Here is a letter from a 6-year-old, Alex, who wrote to President Obama:
Dear President Obama,
Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him [to my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street, and we will be waiting for him with flags, flowers and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties, and he will teach us another language. We will teach him English, too, just like my friend, Aoto, from Japan.
Please tell him that his brother will be Alex, who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys, Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny with him. And I will share my bike with him and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine’s lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn’t let anyone touch it.
Thank you very much! I can’t wait for you to come!
What a beautiful spirit of inclusiveness from this young boy, so relevant to our times. It is the spirit of home that is natural for all people to know and to share.
The spirit of home comes from an awareness of something unseen. A physical home can be part of the experience. But the desire for home is more than the desire for shelter. And shelter alone doesn’t fulfill the desire. The desire to know the spirit of home is fulfilled when that spirit is embraced and shared.
The religions of the world have made reference to the awareness of the invisible reality of the spirit of home. In English, the word heaven names that reality. There are similar words from cultures around the world that name the unmanifest dimensions of home. Unfortunately, in many cases, religion has added layers of rigid belief and story that have obliterated the intuitive sense of connection with the spiritual home that is innate to all people.
This brings me to the heart of what I want to address in this reading. It is something that is individual and personal to anyone. At the same time, it is at the heart of the experience of humankind as a whole and the crisis we face.
There are two big, critical ideas and associated experiences I am addressing. Sometimes these ideas tend to be dismissed as being religious, superstitious or fantastic. Indeed, religions around the world have claimed these ideas and experiences as their own and turned them into something they are not. But no religion owns the primal experience of spirituality that is natural to anyone.
The first of these ideas and experiences is heaven. The idea is an enduring image in religious beliefs and stories through the ages, from the myths of the gods of Mount Olympus, to Asgard in Norse mythology. In Islam it may be a paradise where 72 virgins await the believing man upon death. The idea appears through Asian culture in the worship of Shangdi (heaven) in China prior to Taoism or Confucianism, and in Hinduism it appears as Vaikuntha, the celestial home of Vishnu.
Could a story about the gods of Mount Olympus assist a person to touch the reality of heaven, which is the reality of the spiritual home in their own experience? I imagine that it could for some of the ancient Greeks. For me as a boy, it certainly did. It conjured an experience of magical power and of a reality that transcends everyday experience. But a story about heaven can also short circuit the actual experience.
Heaven is the spiritual home within which life occurs. It is the womb of Creation—an ineffable quality that makes a house a home. It is a spiritual state which, when known by an individual, allows their own life to flourish.
The knowing of heaven brings an experience of the holiness of life. When that experience is present in the awareness of a person, their consciousness becomes a spiritual home for all the people and all of Creation that inhabit their thoughts. Consciousness becomes a way to surround the world of the person with spiritual home. Consciousness is a womb, where things can be held safe, and because of the way they are held, they can grow; people grow, gardens grow, projects grow, when they are held within the consciousness of a person who knows the spiritual home.
New realities are conceived in this womb space. We speak of conceiving of something in the mind for a reason. Consciousness is a place of conception for things to be born in the flesh on earth.
The very idea of heaven is of something that is beyond the immediate realm of perception of the mind through the physical senses. You can’t visit Asgard or Mount Olympus, and you can’t visit heaven physically. So many of the stories and beliefs about heaven treat it as if it is a physical reality from out of the past or in the future. For instance:
Adam and Eve lived in paradise (in the past).
If you are good in your life on earth, you will go to heaven when you die (in the future).
Religion so often presents an idea of heaven in which it is characterized as essentially a better version of the physical world in which we live, except placed in the past or future. That idea is then substituted for the real experience of heaven now. The idea, and then a religious practice around the idea, becomes worshipped as if it were the thing itself. So people have a belief about a God who lives in heaven who might let them enter that heaven when they die if they function in certain ways now. And then they adopt religious practices, like going to church and prayer, around those beliefs.
Typically, there is a version of this going on in religions around the world. The problem is that this process substitutes religious belief and practice for the knowing of a reality. Then people argue that their belief and practice is true, while no one else’s is.
Of course, in contemporary culture around the world, people are rejecting religious and spiritual teachings for exactly this reason. The beliefs and practices being espoused often disconnect a person from their own innate spirituality instead of connecting them to it, so religion and spirituality are rejected. For far too many, this rejection ends up being a rejection not only of the religious beliefs and practices but of a coherent, conscious awareness of the spiritual home—the heaven that should be available to all people.
Heaven is, very simply, part of a reality that you cannot see. You can’t see it with your eyes alone, and you can’t hear it with your ears alone. You can hear its reverberation. You can see its reflection in form all around you. We go someplace and we say it is heavenly. So the forms that we do see can be filled with heaven if we have another capacity of sight beyond the physical. The forms of life all around can reverberate with heaven, and we are connected to that reality.
Is it so fantastic to think that there is a reality that exists at a vibrational level that is beyond the perception of our physical senses? After all, we can only see and hear things within certain wavelengths. To us, a reality that is beyond that range is formless.
That higher range of reality contains potentiality and meaning that infuses the realm in which we live. We touch that higher realm with consciousness—with thought and feeling. When we do, we see possibilities for our life we didn’t see before. We have a knowing of the significance of what is in our life in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
While we think of that higher realm as formless, it apparently has a rhythm and shape of its own. When a musician is really tuned in, they are feeling that rhythm. When an artist is inspired to create a beautiful painting, they are not only inspired by the external form of a landscape or a person, but by the shape, texture and color of something they are perceiving in the unseen.
All of this tells us that heaven is real. It’s not real in the sense that physical objects are real. Yet it is substantial in its own way, and meaningful to us in the living of our life when we tune in to it and give it expression. And if you don’t tune in to heaven—if you are just tuning in to what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell—you are miserable and ignorant.
The substantiality of the heaven carries the intelligent rhythm and shape for our lives. On a larger scale, for the planet as a whole, it carries the intelligent rhythm and shape for the world in which we live. Any problem here, do you think? This is where the significance of our relationship to the idea and experience of heaven becomes monumentally apparent. What we are seeing on the world scene in the issues we face as humankind is a reflection of the disruption in our innate relationship to the reality of heaven. We are witnessing a great disruption in the unfoldment of Creation all around us. How else could we explain things like the decimation of species, global warming, terrorism and nuclear war? These are just the most obvious global evidence that we have disconnected from invisible dimensions of reality, from which the intelligence of the universe is unfolding. So it is not unfolding through us. Our native attunement with the pattern of Creation has gone amiss. Something is broken in consciousness.
Let me give my apology to the religions of the world. I’m sorry if this consideration of heaven offends you. I’m sorry if I am talking about heaven in a way that isn’t in terms of your own sense of morality or ethics, or based in your own ideas about spirituality. I’m sorry if this is offensive to you. But there’s too much at stake not to address what religion has done to our relationship with heaven. There is too much at stake to tiptoe around an area of our lives that the religions of the world have claimed authority over.
For me, I am taking back my spirituality. How about you? It’s too important to be given to the religions of the world, or even to the so-called spirituality of the world. I’m taking back my spirituality. I am retrieving it from all moribund ideas, beliefs and practices promoted by religion. We as humanity have to do that. We are not free people if we don’t own our spirituality. And as far as I can tell, this fundamental idea and experience—heaven—is too important to be conceded to the religions of the world. If somebody else wants to believe a story about Jesus Christ, believing that this alone will make them experience heaven after they die, as if nothing else matters, let them believe it. If someone wants to believe that there are 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven, let them believe it. It’s not what I believe.
I say that the reality of anything, including any spiritual reality, is larger than our beliefs about it. The reality of heaven is vastly greater than any idea about that reality. The reality of Jesus is larger than any idea or belief about Jesus. We have the opportunity to have a direct relationship with those realities. Our ideas and beliefs either assist in this connection or they become an opaque veil that disconnects us.
Heaven is present here and now. The pattern of Creation is present, and it’s vital that you and I tune in to it and make it real in our lives, and receive it accurately. It is not enough to have some foggy notion of a heaven somewhere. What we speak of as heaven contains the pattern of Creation. We have the potential, as human beings, to bring a clear, intelligent expression and embodiment of that pattern.
It is not enough to tune in occasionally, to get a distorted interpretation of the pattern of Creation, or some kind of wild interpretation of what it might be. That is the approach that has created atom bombs, acid rain and excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The real pattern of Creation translated clearly and directly into human experience—that’s what we need apparently. Accurately, for real, for what it is, unless you think this is all hooey and there is no pattern of Creation, and it doesn’t matter that we are in tune with how things work on this planet. How we experience heaven now matters.
I look forward to sharing Monumentally Big Idea #2 next week.