The above phrase may be well known to some, especially Bible readers. It comes from the Book of the Acts in the early Christian writings, chapter 15, probably written toward the end of the first century. It came from a jailor, as the story goes, after an earthquake shook the prison in which he was guarding a couple of the apostles, Paul and Silas, for their teachings about Jesus. The doors were shaken open, the story goes, and in fear, he fell to his knees before the apostles asking this “immortal” question, “What must I do to be saved?”
The phrase has been used over the centuries to motivate people to “get saved,” meaning to save their lives from eternal damnation and hell. To “get saved,” some are told to believe in Jesus, as they are properly instructed, accepting him into hearts, then joining and attending a church, and not doing a list of no-no’s which change or are modified from one generation to another.
In other venues including many new age groups, people are given a set of things to think and do which will bring them peace with a sense of assurance. People soon adopt some new thinking with methods to improve their sense of wellness and contentedness with life around them. People often join a new or different named religious group and keep busy with new friends in attending services, meetings and suppers with various fund-raisers for the group and others less fortunate. They even take classes to learn the unique specialness of the particular group, the distinguishing marks from others. They adopt a new kind of music that “speaks to them” in a new and special way. They may coalesce around a new political party with or without the new group, keeping busy trying to put right people in leadership, watching the right news broadcasts, and learning the special lines and buzz phrases of their group. It seems to help with their sense of peace and purpose and in time, begin to feel they even have something more special than others.
Actually, to be saved from a life of misery, unhappiness, worry and anger, the hell so many of us live within, we need do nothing but change our thinking. It is not an issue of doing something different or special. Salvation or healing is a matter of corrected thinking, what the Course in Miracles has Jesus calling “right-mindedness” versus “wrong-mindedness.” (Manual, 1.) So what is right-minded thinking that might give us the experience of a deeper peace and joy?
Right-minded thinking or healing perception, as the Course speaks, and as I seek to follow, involves these steps.
1. Realize that the world about us is an illusion of reality. It was not made by God but by ourselves. The universe is our imagination of what life would be apart from the Creator God. It is something our ego, our body-identification wants us to believe. Even articles in what is called “quantum physics” refer to the concept of the material world as real as an illusion. I read an article recently from two scientists about the “biocentric universe,” meaning that without consciousness of the world and universe about us, there is none. (The Biocentric Universe Theory: Life Creates Time, Space, and the Cosmos Itself, by Robert Lanza and Bob Berman, BenBella Books, May 2009)
It reminds me of once asking a teacher in India “How can I find reality?” and he said, “You are closest to it when you are asleep, without dreaming!” I thought he had been smoking pot or something! In the Bible, Paul, one of the earliest writers of the current Bible, wrote of focusing on the “unseen world” rather than the “seen world” in order to experience lasting peace and strength in a world of death and despair. It is close to this same “right-minded” thinking I am writing about. Healing of the mind comes when one realizes this world is not real and it was not created by God but by our own imaginations. It is a world of mortality and death. It comes and soon it goes, over in a whisper. It is not real.
If one meditates on this understanding, as frightening and threatening as it mean seem to one’s individuality and security, one will come to a sense of release and freedom. Does one simple quit living, working, attending meetings, planning, voting? No, but one won’t take any of it so seriously any more. Like the line from old, “Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water. After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.” Without the stress and anger, I might add.
2. Discover the answer to the question, “Who am I?” If I am not primarily matter, I learn to understanding I am Spirit, not body matter. The body is of material matter and returns back to nothingness, to dust, or “worm bait” as one member of the church once told me. To focus on preserving it from ultimate dissolution is a futile, empty journey. The “grim reaper,” as Longfellow wrote, eventually gets us all. There is no life or health insurance; there is only sickness and death insurance!
The central message of people like Jesus to me was, “The Spirit realm of heaven is among you, in you, the True You.” In one of the later, if not last books of the early Christian canon, John’s gospel, he portrayed Jesus telling folks that if anyone receives this teaching, he has the power to become the Son of God or to became aware of it, meaning our Christ Oneness as Spirit with God. We are all one in Spirit. Bodies separate, fade and dissolve. Spirit is eternal Oneness. No wonder we have such anxiety about dying and sickness; our bodies which we so long thought of as ourselves, are not! A saving perception that brings Divine Peace is the understanding I am Spirit, One with All. The Christian Church, especially since the 4th Century C.E., missed this understanding, declaring Jesus alone as the only Son of God, thereby disenfranchising all its followers from one of the most crucial elements of peace and life, our identity as the Sons and Daughters of God. In its place, the church taught its followers to do what was told them in its forms only, and they would be saved, while damning those who would not.
In the Christian Church over the past many centuries, it has taught we somehow will all be raised in physical bodies to be just like we are, recognizing one another and having similar, “glorified bodies.” Once I conducted a funeral for a woman who had been married to three men and the family wanted me to answer which husband she would have in heaven. I quoted a passage which says “in heaven there is no marriage or giving one to another, but we are all angels,” or one in Spirit!” (Mt. 22) The line I used so many times in baptisms was affirming this very understanding; “In baptism we affirm that in Christ, there no Greek or Jew, rich or poor, bond or free, male or female, but we are all one!” Who am I? The very eternal Christ Child of God.
3. Forgiveness of yourself and others for being caught in illusions, in sad dreams of hate and anger and misery. If one can come to the understanding of the world as a transitory dream and that in contrast, we are Spirit with temporal bodies made up from this material universe, the next big step is to forgive ourselves for our ignorance. We learn to forgive our living as though the seen world is all there is. We forgive ourselves for all the anger, hate, and judgments we have placed upon ourselves and others when we have “missed the mark,” or sinned. For all hate, misery, unhappiness, fear, and boredom is a result of our not seeing Who we are and become caught is seeking for life, passion, and love outside of Ourselves. The motto of the material world around us is, as the Course says over and over, “Seek but do not find.” “I can’t get no satisfaction” is the theme song of illusion chasers, seeking over and over to find it outside. Forgiveness pulls it all together, letting our spouses, neighbors, and associates be free from our many judgments, damnations, and anger fits. Yes, it may take time to realize it and grow into it, but this is what time is actually for. It is the only purpose for our being here in the dream that isn’t real, in the world that soon passes away into nothing.
So how can I be saved from constant unhappiness, misery of worry over my decaying body (just go a couple days without a bath and you’ll know what I mean!)? How can I overcome my fear of dying, of never having lasting happiness without having those questions about “is that all there is?" How can I move past the polarities of excitement and let down, of Christmas joy and Christmas post-partum, of light and dark, of good and bad? Let go the erroneous belief that this world was created by Spirit, a Sovereign God. And understand that you, in your True Self, your deepest essence, are One in Spirit with this God, forever. And to experience this reality, forgive yourself for years and lives of misperception about the world and your self. Forgive your religious establishments and beliefs for never telling you that form and matter are not that important, they are but illusions. They come and they go, but the Light of Spirit is forever.
Can you remember having a bad dream? I can. Sometimes I have bad dreams which I knew were dreams but I could not awaken from them. This is called “lucid dreaming.” Well, when we look out out eyes and see ourselves caught in a materialistic world that is slowly dissolving, where earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornados kill hundreds of thousands, and the armies of the world kill thousands more preserving “freedoms”, forgive yourself for thinking it is real! Learn to smile and say, “This isn’t reality; this is but the mind’s alternative to reality, to the real world of Spirit and God.” And if the horrible dream won’t stop immediately, then admit you are having a bad “lucid dream.” Become as the Gospel of Thomas says, “A passerby,” or an observer of the world around you without being drawn into its emotions.
If we can learn this thinking and practice it by forgiving ourselves, we can feel the release and reality of being Spirit. We can come closer to this experience by meditating on it in silence, in quiet walks, or just sitting alone, reminding ourselves we are Spirit, the Sons and Daughters of God. We can sit and simply chant a word silently, and in time feel the abiding, eternal presence. This is what people often report when they go into a wilderness or watch the setting sun, feel the ocean breeze, and hear the rain falling upon the leaves. The sense is beyond the seen world, beyond the sun, the ocean breeze and the falling rain; it is the pointer to the Beyond, the Reality of Spirit, which liberates, empowers, uplifts and sends us on laughing and jumping and squealing like happy children at play.
How can I be saved from my misery and pain and fear? By understanding, the root meaning of “repentance.” Understanding the world of form and matter are but illusions of Reality and True Reality is Unseen, Unknown, Indescribable, Eternal and Indestructible. Think on these things, and in time a whole new awareness will sink deeper and deeper into your consciousness. You will have longer seasons of peace, contentment, and a quiet confidence that will touch your heart and those around you.
Good luck, and God bless you in your reasoning for a life of Love and Peace.