An account of seeking answers to life’s spiritual truths beginning about the age of 12 in the 1950s. As I have come to realize, the process is never-ending. I hope that my experiences of a lifetime of turning over many rocks in pursuit of what is spiritually real may be of value in your quest for your truth. That is my only purpose in telling my story.
As of June 2023, the story is divided into 22 parts with a comment section at the end. Feel free to add your views in the comment section at the end. I do value feedback, and it gives others the benefit of your thoughts. I will always respond to your contribution. If you want to contact me privately, you may do so at email@example.com.
Part One – Fear, Conflict, and Anxiety
My journey all started in a small country church in Western Oklahoma. Unlike the large churches typical in the cities, the hell, fire, and damnation of small country preachers held us captive up close and personal. This enabled them to put the “fear of God” in poor teenagers like myself. Most of my fellow teens scurried to the altar to be saved at the first opportunity, often multiple times, just to make sure. I have no idea what they experienced when accepting Christ as their savior and being born again, nor how it changed them after that.
As for me, despite being in terror of burning in hell forever, I knew I couldn’t fully commit to life as a full-on Christian without resolving the many questions I had about God and the Bible. I will start with the Old Testament, which seemed to be a favorite of ministers at the time and one that I had the greatest concern about God’s behavior and motives. My main effort to understand why God would do so much punishing, killing, enslavement, and torturing of biblical people of the time was to corner preachers after church and ply them with a question as to why. Their answers would make today’s politicians proud of their ability to evade solutions yet speak on and on around them. When all else failed, the standard final response was usually that we, humble sinners, were incapable of understanding the actions of an all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful Creator and that we were all part of God’s divine plan. I, too, had a standard response when all failed. If God explained it to me, I am sure I would understand. That statement wasn’t just an exasperated retort; I truly, completely believed it. In my mind, God would really have to have a convincing argument to justify his actions.
Looking at the New Testament, I don’t remember many disagreements, possibly because, unlike a completely materialistic perspective, I had no problem believing Jesus could heal the sick, raise Lazarus from the dead, and do other miracles. My two sticking points were, number one: the doctrine that Jesus died for our sins, and just by accepting him as our savior, we would be forgiven and go to heaven when we died, and number two: that all others would go to hell and burn forever. To me, neither made any sense, and of all God’s perceived cruelty I saw, this was the worst.
The first point to me meant no matter how many people you hurt or killed, you could be forgiven on your deathbed and go to heaven. For point two, the vast majority of people that had lived, now live, and will live shall burn in hell forever. Forever is an unbelievable amount of time.
My problem and dilemma were that I didn’t just intellectually believe I was an eternal spiritual being; I knew with certainty of experience, but that is another story. Therefore the possibility that the existence of hell was actually true and that I could be sent there by a God willing and able to do that terrified me. In the following article, you will see how I dealt with this fear.
Part Two – A Resolution and Dead-end Paths
The fear and anxiety about the possibility of going to hell had been buried in my mind for a few years but resurfaced in a profound way. I joined the Navy in 1966, and my first duty station was the aircraft carrier, the Ticonderoga. We spent nine months off the coast of North Vietnam, conducting bombing missions 24/7. Our ship was commissioned in 1942 and not built for flying modern jets off a wooden flight deck. I worked in the steam engine rooms, stood watches, and worked 16 hour-days—not much time to stew over hell since it was a hellish environment.
CVA 14 Ticonderoga
On the way back to my “home port” in San Diego, I applied to be transferred to in-country duty in South Vietnam. I was told by the officer in charge of my division that the chances of my request being approved were nil. He was wrong. Before we arrived at home port, orders came through for my departure for SERE school (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) before being shipped out to Da Nang, South Vietnam, for further assignment.
That evening the reality that I was about to enter a war zone and may not survive brought my head out of the proverbial sand and back into the fear and anxiety of the possibility of going to hell. I knew I had to work this out before arriving in Vietnam, so I made my way to my favorite “thinking & relaxing” spot on a catwalk under the flight deck. This spot extended beyond the ship’s bow, suspended over the ocean. I could only sense freedom and space. This is where I called out to God and Satan and demanded they speak their piece. I told them if they refused that, I would never worry about them when I left the catwalk ever again.
After a reasonable amount of time, I heard nothing. I left the catwalk and have never feared hell since. Looking back later in life, I realized the power of a complete and absolutely firm decision. My view that hell might exist did not change, but my fear of it no longer had power over me. Situation Resolved!
I did two tours on riverboats in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in January of 1970. After wandering from job to job for a few months, I settled in Houston, Texas, where I began the next stage of my spiritual journey. I don’t recall what triggered it, but I started reading books on various subjects such as witchcraft, astral projection, mediums, Edgar Casey books, and so forth. I met someone who was a “white witch” and had many discussions about these topics. It didn’t take long to see that these paths were dead ends.
This stage went on for about two years, and although it was unproductive, I kept my interest in finding answers to life’s questions. That set the stage for the next chapter in my spiritual journey—Scientology and the writings of L. Ron Hubbard.
Stay tuned; much more to come in the following article.
Part Three – Scientology: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
This is the first of a five-part series. I am starting this series about my good. I was involved in one capacity or another for years. I suggest you set aside everything you have heard about Scientology because I am relating first-hand knowledge that may surprise, shock, or even anger you. I may also amaze you with the spiritual knowledge available in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, or Ron, as he is referred to by his followers. Much of what I learned in my early days gave me a tremendous boost in my advancement on the path of truth.
Former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital In Los Angeles, California
My first contact with Scientology was through the lead guitarist in a small band I was managing in 1972 or ‘73. The guitarist invited the band members and me to an introductory lecture. We went on a Sunday night.
At the lecture, I was immediately intrigued by the presentation of the parts of man as spirit, mind, and body. The speaker showed how the spirit controlled the mind and body but that a part of the mind called the reactive mind, exerted a negative influence on the spirit and subsequently on the mind and body. Well, he had me at spirit. If they had more to teach about the spirit, I was all in.
At the end of the lecture, the hosts recommended the book Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health, for $2.00. The pianist, my roommate, had $2.00 and bought the book. He was a slow reader, so I took it away from him and finished it in one day. If I thought I was going to advance my spiritual knowledge by reading it, I was disappointed. It was all about erasing this reactive mind and becoming clear–not in itself a bad thing, but not what I was after. I wanted to gain spiritual knowledge.
To make a long story short, Dianetics was published in 1950, and Hubbard’s books containing research into the spirit were published in 1952 and after. Now we’re talking! Over the next year, I took two courses: One called the communication course for $25.00, and the next was the apprentice Scientologist course for $125.00. While doing these, I purchased every book on the subject of the spirit that Hubbard had written.
Both courses taught life skills in a very practical, down-to-earth way. Neither method required me to believe in Scientology, the spirit, or any other doctrine. At the end portion of the second course, the student and a partner on the course did some simple exercises together designed to improve your ability to interact with people and life. Doing the courses 9-12 hours a week typically took a year or more to complete both. They were challenging courses or perhaps better described as thorough.
The following year, I joined the staff and was trained to supervise these courses. Courses were done at one’s own pace with a partner. My job was to help students understand and fully complete each checklist section. I also helped ensure they got the benefit of each exercise and understood each lesson. One important point I need to make about these classes is Ron Hubbard’s statement posted on the classroom wall; the student is not required to believe any of what they study unless they see it is true for themselves. I can assure you no one was brainwashed in the classes I supervised.
Finally, I would wholeheartedly recommend both classes to anyone except for a big problem. These courses have since been altered and taught to the point of ineffectiveness and cost an arm and both legs. Don’t get me started.
In the following article, I will relate the knowledge I gained from the books dealing with the spirit and its relation to life.
Part four —Scientology: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The first three articles, parts 3,4 and 5, deal with the good. Parts 6 and 7 will be the bad and ugly.
One of the main criticisms of Scientology in our Christian culture is that it does not teach about and worship God, Jesus, and the Bible. This is true. Scientology is not a religion in that it does not have a dogma or doctrine that asks you to believe in any particular way. At least not at the time I studied it.
Most of the people I knew were uncomfortable calling Scientology a church or a religion. Setting it up as a church was supposedly justified for two reasons: as a protection of its right to exist and to get tax-exempt status. This will be covered in another article under the umbrella of bad and ugly. And there is certainly plenty of bad and ugly to come.
What Scientology was for me and those in our “Church Mission” at that time was a place to gain spiritual and mental knowledge for us and others. This was accomplished by reading the text and testing its validity in our lives. A lot of what I learned I already knew. It was organized in such a way that I could “connect the dots,” as it is called. The teaching doesn’t dictate who and what God is but instead gives the knowledge to find God for oneself.
No writing I have ever read that L. Ron Hubbard wrote states that there is no God. In fact, in one of the early books, there is a description of all life divided into eight sections called the eight dynamics. It is described in a series of eight concentric circles as urges toward survival. In the center is self; second is family or procreation; third is groups; fourth is humanity. The fifth circle holds life forms such as plants and animals; the sixth material – mountains, prairies, and seas; the seventh is spirits; and finally, the eighth is the God dynamic. In this case, the God dynamic is the outermost ring, giving it seniority over the rest.
Much is written about these life dynamics and the importance of each in relationship to the others, and the balance between them. For example, it is explained how being stuck on one dynamic can be harmful or how it is only necessary to concentrate on one exclusively to restore balance. These are examples of the many practical nuggets I learned from Hubbard’s basic books.
The book I read that put me on the track to finding God for myself was Hubbard’s book titled The Phoenix Lectures. This book was a transcript of a lecture he gave in Phoenix, Arizona, that was printed in book form. The book has since been taken off the market, possibly banned (see my upcoming “bad and ugly” articles). The relevant text was in the form of a set of axioms. I would love to add them to this article, but copyright laws forbid it.
And finally, from the secular point of view, Scientology is considered a cult because it deals with gaining knowledge of spiritual life instead of material life only. As Forrest Gump said, “And that is all I have to say about that.”
Part Five – Scientology: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
When I became a staff member at our Houston Mission, I was the youngest, with another in his 20s joining at the same time. This was, as far as I can recall, in 1972. There were six of us, and the other four were over 60 – I think? In your mid-20s, everyone over 40 is old. Two of those trained directly under L. Ron Hubbard, back when he personally ran the training and did lectures in the early 1950s. For several years until The Bad came, this was the happiest and most fulfilling time of my life.
Many people go to churches or use self-help classes, books, tapes, and the like to help with problems they have in life. That was not me. I had known for a long time that my purpose in life was gaining spiritual knowledge to provide service to others. Because I could see ordinary people gaining knowledge and skills to handle life more effectively and learning to be better human beings, I was in heaven on earth.
In Part 3, I briefly talked about training to supervise the two beginning courses. Now I will tell you about my approach to helping a typical student; Jerry, the rule breaker. Or, to put it another way, I used my “splainit” technique.
One cardinal rule in Scientology training was that one never explained anything. If a student needed help understanding something written, the instructor had him look up words he may have misunderstood or use a demonstration to help them understand the concept. More advanced training included the “Student Hat” course, which taught how to remedy study problems. For new people, I routinely did, as I liked to call it, “a splainit”. I would tell the students what the word meant and what they needed to do. Fortunately, the rest of the staff understood that I was bringing them up to the point of being able to swim without assistance.
Another thing I watched for and stopped in its tracks is the hero worship of Hubbard.
Ron Hubbard did much of his research at sea to avoid the media and public in the late 60s and 70s.
This is manifested in believing everything that was written just because he wrote it. This showed in that glazed look in their eyes when seeing his photo on the wall and in other indications. I would take them aside and point to passages where Hubbard stated he didn’t need or want that type of recognition. What he said was he studied both Eastern and Western religions and worked out practical applications of what he discovered.
All in all, I was happy and energetic. Over the first few years, we grew from less than a dozen students on courses at a time to over eighty, by far surpassing the official church in Austin, Texas. Then came the bad, and it was really bad.
Before going to the “bad” article, I want to relate one more good thing. Sometime after I had been in Scientology for a couple of years, I had an incredible spiritual experience. Like a bolt out of the blue, I suddenly felt all my negative influences, thoughts, and thinking fall away, and I felt pure and whole. In addition, I felt an overwhelming love of life and everything in it. The intensity of this experience only lasted a short time, but it settled into a persistent feeling of peace and love that continued for many days or perhaps weeks.
At some point, life gradually came back in with all its stresses, problems, and worries, but even though it diminished, I never lost that feeling entirely for years.
Okay, now on to the bad. Hold on to your seats.
Part Six – Scientology: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
For me, the bad, which at some point couldn’t be ignored, started affecting us locally at our Houston mission. What follows may be in a different sequence due to my memory being a bit fuzzy about the timeline.
At first glance, it made sense to raise prices. The story was that we needed an increase of 5% a month until we had caught up with inflation and to help pay staff a living wage. The initial course had been $25.00 for over a decade, so getting it up to $35 or $40 might be alright. But the increases went on month after month; it seemed like a year or more.
During that time, the Guardians office, whose job was to protect the church and who we had never seen but from afar, came into our mission and stole one of our staff. It was on, as we later found out, a bogus authority. Around that same time, our major courses supervisor was sent to Clearwater, Florida, for advanced training. He said he witnessed the straw that broke the camel’s back for all of us.
Upon return from training, the returning course supervisor met with the director of our mission and was sequestered there for a long time. Later, as I recall, the director met with each of us individually. This staff member (I will call him Bill) said he witnessed several people with guns moving toward the executive offices. He was told later that the group included David Miscavage and a few other messenger staff and that they had taken charge of Scientology there. It was apparently an armed revolt and an establishment of a new order. How much is true? I can’t verify. What I do know for a fact is that many senior executives in charge previously were declared suppressive and excommunicated.
After relating this to me, the director asked if I wanted to leave staff. By this time, with prices and other factors, I was ready to go anyway, so I said yes, ready to pack it in. This is when the director, a long-time executive with a major steel company and a very smart man, threw in a caution. He said each of us needs to leave, allowing time to pass, and for what will seem, under scrutiny, as a valid reason. He reminded me of what Bill had witnessed and that mass exodus would look suspicious. He also reminded me that these were potentially dangerous people.
It took over two years for all of us to be gone. We had to find replacements and train them. To this day, I haven’t suffered any consequences of leaving, mostly because I kept my head down. That is now ended with the publication of this article.
Apparently, the only sin for senior Scientology staff to commit is getting caught. That is what happened with the Guardian’s Office with Mary Sue Hubbard, Ron’s wife, at the helm. Eleven office members were convicted in federal court of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. That’s just what they were caught at. These folks make the CIA look like boy scouts.
This is the first time I have publicly spoken about my time within the organization. There could be consequences even at this late date. It is well known that David Miscavage and his attack dogs have a long reach. They no longer use guns, at least as far as I know, but they have unlimited funds to hire lawyers, private detectives, and other thugs to “defend Scientology from its enemies.” I suspect I have nothing to be concerned about from Scientology; they, without a doubt, have bigger fish to fry.
Well, I’m kinda tired of the bad; let’s see what the ugly looks like.
Part Seven – Scientology: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I will preface the ugly by saying most of what I am relating to is second-hand from people I know and trust. I will publish this hearsay as a caution for anyone considering involving themselves with the Church of Scientology.
The first Ugly, but not most important, is the price structure of services. The new leadership claims to use a formula developed by Ron Hubbard, supposedly so the ordinary working man could afford all of the services needed to achieve “total freedom.” Only an evil economist would monkey around with the formula to increase prices out of reach of the “common man.” The typical person Hubbard was undoubtedly referring to would be a bricklayer, carpenter, or some such. Enter the “new common man,” and he earns $200-300,000.00 a year or more.
Let’s take this economic discussion one step further. When Hubbard made the affordability policy, there may have been as many as 21 short and relatively inexpensive levels to pay for to get to the top. Let’s see what happens when five or six levels a year are added by current management for 40 years. Let’s also create one level that takes years to complete and has major expenses every few months. I may be off on these figures, but within a year, while I was on staff, a course we charged $25.00 for became $350.00, and the course was shortened by half, and that half was watered down. Professional spiritual counseling, when I was on staff, typically was $25-50.00 an hour or less. Currently, it is $800.00 an hour or more. In my day, most people trained and co-counseled (called co-auditing) each other to eliminate paying a professional.
You figure it out. The fact is that even large earners may end up selling or mortgaging their houses to pay for that next step in this newly-priced program. To get to the top, hundreds of thousands of dollars becomes over a million. Now, this higher pricing story is Ugly, but not compared to the next ugliness.
Ugly becomes Uglier with altering books and texts in the guise of taking out words or passages that were not in the original draft or notes or adding in words or passages that should have been there from notes and drafts. Most of these were published when L. Ron Hubbard was still teaching and lecturing. Would any author not read and confirm the text was correct before allowing the first copy to be sold? Now, does this sound suspicious to you? Sound ugly?
Many of the executive organizations, counseling churches, training organizations, and celebrity churches are manned by elite Sea Organization (“Sea Org”) members, who wear seaman-like uniforms, and sign a billion-year contract. Many of these members live in church-owned housing, in conditions similar to our most poor, and typically work up to 14-hour days, seven days a week. If a “Sea Org” member is good, they may get a day off occasionally. Pay ranges from $50 to $70 a week for the rank and file.
But the pay issue is not the ugliest part. Because of church status, these “elite” members do not have social security when they are elderly. There is no worker’s comp. There is no medical. Child labor is rampant. If they get sick, they are on their own. They owe their souls to the company store.
When I got into Scientology, the stated goal was to bring about a new civilization where all were raised up and sane. “The Aims of Scientology” starts with: “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper, and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights.”
In retrospect, I believe Hubbard lost control of Scientology long before I attended that first lecture and the momentum kept it relatively sane in our small corner of it. I also think he was a super-literate, prolific writer and a genius: in short, he was good, bad, and ugly. If the good prevailed, it would have been helpful to people handling everyday life, but it would never be the path to salvation, and the “aims” Hubbard proclaimed were lost along the way.
As for its current form, taking in billions while producing nothing for most people and humanity is really ugly. Buyer Beware!
Enough about Scientology; let’s move on.
Part Eight – Under a Cloud, Then Sunshine
After my disappointing experience with Scientology, I fell under a cloud for years. It was heartbreaking that our original goals of a better world were crushed by evil coming into power. Scientology’s management ruined what had been good and what we were so successful at, and that hurt. It hurt deeply. I blocked off my disappointment with external pleasures: kayaking, fishing, home brewing, hiking, raising chickens, gardening, and so forth. Even so, occasionally, a reminder of the past would well up, and I would weep and sob in the grief of failed purpose after decades of suppressed grief and, later, anger. I finally began to come out from under a cloud of misery.
The next step came a few years ago. I found a very long movie on the life of Buddha. This ignited a renewed desire to go deeper into the study of spiritual enlightenment. Even though everything I had tried seemed to be a dead-end, I was still determined to find a way to gain what I sought. My mind said it was hopeless, but my spirit refused to accept that. I couldn’t live a fulling life without answers to my questions. After seven decades, I believed I would have missed my chance if I didn’t come to a resolution soon. Time for an Absolute Decision!
My first effort was an assessment of what I currently knew and what I speculated regarding the spiritual self as separate from the mental and physical. I wrote articles on the subject that can be found on my blog, two in particular. “Coming Out” and “Faith vs. Fact” describe the ideas I had up until then about God, us as spirits, and our relation to life. In preparation for this article, I re-read both, and it was apparent that those words described my intellectual concepts but not my experience at that time.
The only actual experience I would relay during this time was described in the next to last paragraph of part five of this series. In that short time, feeling nothing but love and peace for all life was where I wanted to be above all things. My second effort needed to be to find a way to restore that state of being and understand life’s purpose. I know many of you reading my story will say that I should read my Bible and look to Christ. Well, surprise, you are right, but perhaps not in the way you think.
The lessons learned during spiritual growth can be painful, but in the end, may be the most valuable of all. In the last two or three years, as I have been putting my toe back into the water, guess what? My experiences with hell, fire, and damnation ministry of my youth, my years in Scientology, and learning about Buddha have all given me an experiential backdrop for my most recent research. Also, I have spent time weekly with my friend and neighbor discussing many things, but much of the time, speaking of religion, spirituality, the Bible, and concepts of God.
In many ways, I am at an ideal time to gain the knowledge and experiences I have worked for in my earlier life. In my youth, my worldview of God was limited to the Bible, ministers, and church doctrine. No computers, no YouTube, no Facebook, and no Amazon. It was like the dark ages for knowing anything outside my small world.
Even in my 20s and 30s, today’s information was out there but very hard to find. Much of it was known only to a few and was obscured by false leads. I still tried, and by trial and error, I was able to eliminate some of the dead ends.
Let’s now leave the dead ends in the past and go toward real salvation.
Part Nine – Back In The Saddle Again
A back injury has kept me on light duty for over three months, which gave me extra time to study, contemplate, and ruminate. Rays of sunshine seem to be peeking through the clouds.
Recently, I watched a video of a young woman telling her story of leaving the Christian church to begin following Jesus Christ. She documented her Bible study journey from the viewpoint of what Jesus said and taught in the context of the time and who he was talking to and about. She also read the Old Testament through the lens of context, and I was astonished at some of her conclusions. Her insights made me realize that what I got from my early upbringing was a false impression of much of the Bible. I have a long way to go to resolve the views adopted in my youth, but it is an area I plan to continue to work on.
I will start with my main objection to what I was taught as a teen because it directly affected me. That subject is HELL! As I have mentioned before, the idea of going to hell terrified me. I got a weekly dose of “hell” teaching, or so it seems, looking back. Even in that state of fear, I couldn’t accept “salvation” from a God willing, on judgment day, to send all but a few to burn forever. At no time did it ever make sense to me that God would be that cruel, cold, and hardhearted.
It seems as though someone with knowledge of the original language Jesus spoke found the meaning of the word we now read in the modern Bible as “hell” actually means something different.
Before I go into details, I will give a brief bio of my source. His name is Aaron Abke. He was the son of an evangelical pastor of a large church in the Bay Area of California. (Let’s try not to hold that against him). He graduated from a Christian high school and got a bachelor’s degree in theology from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Much of his current ministry is finding God through love, not fear.
In the same way, I did, Abke had a problem understanding a God that permitted souls to be cast into hell for eternity. Here is one example of many that he found. He went to the original text in the language Jesus spoke, which was Aramaic, and found that the word for hell we see in our English Bibles comes from Norse mythology. The word was translated in Mark 9:43-48 from Aramaic, meaning literally The Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna for short.
At that time, Jesus was speaking to first-century Jews who would understand that this was a real place—it was the garbage dump of Jerusalem and the site the bodies of thieves and criminals were thrown to be burned. For a first-century Jew, it was one of the worst fates imaginable to have your body burned instead of buried. This was because the resurrection was one of their most fundamental beliefs. What Jesus was talking about was an actual physical place, not a pagan myth of an underworld where souls were tortured forever.
The previous paragraph represents just one of the Bible passages Abke investigated. He concluded that nowhere in the Bible does it say there is a hell as we have been led to believe. These are merely errors in translation from the original text.
Now, let’s get the hell out of here and move on to the next step in my journey.
Part Ten – EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT
We interrupt this series with a very important announcement:
I am a spirit. I have no physical form. I am eternal. I am whole. That’s me folks. And that’s you too!
I, and if you are reading this, have possession of a body. Bodies are interesting things. No two are exactly alike. In fact, there is so much variation; it is astonishing. They start small and fragile out of one variant’s body and grow into a fully formed and independent adult.
Bodies are a lot of fun as long as care is taken. They can move about on two limbs, jump and do all manner of contortions. We use them for carrying, fishing, hiking, reading, teaching, preaching, and sometimes getting close and friendly, producing other small bodies. I like that part, especially.
On the other hand, the body can be a pain in the rear. If proper care isn’t taken, they can get sick, broken, and invalid. That is the “not fun” part. Even with proper care, our bodies wear out, which isn’t fun either. Sometimes we want to get rid of it, and a few do just that.
Another thing we have, which comes in the package of a body, is the mind. It also can be a wonderful thing and very useful. Without it, we would not have a connection to and control of the body. Through the mind, we determine all actions performed by the body. We often set up programs and circuits to manage mundane tasks such as driving, typing, walking, and an endless variety of functions.
The mind allows us to do other things, such as thinking, planning, searching memories, imagining future events, and so forth. We like doing these sorts of things when we are in a place of contentment. Often that is not the case, and then, we use the mind to worry, fret, feel anxious, hopeless, hateful, and many other negative emotions.
You may have noticed that bodies and minds have as much downside as upside in most cases. There is a good reason for this.
Many of you have so closely identified with the body and mind that you have forgotten who you really are. In other words, you have become the body and mind as a single unit. Not only that, your view of others is the same. Without your spiritual awareness, you believe that you cease to exist except as fertilizer and food for worms when you die.
The good news is the idea is reversible. Not only that, it is inevitable that you will discover your spiritual nature. You may have noticed I haven’t brought God or Satan into this conversation. This was on purpose. I specifically wanted to talk about the spiritual you and me in relation to the body and mind. We will save the Creator and “de debil made me do it” for another day.
If you have any interest in finding your true self as separate from the body/mind, you absolutely can. First and foremost, you must have the desire to do so. This is the most essential step. The next step is to search and turn over every stone to find the knowledge that leads to the experience. Knowing is not enough; you must experience the awareness of yourself as separate from the body or mind to fully experience your true self. When you do, you will experience peace, calm stillness, and certainty of self that words cannot describe.
Every effort on this road is well-spent. Good luck, and see you soon.
Part Eleven – What is Your Version of Christianity?
Depending on the source, an estimated sixteen to thirty thousand denominations, sects, or churches identify as Christian. Many, if not most, believe only they are on the true path to salvation. Some even believe that any other version will lead to hell. Others have even gone to war over which faith was correct. Even with all this diversity in denominations, most, at least in my part of the world, have similar fundamentalist views.
In my recent expanded search, I have learned there are two extremes (and everything in between) about the Christian faith: doctrine-driven Fundamentalism and Christian mysticism.
In its extreme form, Fundamentalism is much like the church I grew up in. Say the right words, follow the rules, and heaven awaits. It is a fear-based doctrine. Indeed, not all fundamentalists are that extreme; most fall on a scale between this and the next extreme.
There are some common themes in fundamentalist traditions. They tend to believe in the current version of the Bible as the sole source of God’s word. They have the idea that there is an actual hell and that souls who reject Jesus as a personal savior will go there. And they believe in certain doctrines or rules of behavior as laid down by church leaders.
Fundamentalist churches tend to have a corporate structure and hierarchy in which doctrine flows from the top down. For many people, a fundamentalist structure gives a foundation for their faith which provides security in belief, a community of like-minded people, a fellowship that offers comfort, and a belief that they are safe from the fires of hell.
The Christian Mystics I know of primarily teach love and forgiveness and follow the teachings and behavior of Christ as recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. Mysticism leans toward a more meditative or contemplative form of a relationship with Jesus and God. It is more a method of thought and focuses on the inner relationship with God. It aims to achieve a greater and greater awareness of our true spiritual nature and relationship with God and that each person on earth is a divine spiritual being at their core. In other words, we are all children of God but unaware of or asleep to it.
In Christian mysticism, all doctrine or rules come from within, not from man’s dictates. The idea of loving your neighbor as yourself and loving your enemies as an actual practice is an example of this kind of thinking. Many early Christians, some even sainted after death, were teaching mysticism as the proper relationship with God.
Fear and the wrath of an angry God have no place in Christian mysticism. Only love, love of God, love of others, and love of all creation is the hallmark of a Christian mystic. Following what Jesus said in the gospels is another common trait of a Christian Mystic, giving special consideration to proper translation from the original text. Another essential aspect of Christian mysticism is forgiveness. I have struggled with this, as I described in my post about forgiveness.
What about sin? How can I forgive (name your poison)? Jesus said on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I used to struggle with forgiveness. Some things to my earthly mind seem to be unforgivable. But when you understand “they know not what they do,” it puts a different light on the subject.
Christian mysticism makes more sense to me. It allows you to follow the teachings of Jesus, which point the way to salvation and the experience of knowing God without the trappings of doctrine.
This may be a lot to take in, and I may lose some of you at this point; that is okay. But let me remind you: this is my journey, and a journey it is.
Please feel free to contact me and disagree, agree, question, or fuss, if you will. I will respond to each of you with love.
Part Twelve – The Truth Will Set You Free
If the truth were easily discovered, we would all know it, and there would be peace on earth, wouldn’t there? From a human standpoint, nothing could be further from the truth. Ownership of the “truth” is a favorite pastime of news organizations, politicians, and folks perusing social media platforms. We all think we know the truth and everyone else is wrong or is telling lies.
I, too, was caught up in trying to solve all the world’s problems. I spent a lot of time writing articles on many of those subjects. I recently concluded I was wasting my time and energy on the apparent problems of society. I was not getting to the root of the many opposing views and actual conflicts arising from them.
My new truth and what I consider the root of all strife is our lack of awareness of our true nature, our relationship to the Creator of the universe, and that the solution to all conflict is forgiveness and love.
I am now learning and experiencing the means to achieve my spiritual goals from various sources. One of the first studies I am working on is what Jesus has said in the gospels, especially as translated from the original scrolls written in Aramaic. I am also studying the writings and teachings of Christian mystics. I am not excluding truth wherever it may be found.
There is a commonality in many religious texts to the Christian Bible and truths to be found there. I found this to be true in my spiritual searches, even when those common threads may not have had the complete answers I sought. In that regard, I do not believe the Bible as it is written today to be infallible. If passages in the Bible do not agree with what Jesus said, and if the passages do not express God’s unconditional love, I will reject them. Church doctrine, teaching, and rules will be subject to the same scrutiny, and the same litmus test will be used.
Christian mysticism was utterly unknown to me until recently, yet it has been around since the beginning of the Christian religion. Christian mysticism in Christianity was common from the second century until the Reformation, when it was downplayed and doctrinal knowledge of God was favored over experiential knowledge. As we can see, doctrine gained widespread practice and became the norm for most churches today.
Many people today equate mysticism as a word with magic, satanism, and witchcraft, dismissing anything connected with the word. This was also my first impression when I saw the term Christian mysticism. Now that I have found out what Christian Mysticism is and that it is all about learning how to experience Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit as a son of God and truly understand the gospels, I am all in. My early rejection of the Bible was the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
An interesting tidbit I would like to share is my talk with my mother after having a revelation about the Gospels of Jesus. She has been a Christian all her life and has prayed every day that her sons would come to God. During our long talk and in the conversation, I spoke of the trouble I have with parts of the Bible story. For the first time, she confessed to me that she also had trouble with similar parts that she found troubling. I have to admit I was surprised as I had no idea that she had some of the same issues.
That’s all for today; see you on the flip side.
Part Thirteen – Watching, Reading, Listening, and Learning
“The dominion of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’
For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is within you.”
Two of my many sources for guidance on my current journey to gaining spiritual knowledge and experience are Melissa (Mel) Denyce and Aaron Abke. Both have many videos on YouTube, and each highly recommends “A Course in Miracles,” commonly abbreviated as ACIM.
I found ACIM on Amazon in several versions and chose the complete and annotated edition. At 1945 pages and weighing almost 4 pounds, I had no idea it would be that big. I wondered if a miracle would transpire to help me make it through the course. Of course, neither Melissa nor Aaron mentioned how enormous this book was.
Aaron and Melissa make a point of saying that ACIM is not for everyone. You need not have a religious background to do this course, but you need to be at a place in your spiritual journey where these ideas resonate with you. Also, it helps not to be adverse to Christian terms since much of the courses and language relate to Jesus and God as referenced in the Bible.
ACIM is laid out in three sections. First is the text, which accounts for almost half of the course. Second is the workbook, with 365 lessons, one for each day. And finally comes the teacher’s section.
The stated purpose of the course is a path of spiritual development. It is also suggested to read the text while doing the lessons. I am currently on page 39 of the text and in lesson 3. I have already gained insight into an idea I clung to that inhibited my growth. I will report on my progress as it seems appropriate.
Melissa is currently doing the course and is a few months into the workbook. She has videos about her experiences, which is what convinced me to start. If you wish to see those videos, contact me, and I will provide the link.
One of the other things I have done is write these articles about my journey. I am sure you have heard of other people, for example, that parade their life in public and say how much they gained from writing their stories. Usually, this is to work through some traumatic event in their life, but not always.
Reflection helps a person gain a new understanding of their past and put it in perspective, at least according to those who have done this. I didn’t fully understand that point of view, but now I get it. Doing this has given me a view of my journey that is a connected and logical progression rather than a bunch of scattered stops and starts.
Because of the spiritual struggles in my early background, I will be working to look into conflicts with the Bible and what I was taught about it. In this, I will be going after the truth and leading it where it may go. At this point, this is far less critical than my primary goal.
One final note is that gaining knowledge, understanding, and techniques are only of value if they lead to your awareness and experience of your true nature, including your relationship to all life and the Creator.
At this point, my articles on this subject may be concluded, at least for some time. I have accomplished my goal of publishing the spiritual twists and turns, ups and downs I have been through to date. I will continue to study, meditate, seek answers, and pray. I expect this to continue without end.
Even though I may or may not continue this series, I am always open to contact from anyone wishing to discuss spiritual matters with me.
Part Fourteen – The Law of One
It’s been over a year since I’ve written any posts concerning my spiritual journey. I’ve experienced a lot physically, mentally, and spiritually during that time. Below are a few of the many subjects covered in the book, The Law of One. Over time, I’ll post additional articles about that particular book and others I have read. Who knows where my muse might lead me in the future? Gee, where do I start on this one?
To begin with, “The Law of One” refers to the concept that everything is connected, brought into existence by the One Infinite Creator. That includes all physical and non-physical existence, throughout time and space, in all universes. The book makes it clear that everything is part of the whole, and everything in life is a part of the One Infinite Creator. Using the term “One Infinite Creator” eliminates any idea of “my God” as opposed to someone else’s idea of “their God.” Almost every religious person would agree that there is One Infinite Creator.
Contained within that concept is the view that we will all be one with the Creator in the final step of our spiritual evolution. Throughout the universe, there are contrasts, dark and light, yin and yang, positive and negative. The eternal contrast gives value and perspective to our experiences. We have the opportunity to learn lessons and grow spiritually by participating in failures and successes.
On the subject of contrast, it never made sense to me that a loving God, our Creator, would allow, send, or require anyone to burn in hell or be tortured forever. Where is the fatherly love? It makes my heart sick to see my fellow man in anguish here on earth as it is. In what heaven would we be able to experience bliss if our friends, family, neighbors, or fellow man were in eternal torment? The God I know has unconditional love for all of his creation. I cannot imagine any soul left permanently behind. Oh, I could be wrong, but I sure hope not!
Spiritual consciousness is sometimes called an “awakening.” In that sense, it means you have become profoundly aware of the Creator, in both your spiritual self and that of others, not as something conceptual, but that you have fully experienced on a deeper level. To experience God within ourselves and others is the destination of spiritual growth.
Awakening may occur when one is in extreme crisis, nearing death, or at any time with no apparent trigger. It may also happen during spiritual study, prayer, or meditation.
My awakening happened in my twenties. “Profound” was an understatement. It rocked my world, and I’ve never been the same. There were rocks, boulders, mountains, and deserts in my path along the journey. Once I awakened, there was no going back.
Knowing that the Creator is part of everyone and everything around us is comforting. So, my friends, with that understanding, we are beginning to sense that everything IS the oneness of the Creator. That is the Law of One.
Part Fifteen – I Went to Church – Really?
Yes, I did. Just a little background before I get into the thick of things. As most of you have read, I attended a small church in Western Oklahoma. As I said in that article – “the hell, fire, and damnation preachers held us captive up close and personal.” If they preached and message of love, it was overshadowed by the fear of hell.
In that article about the terror of hell, I did fail to mention the one thing I did enjoy. Singing. I loved singing hymns at the top of my lungs. I sang in a choir for a time and did a solo once or twice. I liked singing for the pleasure of the musical feel, not the message.
Since that time, I have had only a few occasions to darken the doors of any church. Those times were to accompany someone who needed me to drive for one reason or another. Indeed, not because I was interested in attending for myself. The choir sang “Rock of Ages” during one of those times. I told my friend I was with, “When did they change the words? That was not the words I sang growing up” He admitted that they had changed the wording. Earlier this year, I took my cousin to evening Catholic Masses on two occasions. The sermon, or homily as it is called, was very impressive. The part of the service that drove me to the room’s rear was a cloud of incense; otherwise, it was interesting but not my cup of tea.
Now we get to my attending church because I decided to on my very own. It all started with some spiritual books I had been reading about the Law of One, the last post’s subject. One of the book’s co-authors was, “was” is correct as she is now deceased, Carla L. Rueckert, a devout Anglican Episcopalian. I was so impressed with her philosophical and spiritual views I decided to attend an Anglican Episcopal church to see if it would be a fit for me. Just so you know, I have for some time felt the desire to find a group or church open to the spiritual views I hold today. I did a Google search and found one at 287 and Ovilla Road. They have a website, so I spent hours reading and listening to some sermons they had on the website. I saw they had an adult class, one hour long, before the regular service. I decided it was worth a shot, bought a new pair of overalls, and found a shirt that fit so I would be presentable.
The Sunday arrived, as Sundays always do, and I came a few minutes before the class started. They had coffee in the room, so I grabbed some and sat in the back. Well, of course, I sat in the back. It’s hard to escape without causing a stir if you are in the front row. The Vicar ran the class, and I was surprised to find out at the time that he was giving us the hour-long version or the 25-minute sermon he delivered later in the service. I was very impressed with his message, agreeing with his understanding of the Bible passages he addressed. Two points for him.
Next was the service itself. Okay, it was 10:30, and there was no mention of length. Forty-five minutes to an hour, maybe? On my way in was a large pamphlet that I was encouraged to take. As it turned out, it is well I did. The six pages gave a complete rundown of all the parts of the service. It was a lengthy amount of the Vicar or others saying a phrase or paragraph, then the congregation saying their part or amen. There was one line after 1 ½ pages were completed that showed where the sermon was to be delivered. That left 4 ½ pages of various rituals or sacraments to complete. As soon as the sermon had ended, I found the opportunity to slip out the back. I could see this church was not a fit for me.
In no way do I have anything negative to say about the people who find value and comfort in worshiping this way. Reading the reasons on the website for each of these rituals/sacraments makes perfect sense for many people. I did email the Vicar, apologizing for leaving his service early, and wrote at length about my positive impression of him and his church. He returned my email with a very friendly tone, liked what I said, and invited me to come back anytime.
Next week, I will be attending the Unity Church of Arlington. Wish me luck. I will let you know how it goes.
Part Sixteen – Yep, It’s A Match!
Last week I wrote that I intended to put the Unity of Arlington on my dance card for the following Sunday, November 13, 2022. During the week, I discovered that due to the COVID outbreak of 2020, they began filming the entire Sunday service on YouTube. I was able to preview several, including a 5 part series titled “Simple Southern Spirituality.”That way, I had a chance to figure out whether it was my kind of church or not. If not, I could save myself a 40-mile trip to Arlington, get on a couple of pallets, and deliver my own sermon to my chickens and sheep. As long as I spread some grain, I would have a captive congregation.
As it turned out, I was so impressed with what I watched; I became really excited about attending come Sunday. Not only that, I signed up for their email list on Thursday, and the next day I got a notice of the subject of the sermon, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” This included an invite to a potluck afterward, celebrating Unity of Arlington’s 48th anniversary. Oh boy, a chance to feed the spirit and body on the same trip. How’s that for efficiency? Fortunately, I had made 25 lbs of Smoked Kielbasa the week before, so I signed up for meat, and my share of the food was easy, peasy. Just heat and serve.
As I expected, the service was much better in person than watching on YouTube. I went to a Moody Blues live concert in 1973. Unfortunately, I was in a mental fog for reasons you may guess. I have enjoyed them “live” on YouTube almost 60 years later, being of sound mind. Of course, watching the Moody Blues in a concert hall today would be lovely, but spiritually bereft of the profound benefit I enjoyed today. In “my wildest dreams” (MB), in the past, I would never have imagined going to church for me would be anything but, at best, tedious. Every part of the service I attended today aligned with my spiritual beliefs and how I believe they should be practiced. In addition, it is wonderful to associate with like-minded people who could not have been more accepting and gracious towards one another.
Please make no mistake; I am not judging other people’s churches and religions. Everyone has faiths and practices that resonate with them and fulfill their spiritual needs. I admit that in times past, I have envied those that were secure and fulfilled in their church, not having that for myself. I particularly missed the singing of hymns. However, in my usual belief, all things come according to our needs in their time. Truly, this was the time for me. I needed space and time before now to get my spiritual life in order to be ready for this church at this time.
I do not intend to elaborate any more than I have already said about the Unity Church in general, nor the Unity Church of Arlington. If, for any reason, you want to find out more about either of these, you can look them up online. Whether you wish to find out “what in the world Jerry is up to now?”; Or have a genuine interest in finding out for yourself, I will provide links for that purpose.
Oh, I almost forgot. The food at the potluck was amazing. The place was packed. Must have been 60-70 people there, at least.
Here is a link to the Unity of Arlington Website.
This is an example of a full service. The first 15 minutes or so is before the service gathering with piano music.
Here is a link to the worldwide organization.
BTW, I only took a few photos. I promise to add more in the future if you want to check back in by the end of the year.
This is the piano player who plays for 15 minutes from 10:45 until the service begins at 11:00, as well as accompanying the choir before and during the service.
This is the choir singing before the service starts. By the time the service begins, most seats will be filled.
A closeup of the choir. Actually, the singers didn’t refer to themselves as a choir; that is my word. They used the word songleaders.
This was the 48th anniversary of the Unity of Arlington Church, and the two founders were given this award. In the middle is Reverend Anne Tabor, Senior Minister for this church.
Part Seventeen – Eckhart Tolle – A New Earth
In the realm of imparting spiritual wisdom, words recorded from the distant past were so remarkable that they are still being studied today. The Vedas, The Tao, Buddhist texts, Hinduism Sacred Texts, the Qur’an, the Torah, and the Holy Bible are the most often quoted. Then there were the famous philosophers in Ancient Greece, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. There were dozens of lesser-known philosophers spread throughout history.
Most modern-day spiritual teachers have studied the wisdom and practices of some, if not all, of these books. Eckhart Tolle quotes several sources in his writing and speaking to make a point about a particular concept. Like other spiritual teachers, Tolle speaks from a knowledge and experience of incorporating ancient wisdom into their own life.
In the May 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Oprah interviewed Eckhart Tolle. Oprah called his book “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” the most important she’s ever chosen for her book club. In this interview, Oprah discussed the fact that eight years ago, in an interview with Meg Ryan, she learned about his first book, The Power of Now. She said it transformed her life and that she keeps a copy wherever she goes. Often referring to the highlighted portions time and time again. In the interview, Oprah said, Your latest book, A New Earth, was my most recent book club pick and the subject of my first-ever Webcast course on Oprah.com. This was a series of 10 weekly webinars with Tolle and Oprah Winfrey. To know more, Google “A New Earth” Phenomenon: An Hour That Can Change Your Life, and you can watch Oprah on two videos. One is 39 minutes, another over 90 minutes. The reason I added so much about Oprah’s take on Eckhart is for the same reason I don’t spend time re-inventing heavier-than-air flight. Others have done it so well; what can I add? I suppose I could add a bit more if you insist.
Since you twisted my arm, I will add a teaser. Chapter one is titled: The Flowering of Human Consciousness. Here he describes our inherited dysfunction. I doubt I need to explain further what he wrote on that subject, even though it is essential to learn the mechanics of this. The effect is evident to anyone. That humanity, on the whole, is and has been a portrait of tragedy for all of its history. Don’t take my word for it if you haven’t read this. Oprah’s interview says it best.
He goes on to share the good news in the form of rising consciousness born out of the ashes of dogmatic spiritual belief systems. He speaks of a large-scale opening of spirituality outside of religious structures as a new development. He says many traditional churches are turning to a deeper meaning within their belief system. Seven more chapters expand on the subject, with each chapter giving the reader a wealth of practical knowledge anyone can put immediately to use. Using this knowledge diligently over time can bring about a life of peace, love of life, and an end to mental and emotional suffering.
The above is just a glimpse of what is in chapter one. There are eight chapters, each rich with nuggets of wisdom, not from his point of view but the more extensive source of consciousness he draws from. He doesn’t say so, but some would call it Christ Consciousness, the Holy Spirit, the One Infinite Creator, or any other name, or what many know as God.
In my view, there is no conflict between the covers of this book and any religious or spiritual beliefs you may hold. If you believe this is contrary to your ideas, I challenge you to read it yourself so that you will have a firm basis for your view. Or don’t; I will respect you the next morning regardless.
Here is what the book has meant to me personally. I have read this book twice and referred back to passages often. Practicing the things I learned there has been a real blessing. What is taught in this book completely aligns with my Christian Mysticism.
There was one thing in my life missing in the study of spirituality. As a Christian Mystic, I had despaired at finding a church whose beliefs aligned with mine. That includes practices such as those contained in the books by Eckhart Tolle, Joel Goldsmith, A Course In Miracles, and the Holy Bible. I finally decided to use my friend, Google, to help. Yeah, I know; sometimes, my buddy Google takes it upon himself to snoop into my personal life and give me unwanted advice. Most of us have had friends like that. Nosey and full of advice. If you read my last post, you will know I found the perfect fit – Unity Church of Arlington. Unity’s principles align quite nicely with Christian Mysticism. That’s why you will find me there every Sunday, rain or shine.
Hey, now my cup runneth over in abundance – someone, get a mop!
Part Eighteen – Hiking with God – Cleburne State Park
This morning at 6:45, when I left for Cleburne, it was 37° F. When I arrived at my parking place at the trail entrance, it was 35°. A chilly but invigorating start. I had dressed in layers, an undershirt, a tee shirt, long sleeve denim shirt, overalls, and a medium, hooded jacket. With only a light wind, I was off to a perfect start.
As some of you know, I have been concentrating on studying Christian Mysticism as part of my learning of spiritual matters. Lately, it has become my main focus. In the past few years of searching, I discovered it is a path I am meant to follow – my true calling.
As I started hiking, I decided this was an excellent time to further develop my relationship with God. I began by admiring his handiwork. The trees, the sky with beautiful clouds, the wide variety of plants and shrubs, and the spaciousness of it all. Every little bit, I would stop, take a deep breath, revel in the Creator’s presence, and do a short meditation.
Further down, I started talking to God, thanking him for my life, and asking questions that had been on my mind as of late. This is a really interesting part and something new to me. I have spent many hours searching for answers to the multitude of questions I had regarding – well, everything. The one thing I had not done was ask God these particular questions. Why not, you may ask? Ahh, now we get to the crux of the matter. I have been too arrogant, prideful, and an “I can do this myself” bonehead.
My method of asking was much like Tevya in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof.” If you have seen that movie, you will have noticed he spoke to God as if he was right there. Tevya’s manner was utterly informal and natural. This was how I spoke and how I questioned. I had no governor in my speech and language. It came from the heart, bypassing the mind, and straight to the mouth.
What happened amazed and astonished me. I would ask a question and immediately have the answer. And when the answer came, I realized – well, of course. Okay, what? Did I think God would have to mull it over, give it to the Holy Ghost to translate, and then give me the answer? Grinning, well, perhaps I did. (God probably had these same questions asked thousands of times)
Most of my early questions concerned concepts about the mystic teachings I had been learning. Sometimes I was unsure I understood what I had read, and when I asked God, the answers I received were incredible.
One type of question I asked toward the end of the Q&A was about personal shoulds or shouldn’ts having to do with human behavior, mine, that is. The answer was invariably “not important.”I got the idea that I shouldn’t focus on the trivial human frailties when we have the more important business, transforming ourselves and others into a deep relationship with him. Everything else will fall into its proper perspective as that occurs.
After a while, I grew silent and began to contemplate what I had received. I thought to myself, how wonderful it would be if I had gotten the understandings I have now back as a teen. I immediately got an instant thought which had a complete message. What I went through was necessary to have the understanding needed at present. There was more to it than that, but that is the best I can do to communicate it.
To say this was the best hike ever is an understatement. Now, I understand why you read about people traveling to remote areas to meditate, contemplate, and pray for a time. You can be away from the distractions of dealing with the daily activities and demands of your time. When I hike that 5 miles in Cleburne, I can depend on being alone for almost all of the hike. It is almost like being in seclusion for 2 1/2 hours.
And, hey, I am not greedy. You can hike with God on that same trail. (I got dibs on Thursday mornings!)
Part Nineteen – Is God An Illusion?
This article further attempts to contemplate the mystery of God, the Bible, and other avenues of teachings I have studied lately. It is my effort to make sense of the teachings I have struggled with most of my life. Everything you read here is my opinion or belief. Judge for yourself if I am going in the right direction.
No, God, by whatever name, is not an illusion. This brings me to the first area I wish to explore. If we consider that God is always present, that there is nowhere in the entire universe where God isn’t, then we may say we are never separate from God. If we think we are, that is an illusion.
Enter the concept of good and evil, the forbidden fruit. In the Christian faith, is this the point where the separation from God came into existence? Before that, was complete union with the Creator a condition where good and evil did not exist, just eternal communion, a state we might equate with heaven? This is what most reading this would see as the reward for salvation. That is being saved from hell. Yes, no, maybe?
So what is hell? Is it some physical place with fire and brimstone? BTW, I realized I didn’t know what brimstone is even though I have heard it all my life. According to my friend, google, brimstone is an archaic term synonymous with sulfur. I imagine very few believe it is a physical place; instead, it is a place where we are sent after death if not saved through Christ.
What if we were to consider that hell is the separation from God? I know Christians who would agree with that but still think it is an afterlife, an eternal condition. How about now, in this incarnation on earth, are we not generally in a state of separation from God? By this standard, aren’t we living in hell, at least any part of it, that we are separate from God?
What union with God might be like, which any unbeliever will tell you can’t be proved. Let’s call it the Peace of God and unconditional Love, Forgiveness, and Bliss. When you think of being in communion with God, would anger, resentment, hopelessness, jealousness, or any other negative emotion be present? Would thoughts about work, social events, shopping, or any other part of human living be present?
It would be that quiet, still place where the world is set aside for the experience of that peaceful, restful space of communion. Just writing this line makes me yearn for this, and I can feel that presence pulling me near. WOW, a moment, please.
Alrighty, how about what keeps us from heaven – sin? When I think of sin, I think of anything separate from God within. Many think of sin as – well, I am at a loss for words. Depending on your religious faith, cultural environment, and personal experiences, sin may be any of a million or more different acts, thoughts, and even emotions. So how can we know in the face of so many opinions? So, if there are so many different rules that are “sins,” aren’t they, in many cases, opinions? Wouldn’t anything that separates us from God be covered?
Since I have been studying some of the Christian Mystics, it has led me to conclude one astonishing belief: simple. Anything which separates us from God is “sin.” Okay, what did Adam and Eve do to start this ball rolling? Eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What does this really mean? I think it was the first separation from God.
In God-who-is-Divine-Love, there is no bad or even good in a sense; because when we consider good, by implication, there is bad. That way of thinking would magnify sin to include everything we do or think when we aren’t in communion with him or guided by God. Let’s change the word sin to error. The word sin has meanings used to make others guilty by our judgment of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Feel free to disagree with me on this point.
Fortunately, I believe God has given us an out and a desire to become one with him. Yes, everyone. Yeah, the baddies as well. Because each of us is a son or daughter of God, we have God within us, drawing us toward perfect union with him. Some, including me, call this Christ within.
I believe most people hide “unknowingly” from God’s grace. They are lost in the illusion that they are what they think – “I think; therefore, I am.” They identify with their emotions – I can’t help what I feel. And they identify with the physical forms of the body, other bodies, and all other forms in the world, not as God, but without intelligent design, just a big unguided bang.
If we have God within and complete union with him, which is our way out, why isn’t it that simple? Just join God and live in a state of grace 24/7. Some say that you are saved when you accept Christ into your heart; that is all you need to do. I had an acquaintance years ago who said that because he was saved, it didn’t matter what he did; he was going to heaven. I thought but did not say, good luck with that.
I have read that our first spiritual transformation is the starting point of building that relationship with him. As I understand it, the word transformation is not about going down to the altar and saying the right words while feeling guilty of sin. It is genuinely seeking an experience beyond human understanding. This initial transformation can happen anywhere and at any time. Once received, never again will a person be satisfied with less.
Yes, you are transformed, and with it comes a joyous responsibility. I believe Job One is to develop a deeper understanding of the tasks we are asked to do. One of those is to love your neighbors as yourself. What part of that is needed before you can really love as yourself? Well, it is loving yourself. No, not your body, not your ego, not your emotions – your love of yourself as a son or daughter of God. Do you have a perfect, unconditional love of yourself in that way? I only recognized the truth of this from a sermon last Sunday. When the minister went over that point, I was stunned. It put a whole new light on what it would mean to love my neighbor as myself. Who are our spiritual neighbors? Why everyone, everywhere, of course.
As many of you already know, I have never believed in hell as an afterlife place. I believe that in the end, we will all be one with God. Some of you know that I think we are given as many chances as needed to dissolve that separation. In my opinion, God leaves no one behind.
What heaven would I enjoy when my fellow man, sons, and daughters of God, were separated from his love forever?
Even though I have given some of my understandings at this point in my spiritual journey, I am just beginning to practice what I believe to be true. To be able to integrate much of the above into my life will take many years. I am always open to new and better understandings. My spiritual path has not been without rocks, pitfalls, thunder, and lightning. Have patience with me if you see me stumble and struggle at times. Please forgive me if you see errors in my thinking. Pray that God blesses me with his presence and guidance in all things.
God bless you all. Amen
Part Twenty – Affirmative Prayer
I recently watched a 38-minute video titled “Introduction to Sufism.” You might ask, what is Sufism, and what has that got to do with affirmative prayer? Nothing, except that it started a train of thought when it occurred to me that in that entire 38 minutes, I could not remember the speaker saying a single negative thing. Nothing he was against, no criticism of other beliefs, and nothing about problems to solve.
Early in life, I adopted a philosophy that I called the ripple effect. Later I heard it called, as it was more widely known, the butterfly effect. This phenomenon has been known throughout history by different names. The theory is the same, and the way it is stated varies.
My version of this differs because I introduced thought and emotions into the mix. I believe that not only physical changes have a ripple effect. Thoughts and emotions do as well. Likewise, I have stated that our negative or positive thoughts affect people in China, halfway around the world. Not only that, but I have since changed that to include the universe. Before you send an ambulance to bring me to a mental hospital, allow me to explain, and don’t worry, I will get to affirmative prayer.
If you accept the premise that all things, including humans, are connected to that universal consciousness called God, that means we are all part of one universal intelligence. Because of that connection, everything a person thinks or feels will resonate to some degree, however small, in all things. Yes, even dirt, grass burrs, mosquitoes, and certainly those you are close to. Remember that if you have enough faith, you can move mountains; now, onto prayer, particularly affirmative prayer.
Affirmative prayer would be our positive prayers. If we think that the Ukrainians should defeat the Russians and drive them out of their country, what could be wrong with that? I won’t tell you that is wrong, but let’s think about the result that would create the best outcome for all. What if we pray for peace and prosperity for both sides? A positive outcome where no country has to lose.
Are some prayers more influential than others? I have a theory, but it may be wrong. One is your degree of union with that universal consciousness. The other is your persistence in that prayer. Your best prayer could be to have a close and continual relationship with the divine, bringing prayer to a new level. Wouldn’t that be nice?
What if all our thoughts, desires, and prayers were for the best outcomes in all things, with no losers, only winners?
I am not advocating doing less to correct the wrongs of the world. If we march, march for peace. If we see injustice, call for justice. If we see unkindness, apply kindness. Those that harm others must be removed from society; even they should receive affirmative prayer that they are reformed. All of our actions should reflect our affirmative prayers.
I will end with a prayer that you, the reader, have a blessed day. Amen.
Part Twenty-One – My Spiritual Awakening
The term spiritual awakening is often spoken of in the experiential study of spiritual wisdom. From all I have read, it can be as different as there are humans on the planet. It does have in common that it is a transformational shift from a state of human consciousness to one of intense spiritual awareness where the mind is still, and the heart or spirit brings us to a place unknown to us in human form. Oh, how to describe that in which mere words fail. Anyone who experienced this will understand.
This awakening, or revelation as it is also known, can come to anyone at any time. It can come to an atheist, a sinner, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Muslim, the poor, the rich, or on one’s deathbed. It seems that the universal consciousness that we call God, Allah, the Creator, the Beloved, or by any other name is not particular for whom it decides needs a kick in the booty towards awareness of who they really are. You could say to yourself that in some cases, God, by whatever name, must have a real sense of humor if it reveals his nature to that so and so. You know who I am talking about.
I have been on a quest for truth, off and on, since I was bombarded with hell, fire, damnation, and the wrath of God by ministers in my youth. I wasn’t buying what I was being sold but lived in fear that God might possibly be that cruel. Well, why am I repeating this when if you are reading this, you already know the seeking I have done early on, which includes my bout with God and Satan.
My awakening to the essence of spiritual self came when I was deep in studying Eastern sacred texts. In my case, this is when God decided I needed that kick in the booty. I was already enthralled by what I was reading. You would think he, okay, maybe she, would have picked a time when I was in the dumps, in a funk, or drinking a soda to give me a swift kick in the pants. But no, she waited until I was already heavily drunk on the wine of spiritual wisdom. Maybe God said to herself, Jerry is already part way there; it wouldn’t be much work to kick it up a notch.
As I mentioned, I was reading, no, I remember now. I was contemplating what I had just read. Yeah, that’s what it was. Suddenly I lost all perception of the physical world. I was immersed in a sea of pure love, the oneness of life that seemed to have no end. That is the best way I can describe that, which is beyond words. I don’t know how long I was in that experience, but it couldn’t have been long. Over the next couple of weeks, I gradually settled into a more normal state of consciousness. That experience has permanently changed how I have looked at all of creation and the oneness of my existence.
No, I didn’t suddenly become wise and know the universe’s secrets. My struggle with life’s challenges and my need for greater understanding did not subside. In fact, a few years later, I went through years of what I call the dark night of the soul. Even during that period, I was better off spiritually than in the past. I know, somehow, that doesn’t make sense. I assure you, though, that every step of my spiritual journey has a purpose; efforts on the path are well-spent.
Right now, I am blessed to be in a place of spiritual growth that has been going faster than ever. I now have resources, people, and a community supporting me in ways I have never had before. I feel overwhelming gratitude for all that I have experienced at this stage of life.
If you haven’t had an awakening experience yet, don’t worry, you will. God is a Marine, and God’s Marine motto is: “Until they are home, no soul is left behind.”
Part Twenty-Two – Reincarnation – Have We Lived Before?
Reincarnation is a subject fraught with the danger of being me being “Canceled,” if I may use the modern term. However, if you don’t cancel me and bear with me, I promise not to turn you into a pagan or worse. I will only attempt to show what many religions and philosophers, both now and in ancient times, believed and why. I will also relate any thoughts I have on the matter.
The belief in reincarnation or transmigration of the soul has been part of belief systems as far back as historical records exist. East Indian religions – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and most Hindus- believe in reincarnation. The Kabbalah in Judaism references the transmigration of the soul, which some strains of Orthodox Jews believe. Also, certain Eastern Christian churches have this belief traced back to their beginnings. Many indigenous people of the Americas and Australia have such views. Even philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, among others not so well known, have cast their lot into this camp.
Of course, the fact that so many religions and philosophers hold these beliefs provides no scientific evidence that there is any basis for these beliefs. The rationale for why we don’t remember any earlier incarnations, as it is called, has several answers depending on the source. What many believe occurs upon being born or soon after is called the Veil of Forgetting. This means when you are born into a new body, you are caused to forget earlier existences. One theory is that it is so you can live an authentic life without drawing from the past. Another is that if you remembered all your previous existences, it would mess with your ability to function in the present. I have heard of a few more theories, but I would say that most of us have trouble with memories in this life messing with us; who wants to remember all the shit storms from the distant past. Of course, if you lived perfect, joyful lives in your past incarnations, that might not be a problem. Let me hear from you if you believe you lived a few centuries in perfect bliss. I would love to hear you say so with a straight face.
We can’t question Socrates or Plato to get their story. Still, many people today say they remember past lives to one degree or another. Some eagerly tell how they have been Queens, Kings, and Royalty in all their past lives and usually brag about it to anyone that will listen. I am sure someone had to be all those people, but if it was me, I would keep it to myself. Most I have researched have been ordinary in one way or another, and none I have heard of remember all their lives, nor all of any individual life. Like our present existence, the past lives they recall are of memorable or meaningful events. What they had for breakfast on some morning in the year 1326 would only be recalled if they choked to death on a chicken bone then and were triggered today by getting food caught in their throat and choking in a similar fashion. One of the most common ways to hear testaments from people with these experiences is by researching NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Yeah, it is so common that it has its own acronym. There are thousands of recorded instances of NDEs, and a portion of them have experiences of remembering past lives. Many others have had past life memories without NDEs, and there are as many differences in the trigger for the event as there are people telling their stories. Estimates by past life researchers are that known instances of these memories are a small fraction of people who have had them. That stands to reason; most people would be considered nuts for saying so. Might as well add that you were abducted by aliens from outer space to enhance the story.
You may wonder, or not if you know me, why I would dive so deep into this subject. The simple answer is that I have had such memories more than once myself. No, I don’t remember being royalty. My memory, closest to the present, was my death during WWII. I was in my 20s when I remembered this, and I don’t know what triggered it, but I have my suspicions. I won’t go into details about it here, but briefly, it was only a few minutes of memory at the most. It was very clear, real, emotional, and in every way in sharp detail at the time. Today, I only have a faded memory, void of all emotions or feelings.
Another instance was sometime in the middle ages when I was a young peasant with a redheaded wife. This was not a trauma but an ecstatic joy of being alive, in love, and we were both strong and happy. I remember the one-room hovel, the interior details, the mud outside, and me chasing her through the mud and water, both of us laughing joyously. Perhaps the trigger was a redheaded girl I saw at a truck stop that I instantly felt an intense attraction to, even though I only saw her from across the room. It was only later that I had the memory come up, and it hit me in broad daylight like a ton of bricks. No, it was not a dream, as far as I am concerned.
This is typical of the other memories I had. Once it was “re-experienced in full,” it became the same kind of memory many of us have in this life. Ones in which the extreme emotion has faded to an “intellectual” memory. When it is fresh, I can revisit it until the impact dissipates and becomes a simple memory.
There were two other instances of past life recall that I will not take the time to relate in detail. I was a woman in the distant past, and in the other, I was a seaman on a 17th-century sailing ship.
Now, I do not expect you to believe in reincarnation, past lives, transmigration of the soul, or that being an eternal spirit works both ways. Trust me, I have wondered if I am experiencing, in this life, what someone else that lived before me had happened to them. I wrestled with this question, yet the experience felt so real; I don’t know how I could have that much feeling and emotion in another’s memory. For now, I have to go with “it was me,” but as I always say, I could be wrong. In the mystery of life, it is always wise to be open to new understanding.
If you have had these experiences or wonder if you have lived before, I am open to having a conversation with you about this or referring you to reliable sources of information. Email me, and I will contact you, and we can set something up. Don’t bother if you just want to start an argument, I won’t take the bait.
One more thing to add fuel to the fire while I am on this subject. Might as well get it over with and prepare for cancellation. I’m just forwarding a possible idea about the confusion so many are having about gender identity. Partly I attribute it to the chaos of being young in a world where even preteens are bombarded with mixed messages about how to live a good life in a divisive world. Beyond that, could it be possible that having in previous lives been another gender that gets triggered in this incarnation, causing spiritual confusion about gender identity? This could happen at any time from birth onward. I only came up with this theory because of the instance where I had a memory of an incarnation of being a woman with all the emotions, feelings, and sensations attendant with that gender. That memory happened when I was a young teen. A young person with a life of uncertainty and confusion may see a memory such as that as an indication they were in the wrong body. Especially if society agreed and encouraged that belief. Just saying, and of course, I could be wrong.
In the final analysis, whether or not we believe in reincarnation doesn’t matter in this life. It is what we do now that counts. The past’s only value is the lessons we learn from it, whether it is one life or many. And as we go forth in life, love, kindness, joy, forgiveness, love of God, and using our talents for the good of our fellows and all life is job one. Anything else is a distraction. And so it is.