Metaphysical Treatment

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Charles Fillmore, American mystic….

Thanks to commenter Michael (a different one) for sharing his experience of healing through a power beyond his conditioned range of resources. I’m talking about a personal union with Christ, and one man’s road back from the depths of suffering. Check it out here.

Michael offered two scriptural references from the Gospel of John, and I thought it would be interesting to see how Unity founder Charles Fillmore interprets these passages (in this case, from his book Mysteries of John). This is sort of how I now approach the Bible, always looking for the “inner” meaning behind surface words and themes. I hope to be able to do this sort of thing without referring to someone else’s take, but for now, why don’t we all open our minds to what Fillmore has to offer?

The first verse is John 3:8. Fillmore lumps it in with the preceding verses, and I’ll transcribe his entire interpretation here:

3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew.

8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The Pharisees refused to be baptized by John. They did not consider that they needed the repentance that he demanded. They thought they were good enough to take the high places in the kingdom of God because of their popularly accepted religious supremacy. Many people refuse to deny their short-comings. They hold that they are perfect in Divine Mind and that it is superfluous to deny that which has no existence. But they are still subject to the appetites and passions of mortality, and will continue to be until they are “born anew.”

The new birth is an uncertainty to the intellectual Christian, hence there has gradually evolved a popular belief that after death the souls of those who have accepted the church creed and have been counted Christians will undergo a change. But in His instructions to Nicodemus Jesus makes no mention of a resurrection after death as having any part in the new birth. He cites the ever present though unseen wind as an illustration of those who are born of Spirit. The new birth is a change that comes here and now. It has to do with the present man, that he may be conscious of the “Son of man,” who is the real I AM in each individual. “And no one hath ascended into heaven, but that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven.”

This chapter of John contains some of the vital truths taught in Christianity: the evolution of man from natural to spiritual consciousness, and the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the divine pattern for all men who are seeking the way of life.

Christianity teaches the complete law of evolution as compared with the partial exposition of the law made by Darwin and associates. Christianity describes God as Spirit creating by a process comparable to the mental processes with which we are all familiar. “God said,” and thus God created that which was to appear, God planned man and the universe, and through His word projected them into creation as ideal principles and immanent energies acting behind and within all visibility. But we should remember that Spirit could not emerge from the formless into the formed without creating relations, which necessitated laws operating through man and all things as essential factors in an orderly universe. Thus even God becomes subject to His laws or commandments. God the universal Spirit first appears as spiritual man. The next step in evolution is the appearance of the idea of spiritual man in the natural or Adam man. This man was primitively identified with an infinite capacity for expansion. When he recognizes his identity as being that of his source, Spirit, he expands in divine order and brings forth only good. When he deserts his spiritual anchorage and gives attention to external experiences and sensations, he falls into a world in which a diversity of results obtain that he calls good and evil. Thus man eats “of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In these few words is summed up the fall of man from an Edenic state, where he had the constant inspiration of creative Mind, to a consciousness of matter and the desperate struggle of personality for existence.

The natural man must evolve into the spiritual. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”

We are told here that “the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light.” World chaos results from the lack of spiritual light. We may plan peace and achieve it, but if this peace is not based on divine law, evolving love, and that law incorporated into the pact of peace as well as into the minds of those who sign that pact, we shall have no permanent peace.

Wow — that last bolded line could be the theme for this blog, dontcha think?

In his story of rescue through Christ, commenter Michael (according to my insight, maybe not so much his own) chose a conscious communion with Christ, who, just as in my own childhood experience described in the previous post, appeared to him as an actual person, rather than a character in a book. To me, this is spiritualization personified, and Michael is an inspiration to all who seek the Source of their existence.

Now… John 15:26… and again, Fillmore lumps this verse in with surrounding verses, followed by his metaphysical interpretation:

17These things I command you, that ye love one another.

18If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

22If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.

23He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

24If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

25But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

26But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

27And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

The Comforter or Holy Spirit is the law of God in action, and when thought of in this way it appears to have personality. From the truth the Hebrews got their conception of the personal, tribal God.

The functions ascribed to the Holy Comforter or Holy Spirit or Spirit of truth imply distinct personal subsistence: He is said to speak, search, select, reveal, reprove, testify, lead, comfort, distribute to every man, know the deep things of God, and He can be known by man only through his spiritual nature.

(See John 14:25-31 for further interpretation.)

Again, there’s this notion of spiritualization leading to deliverance from fear, from unknowingness, from annihilation in the Void — which is to say, the deeper we descend into our transformative journey to full union with Infinite Spirit, the more obvious our challenge to keep moving forward, to keep diving deeper — until, at a certain point, we have no choice to but fully, absolutely surrender to God, despite our gravest suspicions that death (or worse!) may result.

In a sense, we do die… but are reborn as spiritual beings, firm in our knowingness that Life cannot die, and that it does, in fact, flourish in and through us forever.

Spiritualized

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C.G. Jung, winding down the years….

Regular commenter Hawk recently brought up a subject worthy of its own post:

I just was reading pages 275 – 288 in C.G. Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and found his comparisons of Indian thought and Christianity very interesting. If you have any reactions or thoughts regarding Jung’s insights here, it would be helpful in my own process.

Little did I know the intensity of what would follow, as I began to read this passage from Jung’s autobiography (easily one of the twelve most influential books I’ve ever read, and one of the few to which I return periodically), which has led into several Internet as well as personal conversations, not to mention a synchronistic series of written teachings from varied sources. Let me provide one slice from Jung, quoting from page 277:

In Konarak (Orissa) I met a pandit who obligingly offered to come with me on my visit to the temple and the great temple car. The pagoda is covered from base to pinnacle with exquisitely obscene sculptures. We talked for a long time about this extraordinary fact, which he explained to me as a means to achieve spiritualization. I objected — pointing to a group of young peasants who were standing open-mouthed before the monument, admiring these splendors — that such young men were scarcely undergoing spiritualization at the moment, but were much more likely having their heads filled with sexual fantasies. Whereupon he replied, “But that is just the point. How can they ever become spiritualized if they do not first fulfill their karma? These admittedly obscene images are here for the very purpose of recalling to the people their dharma [law]; otherwise these unconscious fellows might forget it.”

I thought it an odd notion that young men might forget their sexuality, like animals out of rutting time. My sage, however, resolutely maintained that they were as unconscious as animals and actually in need of urgent admonishments. To this end, he said, before they set foot inside the temple they were reminded of their dharma by the exterior decorations; for unless they were made conscious of their dharma and fulfilled it, they could not partake of spiritualization.

This brings to mind the concept of the Fool’s Journey, which comes from Tarot lore and embodies the idea of the Fool card, which is said to depict all 22 major arcana cards in the life-journey that they represent. In other words, the Fool starts at zero (the number of his card), heads out through 21 stages of archetypal growth, only to return to zero. Those 21 stages of archetypal growth include such images as the Devil, the Lovers and Death, each of which has something to say about the need to pass through the fleshly experience of existence, complete with its erroneous beliefs and its misguided passions, until our karma is played out and we return to the spiritual recognition of our Divine essence (the Universe or World card, number 21, which stands for the panentheistic notion of God in everything, everything in God).

So, in order to pass through the doors to the Holy Sanctuary, one must pass through fleshly existence and all that it entails.

This brought to mind a prominent feature of my own spiritual biography, which I’ll reproduce here:

During spring of 1967, before my fifth birthday, I passed through a phase that lasted about three weeks, during which I sat cross-legged on my bed, facing west through a window that looked out on our back yard. Through what little Bible study I’d managed to accrue, I had formed an intimate bond with Jesus, considering him to be physically present not only when I prayed, but as I went through daily life. We would hold long conversations, walking side-by-side like best friends who’d known each other for two thousand years.

Jesus was present as I sat on my bed one morning. An energy grew inside my little body, filling it with bliss and happiness. Somehow, I knew just how to work with the energy, until “I” outgrew the house, the neighborhood, the city, state, continentÉ the planet. Then I popped out of the physical dimension completely, and was met by several presences that felt like “home,” who nonverbally “reminded” me of many things I’d known before this birth. It felt like I was being infused with sacred information, “catching up” on something that I’d worked long and hard to obtain. I moved in and out of these vibrational states every day during this time. Familiar beings accompanied me on these inner flights, like a family that had sent me into human form for some collective purpose; I was “reporting” back to them, and they were filling me in on my mission objectives, as well as teaching me what I would need to know during an arduous stay in this world. The experience was one of becoming reacquainted with that part of me that extends backwards and forwards through time, such that I merely had to acknowledge what I already knew. The specific information that emerged did not remain in my conscious mind for long, however, as I was a four-year-old boy who did not normally have the language to process these things.

Once, my mother burst into the room and saw me sitting there – I could see her clearly with non-physical eyes – and she quietly backed out, clicking the door closed. She never mentioned this or any of the other episodes to me.

As the final session drew to a close, the presences who’d supported this process gave me a little mantra that I could say at any time during the ensuing years, which would give a hint of remembrance to the states that I’d experienced. The mantra, “I Am Me,” looks innocuous enough now, but at the time, it triggered something deep and primordial, not to mention fascinating. I would ponder the “I” by itself, then the “Am,” then the “Me,” noticing that each could be experienced separately and as a single presence, such that I “traveled” in and out of individual awareness as if hitting a light switch. I knew that I was being acclimated to individual identity, but the mantra allowed me to access the unitive presence whenever I wanted throughout the “barren” years that would follow these experiences.

They (the guiding presences) suggested that they would leave me to a worldly existence for about 30 years before rejoining my spiritual emergence. During precisely 30 years without ready access to the energy that visited me in those early days, I would periodically recite my mantra in order to briefly experience sensations that bridged across many, many lifetimes, and in this way I could let go existential anxieties that may have inhibited the process that would greet me when those 30 years passed.

Those 30 years “in the desert” fulfilled many of the Fool’s Journey requisites, as depicted in the major arcana cards. I’m talking about what we all go through in our own way: coming of age, leaving the nest, getting into all sorts of trouble, getting out of all sorts of trouble (hopefully), developing all sorts of self-destructive beliefs and behaviors, dealing with them, replacing them with either different forms of the same, or brand new, more constructive beliefs and behaviors that lead toward wholeness, healing and, ultimately, reunion with the Divine.

So my wife and I spent this morning having “church” in the living room. We fired up some matte, slathered butter and jelly onto some toast, and sat down at our Japanese table under the picture window — gentle rain outside, pattering the roof — and I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes, planning to look up in Charles Fillmores Metaphysical Bible Dictionary terms that we encountered in this most poetic and achingly anguished Old Testament book. Here’s an example, taken from Chapter Two, verses 17-26 (TNIV version):

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For people may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to others who have not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

While I don’t have the Bible Dictionary with me here at the coffee shop, I can put into my own words the metaphysical meaning that Fillmore attributed to Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes means (metaphysically, according to Fillmore) “experience,” which (in my words) is the working out of karma that we must accomplish before becoming “spiritualized.” Fillmore says that experience is by far the best sermon, because we cannot just fall asleep in the pew while the preacher drones on (sorry, Hawk!), but must “face the music” that life’s ups and downs dish up. Eventually, experience leads us into the Dark Night of the Soul that the author of Ecclesiastes seems to have reached — and which St. John of the Cross so beautifully described while shivering in a Carmelite dungeon oh so many years ago. Fillmore says that worldly experience is what leads us home to the remembrance of God, and to the extent that we are able to merge our seemingly separate existence with the ever-Presence of God, we may eventually transcend the pain and suffering (see Ecclesiastes above) associated with attachment to worldly things, and know that we are One with the Source of all Good.

To bring things absolutely full circle in terms of my current unfoldment, I now know from experience what the Buddha meant in the last of his Noble Eightfold Path (Right Absorption), which was/is his “middle path” away from the realm of suffering and into the extinguishment of worldly attachment: each stage of meditative absorption (jhana/samadhi) brings the meditator into greater and greater at-one-ment with the Universal I AM (my words, stolen from many great mystics)… and the absorption itself melts away our illusory attachment to gaining succor from worldly things and conditions. In other words, he/she who works with meditative absorption works with God’s transformative Presence to gradually eliminate “wrong view,” replacing it with a saturation in “right view,” which is to live life in communion with the Infinite.

That’s my take, and apologies to everyone for hitting you with such a long, involved, meandering post.

I am, on the other hand, anxious to get Hawk’s take on the Jung material exampled above….

No Surprise Here

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This is something the New Thought folks have been saying for years:

Spirituality increases as alcoholics recover

For decades, recovering alcoholics and those who treat them have incorporated spirituality into the recovery process — whether or not it’s religious in nature. But few research studies have documented if and how spirituality changes during recovery, nor how those changes might influence a person’s chance of succeeding in the quest for sobriety.

Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center sheds light on this phenomenon. In the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, they show that many measures of spirituality tend to increase during alcohol recovery. They also demonstrate that those who experience increases in day-to-day spiritual experiences and their sense of purpose in life are most likely to be free of heavy drinking episodes six months later.

“While people’s actual beliefs don’t seem to change during recovery, the extent they have spiritual experiences, and are open to spirituality in their lives, does change,” says lead researcher Elizabeth A.R. Robinson, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and member of UMARC.. “This effect was also independent of their participation in Alcoholics Anonymous which has a strong spiritual aspect.”

The researchers report data from 154 adults with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse who entered an outpatient treatment program.

One may also say that “recovery from alcoholism accelerates as spirituality increases.”

Though I do not consider myself to have an addictive personality, I definitely have a history of drug and alcohol use. Looking back, I understand that I was attempting to “fill the void” deep down inside — a void that, according to my current understanding, can only be truly and permanently filled through spiritual realization.

I used to say that I had better spiritual experiences sitting on a bar stool than I ever did on a church pew — but now I know that a meditation cushion beats them all.

Something to Shoot For

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Inside Sinaia Monastery….

These folks have put a lot of thought, experience and wisdom into their concept of monasticism, and it makes me want to run back into the “contemplative cave” immediately:

The 12 Marks of a New Monasticism

Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks:

1. Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3. Hospitality to the stranger

4. Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities
combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the
community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7. Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10. Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

May God give us grace by the power of the Holy Spirit to discern rules for living that will help us embody these marks in our local contexts as signs of Christ’s kingdom for the sake of God’s world.

Lots of good stuff in there — and these are Baptists! I’m pinching myself….

My major beef growing up a preacher’s son was the fact that my church life did not include a systematic practice for the direct realization of “God.” For me, it was all about memorizing scripture, enduring Sunday services, pretending I was someone who I really wasn’t, and a continuing alienation from those who would banish me to the fires of hell for not conforming enough to their fear-based, sexually-stultified, mindless attempt to keep God in their little box. No meditation, not even so-called “contemplative prayer” — just the occasional “Rocky Mountain High” at church camp, soon to be deflated when “real life” commenced back home.

Now, after many years studying and practicing Eastern forms of spirituality, I find that I’m not the only one hungry for access to the original “mustard seed” of Christ’s teachings — much of which must be understood in its esoteric or “inner,” symbolic meaning, if it’s to be understood at all. This inner teaching is, in fact, very “Eastern” in terms of its contemplative component — and now we see all sorts of efforts, such as The 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, offering a path for contemplatives who’ve broken out of their religious straitjackets and found themselves in need of the direct experience of… THAT….

The Deep Structure of the Spiritual Life

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Sri Adi Shankara… the “original” jnani….

 

Here’s a wonderful site that focuses on what is considered to be the most arduous yoga approach:

Jnani

This site is intended for the sincere and open-minded spiritual seeker, whose commitment and experience is deep enough to engage with the issues presented. This site is focused around the concept of jnani, an Indian term meaning insight or wisdom, and used in contrast with the term bhakti, meaning devotion.

Yes, I do detect a little snootiness in the above quote… but back when I went through a lengthy Advaita Vedanta phase (from 1996 through roughly 2002), several well-respected teachers (Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj come immediately to mind) did state that the path of a jnani is the most difficult, but also the quickest for those who are “ripe.”

I found that I was not ripe, and this was a tough realization to accept — but once I accepted it, I was led to the Teacher within, who brought me to the Buddha and his path to attainment. I am now identifying myself with the bhakti approach of devotion mentioned above, and could not be happier.

So it all works out in the end….

Nothing to Sneeze At

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I get a little uncomfortable when folks deny the efficacy of the Law of Attraction, choosing to make a joke out of something that, when looked at in depth, is self-evident. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one:

I was watching the “Bill Maher Show” on HBO last night. They were making fun of the movie “The Secret”. They were saying how the message in the movie is “you can have everything you want if you just visualize it” (ahaha, funny).

[…]

Visualizing regularly what you want to achieve is only the first step! If you visualize regularly, you will start seeing more clearly various opportunities that, if taken, would align your life toward your goals. That’s because your goals are much clearer! Here is the key: once these opportunities appear in your life, you must take them! This means hard work! Determination! Little or no hesitation! Visualization helps in this regard because it makes you feel like you already achieved your goals, and it eliminates the hesitation that often gets in your way.

If, as a skeptic, you can’t accept that these opportunities are brought to you by the “universe” as a result of your visualization, just think that these opportunities would have been there anyway. Visualization just allows you to see them, and allows you to promptly respond to them with a higher degree of confidence that you wouldn’t have otherwise. That edge and that determination is what can make you much more successful, and push you further.

It is all about points of view. Don’t discount the power of visualization just because you do not believe that visualization actually changes reality. That is more of a detail. In the end it doesn’t matter!!

So take that, Bill Maher!