Author Archives: Beyond The Letter
We Can Fly
My friend Ginger Brown wrote this poem…
Beyond the blue, up where the clouds reside,
an eagle soared across the open sky
and as above the pines he circled high,
the final flames of twilight slowly died.
While watching from the ground below, I sighed.
I always thought one day I’d learn to fly,
but growing up to be so scared and shy,
I hardly ever dared to step outside.
Now standing in the cold and dark, I turned
toward the warmth and light behind my door
and then I heard a Voice that filled the night.
He said, “Abandon all for which you yearned.
If you embrace My Way, you’ll find much more.
The time has come for you to start your flight.”
When I first heard this poem, it really resonated with me. While I’ve done a lot in my life, I sometimes wonder if I’m not holding back. That maybe I’m afraid to really soar. Am I doing what Creator has in mind for my life? How the poems ends reminds me of this from the Bible, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
The Experience of Transcendent Oneness
A 6-Year-Old Boy Experienced This…
“In a brief, single full moment, I was allowed to see how the vast contraption of nature all round me . . . was bound into a single vast ongoing wheel by one immense power that had willed us into being and intended our futures, wherever they might lead through the pattern, the enormously intricate woven pattern somehow bound at the rim and cohering for as long as the Creator willed it.”
A 41-Year-Old Astronaut Experienced This…
“The biggest joy was on the way home. In my cockpit window, every two minutes: The Earth, the Moon, the Sun, and the whole 360-degree panorama of the heavens. And that was a powerful, overwhelming experience. And suddenly I realized that the molecules of my body, and the molecules of the spacecraft, the molecules in the body of my partners, were prototyped, manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. And that was an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness; it wasn’t ‘Them and Us’, it was ‘That’s me!’, that’s all of it, it’s… it’s one thing. And it was accompanied by an ecstacy, a sense of ‘Oh my God, wow, yes’, an insight, an epiphany.”
Who Were They?
Who was that boy? Reynolds Price, a Southern writer who taught at Duke University. “Since that childhood vision,” Price said later, “I have felt that either the Creator was interested in me, and had certain hopes and expectations of me, or that I was more sensitive than a lot of other people to forms of knowledge that are out there waiting to be stumbled upon. Maybe that’s part of what artists are, they’re stumblers, they’re people who stub their toe on something and say, Wait, what was that? Wait, that was a vision of the unity of being, and I saw it! Maybe some people are going so fast that they don’t even bother to stumble.”
Price calls himself a renegade Christian. Yet he has written of his faith in two volumes of memoir, a number of poems, a published response to a dying young man, and a study of the ethics of Jesus. He said, “The Christian tradition is the one in which I continue to acknowledge and negotiate with that Creator, though since my early twenties I’ve done it so outside the walls of an organized church and in ways that might seem heretical to many.” His spiritual exercises consist of private prayer, reading, meditation, reflecting his understanding that “the chief aims of any mature religious life are union with the will of God, as opposed to one’s own will, and the finding of ways to assist other creatures on their own lonely routes.”
Who was that astronaut? Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon. Here’s an except from a Rory Fitzgerald article on the HuffingtonPost.com…
After leaving NASA in 1972, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California to explore the frontiers of inner space. This was the beginning of a new journey for Mitchell: Since then, his aim has been to find an understanding of the universe which encompasses both science and spirituality.
As he researched his spiritual experiences of “oneness,” he says, “I began to realize that this type of experience has taken place in every culture throughout history. In my opinion, this type of experience is the basis of all religion.”
“[Religions] begin with some type of transformational type experience like that…a mountaintop experience, which moves you from your normal way of thinking…As a result of my experience, I think that the evolutionary path of humanity has to be away from violence and towards caring and oneness.”
He says that most anyone can have such a transformational experience, if they seek it: “The time-honored way is through traditional meditation techniques, where the mind is stabilized and cleared. That seems to open the way for the transformation-type experiences to take place. In many of our religious traditions, the cloistered aspects of the tradition has featured that.”
However, he says, as well as their mystical aspects, many religions also contain “a branch which says ‘onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war’… to me, that’s exactly the opposite to what these transcendent ideas are all about.”
“It seems to be always the case that, from the evidence we have of these ancient transcendent events, that the early spiritual leaders had the same notions as we’re talking about. But somewhere along the line, the followers who hadn’t had the original experience reverted right back to the same old political maneuvers, social and cultural bickering…so eventually religion becomes part of the problem, and not part of the solution.”
In recent years he has worked with several prominent scientists in developing the theory of the “quantum hologram,” which posits an energy field infusing all objects and living things. They hypothesize that this “quantum field” contains information about each object or being; and that it, in turn, interacts and connects with a single unified energy field that pervades the entire universe.
He says that “the quantum hologram [could be] a mechanism for psychic information, which we call in English our intuition, our ‘sixth sense.’ It should really be called our ‘first sense’ [as] quantum information flow is very fundamental in nature.”
He agrees that this conception may in some ways correspond with the theological concept of the “One God” of Judeo-Christian tradition, but he adds, “in the Judeo-Christian tradition they personify and anthropomorphize the deity, and I don’t…this newer interpretation that seems to be unfurling before us is with nature as the creative force, embodied in the natural law of the universe. That certainly seems to fit, in my mind at least, better than most other models.” But he chuckles, “We still have a ways to go before we understand the universe…we won’t have the answers before tea time.”
God has no Grandchildren
Years ago I had an exchange on social media with a friend of ours – Peggy Payne (she’s a wonderful writer, so check out her books). Here’s two of my responses…
1) Hi Peggy, I’m with you and the Gnostics. The Divine is not a head game of information and doctrine. God, Reality, Consciousness (whatever we care to call it) is a first-person experience. No one can tell us about it. We have to experience it for ourselves. That is why it can be said, “God has no grandchildren.”
2) Hi Peggy and company, The statement “God has no grandchildren” did not come from my poetry. I am not sure where it came from. If I read it, heard it or thought it. Where ever it came from, I believe it to be true. “Mystery school and libraries” sounds like a conflict; but I don’t think so. Spiritual truth lies in paradox.
I was reminded of this exchange recently and the phrase, “God has no grandchildren.” At a meeting last week, someone referenced this line from a Rumi poem, “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” I think we’re using different words, but talking about the same idea.
Here’s Rumi’s poem in its entirety…
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who, like Jacob blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up
a flowing prophet? Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there’s a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, so everyone will understand
the passage, We have opened you.
Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment of feeling
the wings you’ve grown, lifting.
I don’t say grace very often,
perhaps I should.
as I am given life.
Plants no longer face the sun,
animals no longer breathe the air.
Am I aware of this sacrifice?
Have I put it to good use?
To see the Divine in every face,
to know God is closer then my breath.
That would be a start,
one meal at a time.
I am not I
Recently, my wife Nancy posted this quote on her Facebook page… “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.” To which I commented, “That’s what will be left when our bodies fail us.” That exchange reminds me of the following poem from a book, “Iron John,” that I read 5 years ago…
I am not I…
…I am this one.
Walking beside me, whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And at other times I forget.
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
The one who will remain standing when I die.
Every Man has His Own Vocation
”Every man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over God’s depths into an infinite sea. This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which a general soul incarnates in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. When he is true and faithful, his ambition is exactly proportional to his powers. By doing his work he makes the need felt which only he can supply.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
God is Always Ready
God is always ready,
but we are very unready;
God is near to us,
but we are far from Him;
God is within, but we are without;
God is at home, but we are strangers.
– Meister Eckhart
Johannes Eckhart was one of the greatest of Christian mystics. He was born at Hochheim in Thringen, Germany, in 1260, and entered the Dominican order when he was 15. Later he became a distinguished professor and taught at different universities. Eckhart had a beautiful and powerful style which made him very popular in his own time. Unfortunately this led to accusations of heresy. Eckhart defended himself by saying that he believed in the indivisibility of God. And he was merely expressing his experiences of his profound contemplation upon God. The public eminence of Eckhart protected him from any harm but after his death many of his works were condemned and suppressed. Perhaps because of this he became a marginalized figure. However recently his works have attracted interest of God seekers both Christian and non Christian. Eckhart’s sayings speak with the authority of one who has experienced mystic union.
Heaven on Earth: from Ego-self to True-self.
(click arrow to listen) (adjust sound level to the left of arrow)
In this short audio (less than 2 minutes), James describes how we can experience Heaven on Earth. We have the divine pattern (paradigm*) within us, this Seed has all of our potential. In the darkness of our Earth-bound life, the Light pulls on us. In our attraction to the Light, we can break through our ego’s shell (false-self) and realize our true-self. And then we can experience Heaven on Earth.
*The original Greek term παράδειγμα (paradeigma) was used in Greek texts such as Plato’s Timaeus as the model or the pattern that the Demiurge (god) used to create the cosmos.
Unitive Consciousness: Once a Man, Twice a Child
The first half of our life is the building up of our ego. The second half of our life is the breaking through of our ego. Essential for our early survival (much like the egg is to the bird), our egos must later be cracked in order for our inner spirit to fly. For that to happen, we must experience the pain of living. But this pain is not suffering for the sake of suffering, rather it is suffering for the sake of transformation. Our cage has to be rattled so we are no longer comfortable. Our assumptions about who we are and the world must be challenged.
We have three choices about pain in this life. We can try to avoid it, we can try to deny it, or we can let it transform us. The avoidance and denial of pain is usually accomplished by diversions and addictions. Accumulating more than one needs, drinking and eating too much, working and partying too much, climbing social ladders; craving more and more of what doesn’t heal us or satisfy our real hunger. This is why the Buddha recommended the Middle Path. And also why the Bible warns, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The rich man, like the bird in the gilded cage, never learns to fly.
Or we can let our pain transform us. In that space of unease, we take our first steps across a threshold. Leaving our ego’s cage, we fall through the darkness and discover our true self, our soul. And then, with our newly discovered selves we can rise into the light of unitive consciousness. This falling and rising is called the Pascal Mystery in Catholic theology. By falling, we find out who we are and our unique purpose (where the world’s needs and our deepest desires meet). By rising we rediscover our connection to each other and the world. This re-cognition of unitive consciousness (our second childhood) is our glimpse of Nirvana or Heaven.
James on the Searcher’s Roadmap Show
James Alston will be interviewed on the Searcher’s Roadmap Show, Monday August 1 at 9:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time). It is an hour show that can be accessed 2 ways.
You can go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/renford/2011/08/02/searchers-road-map-radio-show (which is the RBR Network).
You can also call in at 347-838-9142.
There are 50 phone lines. (Those without a computer or who are not online can listen this way.) Also, anybody with a question can call this number as well. They will need to hold down the “1” button on their touch tone dial to flag Cecil McDaniel (the moderator), so they can ask a question.