“And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” Galatians 4:6-7
Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
What kind of year would you like to have in 2012? How might you increase the changes of it being more of a happy year than a sad one?
A few years ago there was a big craze over the publication of Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Secret.” I read the book along with several others but concluded “the secret” was more about acquiring wealth and things like bigger houses and cars. Granted, some people could benefit with these ideas, but even so, do these things really make people happier? I spent a couple summers in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco, and was told the county was then the highest per capita income place in the county. Yet they also had the world’s highest rates of people working with psychiatrists and psychotherapists! Great wealth and many things don’t in themselves make people happier.
To experience a Happy New Year and the months following begins with how we see ourselves. My favorite “brain-teaser” book is called “A Course in Miracles” and its theme teaches the outward world as a projection of our inward thinking. “Perception selects, and makes the world you see. It literally picks it out as the mind directs.” (Text, Ch. 21.V.1) The outside world is the effect of the cause created in one’s thinking. Thus, “Projection makes perception.” (Ch. 21.1)
David Brooks, in his amazing book, The Social Animal, points out each second our subconscious brain chooses among millions of sensations, emotions, and signals which continually bombard into our brains! (Brooks, David (2011-03-08). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (p. 2). Random House.) Most of us just go along with what our peers, parents, schools, and society program us to think and respond. And that’s no doubt why so many of us live lives of “quiet desperation” as Henry David Thoreau wrote in “Walden.”
So if happiness depends on the cause of our thinking, then what we see are its effects. How then can we change the “cause” so that the “effects” are more enjoyable and permeated with happiness and joy?
The answer is in Bob Dylan’s “blowing in the wind” or Spirit. People who have experienced visions and sacred encounters with the divine who have later recorded it in sacred writings say this: “It all in our self identities.” And it all is rather quite reasonable if we stop and ponder. Our identities are not our material body or world around us but it is Spirit. In our simple baptism ritual it proclaims: In baptism, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
What then is our self-identity? It is Spirit, the very Son of God, not alone or the only one, but united with all other “Sons and Daughters of God.” Bear in mind, the words “Son” and “Daughters” are only symbols, as indeed all words are. I like to think of ourselves as the “True I” behind all the observations we make about who we are and what we are doing. It is the “I-ness” in John’s words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” Father simply is another symbolic word for God, Creator, Source of All.
Our Spirit identity originally meant “Christian” or “Christ-One.” To be a Christian did not mean reciting a certain creed or creeds or joining an organized religion but awakening to the realization one is a Christ. A Christ one then lives with that conscious awareness of this new but ancient identity.
Once we begin to understand ourselves as god, the Spirit extension of the One Eternal Creator, things begin to look differently in our vision and seeing. Seeing is the physical process of focusing in on a scene or even a thought. Vision is how the objects seen are interpreted. When the eye sees, the mind chooses an interpretation; good, bad, pretty, ugly, helpful, hurtful, etc. The interpretation is our vision of what we see.
The “awakened one” who understands him or herself as the Christ will see a different vision of the outside world than one looking without this awareness. The one still “asleep” sees the world from the view of himself or his body/ego. The awakened one sees the world as temporary, unreal, and transitory. He sees it as a dream that can be happy or sad. It all depends on the choice of the mind, the “I.”
Reason tells us that we can interpret the effects of our seeing, the cause, anyway we wish. Reason can also tell us what purpose is inherent in our choices; to preserve the body/ego entity, which is hopeless, or see the world as a passing test. Sages and visionaries over the ages have seen the world as a temporary dream, a classroom to learn lessons of discernment. In the end, it comes down to either a body self-preservation “war” or letting it go as ephemeral.
How can this be remembered and practiced? We seem so bound to our bodies and the feelings of constant guilt, fear, and negativity. How can we remember our Identities as Christ? By remembering in meditation and listening for the world of Spirit. In the 2nd Century CE, the early church teacher Basilides of Alexandria (117 – 130 C.E.)urged his followers to set aside five straight years for silence to cultivate the consciousness of listening for the Christ! (Gnosticsm: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing. Stephan A. Hoeller, Quest Books, 2002) This might be quite impractical in our era but his point was to help people become aware of the transcendent, Spirit world. We could remind ourselves of our identity as God’s Son or Daughter quite effectively with 20 or 30 minutes of meditation each morning and evening.
We also can remember our Oneness by finding friends and companions of “the way” who help us remember and share times of remembering. In 1984, Naomi and I participated in what was called then a “Koininia” experience. We joined with people from various churches in an old monastery in Niagara Fall, Canada. After an intense weekend of listening we were to choose partners to help keep us on track. I chose a fellow Presbyterian minister who had also participated. We agreed to meet monthly. I think we met twice! He said he simply was too busy with his duties to take the time to meditate and read scriptures on any regular basis!
We can also remember by repeating rituals to reinforce our identities. Some early churches repeated Baptisms as often as they did the Holy Communion. It too was a sacrament of remembrance. Some receive the sacrament of Communion daily as a way to remember. I remember in the 1980’s I administered to myself (others invited) a daily Communion service for about two years. It was a very helpful practice in deepening for me a sense of Presence and Peace.
What are the signs of progress? At first you will find increased testing! The writer of Hebrews wrote that whoever is not disciplined and tested is an “illegitimate Son or Daughter!” (Hebrew 12:6-8) Most of us will have plenty of tests! The Jesus story depicts Jesus tested soon after his Baptism. In the Nativity Story of Luke 2, on the 8th day after Jesus’ birth, his parents brought him to the Temple for circumcism. There the old holy Seer named Simeon saw Jesus and said, “this child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
In my simply journey I have been led through rigid fundamentalism at Bob Jones University to its forms in Baptists to the more Catholic/Reformed practices of literalism of the Presbyterians. I often have found hostility and anger toward the teaching and practice of believing in my inward Divinity which I name the Christ, the Son, the God Self. It hasn’t always been easy for myself to say nothing of my family.
Yet, if you practice this remembrance, with daily discipline and devotion to attentiveness, I guarantee you that despite the outward circumstances, you will experience deeper peace and your year will be a happier, more joyous, exciting adventure.
What we see is what we get. As we think of ourselves so we become as to others around us. “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7)
Blessings on your journey into 2012.
Talk presented January 1, 2012 at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, West Seneca, NY, the place of many candles but just “One Flame.”