Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
We have a choice in how we view the unfoldment of our life. Whether we think about it very consciously or whether it’s something that’s just present in the background of our feeling and mood and attitude, we may take one of two views about the life we live. The first one is that there has been some mistake, perhaps colossal, and we’ll make the best of it. There is something wrong someplace—something wrong in the world, something wrong in me, something wrong in my parents, my society, or something wrong historically. There’s just something wrong, and I will have to make the best of it.
As we begin this new year, I invite you to think about whether you may have adopted this view. I am certainly thinking about it for myself. Are there events that you believe to have been a grand mistake, or failure, and which create a premise for your life that assumes that no matter how much you may try to elevate yourself you will be pulled back to that reality? This kind of thinking is very deeply ingrained in human experience. Religiously speaking, Christians go back to their ideas about original sin. But it isn’t just in the area of Christian belief that people feel futility about their life, due to past mistakes or failures—real or imagined.
For those of us who are associated with the Emissary program, we may believe that there are mistakes that have been made in our context. Undoubtedly there have been—you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. And I would say that’s probably true wherever people gather. But whatever mistakes have been made and whatever failures there have been, however tragic they might be, there is an alternative in terms of how I will live my life, how you will live yours, and what we will do with each other or with anyone who cares to join us. That alternative is found in the acknowledgment and celebration of the wonderful victory of what has gone before us.
We sometimes say that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. If we try to stand on the shoulders of failure, we will find that we’re standing on a crumbling foundation. Failure and mistake are not a very good premise for a life. The belief in that is not a good starting point for anything. And yet, if we’re honest, if we look around at our world and how it functions, and if we pay close attention to the conversations around us, how much of what we observe carries the premise of failure. So often the attitude is “We failed. Now what are we going to do?” Or, more likely, “They failed.”
Every once in a while somebody comes along who has a different premise. That is what has been so uplifting about Barack Obama. He has talked about the audacity of hope—the audacity to say that past failure will not be the starting point for my life.
Many people say that the practice of gratitude is an important spiritual practice. I want to be specific about gratitude for what comes to us out of the past. Seen through the eyes of a pure heart, the gifts we receive from the past are remarkable. Speaking personally, there have been people in my life, and before my lifetime, who have done remarkable things and expressed a remarkable quality of spirit that has inspired and uplifted and built. While I could probably find flaws in any of the people who have gone before me, if I wanted to, I’ve come to see that as a mostly worthless endeavor. What I do see is the victory of those who have gone before me. I can build on that. The only value to seeing the mistakes and failures of those who have gone before us is to look at them long enough to set them aside, because they are useless as starting points for my life now, or yours.
How about you? Whoever you might think of, whether it be your parents or ancestors, past leaders of whatever kind, or anyone else, it is easy to play the human game of seeing the flaws of those people. But did you ever have the suspicion that in running down those who have gone before you, you are undermining yourself in the process? There was something built, or we would not be here.
There has been something of great value brought by those who have gone before us. Many of us have just celebrated Christmas. Here is a remembering of a man who came on earth and brought something remarkable—a spirit that changed the world. But he’s not the only one. There are those who have walked this earth before us, on whose shoulders we stand.
If we will receive it, we have the strong support of all that has been accomplished before we ever appeared on the scene. But the foundation for our life and our work does not only come from out of the past. How aware are we of what is present at unseen levels of our experience now?
I’ve been thinking about the word invocation. Invocation invites the conscious awareness of those unseen levels. It is remarkable to me that in any given moment it can seem as though all our high awareness of spiritual reality has disappeared. Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel that way? Or catch yourself in a moment of your day and wonder where your tranquility, your inspiration, or your openness has gone? For almost everyone there are moments at least, and perhaps much longer periods of time, when they lose their awareness of spiritual presence.
Spiritual presence comes into our own awareness simply because we invoke it; because we make space for it and we welcome it. How is that for us? Have we found the reliability of divine presence and found that it’s always there when we open ourselves to it?
The drumming by Keith Hancock earlier and Joyce Karchere’s chant were a kind of invocation. Where there is an opening of the heart to the Unseen in whatever way, we hear the voice that speaks with us, represented this morning through the reading we shared. It speaks with us, and not only with us but through us.
Some of you know that I am a song writer. In the cycle of writing songs, there’s such delight when they’re originally heard. It’s almost as if the song was there all along, up in heaven someplace; and I just stumbled across it, and it just poured down through my heart and mind. And I think to myself, “Oh, how beautiful you are!” The essence of that song ripens in my heart and mind until I see it in all its beauty, as if it was already created, not by me but in some high heaven someplace.
There comes a day when I go back to that song and pick out the notes, and it has lost its magic for me. Do you know what I think then? It’s no longer for me. This song is not ultimately for my enjoyment—this song is to be shared with other people. I get to delight in seeing another person enjoy it, and the song is then no longer for me.
I think that’s how spiritual things are. If we try to keep them for ourselves, there comes a time when we can no longer enjoy them, because the gift that you were perceiving wasn’t just for you. It was for you to give to the world.
The understanding of this is the hallmark of spiritual adulthood. In our spiritual childhood we are looking to be fed—initially probably by other people who bring the opportunity for something spiritual into our life, and perhaps from the Invisible itself. The hallmark of spiritual adulthood is gratitude for what we have been given, both from out of the past and what we are constantly given from the Unseen. It is an awareness of the wealth of all that. Living in the awareness of that wealth, we understand the gift that we have to give. I don’t see how a person could give that gift, standing on the crumbling shoulders of the perceived failure of their past.
Could this be a year when we uncover those heretofore hidden attitudes that have prevented us from seeing and appreciating what is provided for us, and repent for our lack of gratitude? As we do that, the world looks different. We experience ourselves as being held by the greatness of what’s in the unseen heaven, standing on the foundation created by those who have gone before. If you meet a person who knows these things, you will see something special about them. You will see the radiance and the well-being of that heaven shining in them, because such a person knows that whatever is happening, whatever is difficult, whatever seems to be challenging them, there is a greater reality holding them in blessing and in wisdom and in strength.
Let this be a year when we acknowledge that our life and our service are being held by the Unseen. We have our part to play in letting the Unseen live here and now with us. Our part takes some courage and forthrightness, but mostly it takes the reception by us, the openness by us to what’s already present, and action on what is given to us from the Invisible. Is that demeaning? I don’t think so. I know it leaves me with room for all kinds of creativity. But I say that the highest form of creativity is like taking that song that is as if it’s already been written, taking what’s already being held by cosmic factors that are way beyond you and me, and letting those factors light up our humanity and shine through our thoughts and feelings and our actions, to let something spectacular be created at this level of things.
I say that this is exactly what Jesus did. There was a man, there was a human being, and there was a spirit that was lighting up that human being. He demonstrated exactly the kind of gratitude I’m speaking of today—an appreciation for what had gone before and an appreciation for what was being held for him in the Invisible. He let himself be held in that, and acted out of that. Because he did, we call him the Master. He wasn’t the Master because he was figuring it all out and doing it out of his human strength. He was the Master because of his total appreciation for how he was being held.
This year, we will be speaking about the creative field that we have to hold on earth. We will be speaking about what we have to do to hold the context for the transformation of human consciousness, seeing human consciousness as the most crucial factor on earth. As we hold that context, I will be keeping closely in heart and mind the fact that the creative field that we hold on earth is already being held in the heaven. We have our part to play. I think of it like a long line of dominoes that are toppling over. It starts who knows where, and we’re like that last domino. All that is ours to do is that one little thing that we have to do on earth to let it be done, to let it come all the way through at this human level of things in this world—just that one thing that is ours to do. And if that takes courage and stamina from us, so be it. But it is just that one little thing that allows all that’s in the heaven to be fulfilled on earth, if we will just but do that one thing that is ours to do, to allow all that’s come before to be fulfilled. We are here to bring fulfillment in that sense—fulfillment and completion. And we can do that. If it is done with an acknowledgment and appreciation and openness to all that’s in the heaven, it will carry remarkable power.