Healing Touch

After Dance Tribe on Sunday, I stopped in to sit with a sick friend.

Reclining against the arm of his sofa, he motioned for me to take the armchair. I took the last pillow on the couch and put a hand on his shoulder. He got up to take a pain pill and we watched football, interrupted by two calls from ladies that love him.

Again I put my hand on his shoulder, then worked my way around to his neck on the side where the cancer was eating at his jaw. He sat up, giving me another twenty seconds to feel his spirit, then arose abruptly to set up a massage table. As he placed a sheet and pillow, I rolled a stool out from under the counter. He climbed onto the table, draping a blanket over his legs, and laced his fingers across his breastbone, waiting.

I had told him that I had come to get his head out of the way of the parts that were working toward healing: his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. As I felt around, touching him gently, my right hand eventually came to rest along the right side of his head, fingers behind the ear.

I saw then the scene he had described before: the noose choking him as he grieved for his people and land.

The evil eating still at him.

I had advised him that many sacred beings stood in attendance to aid him in his struggle, and I did nothing for those twenty minutes other than facilitate the introductions. They gathered under my palms and fingertips, secure as I felt around in the corruption until safe harbor was found.

He relaxed completely, patient with my intuitive explorations. It was only at the end that I hooked my fingertips under the choking circle and widened it, lifting it over his head twice. Remnants remained – the connection to those others that had suffered with him, a connection that he needed to strengthen to transmit the pattern of healing.

I admitted: “I think that I need to allow you to process what you’ve received. Is it OK if I leave now?”

Dear friend, what an honor it is to support your struggle to bring light into the world.

Who is to Blame?

When I began listening to praise music five years ago, my most powerful reactions were to two types of songs: those that express gratitude for the cross, and those that describe the patient suffering of a parent confronted with the loss of a child.

There is no experience in life that more powerfully contradicts the premise of a loving God than to watch an innocent child succumb to cancer. The experience of the Amish families that lost five daughters to a gunman in 2006 is far more shocking, but the faithful can rationalize it as the work of an external evil working through fallen humanity. The silent killer that consumes from within is a horrifically intimate violation.

The pain of that struggle is captured powerfully by Mark Schultz in “He’s My Son”. It takes real strength to face this loss without anger.

So why does it happen? Why does God allow this, and so many other bad things, to happen to good people?

The depth of our outrage is sharpened in the West, where so many religious traditions teach us that we have only one life to get it right. I’ve touched on this before in On Dying. When the nature of the soul is revealed, it will be obvious that reincarnation occurs, and that – as our Eastern siblings have been telling us for so long – we have many chances to free ourselves to spend an eternity in the divine embrace.

But even so, why should good people have to suffer?

It might help to back away and look at a case that is not so terrible. I have a friend, a great strong man, that cross-dresses. He has married and had children, but is overcome with the need to wear women’s clothing. He shared with me one particular experience: he served in the navy on an aircraft carrier. They were at port, and on this occasion all men had been called to their quarters in preparation to return to sea. My friend grabbed a dress, changed, and went out on the flight deck. When he was spotted, an all hands was issued. Changing back into his uniform, he participated in an exhaustive search of the vessel for a female stow-away.

When I heard this story, I had an apprehension of a father holding his daughter while their ocean liner sank. He had promised to keep her safe, and had failed her. She was afraid to go out into the world again, and so was journeying with him in this life to overcome her fear. That was, in part, why he had joined the Navy.

When I listen to Mark’s song, I have similar visions. In the child is a spirit that has never received love, and suffered terribly in a past life as an adult. They need some strength to face that journey again, some reason to hope. So they come into the world to have some time with parents that love them. They push all their pain into the disease that consumes them, and leave it behind when they die, filled with the love that their parents have poured into them.

Yes, it is a heart-breaking work for parents to perform, but so beautiful and full of purpose.

The story of the Amish children has a similar sense to it. The girls were trapped in the schoolroom with a deeply disturbed man. When he determined to kill them, the eldest girl stepped forward to say (I paraphrase) “I am oldest. Leave these others alone and kill me.” In that moment, she conquered his evil. And during the preparation of the bodies for burial, the elder watched the women at work and counseled “We must not think evil of this man.” In fact, the community gathered resources to sustain his family.

In The Soul Comes First, I interpret the Bible from the perspective that good people are medicine used by God to heal the wound of selfishness. What these experiences have given me to believe is this: bad things happen to good people because their light is needed in the darkness. While Jesus confronted the greatest darkness – the evil of systems of justice that destroy the people that come to bring healing to the world – all good people carry that cross to a greater or lesser degree. We bring light, and the world that suffers in darkness attempts to steal it from us.

So, please, if you can: when confronted with evil, or pain, don’t collapse into resentment against God. Just open your heart wider, and let his love brush back the pain of the world around you. Maybe you won’t change the people that prey upon you, or heal the diseases of those that you love. But you will give hope to others that suffer as you do, and leave them with the strength to do better next time.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

I grew up on Rue de la Pierre in Palos Verdes, California. The development was a young professionals’ haven. The street up and down the block was overrun with children, and the school yard was only a hop over a barbed chain-link fence. We had the run of the street, my siblings and I, when we weren’t running up and down the sage-brush hills between the school and the golf course.

About half-way through fourth grade, I realized that I was losing my connection with that crowd. I would come out of the house after studying and discover that the kids had already divided up into play groups. I’d hunt them down the street or hop the fence and discover, more often than not, that I was the odd man out.

It was then that the epithet “Brain” was first donated to me. You see, I was staying in after finishing my homework to read ahead in my history book. Given the social consequences, I found myself wondering why I felt such a strong compulsion. Sure, curiosity was part of it, but more than that, I just felt that it was really important to understand how we had arrived at this place with all of this stuff made available for our use. Not that I considered myself to be blessed in any way, I was really just amazed. Cars, houses, teachers, jobs: I mean, how did it all get here?

So in spite of the fact that I am an iconoclast and an out-of-the-box thinker, I’ve always considered it important to maintain contact with the world of the past (though not with my own past: that’s entirely different – somehow I have trouble considering myself to be at all important). So when I found myself with a working physical framework for explaining spirituality, I was driven to figure out how it related to the great religious teachings of the world.

I didn’t need long to realize that complete reconciliation would be impossible. Just look at the great religious divide between east and west: one embraces the idea of rebirth (or reincarnation), the other rejects it. Clearly, one or the other has to be wrong. It was an easy judgment to make: I’m firmly convinced that reincarnation is a natural consequence of the physics. But recently, I’ve begun to realize how fundamental that decision was: everything about my ability to resist fear is rooted in my belief that I’ll have another chance to try again if I don’t accomplish my goals in this life.

In the interim, I’ve come to identify very strongly with the “Process of Christ”, as I call it. I’ve been blogging and dialoging on-line with people that follow the official Christian teaching about rebirth, which is that it doesn’t happen. My own reading of scripture seems to find strong evidence for reincarnation, though it’s not a central issue in Jesus’s ministry. The first is the identification of John the Baptist as the returned Elijah. Another is the teaching that the rich that do not care for the poor will themselves be poor. This is so much in contrast with the way the world works that it can only be reconciled through the Eastern concept of karma, which brings balance for greed in a future life.

Given that reincarnation as a spiritual reality comes directly from Jesus’s lips, you have to wonder how it was drummed out of Christian dogma. The turning point, as with so many issues with Christian dogma, was the council of Nicea. The central issue for Emperor Constantine, as well as for many of the Church fathers he gathered, was to protect the authority of the Church. Today, we take a somewhat jaundiced view of that imperative. If we believe that we only get one chance to get it right, those that claim to offer us reliable guidance gain social leverage which can be turned fairly easily to personal advantage. This avarice is often held out as the explanation for the council’s rejection of reincarnation, which was represented by Origen.

But the authority of the church is not a trivial matter (see The Conservative Agenda). The church offered the sacraments to its flock: baptism, marriage, confession, last rites. In offering those rites, the priest is using ritual to prepare the recipient to receive the divine presence. So what happens, as is all too often the case, it turns out that the priest is a sinner? Are all the sacraments he offered now null and void? This is the Darian heresy, which held that only a saint can administer the sacraments. This led to a certain elitism in that movement, as well as a lack of respect for the Church as an institution.

To deal with this problem, the Church fathers upheld the Divine commission of Jesus, who founded the church in Peter. If that commission was to be unassailable, then Jesus must be a unique spiritual figure. It is for this reason that the Creed says that he was “begotten, not made.” His relationship with God is absolutely unique, unlike those beings made in Genesis, and so the authority of the sacraments rests with the Church that he specifically commissioned, not the priest.

As for the rest of us: we are like Adam. God breathes his spirit into us at the moment of conception, and we return to him at the moment of death.

Taking away the hope of future lives to achieve redemption does cast the great mass of humanity into a desperate situation. Most of the world has very few resources to devote to spiritual improvement, and it seems contradictory to say that a loving God would only give them one chance to get it right. But there’s a flip side, and that’s in the pressure “one life” focuses on those with the resources to do some good in the world. There’s a lot of teaching on this as well, including not least the young man of wealth that asks how to enter the kingdom, and is told “sell all your belongings and give to the poor, then come follow me.” Conversely, if reincarnation occurs, then why not just enjoy this life? If you do wrong, you can always make it up again later, can’t you?

Sadly, in our secular age the belief in one life actually works the other way. Those that exploit the world around them believe that they won’t have to clean up the mess that they’ve made. Eat, drink and be merry, for God doesn’t really exist anyways!

I tend to believe that today the moral balance supports recognition of the truth of reincarnation that will be obvious when we fully understand the physics of spirituality. I believe also that this is most consistent with my faith in a loving God. It will be interesting to see if I can square that with the Church that Jesus founded, or whether, as with Galileo, they will resist science in misguided attempts to secure their authority.

I have some reason to believe that the Church understands the dynamics in a practical sense. I went up to Valyermo a couple of times to visit St. Andrew’s Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery. After Mass one Sunday, I went for a walk on the grounds, and found myself on the flat above the Monastery where they maintain two graveyards.

The first was for the public, and as I walked among the graves, I had a strong sense of walking among their spirits. A voice came into my head: “Please leave our dead alone.” However, I didn’t intend to disturb them, I was just fascinated by this strong sense that they had chosen to take a rest from the vale of tears that is human life. They longed for Christ’s return, and one of the gifts that the Church offers the faithful is a sacrament that allows people to rest until he does.

The second graveyard was a short way off, and was for the priests. As I walked past them, I had a strong sense of them as guardians. They were ranked in order by burial date.

It was a long walk around the rim of the plateau to get back down to the grounds, so I thought it would be worth looking for another route down. As I walked along the rim towards the front of the Abbey, I encountered a Wiccan woman sitting cross-legged with her yoni pointed at the priests. She was trying to entice the youngest back into life. I circled her once (“Not on my watch!”), and as I did so spied a trailhead that led back down to the amphitheater below.