’s in the word “belongs.” The implication of this word is huge, because it establishes (or at least acknowledges) the principle of private property. This is something that in today’s world we take for granted, so much so that we can hardly imagine life without it. Everything in modern society hinges on it. There’s your stuff and my stuff, and there are strict rules on how they should interact. And obviously, taking my stuff is forbidden, but we’ve already covered that in Thou Shalt Not Steal. So why is it necessary to reiterate it? Because stealing and coveting are two different things—or are they?

To covet means to yearn for or desire. How can yearning for or desiring your stuff make me a thief? Or is it simply a matter of God telling me to create my own happiness and not waste my time longing for someone else’s? Or maybe it’s telling me that happiness doesn’t consist in owning things. That would certainly up the ante, wouldn’t it—make the law about love and fulfillment and not earthly possessions? Or maybe it’s about desirelessness itself, which is pretty much a universal spiritual principle found in all of the world’s major religions—“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

But this would go against the very thesis of the Ten Commandments being a veiled set of instructions on how to get what you want through the Law of Prayer. Doesn’t loving God with all you’ve got really mean focusing on the object of your desire to the exclusion of all else? From a practical standpoint, this certainly makes sense. Everyone knows that without dedication and focus, our dreams cannot materialize. Whether or not you believe that the universe is a creative medium that responds to thought charged with intention, no one can deny that most accomplishments and acquisitions come as a result of sheer focus and determination. Everyone uses the Law of Mind, whether consciously or not.

No, accomplishment and acquisition, while being the result of using the Law of Prayer, are not the means by which these things come about. And perhaps this is the most important instruction of them all. Maybe the author of the Decalogue really did save the best for last, and Thou Shalt Not Covet is the key to the whole thing, the missing piece that ties the rest together. But how? If desirelessness is the ideal, spiritually speaking, why want anything? Why pray for anything? If we’re honest with ourselves, this is the crucial question. Should we lie down in green pastures, or do we build cities?

Let’s ask an artist.

Writer Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” And Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” Vincent van Gogh adds, “The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.” Surely, we are born to create. If we are made in God’s image, then this is why we are here, because God, above all (at least in our minds), is a creator. The creative urge runs through us like a freight train. It is unstoppable. We are always expanding into new areas of possibility, ever seeking to know the full measure of our souls.

Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
–Kahlil Gibran

We create so that we might know ourselves, and, in that knowing, know God—not as an idea but as a living reality. And for something to be alive, it must be creative. It cannot merely repeat the past; that is replication. Crystals replicate, life creates. It creates as a means of self-discovery, because most of what we are is as yet undiscovered. We know of ourselves as we live!

Are you ready for the twist? Saying that we shouldn’t covet our neighbor’s stuff is the surface message, which is fine if all you need are some basic rules to live by. But to drill down, we need to look at it from a different angle. There are two things going on: one, you want something. Two, you think you see it already owned by someone else. Then, either out of laziness or the belief that your item is in limited supply, you fixate on the one you can see with your physical eyes instead of creating it within yourself. In a sense, you’re stealing someone else’s vision. This subverts the entire creative process, because the thing you’re coveting is just a thing. You haven’t invested any of yourself into it. Whenever we envision something that we want to manifest in our lives, it comes through us, not somebody else. Someone might give it to you, but that’s different from you taking it. How can you own something you didn’t “pay” for?

When something belongs to you, it’s because you own it. But how can you own something that hasn’t manifested yet? Well, it has manifested—in your imagination. You’ve heard the saying: “Own it!” A vision is just a figment of your imagination until you make it yours, until you make it, in a very real sense, God. Your God. For you, your vision is the face of God, the channel through which all good things will come to you. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. And just as a mystic sees God in everything, your world must be filled with your vision. Your vision must be more real than the world itself. Everything you do must be oriented towards your vision. This is how the great people throughout history have turned their visions into reality.

I know, it’s hard making a good parking spot your “vision.” But you have to start somewhere, right? Besides, finding good parking is what your body needs; finding your heart’s desire is what your soul needs. Get good at one, and you’ll get better at the other. The more you work with the Law of Prayer, the more you will be praying. And that, by definition, is putting God first in all things.

There’s a distinctive feeling in owning something, especially in the sense that you are taking responsibility for it. Kings and queens, and other people in positions of authority, are able to command others in direct proportion to how much they own their authority. They have authority because they are the authority. There comes a point in your relationship with the Law of Mind, the Law of Prayer, where you no longer ask for what you want—you command that it be done. This is not usurping God’s power. It’s owning the fact that God will give you whatever you want. And it’s owning it in your bones! You cannot operate with perfect expectation unless you fully accept this fact as the bedrock of your reality.

There comes a point in every professional artist’s career when she or he achieves the perfect expectation of perfection. It happens because they speak it into being. They speak it with their whole body, their whole mind, and their whole soul. And then it happens. It happens because they said it would happen, not because they got lucky or because God “favored” them. God has no favorites. In this, we all stand equally before God. God loves everyone the same, because we all have equal access to the Law of Mind.

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