“So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor. 5:6-7
Once when I was a young boy, my brother and a couple neighbors were walking along the abandoned Portage Road that ran along our farm. The Portage Road had been a toll road for a few years and before that, a trail made my Native Americans and then taken over by the French in order to get from Lake Erie to French Creek and then on to the Allegany River down the Ohio River and points west! As we were walking, suddenly we saw some shiny objects. We dropped to our knees with heart pounding; was it gold? Had someone years ago lost it moving along the trail? We picked it up and I took it to my grandfather. He took one look and said, “Oh, that’s ‘Fool’s Gold!’”
Fool’s Gold, I learned, looks like gold but has a different appearance; gold shines but fool’s gold sparkles. Gold is soft and malleable while fool’s gold is brittle and breaks easily. We learned how many miners were fooled by this “pyrite” metal over the previous century, and how in the 1550’s a whole ship load of “Fool’s Gold” had been shipped to England by excited businessmen, only to discover it was fake!
Our physical bodies are not real. In eternity, they are like “Fool’s Gold.” Yet they are real only in the time space world and not the reality of spirit. Perhaps they become manifested from the great Nothingness of the universe, but being temporary they soon dissolve back into that great Nothingness. Even scientists say that at least 95% of the universe is a great unknown void. It’s energy, it’s potential, and it’s a great mystery. Still, it’s easy for us to think our bodies are immortal, even to be raised up into eternal entities.
Bodies, to which we give so much attention, are actually blips on the screen of eternity. They’re just temporary manifestations. Where did they come from and why did they come into existence and how? There are many theories but the one that makes the most sense to me is that they probably came from ourselves. In the great sea of Oneness, known as Love, Endless Potential, perhaps we got bored with Endless Paradise and wondered what it was like to be independent and on our own. In this sense as the book A Course in Miracles teaches, our manifestations became an attack upon the oneness the great Tao or God.
“Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time.” (A Course in Miracles, chapter 27, VIII. 6.2-5)
However, on this journey into time and space there yet remains the longing to return, to experience again completion and the bliss of eternal love. The best spiritual traditions teach that we come to that experience by awakening. We awaken to the presence of spirit by dying to the reign of the bodies and their ego identifications. In the teachings of early Christianity it was the hidden meaning of the death of Jesus; “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” And it goes on to say in verse 15 of 2 Corinthians chapter 5, “and he died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”
My friend David Pliss tells the old Jewish story of two boys leaving the walls of a large city and taking a trip into the country. They came upon a farmer plowing his fields, turning once fields of grass into rough piles of dirt. They were stunned and confused about the process. The farmer told them to return in about six weeks, which they did. There they found rich fields of oats, corn and grass, transforming the furrowed rows of dirt in lush crops. To experience “awakening” to our Higher Christ Self, it may feel similar, and it can frighten us. Our bodies, though, are left behind, dissolved back into the soil of mortality as the Spirit is released. Meanwhile, we can live and move with a consciousness, an awareness of ourselves at Spirit, One with our Creator.
It is now not the physical death but a dying to the attachment mortality of time bound bodies. It is spoken of in baptism, wherein we die to the power of the limited body ego, awakening to the spirit within called the Christ. Or, “awakening to our Christ self.”
Thus in our awakening we see ourselves and others in a different perspective. Again to quote this passage from second Corinthians;
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (Second Corinthians 5:16 – 17)
Thus in our awakening would be consciousness of that which is past duality, past the time and space of our normal existence, to that which is eternal. We experience what are called “holy instant” moments when find ourselves disregarding past judgments and future expectations as we come into the holy now.
It reminds me of the cartoon I once heard described from the great Buddhist spiritual teacher, Jack Kornfield, director of Spirit Rock Retreat Center in California. A family of desert people was crossing a desert in northern Africa. The father was on the lead camel with two children behind on camels followed by their mother. The children began to whine and ask, “When will be get there?” Finally the mother told them to ask their father who was in the lead. He replied, “I don’t know, we are nomads for crying out loud!”
When we awaken, we realize we are just crossing over a desert of time and space, interspersed with frequent delicious oases. But we never really get “there” on this level except in our consciousness, where we realize we are always there anyway! As another great teacher Ram Dass put it in his bestselling book, “Be Here Now”!
We still are responsible however for our body choices and actions. It isn’t that we suddenly enter into a wild phase of libertarianism in which we do whatever we want whenever we want. That is not really liberation anyway but another form of slavery to death. We come to understand that we are still responsible for our thoughts and actions on this plain. Again turning to the text in second Corinthians 5,
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him, or God. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” (Verses 9 – 10)
In most Eastern religions this is the idea of reincarnation. We become unable to leave our dualistic status until we awaken to it. Even though we are in the illusion of time and space we are unable to escape this dream without awakening. Thus it may take many lives for us to awaken.
Most Christians are not aware that this was quite a common teaching in the early centuries of the Christian church. In fact it was not banned until the six century and then it was not banned by the official church but by a Roman Emperor named Justinian or Justinius. Justinian’s wife, Theodora, disliked the Pope Vigilius for criticizing her close relationships with men of the Emperor’s court. The chaplain had warned her about consequences in future incarnations. So she ordered her husband the Emperor, to have some bishops approve the ban in Rome on the teaching of reincarnation, while the Pope was away on a visit to Constantinople! And so it became a part of the future teachings.
One of the early church teachers of reincarnation came from the writer Origen in the second century. As he wrote, “Each soul enters the world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defects of its past lives. Its place in this world is determined by past virtues and shortcomings.”
Thus reincarnations were seen as a way of ending the cycle of death. Around the eighth century, there was a book which was written in Tibet called “The Tibetan book of the dead.” It described one of the greatest fears of the Tibetan people, to die without consciousness of their oneness in spirit. Thus before one goes to sleep and immediately after awakening, and hopefully before the point of death, one’s thoughts are to be directed toward love, kindness, and compassion. It is similar to the way my mother often says that when she dies, she hopes she is, “all prayed up!”
Of course to emphasize again, all of our existence in time and space can be considered as an illusion or unreal. Or as the Bible says, “we are in this world but not of this world.” Some have described us as living with a “lucid dream” existence.
You perhaps have had that experience or heard of others that they’re still asleep but they are aware that they’re having a dream. Or perhaps like myself, I’m trying to stay awake but I’m still in a dream! So it is we can live our lives; doing what we have to do to exist in this world, doing such with love and kindness but still remembering that we are in but a dream. And when we make mistakes, big or small ones, we still forgive ourselves and others and continue on in the way of peace and prayer.
And thus as the apostle Paul wrote we live in this world with the awareness of being beyond the body. And so we are always confident even though we know that while work home in the body we are away from the Lord – but we walk by faith and not by sight.
So we have choices to make; we become responsible for our decisions here and for our future incarnations. As Nik Wallenda manifested last Friday evening, the power of decision is awesome. Did you see him walk across the wire? Did you hear him speaking with his father and even the audience as he strolled along? Once he said his doing such a feat illustrated the power of the mind’s choice to accomplish a task. It sounded close to the ideas in our reading book of late, “Wishes Fulfilled” by Wayne Dyer.
Do you want to live with a realization of “real gold” or the “fool’s stuff?” Real gold is made up of love, forgiveness, peace, hope, and joy. Fool’s gold is short-lived before it slips back into guilt, fear, attracting itself to fear, hatred, and death itself. Which do you prefer? Which are you living? You can decide now and in daily disciplines, love from the brittle, quick flashes of glitter to that eternal radiance of shining love in your mind, heart, and life.
Summary of talk given on June 17, 2012 at the First Presbyterian Church of West Seneca.