The Complete Love Returns

I’ve finished my video series on John’s Revelation. While not much attention has been attracted, I finally found words to explain the gift that I bring into the world. Maybe they’ll help others to receive my love simply, just as I offer it.

So here it is:

Consummation – Revelation 21 and 22: Christ and his Bride unite the masculine and feminine virtues, and present to us the undying gift of the water of life.

Separation of Church and State III

My response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation turned their position on its head. Rather than keeping religious leaders out of politics, we need to keep political leaders out of religion. The tendency for leaders to cross lines is one of the greatest dangers to religious practice.

Steve Matichuk offers a summary of the absolutist Christian position. Essentially, as Christ seeks a universal brotherhood, any celebration of national identity dilutes his message. Steve holds out for some accommodation. My response below:

This is very close to my mind at this point, as I am just working through a video teaching on Revelation 13. In Revelation 12 the dragon (or Satan) is expelled from heaven, and in 13 he plots his dominance of earth by raising up tyrannical governments that are supported by hypocritical religious practices.

On the other hand, in Christian terms some governments are better than others. We should celebrate actions that manifest Christian ideals, while avoiding at all cost the use of government to enforce Christian morality.

As I emphasize in the video, the real battle is in the human mind, which continues to evolve after birth. Beginning with the collaborative experience of nursing, the brain actually develops centers that support socialization, culminating in adulthood with the center responsible for altruism – or what Christians would call “Unconditional Love.”

The holidays that you list are manifestations of many of the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8. But it is those virtues that should be celebrated – not some abstract ideal like our “freedom.” We are all yoked to God’s purpose, and so none of us should consider ourselves to be privileged with absolute freedom.

Why Do We Pray?

While I declare as a Christian, since renouncing my atheism I’ve only prayed twice. Once was for my children, who lived through a time of great fear in their lives. The other was for the woman I was in love with, asking that she be prepared to receive all the beauty that life held for her.

It’s odd, then, that I often feel guidance coming to me.

I didn’t understand what was going on until I came across Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer. This beautiful coffee-table volume includes reflections on prayer by the faithful of many religions. The essays are collected in three sections on supplication, praise and meditation.

The most common phrase in the Bible is a variant on “fear not.” Supplication is the act of reaching out to the divine power for strength to do good in a world that too often exploits our weakness. The elements, disease, and predation (human or animal) all cause us to expect death, and so the loss of the joy that we have discovered in living. This causes us to call out to the divine presence to direct a portion of its power to protect us. When death is not imminent, the habit of prayer may lead us to ask for intercession in other matters.

Even when no direct response is provided, the psychological benefit of supplication is in allowing us to name our fear. As the Buddhists teach us, this brings the power of reason to work, which helps to quell our dark emotions. Having named our fear, we may be able to speak of it to others, and thus to rally others to our aid.

It is when we move beyond emotion to reason that we enter into prayerful praise. This is a celebration of the virtues that enable us to overcome adversity. Among these are patience, courage, compassion (in ourselves and others) and discipline. While praise of the virtues has always been recommended, I believe that there is a physical aspect to the process that has not been fully appreciated. It is suggested by this quote by Jakob Boehme, the German mystic:

If you ask why the Spirit of Love cannot be displeased, cannot be disappointed, cannot complain, accuse, resent or murmur, it is because the Spirit of Love desires nothing but itself, it is its own Good, for Love is God, and he that dwelleth in God dwelleth in Love.

Thoughts are physical things. When we ponder an idea, we reach out with our mind into a “space of ideas” to establish a connection. Think of it like a telephone line: where at first we have to work laboriously to connect to the strength of a virtue, when we praise it, we build a direct line to it, and can reach it almost immediately.

The amazing thing about this stage of prayer is in discovering the incredible power of the virtues. Why are the virtues so powerful? Well, the reason that predators use fear to control us is because it’s easy. Those people, such as Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, that struggle and eventually overcome fear have to be stronger in their spirits than the predators that seek to destroy them. Eventually, that strength becomes so great that the are able to actually banish the precursors of fear from the minds of those that seek to harm them. They succeed in this because the predators, in taking the easy road, never develop their spiritual muscles. Furthermore, predators wallow in a set of ideas that really don’t care about them. At the first sign of spiritual weakness, the vices turn on their favorites and consume them. Thus when Jesus went to the cross and forgave his tormentors, their vices could not enter into him, and so turned back against their source.

When we pray in praise, we tap directly into the strength of the virtues built in the space of ideas by our great religious avatars. As we see this taking hold in our lives, our praise becomes more and more fervent. Because we seek joy in our lives, we walk about sharing our strength with those we care for, protecting them from fear as well. This is the stage of meditation.

In meditation, we enter into experience without expectation or judgment. We seek, not knowledge, but the sensation of our bodies, hearts and minds. In allowing those sensations to enter into us, we close the gap between the experience and the virtues that surround us. When there is pain or dissonance, we allow the virtues to enter into the experience to create healing and harmony.

The first time I realized that I was meditating (almost constantly) was in Cub Scout monthly meetings. The Scout Master was a shy about public speaking, and I would get this strong sense of fear from him when he stood up to present. I would just close my eyes and send him my confidence and admiration. His voice would steady.

For those that aren’t in the habit of praying, this can be a frightening experience. It’s like an invasion of their selves. I’ve had some really hostile reactions. Many aggressive men assume, for example, that I’m gay. They aren’t habituated to receive affirmation in any other way than through sex. The rest of their lives are organized around conflict.

In organizations, the response is more complicated. When we start to heal anger and fear, the participants become aware of their psychological dependencies. As victims become aware of how their trust is being manipulated, they may react to the healer as the source of paranoia, or even worse as the cause of the breakdown of trust in their relationships with predatory leaders. Such leaders often present themselves as noble interlocutors in the conflict that they engender among their followers, and when that strategy is revealed, the followers often rally to those that prey upon them, blaming the healer for the insights they bring!

As Boehme testified, the healer succeeds eventually when (s)he seeks nothing except the opportunity to allow the virtues to enter more deeply into the workings of the organization. Others finally realize that they feel far better in the presence of the healer than otherwise, and begin to work effectively against the true source of their problems.

So what I’ve come to understand is this: we pray to bring the divine presence into the world. Whether we are asking for help or mediating in its delivery, the end result is the same. The only way that God comes into this broken world is through prayer, and in its ultimate expression, that occurs through those that surrender themselves joyously to love of everyone willing to receive it.

All the Vice of Jesus

Proponents of chaos theory love the story of the butterfly in Kansas. The butterfly flaps its wing, and a bird misses its prey. The bird banks, and in banking cools a column of hot, rising air. That decreases the pressure ever so slightly at higher elevation, which causes a slight change in the direction of a breeze. That breeze joins with a northerly gust along the coast, rather than merging with a sea-going breeze. That sea-going breeze then isn’t powerful enough to prevent the formation of a wind vortex in the Gulf Coast, and so a hurricane is born.

Does the butterfly “cause” the hurricane? No way in hell. A hurricane is enormously powerful, and the energy it contains must be dissipated somehow. All the butterfly does, in combination with a huge number of other actors, is influence the place and time of its occurrence.

Our lives are much like that. We have a primary personality, the personality welcomed by our mother and united with our body during gestation, but around us swirl other personalities, many without bodies. Because people have powerful tools, these spirits, ranging along the spectrum from angels to demons, seek to influence us in an attempt to improve their habitat.

Imagine your body as a nectar. Like hummingbirds and butterflies, an entourage of souls surrounds you. Sometimes we blow the sweet zephyr of peace, but when the wings flap the wrong way, we become the gale of rage. Just as in the warm, steamy air of the Gulf, the greater the power stored inside of us, the harder it is to maintain control.

When you meet with someone else, your entourage mixes with theirs. You have a relationship. Sometimes that meeting is a struggle for control. It can be a war, which is what I often see happening between men and women when I go out dancing at a nightclub. In other situations, it can be a creative celebration, which is why I love so much to dance to live music.

Over the centuries, humanity has developed some lore regarding the dynamics of our relationships. Certain types of spirits tend to generate constructive relationships. We call these virtues: patience, prudence, chastity and others. Some types of spirits cause destructive relationships. We call these vices: sloth, greed, and lust are examples.

Now the advice of most religions is to surrender the vices and assemble virtues. The ascended personality seems to be above it all. They are free from petty human concerns. In the extreme, they go without food or clothing. The spirits that surround them provide them all the sustenance they need. What we have to ask about such people, though, is this:

Are they really still alive?

The gift of having a body is to have the ability to reorganize spirits. In the way that we touch and speak, through the things that we eat and drink, even in the way that we walk and gesture: everything that we do involves mixing of the spirits that surround us, whether consensual or coerced. (Yes, that is why it is called intercourse.)

Here, then, is the greatness of Jesus’s ministry. He didn’t surrender his vices. He suffused them with love, and so transformed them from destructive to constructive influences.

If greed is the desire to accumulate wealth, when mixed with love it becomes a restless seeking to find the place where we can create the greatest value. It was this seeking that took Jesus away from Nazareth, where he received no honor, to Jerusalem.

If pride leads us to undervalue the contributions of others, with love it becomes enthusiasm for the things that we do well. It was enthusiasm that led Jesus to surround himself with people and share the skills he had in loving.

If sloth is an attempt to acquire resources without effort, when mixed with love it becomes a surrender to the caring of others when we can no longer care for ourselves, and thus to give the affirmation of our gratitude. It was with this surrender that Jesus affirmed the woman that came to anoint him, holding her dearer than the men that called him to greater nobility.

If lust is the desire to reside always in those sensations that give us pleasure, when mixed with love it becomes passion for the source of that sweet stimulus, and thus a willingness to pour out our strength in service to its existence. It was this willingness that led Jesus to the cross, where he poured his blood out for humanity and the world.

This is the greatness of his Abba: by its nature, unconditional love doesn’t choose. It seeks for all things to manifest themselves in greatness.

The greatness of a spirit is evidenced by the willingness of other spirits to associate with it. How much faster can the eagle of passion fly than the worm of lust can wriggle? It is because passion is welcomed by the recipient that it moves so freely, while lust must push through against resistance.

So the call of Jesus is not to stop being human. It is rather to surrender to the yoke of love, and enter into the greatness of your humanity.