What Is God? Pt. II

[Cross-posted at my other hangout.]

In response to Hawk’s comment under the previous post, I thought I’d offer another take on the subject. Looking at one of my favorite traditions, Kashmir Shaivism (or Trika Shaivism), we find that God is transcendant on the one hand, while taking form on the other:

Trika Shaivism is a form of Hindu religion that believes in one God, which they call ParamaShiva, who creates the universe within Himself out of his own pure cosmic conscious Being.

ParamaShiva literally means “Supreme Auspiciousness”. He is considered to be essentially pure infinite featureless consciousness (called Shiva). But this Shiva aspect has an active creative side called Shakti. It is this ever-active Shakti that creates, operates, and destroys endless universes.

Our own consciousness, which appears so tiny and limited, is not just a part of the cosmic consciousness, but actually is the supreme consciousness in total! It just appears small and limited due to creative activity of supreme conscious Shakti which has a veiling deluding aspect (Maya Shakti). It is through this veiling deluding power that Shakti then transforms the supreme conscious experience into the experience of infinite finite conscious beings inhabiting different limited non-sentient universes. The discovery and overcoming of this Maya Shakti is then the key to spiritual liberation – the realization of one’s own true nature and complete liberation from the wheel of Karma – of life and death. This process whereby the Supreme Consciousness hides from itself through its own veiling power, and then liberates itself through seeing itself as it really is, is described in 36 steps (or Tattva-s) of conscious creativity and delusion and liberation. These 36 steps, or principles of creation are actually part of a larger system of contemplation (called Sadadhvan) which fits the “principles of creation” into a framework that includes on the one hand the actual worlds that are created, and on the other hand, the subjective processes by which non-conscious worlds emerge from supremely pure cosmic consciousness.

Trika Shaivism does not consider anything to be good or bad per se, but instead as only being part of the ongoing creative activity of that pure infinite consciousness. But within this process behavior does lead to consequences. Thus good behaviors that help others (for example) leads to mental and physical freedom and power in this life or future lives, whereas bad behaviors would lead to increasing physical and mental bondage and limitation (called the Law of Karma). But the most important activity is realization of one’s own true identity with the supreme consciousness which leads to spiritual liberation which is complete freedom from the wheel of life and death.

Personally, I appreciate the absence of a concept of Hell, or of eternal retribution for “sins” proscribed by someone’s book.

On the other hand, I’m drawn more and more to expressions from the “People of the Book,” no matter which book it is. Prophetic, revealed literature carries an archetypal level of meaning that transcends mere intellectual understanding (or misunderstanding), and this is something we can’t get at until we “surrender” to God in terms laid out in The Book.

Catch-22, in other words.

If you follow the link to the above quote, by the way, you’ll find further links to Trika Shavist sacred texts. They are, in their own way, People of the Book, and as such, they deserve our open-minded attention.

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What Is God?

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An interesting question, to which many an answer has been directed.

One in particular, however, deserves a post of its own. Take it away, M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen:

God has no form. He has no shadow. There is nothing in comparison to Him. He has neither wife nor child. He is neither darkness nor light. He is not like the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars. God is one power, a power which is able to control and subdue all other powers. From the single atom to all of the universes, this is a power which is intimately mixed within all things. It has nothing, no shadow, no aid. It is the One who is alone, the Original One. It is a point, a power, which has neither beginning nor end. There is no language for it, nor does it have a religion. It does not possess a race; there are no colors in it, no black or white. It is a power, a point which is within every creation.

It has no mouth, no tongue to speak, yet through our mouths that power is speaking. It has no eyes, yet it is observing through our eyes. It has no ears, yet it replies to the sounds that we hear with our own ears. It has no nose, but it senses fragrance through our sense of smell. It has no hands, but that power makes our hands the agency for giving and receiving. It has no feet or legs, but it walks throughout all the universes. Such is that power.

The mind cannot see this power. The mind has the form of a demon. Earth, fire, water, air, and ether are the form of this demon. It is the essence of the elements, the form of spirits or vapors, the form of desire and illusion. Therefore, mind and desire cannot see or pray to God. God is that treasure which transcends mind and desire. If we want to see that treasure and realize it, then we have to understand ourselves. Only wisdom can understand that treasure, and if we want to realize God, then we must acquire His qualities within ourselves. Those qualities create a different form within us, the form of His beauty. God can never he seen. It is God’s qualities which are His beauty, and the light which radiates through those qualities is His power. Those qualities are His form and that light is His power. That is God.

Look are this Sufi master’s website — a site created for him several years after his passing from this world — to see just how direct an experience he had of the words he conveys.

Such experience is worthy of our respect.


The Way It Works

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I’ve spent a lifetime — 45 years as of the 21st of this month — butting up against the issue of “success,” only to take two steps back before sliding sideways, all the way to the comfort zone that is my insulated existence.

I’ve maxed out my cards several times, ending up in credit counseling the last time around. I started out with $35,000 in student loans, and now, twelve years after graduation — despite making payments along the way — the principle has grown past $45,000.

I’ve lived in crappy apartments, roomed in party houses in the university district, and depended on well-to-do housemates in order live in the occasional cush crib. I did own a home once, for a year or so — then let it go on a take-over-payment basis, so I could uproot my life in hopes of greener pastures. I’ve had three cars die on me, carted away on a wrecker when various apartment managers couldn’t stand looking at them any more.

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We’re talking about a static existence here, at least where the issue of finances is concerned. That I continue to have my physical health (knock on wood) is a good thing, because after all this time, I still exist one paycheck away from homelessness. (Okay, maybe two paychecks… and then we’d probably figure something out with the family… but you know what I’m talkin’ about.)

The thing of it is, I could never fully sell my soul for the mighty dollar bill. I couldn’t go the career route; couldn’t put in 70 hours to fatten the wallets back at the Home Office; couldn’t see putting an end to my wild years for the promise of the Golden Years, when I could easily step off the curb and be run over by a bus tomorrow.

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I always wanted to “beat the System,” and to this day, I continue to look forward to such a thing happening, whatever it means. Lottery? Anonymous million dollar donation? Rich uncle I never knew I had? Publish a novel, sell the movie rights, watch it break all box office records?

Meanwhile, I still live by the rent check, still cook at home to save on food costs, still walk to work and ride the bus downtown. I still buy my books used and sell them back at a quarter the price so I can buy more (worse than going to the library, which is a flat zero cost). I don’t consider traveling to any of the places I’ve dreamed of — India, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Europe — and always stay at Motel 6 on cross-country drives, which come every few years, if at all.

I still wear t-shirts I obtained in high school.

Get the picture? We’re talking about a severely limited prosperity consciousness. We’re talking about a negative outlook. We’re talking about a belief system that’s going nowhere fast, closing itself off from all the luscious goodness that used to seem possible, back before The Routine set in….

So I’ve been looking into the situation for a few years now. I’ve studied my beliefs around things like success and financial empowerment. I’ve asked myself, “Is it more spiritual to be poor?” I’ve also asked myself, “What is this System that I keep railing against? Is it written somewhere that money only comes when I’m doing something I don’t want to do? Must I go through my entire life wishing for something that was available the whole time?”

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Eventually — during my years as a clerk at the local metaphysical bookstore, where we had a pretty beefy Prosperity section — I discovered the New Thought Movement, which was all the rage during the first half of the 20th Century and comes down to us largely through the Unity Church and the United Centers for Spiritual Living (formerly known as Religious Science, or Science of Mind). Some still, silent part of me recognized a truth that says, “Michael, the circumstances of your life are a direct result of the patterns in your mind and heart. What you think, feel and believe becomes manifest in your surroundings. Let go of the conditioning that has led you to a state of dissatisfaction, ponder what you truly desire, and offer what you truly desire to That which shapes life according to the Word.”

Perhaps easier said than done, but this simple realization was enough to initiate a process that continues to this day, several years later. Yes, I still wrestle with lifelong conditioning. Yes, I still find myself operating according to discredited and harmful beliefs about money, empowerment and freedom within the world. These time-stretches, however, have shortened considerably. My willingness to seek support and guidance from others who’ve been working on this longer than I have has grown, as well. There are Principles to learn and integrate. Entrenched attitudes are in need of deconstruction and overhauling. Meditation, study, online courses, affirmations, Grace over meals, mindfulness, recognition of and unification with the One Mind — there’s so much to do, and yet the old ways have led to nothing but a prolonged diversion from the life I thought I came here to lead, so what is there to lose by subjecting myself to a total and complete spiritual makeover?

So, I’d like to offer some links and snippets from some of the better New Thought websites out there. I want to show how, in my search for a better belief structure around money and financial empowerment, I found that my lifelong passion for unification with the Divine has been good practice for the most powerful techniques for invoking a meaningful, satisfying… and yes, prosperous existence.

First off, we have the Rev. John Adams (a Unity minister),

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running the Golden Key Ministry — the “Golden Key” being a metaphor given by the great Emmett Fox, way back when. From the Golden Key website:

If you are seeking peace, prosperity, love, healing, enlightenment, you’ve come to the right place. We are here to help! Powered by Love, helping people through prayer, positive ideas and inspiration, this has been our passion since 1974.

Founded on the principle of the Golden Key, this global prayer ministry is dedicated to lovingly and positively supporting you in your quest to live a happy, healthy, peaceful and abundant life. We’re here to help!

On this site you’ll find well over 100 pages of real spiritual food to nourish and enlighten your soul, and enrich your life. It’s available for you 24/7 and at no cost.

Next comes one of my personal favorites, Swami Kriyananda (aka J. Donald Walters),

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who was a disciple of the great Yogananda. Besides being a compassionate and eloquent spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda has written one of the most straightforward and practical guides to financial freedom, called Money Magnetism:

“Deceptive in its simplicity and brevity, this little book has the power to effect great changes in the lives of its readers. With an entirely unpretentious and sincere style that shines through every word, Walters relays what wisdom he has gleaned from his own personal experience.”
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“Money Magnetism will help you take charge of your life. True abundance—of both the material and spiritual kind—can be found through the wisdom of this small but powerful book.”
—John Ernst, Richland Financial Services


Charles Fillmore
,

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who co-founded (with his wife, Myrtle) the Unity Church, is another excellent guide to changing our beliefs and attitudes toward money:

The superconscious mind within you discriminates among the kinds of food you assimilate, controls your digestion, your breathing, and the beating of your heart. It “doeth all things well,” and it will help you do this important work of directing you in the thoughts you should hold and the ones you should cast out. As you develop this mind within yourself you will find that you can gradually turn over more and more of your affairs to its perfect discrimination. Nothing is too great for it to accomplish, nor is anything too trivial for it to handle with perfection and dispatch. This mind of the Spirit will guide you in perfect ways, even in the minute details of your life, if you will let it do so. But you must will to do its will and trust it in all your ways. It will lead you unfailingly into health, happiness, and prosperity, as it has done and is doing for thousands, if and when you follow it.

It is just as necessary that one should let go of old thoughts and conditions after they have served their purpose as it is that one should lay hold of new ideas and create new conditions to meet one’s requirements. In fact we cannot lay hold of the new ideas and make the new conditions until we have made room for them by eliminating the old. If we feel that we cannot part with the goats, we shall have to do with fewer sheep. If we insist on filling the vessels with the bad fish, we shall have to do without the good. We are learning that thoughts are things and occupy “space” in mind. We cannot have new or better ones in a place already crowded with old, weak, inefficient thoughts. A mental house cleaning is even more necessary than a material one, for the without is but a reflection of the within. Clean the inside of the platter, where the food is kept as well as the outside that people see, taught Jesus.

Old thoughts must be denied and the mind cleansed in preparation before the affirmative Christ consciousness can come in. Our mind and even our body is loaded with error thoughts. Every cell is clothed with thought: every cell has a mind of its own. By the use of denial we break through the outer crust, the material thought that has enveloped the cells, and get down into the substance and the life within them. Then we make contact with that substance and life which our denials have exposed, and by it express the positive, constructive side of the law. When we consistently deny the limitations of the material, we begin to reveal the spiritual law that waits within ourselves to be fulfilled. When this law is revealed to our consciousness, we begin to use it to demonstrate all things that are good.

Another favorite is Joel S. Goldsmith,

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discoverer of the Infinite Way and a true American mystic if there ever was one:

The secret of harmonious living is the development of spiritual consciousness. In that consciousness, fear and anxiety disappear, and life becomes meaningful with fulfillment as its keynote.

The degree of spiritual consciousness which we attain can be measured by the extent to which we relinquish our dependence on the external world of form and place our faith and confidence in something greater than ourselves, in the Infinite Invisible, which can surmount any and every obstacle. It is an awareness of the grace of God.

There is a specific practice which will aid in the attainment of this spiritual consciousness. It is a practice which can be carried on throughout the day as the world crowds in upon us, reminding us that we need this or desire that. To every such insistent demand, let our answer be: “No, no. This is not what I need or want. Thy grace is my sufficiency, nothing else — not money, not marbles — only Thy grace.” Let us learn to hold to that resolutely. If the need seems to be railway fare, rent, clothing, housing, or health, let us steadfastly acknowledge that our only need is His grace.

Our work may require greater strength, greater knowledge, or greater ability than we seem to possess, or there may be greater demands made upon our purse than we can meet. Instead of accepting this apparent lack, let us remember, “He performeth the thing that is appointed for me…The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me,” or some other scriptural passage. The human belief may be that there is a physical, mental, moral, or financial demand made upon us greater than our ability to fulfill; but the very moment we turn to that He that is within us, recognizing that He performeth that which is given us to do, He perfecteth that which concerneth us, a weight drops off our shoulders, and the sense of personal responsibility lifts.

Finally, of course, I can’t leave this post without providing a little Ernest Holmes,

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who explained The Way It Works as well as anyone ever did:

We are surrounded by an All-Seeing, All-Knowing Mind, which is One and runs through all. The belief in the dual mind has destroyed practically all philosophies and religions of the ages, and will continue to do so until the world comes to see that there is but One. Whatever name is given it there is but One. It is this One that creates for us, whatever we believe. Our thought operative through this One produces all our affairs. We are all centers in this Mind, centers of creative thought activity. There is nothing which appears in the manifest Universe other than an objectified thought, whether it be a bump on your head, a growth on your foot, or a planet. It could not be there were it not made out of Mind, for mind is all there is to make anything out of. Whatever is made is made out of it. Nothing exists or can exist without a source from which it springs.

We are not dealing with a negative as well as a positive Power—not two powers but one; a power that sees neither good nor evil as we see it. It knows only that it is all, and since it is all, it creates whatever is given it. From our limited standpoint we often think of good and evil; not realizing that, as yet, we do not know the one from the other. What we call good today, we may call evil tomorrow, and what we think to be evil today, we may tomorrow proclaim as the greatest good we have known. Not so with the Great Universal Power of Mind; It sees only Itself and Its infinite ability to create.

To the thinking person this will mean much; he will see that he is no longer living in a limited universe, a world of powers, but that he is immersed in an Infinite Creative Medium which, because of Its Nature, has to create for him whatever he believes. Jesus understood this, and in a few simple words, laid down the law of life: “It is done unto all people as they believe.” This is a great thing to keep in mind. It is done unto us; we do not have to do it, for it is done unto us of a power that knows itself to be all there is. Could we even believe that some material mountain would be moved, the power is there to do it. Without this belief there is no real impulse for the Creative Mind, and we do not get an affirmative answer. We must realize more clearly that this Great Power has to operate through us.



So… have I become insanely rich? Do I live in the home of my dreams? Do I have to “work”, or does money flow through my life by virtue of me doing whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want?

Well, not so fast.

There are some intermediate stages that one needs to traverse on the way to living one’s life according to Principle.

At this point, I’m working on learning how to give, even from what I sometimes consider to be an impoverished reservoir of goods. I’m working on feeling gratitude for the miracle that is my life — for the things I already have, which include (in no particular order) a personal book library do die for; a wife who is my love bird and my spiritual co-cosmonaut; a slack work schedule that opens up time for the better things in life; a rigorous and skillful contemplative practice, taught and supported by an amazing teacher who found his way into my life at precisely the right moment; another teacher, Rev. Gloria, who sees far more of me than I seem able to recognize, at least some of the time, and who knows exactly what to say when I need it most; a house over my head, affordable and private, spacious and comfortable, in a beautiful neighborhood in one of America’s garden spots; a family that loves me; and a strong sense that I’m on the right track for me, which is something I didn’t have for the longest time.

The idea is (and I believe it to be true), if we can see just how much goodness we already have in our life, we are then able to glimpse those things that would amplify it, expand it, and bring even more meaning to it. If we see how Spirit has already blessed us, we may “grok it” that there’s more where this came from. Slowly, by letting go of a mentality built on lack, need and insufficiency — by replacing it with a constant recognition of abundance and goodness — we make room for an expansion of our lives along the lines of our true nature, of our deepest desires, and of our spiritual “mission” in this existence.

It starts right here, right now, and it continues to challenge us as it gradually (yet thoroughly) integrates itself into the fabric of our lives.

It’s happening.

I can feel it.

And it is good.