Fresh Thinking, Inspiration, and Vision on the Process of Spiritual Transformation
Here is a question that is part of the Transformational Interview we offer on our Web site: “Can you love yourself while this is happening?” It is a profound question, because all real self-control and all peace stem from love. While we have to think about what kind of order we need to bring to our lives, ultimately, mental effort alone isn’t going to bring order or self-control. I think it’s likely that, at some point or other in our lives, everybody in this room has come to that realization.
In releasing to love, there is often the thought that I don’t know how all this is going to work out, I don’t know how all this should be, but I know that I have no choice and no way through, other than to open up to love. I think that’s what this question is really inviting. So no matter what your judgments are of yourself or other people or of a circumstance, can you love yourself? Can you love your world while this is happening, and the people in it? Because it is from that place of love in expression through a person that everything that is creative follows. Love is the central quality of the spiritual experience.
There are thirty-nine other questions in the Transformational Interview, so this question regarding our capacity to love is not the only one on the table, but it is a vital one. It addresses the central role that our spiritual experience plays in our life.
I’ve been meditating on three qualities that are born out of love: wisdom, blessing and power. There are cheaper versions of those three qualities. So what is the cheaper version of wisdom? It’s being smart or clever, or even manipulative. That’s where the human mind goes without love. And a person can begin to believe that they could figure things out and bring control to a situation, or even to themselves, apart from spiritual expression. Some people are more successful at that for a given period of time, but it doesn’t last too long with anybody. Most of us have been brought to our knees at some point in our lives, when we realized that our own cleverness wasn’t going to carry us through, that we did not have the ability, in and of ourselves, to bring dominion to our world, the people in it, or even to ourselves.
As it is said in Twelve Step programs, “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”That may seem to be an acknowledgment that’s unique to someone who finds him- or herself in an addictive pattern of substance abuse, but it’s actually true of anyone. If we have come to a point in our lives when we have faced this recognition, it’s good to keep remembering. Our own capacity to love saves us.
What is the cheaper version of blessing? It is pandering to people, trying to make people happy on some kind of self-centered or self-rewarding basis. It is trying to be nice to people. Where that doesn’t have the backing of love, it doesn’t go very far. It is a manipulative effort, and it isn’t genuine. Ultimately, it isn’t blessing really.
How about the power of love? It’s obviously needed in our own experience and in our world. I believe we’re here to be powerful people, to move the world, to re-create the world, to hold the world. True power is inherited by us easily and naturally when we are coming from love. We inherit the power to re-create our lives and re-create the world, and to offer that opportunity to other people. We’ve probably all known times in our lives when we felt powerful, when we knew we were powerful. If you try to grasp that power very tightly, you’ll find it goes away. But I suspect there have been times for all of us when we found ourselves coming from the place of love and knowing that we were powerful people. We are made to be powerful people. The cheap version of that is to be pushy and aggressive. And the absence of the power of love leaves a person weak and feeble, and maybe even self-pitying.
When we open ourselves spiritually, what we are opening up is the expression of love, and love expresses as wisdom and blessing and power. And love is preeminent and must be preeminent in anyone’s experience if they are to live a creative and fulfilled life. It is quite possible for a person to forget that and to believe that the cheaper versions of those qualities are what should prevail, and to somehow grab hold of the steering wheel of one’s life from love and decide that I, as an isolated individual, should take control of this and make it happen.
It seems to be a tricky business to live a creative life, because it is true that there is something for us to do. We’re supposed to be thinking people, people with initiative, and people who can extend care. But when those qualities overtake the preeminence of love, the whole experience begins to go down the tubes for a person. It leads no place for anyone, and with most of humanity living life on this basis, it certainly leads no place for humanity as a whole.
This gets to something that is central for anyone; namely, a person’s worship experience and, with that, the worship relationship. There have been elements of deceit in this area by the religions of the world. Priesthoods of various kinds over the millennia have invited people into the worship relationship, which should be an experience of connection and ultimately oneness with the divine; and instead of being an open door to that experience, the priesthoods of the world have often been a closed door.
Jesus had something to say about that to the priesthoods of his day:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
That kind of behavior on the part of religious clergy has gone on for millennia, and there’s been a pretense on the part of the priesthood of inviting people into an experience of the divine, when in fact that wasn’t what ultimately happened in the experience of the participant. What was being invited was an experience of servitude, either to the priesthood itself or to the worldly kingdoms of the day. So, with that history, we’re in an age where the religions of the world are rejected by many, and you might say, understandably so.
So where does that leave any of us, in terms of the responsibility we take for our own worship experience? Do we just reject all religious symbolism and all spiritual teaching? Do we decide we’re going to go on with our life in an essentially secular way that denies our own experience of the sacred? Or is it possible that we are being thrown back on our own resources, each one of us, to develop our own worship relationship and experience that for ourselves?
I was thinking about the basic proposition of Emissaries of Divine Light, and I would put it to you this way: You could live your whole life from a spiritual standpoint. You could live your life spiritually, so that in everything that you do, the preeminent element is spiritual. I propose to you that the art of living is exactly that—it is the art of finding out how to let spirit be present in everything you do. It is the discovery that everything is spiritual, and that if you act spiritually in every situation, you bring wisdom and blessing and power. We invite people to consider that a spiritual approach might work in everything. It works in your family life, in your romantic life, your business life, your community life, my music life—everything. You could do it all spiritually. You could allow love to express in everything. That is the proposition that Emissaries of Divine Light put before the world.
I know that, for me, and I believe for most everybody, for that to be the experience, there have to be intensified experiences of worship. So if you are going to reject the priesthoods of the world, how are you going to have that intensified experience of worship? What will you do? If you don’t want to buy what the religions of the world are selling, if you don’t want to use the word G-o-d, if you don’t want to kneel in front of an altar, you don’t want to read the Bible, or whatever it is, what do you want to do? How will you allow yourself to have an intensified experience of communion with the unseen reality of being?
I believe that every person has responsibility for that experience for themselves. One person may assist another. That’s what a true priest or priestess does: assists another to intensify their own experience of worship, so that there is an open door for them. A true priest opens a door. In the context of Emissaries of Divine Light, we call that true priest a server. A true server assists the person to open a door to their own sacred experience. But still, it is ultimately our responsibility, every one of us, to cultivate that experience for ourselves, however we do it.
The same thing is involved in those intensified experiences of worship as is involved in our everyday life. In our everyday life, there are forms that are opportunities to experience the sacred. There are circumstances and people and things happening. What is happening spiritually in our everyday life is happening relative to our own form and the forms around us. So likewise, in the worship experience, it is impossible to have that experience while ignoring form. How would you do that? Aside from everything else, you are in your body. You’ve got that form to start with. There is something happening in the body that is a key part of the experience. There may be other forms that are part of the worship experience. Perhaps there are some other bodies around. There could be symbolic forms that are used; there could be physical experiences that are part of the worship experience. Singing, chanting, speaking and walking are all physical activities that can be part of the worship experience. A special place, an altar in a home or in a church, a sanctuary, a place in the woods, can all play their parts in the intensified experience of worship.
In this sense, worship is like the sexual experience, which can be an experience of worship itself. I don’t know too many people who would be content to have a formless sexual experience. The physical form plays a part in that worship experience. And if there isn’t worship happening in the sexual experience, it gets old quickly.
So the forms of our life have a part to play in worship. In many religious or spiritual messages that I hear, there is an invitation to abandon any hope of living a fulfilled life on earth and the aspiration to live in some heavenly realm of experience that is beyond the realm in which we live. But it is a false priesthood that dismisses the human form and the forms of a human life. Such an approach closes the door to spiritual experience, instead of opening it, regardless of the promises that are made. It seems so enticing, so wonderful, this idea that you’re going to escape from the world of form, this vale of tears and all that goes with it, and reach something “spiritual” someplace else. It is a subtle seduction that leads absolutely no place in the end, however it is presented.
Anything that’s available in the highest heaven, in the most rarified ranges of spiritual experience, is available here and now. What’s here and now isn’t available up there, in the highest levels of vibration—it doesn’t work the other way around. Everything is available in this realm in which we live. It all comes to focus relative to the world in which we live. That challenges much of what’s presented religiously in the world, which is so much about the idea that “If you’re good, you’ll get to go there.” No, we were good; that’s why we are here!
It is the experience of worship that lets what is in the highest realms of eternal reality live here and now with us in the world of time and space. Living a spiritual life is not about being good so that we can go to a better place. A spiritual life is one in which the highest reality gets to live here, in and through us in everything we do.