In God’s Hands

My book signing on Saturday started off slowly. The venue is a wonderful place to browse, though. (If you live in the Thousand Oaks area, please stop by and check out The Open Book in the Oaks Mall.) So, to avoid filling the air up with anxiety, I tried to find the second part of The Tales of Genji (alas – they had sold the collection of vintage books that I had pulled it from), and ended up perusing a collection of 19th century horror stories.

Being clever people, the staff had set my table up in front of the New Age and religious inspiration section. I had a few chances to say “hello” to those that stopped to browse the blog posts I had reprinted or look at the book covers. The reactions weren’t always encouraging: one man simply scowled and went around to the New Age section. Another woman engaged me with a hostile tone of voice, asserting “Love works because people make it work.”

This was beginning to feel like my first book signing, when I spent most of the day dealing with the baggage brought by people who had found reasons to stop believing. Feeling a little food coma along with the disappointment, I stepped out to buy myself a coffee. When I came back up from the lower floor, I found the scowler with a new book, sitting in an armchair across from the store. I smiled and remarked “Well, you found something!”

A little uncertainly, he said that his brother had survived a near-death experience, and while he wasn’t quite sure about the whole business, he wanted to investigate. As we discussed religion and spirituality, I learned that he had been raised Christian, but was an atheist. Without prompting on my part, he explained that he suffered from a form of spinal arthritis. For most of his life, he had prayed to God for relief, and never received an answer. Then he had found a doctor who took interest in his case, and received treatment that made life bearable.

I couldn’t preach in the face of this testimony. There is nothing more difficult to bear than suffering that has been laid in the hands of God. But I did offer that God works through people, and that I was glad that his doctor had shown the compassion to take interest in his case. Then, hoping that somehow he’d find his way back to the source of Divine Love, I encouraged him to continue to study spirituality.

We parted amicably, and I went back into the store. When I reached the table, all of his loss and pain came pouring down on me. All I can do in those situations is try to breath, and let it settle through me into the floor. It passed in two great waves, and then I looked back into the doorway. He was staring at me, and I lowered my gaze to the floor. When I looked back up, he was gone.

For those in similar situations: don’t keep your eyes turned up to heaven. Yes, leave your suffering in God’s hands, but understand that, as Paul experienced in Damascus, his response is often to allow a compassionate person the opportunity to receive your gratitude. That is the great gift that the meek offer to those that bring them respite. Don’t deny it to the world!

The Nature of Sin

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve had the privilege of being passionately committed to the service of two spectacularly beautiful feminine personalities. Unfortunately, as women like that tend to have a lot of dirt dumped on them, neither of them understood the depth of their beauty. In the second case, I finally found myself whispering across a crowded room, “Please, please, please. Please come into yourself. We need you here so badly.”

While I’ve been physically lonely for a long time, this process of calling beautiful women into the world has its positive benefits. I dance alone most Saturdays, but I dance with the joy of knowing that my loving is connected to a purpose that I find to be precious.

Many women respect that intention, but there are those that see my devotion as a resource to be turned to their benefit. The methods they use are pretty crude, and I have to say: after you’ve been sleep deprived for long enough, being beaten on by lust tends to lose its luster. So I really appreciate it when a woman approaches me with the attitude that she just wants to know what it feels like to step into devotion. Most of the time they finish dancing with me and go off into bliss with their lovers.

My most powerful experience of the impact of psychic wounding came under such circumstances. At the venue I haunted, a man in a rainbow tunic would show up occasionally on a field trip with a group of emotionally disturbed followers. One evening, I noticed a woman – let’s call her Deanne – staring at me. She seemed really timid, so I asked her to dance with me. When we got to the dance floor she announced “But I can’t go away with you or take my clothes off.” Realizing who I was talking to, I agreed. The song was a little forward, and Deanne looked uncomfortable. She agreed that she didn’t like the music, so I told her to come and get me when she heard something that she liked.

I kept on dancing by myself, and Deanne finally joined me again. Her movements were really wound up, and I just tried to invite her to move around into the space I left behind me on the floor. She began to play a little bit, and I had this strange sense of her opening up. Putting my hands on either side of Deanne’s head, I took hold of the threads of personality that she had wound up so carefully in herself, and attached them to the joy that my friends and I had built on the dance floor. I was overwhelmed by this glorious surge of energy, the likes of which I had never before experienced. Deanne just smiled and returned to her friends.

Scott Peck, author of People of the Lie, remarks that ‘evil’ is ‘live’ spelled backwards. From the physicist’s perspective, living is the process of investing the world with our spirit. Somebody had pounded Deanne out of the world, leaving her not even her body to inhabit. What happened that night, though, gave me an absolute conviction that evil is impotent in the face of love. That surge of energy was the joy of spirits welcoming Deanne back into the world. It was as though they had been waiting for her to reclaim them.

When we are first taught about sin, it’s as a prophylactic against evil. “Thou shalt not kill” definitely qualifies. Most of the Law of the Pentateuch (the Jewish holy books) can be interpreted in this way. The goal was to avoid corruption in the relationships between the people, the sacred land, and the God they worshipped.

The problem with the law is that it yoked guilt to evil: it created sin. This was the uniquely human evil that entered the world with the fall of Adam and Eve. Before that time, evil happened and living creatures just shrugged it off and moved forward. Man ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and began to ask “why?” From that point, whenever evil happened, our questioning minds looked for a place to affix the blame, and our materialistic tendencies led us to assign fault to the person that committed the sin.

When Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins, he sought to liberate us from this burden of guilt. As he put it “It is not the well that need a doctor, but the sick.” Implicitly, he is asserting “Who cares why it happened? Shouldn’t we just fix it and move on? Here: let me show you how love works.” In the most impressive case: the oppressor Saul goes blind on the road to Damascus and is healed to become Paul, the foremost Christian evangelist of his time.

Healing through love is the absolute bedrock of Christian ethics. Those that prefer to judge sinners might better focus their energies on learning to emulate the master that they adore. You’ll have a lot more fun when love moves freely through you. Assigning guilt just gets in the way.

We Can’t Say ‘Thanks’ Enough

Life is the opportunity to participate in organizing spirit. Our bodies escort them about in clouds, and as we move amongst each other they enter into new relationships. Some of these are wonderful experiences: “Love at first sight” is a good example. Some of them are horrifying: consider the records of the carnival atmosphere at a public lynching.

At the core of our primary personality is a set of spirits that manage our survival. Through the mechanisms of our glands, organs, muscles and nerves, they coordinate the biological functions that allow us to control the world around us, and thus to sustain life. For most of the history of life on earth, this was as far as it went. Innovation in the integration of body and spirit was controlled largely by survival. With humanity, however, the possibilities exploded – almost without check. Using the mechanism of our brain, in each life we can explore and evaluate millions if not billions of spiritual relationships. We call these ideas.

How do we know which ideas work? Well, we put them into action. We seek to describe sources of pain (weather, natural disasters, disease and predators) and to create the means to avoid pain. We attempt to deny resources to those that bring us fear, or perhaps even better to use fear to take control of their resources. We gather and offer gifts to the people we love, when before we might have shared them more widely.

In the course of taking these actions, we integrate ideas into our core personalities. This can have terrible consequences for our bodies. If we accept a destructive idea, it can turn on us. Our core personality intuitively seeks to isolate its effects, but that may then cause stroke or cancer.

The other option is to vent destructive ideas on the people around us. For destructive ideas, that can be a successful strategy. One powerful individual can infect an entire society (witness Adolf Hitler, Mao TseDong, and Josef Stalin). In doing so, however, those ideas have to fight against the enormous mass of human experience, which proves that most of us survive best when we invest in the survival of others. The common man’s experience of the power of loving dilutes and even ennobles (see prior post) destructive behaviors.

In the beatitudes, Jesus promises solace to those that suffer most from this process. Implicitly, however, he also singles out those that serve most effectively in furthering its conclusion.

The poor in spirit – To be poor is often to be weak, but most directly what it means is to be missing something that you need. The poor in spirit need to be filled, and the world all around them offers them a multitude of destructive alternatives. To remain poor is to preserve yourself for occupancy by constructive ideas. Thank-you for your steadfastness.

Those who mourn – To mourn is to affirm the value of what is lost. This is not just the body of those that are lost to destructiveness, but the relationships that they offered us. In mourning, we preserve those relationships in our mind, and thus transfer to our care the souls that once found a home with the one mourned. Thank-you for your hospitality.

The meek – When we suffer a wrong, we often wish to lash out in revenge. The meek chose to suffer patiently. They do not propagate destructiveness, but struggle against it internally. In the course of that struggle, they transform it. Thank-you for your courage.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – To establish complete control, destructive ideas need to isolate their victims, making it appear that the acceptance of destruction is the only option available. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness raise their voice in warning and offer hope to victims. They encourage them to organize in support of each other. Thank-you for your witness.

The merciful – A person raised up in love often struggles when confronted with a destructive relationship. They may make regrettable choices, such as that made by Cain. Mercy recognizes this, offers wise counsel, and supports the wrong-doer as they seek to heal themselves and their victims. Thank-you for your compassion.

The pure in heart – From the perspective of Jesus, a pure heart can only be a heart filled with unconditional love. As unconditional love seeks to enter all things, a pure heart is an infectious agent. It embraces destructive relationships and transforms them. Thank-you for your service.

Peacemakers – The peacemaker enters into a destructive relationship and offers peace to both sides. In offering respect and affirmation to both parties, s(he) creates a common experience of beneficial relation. When the warring parties finally accept that commonality, they have the opportunity to recognize that the energies that they have committed to mutual destruction can be liberated for mutual benefit. Thank-you for your persistence.

The persecuted – When a strong personality stands up for love, the forces of destruction rank against them. This is terrifying, but because the power of divine love stands with them, the persecuted person is not easy to destroy. The attentions of destructive personalities are distracted, which allows their victims to rally and heal. Thank-you for your light.

In Jesus’s name: thank-you, thank-you, a million times thank-you.