Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
In his message on Passionate Selfhood, Michael Puharich was saying that, as we are each totally and fully who we are, we find our oneness with all of being. Michael also raised the question as to whether we would find out that we are in conflict as we are totally ourselves. If all the people of the world were really being themselves fully, wouldn’t there be conflict? There certainly is conflict among people today—that’s easy enough to see with armed conflicts around the world and other kinds of conflicts in our personal world.
It is my belief that as people are being totally themselves there is harmony. As people are on the way to that experience, as people are in a process of personal transformation and emergence, there are bumps in their relationships. But if we are totally and fully and transparently ourselves, what we find out is that we fit totally. We find that we are part of one reality.
So how do we come to experience that one reality? We cannot know our oneness in its fullness without being fully ourselves. We don’t find either our own fulfillment or the fulfillment of our world drifting through some kind of rarefied state, where we have the blinding realization that we’re all one. And I don’t believe we get to live in that place of feeling or experiencing that we are one without the great necessity of being ourselves.
There is a process to go through, which is a process of the emergence of self. The experience of being fully who we are isn’t given over without us doing something about it. It isn’t given to anyone. In some ways, a person has to fight for it. We were considering the life of Martin Luther King. He gave that very inspiring speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, in which he shared his dream of a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” for all people. But for that to be real, he did have to fight for it, and so did others. Throughout history there have been those who gave their lives to fulfill the dream of being one people under God. The Judeo-Christian tradition began with the Hebrews battling to claim a land in which they could be one people, worshipping one God. They didn’t just wade through the River Jordan and waltz into the Promised Land, filled with milk and honey, and have it given to them. Even though we might judge that they should have done it a different way, they had to fight for it. Their leader, Moses, had to confront the Egyptian pharaoh. Joshua and Saul and King David had to lead them in battle to claim the land of Canaan for their people.
Abraham Lincoln led the northern states of this country into a devastating civil war to preserve the unity, the oneness, of America. As he put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I can only imagine how he must have agonized over the decision to enter into that war, and over the conduct of the war itself.
However we might judge our human history, it brings us a symbol for what is required if we are to truly know ourselves and, with that, know our oneness with all being. There are issues to be confronted in life and faced, and something that has to be won. We have to fight for our unique selfhood and the unique gift that we have to give. If we are willing to fight that fight, we have the opportunity to know the hidden reality of all things.
Some have examined the confrontational nature of Western history and culture with a critical eye and turned to Eastern religion for a more peaceful approach. I question whether there is less confrontation in Asia than in the West. Certainly there has been violence in Asian culture as well as in the Western world. And if a person goes to the depth of what is offered through Hinduism, they find the very same message being conveyed at the root of the Judeo-Christian culture: we must fight for the experience of who we are. We must fight if we are to know the oneness of all being.
Reading the Bhagavad-Gita, you can find surprising parallels with the story of Moses and the children of Israel. Just as the Lord commands Moses to confront Pharaoh in Egypt, Krishna urges Arjuna to join the battle that is taking place on the plain of life. Only then does Krishna share the experience of the oneness of all being with Arjuna.
There is something to be won in the battle. In more ancient times, it may have been a literal battle. I don’t believe that we are asked to battle in the same way, and yet there is something to be won. Ultimately, it is ourselves and our world. The experience of the true nature of being is not given to you or to me easily. It takes something from us. In fact, it doesn’t just take something—it takes everything. You don’t get to be yourself fully on earth without giving everything. No halfway measure will do, unless you’re satisfied in being half of yourself.
That is the compelling message of the First Great Commandment: Love the Lord thy God with all. It would be too easy if the Lord we are being asked to love was some far-distant character that we could praise and honor from afar off. That would be a religion. But that commandment was not brought by someone who was interested merely in starting a religion. Those words describe what is required for anybody if they want to be fully themselves. It takes all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Sometimes when people are faced with more being asked of them, they think, “I can’t work any harder.” Hard work is part of a spiritual path, but I can tell you, you could not work hard enough to be yourself. Some of us have given a good try at that one. The “all” that is called for from us is much more than that.
One of the aspects of the “all” with which we are asked to love relates to every hidden part of our feeling realm, whatever may be lurking where you won’t look—every hidden shame, every hidden talent, every hidden capacity. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all of it. That’s the battle. That’s the fight.
Every time that you are tempted to project the “more” that is being called for from you onto your circumstance or other people, believing that they should do more, that they should change, know that the battle is won because we say, “I will love the Lord my God with all. I will own my responsibility, and I will not off-load it onto anybody else or anything else. I will not ask my world to do what I won’t do. I will not ask another person to do what I will not do.” It is in that attitude that the battle is won.
Keith Anderson was speaking recently of this conscious planet in which we live. I believe this is the crux issue for humanity. Is this or is this not a living planet? Will we treat this planet like it’s just stuff, just matter and energy? Will we treat other people that way? And ultimately, will we treat ourselves that way? Because you really can’t treat the planet as a thing without treating yourself that way. This is a living and conscious planet. And how do we know that this is a living and conscious planet? By being alive and conscious people. By giving all of who we are to being ourselves.
What we wake up to, as we are fully ourselves, is that the self who we are is not an isolated consciousness. Am I just the self for this body? Where does my selfhood start and stop? Consciousness isn’t just for ourselves. The consciousness that we hold is for our world. It’s for our world, and it’s of our world. In truth, we are the world, and much more, being conscious of who it is.
The nature of the battle is to realize that we are selfhood at the center of that world, creating that world, and not the other way around. Our consciousness isn’t just a reflection of all these things that are impacting it. We are the crowning creation for that world, and the crowning creation isn’t just, as one author put it, a naked ape. The crowning creation is consciousness. It is conscious awareness. Our world and the consciousness of it come to focus in us, in who we are.
But to fufill that experience, it’s not good enough just to think about it. To fulfill the experience of being the crowning creation is a hard-won reality for anybody. And ultimately, the experience is not just an individual one. It is a collective experience. But for that to have any meaning, it has to be an individual experience. I don’t believe in mass collective awakenings without individual pioneering. A collective spiritual awakening is only a dream until there is individual pioneering that makes it real. Do you think that spiritual awakening will just wash over us? I hope that we do our work, each of us; and because we do our work and we fight our battle, it will wash over other people. Isn’t that what you hope for yourself, that because you do your work, it will wash over other people? Not because you or I off-load our work to other people and ask that other people, or the world, make us happy.
The pioneering is in challenging our own thinking, just as Moses challenged Pharaoh; setting our thoughts free just as Moses demanded that Pharaoh let his people go; and dispelling the familiar negative thoughts and feelings, just as Krishna urged Arjuna to have the courage to battle his relatives. Our pioneering is the exercise of the freedom and liberty to fulfill our destiny, just as Martin Luther King called for the freedom and liberty of a nation. It is taking a stand for being a person who is whole and united in what their life is about, honoring Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
We have the opportunity to realize the power that is put in our hands, and not just in our hands but in our minds and hearts, to allow true selfhood, true conscious awareness, to be present. That is the ultimate coin of the realm—not money or any other kind of worldly substance. The true coin of the realm is selfhood and the truth of it.
So in the truest sense, let us battle. I wanted to say “together.” We get to find the “together” part when we fight our battle, when we do our work. Yes, we’re together with others, but the biggest gift that’s given to each of us is the work that we have to do as an individual.
Jesus said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” (John 4:32) That, for him, was his work, his reclamation project, at which he succeeded brilliantly, for himself. It was his battle, even as he confronted Satan in the desert. The meat that we have to eat is our reclamation project, and if we do that work, we find we have inner resource, immeasurable. It’s a big piece of work, but there’s an even bigger resource that we have with which to do it.
So it is good to claim our own immeasurable inner resource. It’s more than what’s needed. I’m proud to stand with people who do their work, who take responsibility for being fully themselves. To me, that is a very high standard, not to be passed off in a casual way by saying, in essence, “Oh, this is just what I’m like—get used to it.” To be truly ourselves is the highest standard I know of.
Lastly, I want to wish our new President, Barack Obama, well. I’m sure we all do, whatever our political persuasion may be. Blessings to him and to his administration, and all his economic experts. I hope they come up with some good ideas. I wish them well, and all the others who are serving with him.
And I don’t believe they will do what needs to be done for us. The best-case scenario is that they will do what is theirs to do, with our blessing. But I believe that for my world to be whole, I have to do my work. It is in my hands, and I believe for you it’s in yours. That is true for every person. It is in your hands. Otherwise you are hoping for somebody else to do something, or for the government to do something, and we will ultimately be disappointed by that.
The greatest work is in our hands. Our freedom to be ourselves is in our hands.