The Shadows that Betray: Choosing Love in Times of Evil

From a Sermon given Summer Equinox Worship Service  on March 21, 2021

It is springtime, the point in the natural cycle of Mother Earth of regeneration and renewal.  Further it is spring of 2021, a time when many people are breathing a sigh of relief as things, at least in the United States, have an air of emergence from the dark days of winter and the darkness of the past year. Most of us in this community seem to understand that we have been given temporary reprieve from the challenges set before us; and that there are more to come. For now, however, we can rejoice in our successful perseverance, give thanks for the bountiful assistance we have received along the way, and recommit to the Creator-of-Us-All in weathering the days ahead.

This morning I want to talk a lot about dichotomies, and working with them successfully.  I was asked to speak about evil which certainly is a relevant topic given how it seems to be lurking at every turn in the road these days.  In these apocalyptic times the heat has been turned up and the creepy crawlies have come scurrying out of their corners, and creepy they are indeed! 

Many segments of the world may have come together rather quickly to take on the COVID-19 virus, but we are only beginning to even look at, much less address the energies that made its entrance into our collective lives necessary. Essentially we have ripped off the bandage that was covering the wounding of our shared world. There is going to be a period of bleeding, hopefully followed by some genuine healing of the underlying disturbances that caused the injuries in the first place. The lack of balance, the inability to negotiate dichotomies can be seen as the source of the injuries. So let’s talk about evil and its place in that imbalance.

The evil in the world has been so plentiful and profound, that many have chosen to shut down their own world in a vain attempt to avoid the pain it causes them to view it. Limiting one’s perspective in order to avoid working through what is triggered by viewing the truth may work in the short term. . .but it typically causes even more damage in the long term. This image of suitcases taken from Nazi concentration camp victims in Poland is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

What is evil? I could easily offer an entire sermon just trying to define this term.  Given that it is a hotbed of thoughts and feelings comprised of a seemingly endless myriad of social programming there are probably as many meanings to this word as there are people on Earth. All words are symbols to some degree or another, and words that have been used to contain the cognition, affect and behavior of those that use them over centuries, words that are used to convey religious concepts, words that reflect deep fears and other debilitating sensations are particularly chock full of energetic bits that snag and ensnare the matching pictures with which humans communicate.

On these fronts, the word “evil” checks all the boxes. Just about anything a human being says, does or is can be and has been labeled by another human being as “evil”. 

Perhaps a commonly-held meaning upon which many could agree is what it is not.  Evil. . .is not good.  The concept of “evil” is often captured by its juxtaposition on the opposite end of the dichotomy of good and evil. 

For some people, the word “evil” is reserved for something they see as profoundly not good, i.e. people and events that live out their experience on the extreme edge of the good-evil continuum.  You will hear me on occasion talk about evil as someone who is so disconnected from themselves, so ungrounded as to cause greater suffering; or someone who is so lost that they attempt to force others to their will by violence or other horrific means.  I try to bring as much neutrality and compassion as I can muster to the discussion of even these extreme attempted transgressions against God’s created order, but my analyzer sometimes has me tripping awkwardly when I am trying to talk about those playing out the extreme end of the evil side of good and evil.  At those times I try to step back a bit, or maybe I should say, step up in my viewpoint.

 So what exactly is “evil” from a spiritual perspective?

In the Bible, which is the foundational document for the Abrahamic religions followed by approximately four billion people on this planet there is the tale of the creation of the natural world. The Book of Genesis says our ancestors were told by the Creator that they could eat any of the abundant fruits of paradise with the exception of that which grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They were informed that if they ate from that particular tree, they would experience Death. And of course, you know what happened then.

Pay attention to the message there. Like any sacred text, the Bible is symbolic yet purposeful.  We are being taught about one of the most, if not the most primary dichotomies with which we struggle on Planet Earth.  Good and evil have been right there with us from day one. What is more, human animals were given the choice from the very start about whether or not we wanted to play out this dichotomy.  Apparently we decided to go for it. We could have made a different choice. We did not. We choose to experience dichotomies.

Also take note the use of the word “knowledge” of Good and Evil.  God was not advising us that there would be no good and evil if we did not partake of feasting from the Tree bearing its name. He was telling us that the choice was between “knowing” about good and evil and presumably not knowing about it.  What I hear from this is that the choice was about what we were going to undergo in our lived experience, in other words in our embodied form. Because we choose the option that included experiencing good and evil with our physical bodies, subsequently we signed up to experience death. 

Most organized religions and spiritual traditions recognize death as an illusion, an artifact of the physical body which has little to do with real life, aka as eternal life. This image of Life and Death by Liliflor Arte is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

So here we are in the springtime of 2021 having just experienced a global pandemic that killed thousands. with many more to come. We are living currently in a world dying of “natural causes” so to speak, as the environment around us crashes and burns.  Death is everywhere, as is life. The stories of individuals and groups of individuals rapidly coming together against all apparent odds to support each other during these times of crises are as plentiful as the stories of disaster, betrayal, and loss. Full-blown evil is clearly staring us in the face, but I would argue so is full-blown good.

We are playing out the dichotomy of good and evil accompanied by death, as we have chosen to do.

What is in store for us now? Are we stuck on a dying planet? It might feel like that at times, but that can’t be the outcome for the planet as a whole.  God created the world as a whole and only God can destroy it as a whole.  We can destroy pieces of it, including our own individual and collective lives, our happiness, etc. but the world in its entirety doesn’t belong to us. So what now?  To answer this question I refer you back to the invocation used to start this service, a famous but pretty much universally misunderstood passage from John, Chapter 14, Verse 27.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    

I believe the Christ here is talking about a kind of peacefulness that has heretofore been absent on the planet in the lived experience of human animals.  He is NOT talking about the absence of conflict, which is how most people think of peace. He IS talking about having transcended dichotomies.

He surrendered his entire being to the All-That-Is, the Father, the Mother, Allah, God/Goddess, the source, the divine, however you want to call it.  As an individual soul, he made the individual choice of his own free will that allowed him to transcend the need for dividing the world into body and spirit, good and evil, or any other seeming opposites.  There is a different kind of peace that awaits those who transcend dichotomies.  He experienced this different kind of peace. The rest of us have yet to explore that territory.

Rumi is talking here about a very subtle but profound shift of consciousness. When spirit in body lives this Truth in every fiber of its being, there is no longer any separation from anything on Planet Earth. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

As we work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, as we work to deenergetize the projections onto others of these pictures, we find ourselves drawn closely and closer to the sweet spot in the center of the dichotomy.  As we do so, the extreme edges, those that reflect the transgressions almost all of us would be tempted to label as evil, fall away of their own accord. But also as we do so, we have to confront the shadows.  We shine our light as brightly as we know how to do at any particular point in time and space, and because we are not yet a part of the All-That-Is, our light creates a shadow of sorts.  The irony is, the larger our light, the larger the shadow. 

Remember though, that darkness and light is itself is an illusion, a dichotomy which our brains use to maintain domination. We are still floundering in a landscape that we cannot yet see. So we continue to project what we cannot see in ourselves onto others as a means to heal as we stand in our own way.  The healing often become easier on our bodies as we retreat from the extreme edges, but our myopic vision remains until we no longer choose it.

Light and darkness is just another dichotomy, a trick of our human animal brains to try to make sense of our world by prioritizing the physical body’s viewpoint. Spirit knows no such bounds. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Is there a reason for hope? Absolutely! The Christ and others have shown the way.  As one continues to work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, the sweet spot increases and eventually the “sides” between good and evil shrink until eventually they disappear entirely. Then there is only wholeness. This is the transcendence of dichotomies.  It is herein lies our peace. Therein lies our salvation. It is here that Heaven-on-Earth awaits us.

I’d like to start wrapping up my sermon this morning by talking about the message about good and evil embedded in the Lord’s Prayer.

I want to read you from the version of the Lord’s Prayer translated by scholar and Sufi mystic Neil Douglas-Klotz from the original Aramaic text.  This is the line that in the King James Version of the Bible is read as “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  I’m going to focus here on the “deliver us from evil” part, which in the Aramaic is “Ela patzan min bisha.”

Don’t let surface things delude us; but free us from what holds us back (from our true purpose).

Don’t let us enter forgetfulness, the temptation of false appearances.

Rather, break the hold of unripeness that prevents good fruit.

From the evil of injustice—the green fruit and the rotten—grant us liberty.

Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner—free us to walk your path with joy.

Keep us from hoarding false wealth, and from the inner shame of help not given in time.

What I hear here is something completely missing in the KJV of these important words.  I hear Jesus talking about time. According to most abrahamic versions of Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they committed an evil act and are “sinners,” perhaps particularly so on Eve’s part.  This false belief system has resulted in untold pain and suffering not only for human animals but for nonhuman animals. In this translation I hear rather that the introduction of good and evil into our physical world has resulted in humans forgetting where and who we are. 

From a spiritual, perspective, time is an illusion. From a body perspective it is a potent reality. Simultaneously holding both of these perspectives as truth is the work of God. . .often requiring tuning into energetic sources of information through meditation or symbolic representations. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The solution?  Heartfelt desire to get beyond the delusions . . .and time.     

Remember if you would, that spirit exists outside of time and space but our bodies understand only the present moment. By talking about the importance of acting neither too soon nor too late, Jesus is talking about the embodied spirit on Mother Earth. The Christ is telling us that we are prone to deluding ourselves; and teaching us that the trick to finding wholeness again is in the knowing that we are going to be groping around in the dark for awhile, but also having the faith that we will get there entirely when we are ready to be there.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

In other words, this time around, we have to take our bodies with us into salvation.  We have to make all the parts of us conscious, even the ugly ones, until they are no longer needed. We have to learn to love our own shadow, as well as those who bless us by reflecting back to us the pictures about which we have remained unconscious, no matter where they are on the “bad” part of the spectrum.  That’s what we signed up for when we ate that damn apple!     

Do you want to know how to overcome evil?  One growth period at a time.

Copyright 2021 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Ancestors and Young Ones: Seeing the Old with New Eyes

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service  on December 27, 2020

Winter is traditionally the time of the year when life on Planet Earth slows way down, shifts into resting mode and begins to engage in the process of regrouping for the new seasonal growing period ahead.  Human animals usually use this time to engage in reflection about the events of the past few months; and to dream about the new directions we would like to take in the next phase of our cycle of evolution.

2020 has been quite the year, hasn’t it? A year for the history books. A year when our lifestyles, events taking place in the outer world and our society slowed way down.  That is not to say that events in individual internal lives slowed down. For some it did. For others it actually sped up, as people experienced confusion, acute anxiety and other busy, often chaotic emotional states. 

The pandemic and all with which we are dealing, has many of us in hiding. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

As the calendar year known as 2020 comes to an end, many are still lost to their fear, unable to believe in anything other than scarcity.  And of course, that belief in scarcity is mirrored everywhere around us by the society we have created. . .which then further feeds the fear.  For many people there is a frenzied dynamic interplay going on right now, a feeding frenzy, if you would.  Intense emotions are being triggered in their bodies which are then reinforced by irrational belief systems that are then surfacing in their bodies even more pockets of unresolved emotions that then cascade into greater distorted beliefs and on and on.  The amount of hysteria and totally weird conspiracy theories that are being promulgated right now by our national leadership as well as many of its citizens would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

As the foundation for life on Earth vacillates wildly between conditional and unconditional love, transitions from separateness to unity of purpose, from fear to faith in the enduring, unending presence of our Creator, many of us are suffering from acute motion sickness.  

Here in this community known as the Church of the Harvest we’ve been working to keep our head above the waters, in order to swim to the new shorelines; and help others who don’t know how to swim at least dogpaddle or float their way to safety.

We’ve been doing this in these services most recently by talking about the nature of Truth. In other words, that Truth is the sole domain of the All-Mighty.  That for those of us human beings who are made in its image, it is in our nature to seek it, like sunflowers that turn their head towards the Sun, but not to know it in its entirety.  Those who adamantly insist on the Truth before they are actually prepared to hear it, typically scorch and burn up. 

Truth for us is a becoming. . .not an end product.  As such we need to constantly set our intention on staying humble and being open to cultivating as many ways to receive a greater version of Truth from the source of our being as we can. 

As a process truth-seeking also greatly benefits from engaging with as much of our physical reality as we can.  This is because the Sun that we seek shines down on our beloved planet and wants to illuminate all on Earth that can be activated and nurtured by its light and coaxed into growing.

Right now the universe is telling us that we must learn not only the disembodied truth that can be accessed by our minds but the larger truth, that aspect of the Sun that has been embedded in the very rhythm of our breath and the coursing of our heart as the Sun’s energy flows through the structure of our organs, muscles, nerves, tissues, and bones.  In other words, we have to not only be in touch with emerging truth with our mind, we have to learn to experience it in our entire individual body.

In my role as someone who tracks the energy of the collective unconsciousness, as well as the consensual reality–which is the part where we have made agreements on a soul level about what we are going to bring into the physical world–I have been watching closely as America collectively embraces a larger version of the truth about our country, its history and its place in present time.  Like an amphibian or reptile, we have been shedding our old skin and moving into raw, vulnerable new containers with astonishing speed. This new version of the truth, this embodied vision, comes at a price for many.  As greater energy flows through our individual and collective bodies, it often lights up old wounds to be acknowledged and cleared. Thus the pain and agony for many these days.  It’s shock and awe time.    

The interesting part to me has been that the emerging deeper levels of truth are just that.  Contrary to popular opinion, for the most part they are not brand new concepts or ways of approaching life but very old ones that are being re-imagined, re-contextualized, like beautiful old paintings that are suddenly seen as richer, more nuanced because they have been taken out of dirty old frames and instead, surrounded in gold so as to highlight their glory.    

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Whether its adding 3,400 Negro League players to the statistics of the Major League Baseball such that their contributions can be honored, taking down monuments to white supremacists, renaming military bases and sports teams or starting the annual New York City Macy Thanksgiving Day parade with a land acknowledgement to the native tribes that lived in the area before being deprived of their homelands, the shifting of perspective is phenomenal. 

Those who are trying to swim against the tide are framing their truth as the USA “rewriting history” or “cancelling its culture.” We are indeed rewriting the history books by including the stories of marginalized individuals and groups that were previously excluded.  We are realigning less expansive cultural stories from center stage to their proper new place on the outskirts.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your own version of the truth, some who oppose this opening up of historical perspectives are getting swept out to sea.  The abruptness of the tidal waves of changes with which we are all now engaged, is shocking to us all.  For some, it is jolting us awake. For others, it is just jolting.  Many of the latter are attempting to lighten the load for themselves by closing down their world vision, something dangerously at odds with how the collective energy is moving.

The robust national conversation about the best multigenerational approach to the pandemic was no “accident.” (Can grandparents hug their grandchildren? Should young people be concerned about infecting older people even if they themselves are at minimal risk? Etc.) As the sun shines brighter on our natural world, humans are having to shift their perspective to acknowledge that time is an illusion to spirit. It will take all of us, young and old alike, to step forward into a greater truth. You are the dream of all your ancestors, art by Monica Fernandez. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

2020 is soon to give way shortly to 2021.  Collectively we have planted a few seeds to begin the growing season ahead; and we still have many more months of dreaming and resting and regrouping before we will have the entire new landscape seeded for the upcoming spring and summer.

Normally at this point in my sermon I make a number of suggestions. This year I have one brief further commentary and one major piece of advice.

Many spiritual seekers debate about the question of pain and suffering. Is it necessary? Is it inevitable? Like many other experiences, this depends on the individual’s path. For most, pain is a “useful” learning tool,, one that becomes less relevant as healing progresses, but most of us need to learn to tolerate and eventually transcend it. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The commentary is about pain. For those of you who follow American mythologist Michael Meade’s wisdom, he has been talking about pain a lot lately as well.  I was struck by a posting he did recently that I will quote:

                    “The pain we feel comes from the cross-wise energies that

                   keep curving back and canceling the wise self and the good

                   word that waits to be expressed from within us. Persistent

                   pain is usually the indication that we have become trapped in

                   a life too small for our true nature.”

Because on a soul level we are learning to come more fully into the physical world individually and as a whole, most of us will have more pain to clear as we go through the transformative process.  Don’t be afraid of this. We’ve got the tools we need. The universe has our backs. And this community has your back as well, should you need and desire our help.  As 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi tells us:  “The cure for the pain is in the pain.” 

You are, as always, the architect of your own journey. Use this time wisely. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

And speaking of Rumi, here is my biggest suggestion:  Stay open to new ways of understanding, ways that are beyond your present understanding. They are coming, waiting for us to receive them.  As Rumi said long ago:

                    “The Truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell and broke

                   into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it and they looked at it

                    and thought they had the truth.”

We are beginning to see the natural world with new eyes. Earth has always been a planet whose “destiny” involves paradise. It’s just that the human species who right now are the co-creators with the divine, and therefore have a pivotal part in validating the master plan, have chosen heretofore to be largely out of sync with it and its creator.

Open your heart to the bounty and the beauty of creativity in the truest form it shows up in your life, but do so while acknowledging that only God contains the whole picture. Make your vessel ready to receive as much of it as you desire. 

Copyright 2020 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Justice, Mercy, Kindness and Karma in the Days of Reckoning, Part II

From a Sermon given Autumn Equinox Worship Service  on September 27, 2020

Last time we met as a community for our quarterly worship service to honor the Creator-of-Us-All I was drawn to talking about Justice, a topic that has exploded onto our cultural scene.  Of course the subject of Justice is not a new one for folks. It’s pretty much been a central topic of discussion in human society from day one on Planet Earth.  The new element is the Universe has chimed in on the debate, telling we humans as the dominant species on Earth that if we don’t get on the right page now, another set of caretakers will be found.  In my last sermon I talked about it now being the days of reckoning, the days when people are often required to deal with very unpleasant situations that they have heretofore avoided, in order to settle old accounts.

Now, as Mother Nature moves from the season of harvesting what we have sown in the past. . .into the wintertime of rest and recreation, I want to do more of a deep dive into the topic of Justice.  I want us to rise above the petty squabbles of individuals and groups fighting with each other over dominance; attempting to force their energy on others.  I want us to take the next steps towards looking at life from a spiritual perspective, one that acknowledges thoughts and feelings; but does not stop there.

To do that, to find that place that brings all individuals and groups together in the incredibly beautiful, intricate field of unity that is our God-given heritage, what is required is for us to try to free our imaginations from the bounds of time and space. 

The people in this church know a lot about space. We’ve all been meditating, grounding, centering, learning what is us and what belongs to others, employing the basic techniques that help us operate from our own energy field rather than trying to control others, in many cases for several years. In this discussion today let’s focus more on transcending time.

As you know, spirit is eternal and operates outside of the time-space continuum.  Our physical bodies on the other hand, very much live in the world of time and space.  That is all they understand. 

As people develop spiritually, we learn the very tricky skill of walking the tightrope between knowing that on a soul level everything in the universe is happening simultaneously. . .but that our physical form requires us to divide our experience into segments that allows the ability to heal within the framework of matter. Tricky indeed. . .and if you do not yet “get this,” give yourself time! Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

This basic dichotomy, this difference in perspective between who you really are, and what your body wants and needs, is a source of tremendous tension for most people.  When an individual is not working from within their own unique physical space, they often will not take into consideration and indeed, may not even notice their body’s needs.  On a soul level, they will remain unfulfilled in a certain kind of way. This conflict, this disconnect, this lack of balancing between spirit and matter can lead to a great deal of suffering, disease, and outright warfare–an imbalance that then gets projected onto everything and everyone around us.

We all do this at least occasionally. To various degrees, at various junctures, we all get thrown off balance. We all are seeking to come into harmony with ourselves, to find and live in that sweet spot, that internal state of harmony between body and spirit, whether or not we are aware of it. We’re all here on Planet Earth to learn to create as spirit through physical matter and our physical body is where the action gets played out. 

Some of us are a little farther along in the learning process than others of us. That’s not a statement of inequality.  It’s only recognition of the fact that what you pay attention to becomes more of an issue in the unfolding of your life.  So if you have been paying more attention to working from within your own space, and taking the body’s orientation towards present time more under advisement, you will be doing more of that harmony thing, that living-from-a-place-of-balance thing.    

When we talk about reckoning of accounts, the old ledgers that require a balancing act right now are the things to which you have not been paying attention, if only because you have been paying attention to other areas.  Maybe some of those other areas are worthy pursuits. Maybe some have been distractions, detours, and a waste of precious time.  It does not matter to the universe. Contrary to our personal beliefs based on that incredibly HUGE amount of programming we have absorbed from our friends and relatives, schools and churches, neighborhoods and communities and countries, you are not being judged by the universe. What DOES matter at this juncture in our collective story, is that you pay your dues.  Some people have a LONG way to go before they will achieve an ongoing sense of internal balance.  Others have been working on themselves for longer, so the reckoning process for them right now is less treacherous.     

This is the time of the Great Balancing. Image from Dr. Seuss is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

So let’s talk about karma. 

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Funny thing is that when I realized that Justice was the topic on our minds and that to pursue this topic, we would need to talk about karma, I was not a happy camper. Personally, I don’t like to talk about karma.  For one thing, an authentic discussion about karma requires people to accept the reality of reincarnation.  I know what I had to go through to release programming that had me rejecting the concept of reincarnation.  I’ve never particularly wanted to ask anyone else to make that difficult journey.  I’ve always opted to follow the lead of one of my early spiritual teachers. That individual found himself being cross-examined in a court of law regarding his belief in reincarnation, as a means of trying to discredit another part of his testimony.  With a great deal of patience, amusement and neutrality he said to the people in the courtroom something to the effect of “It doesn’t matter what you currently believe about reincarnation. You’ll find out about it when you pass.” 

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.  And I’m usually interested in leaving it at that.

Young ones are often aware that this is not their first time on the Planet, but are typically subjected to considerable pressure to see things in a more socially acceptable light. Cartoon by Dave Coverly used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The other part of the problem with talking about karma is that the word itself has gotten corrupted by the need of human beings to judge themselves and each other.  Even in parts of the world like India where karma is a widely accepted idea, the meaning behind it has gotten distorted.

So let me say this really loudly for those in the back.  KARMA IS NOT ABOUT THE UNIVERSE GETTING BACK AT US for our transgressions, for our stupidities, if you will. Karma IS about a simple cause and effect movement to energy.  Like a boomerang, what you put out in the world inevitably comes back to you.    

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

Nearly all spiritual traditions acknowledge this circular movement. In Western culture karma is often labeled the “Golden Rule.”  The title is no coincidence, given that gold is the color associated clairvoyantly with the divine.

In the Christian tradition Jesus of Nazareth talked about the path cause and effect energy takes with his usual simple, profound language.  Many have not been able to hear his real message through their own judgment of self/others.  They assume Jesus was talking about God giving us a commandment, then condemning us if we do not follow it.  What they do not understand is that he was talking about the essence of Justice and Wisdom; and simply advising us that if we do not choose to act wisely in accordance with the natural flow of energy, we will be worse for the wear, all Hell could break out, so to speak.

Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 12 of the Christian Bible:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Straightforward, that. What you get is what you sow.  Period.  End of story.  It’s not more complicated than that.

The only “complication” per se, is that from a spiritual perspective there is no set time frame to factor in.  I remind you that spirit is not defined by time. You can choose to act in a certain way, and the effect of that action can practically be simultaneous.  For example if a person in a heated encounter shoots a gun towards someone else who is also holding a weapon pointed at them, there is an obvious possible immediate cause-effect sequence. 

Then again, you can shoot a weapon and kill someone that no one witnesses and no one finds out about in this lifetime, other than the deceased person.  That encounter is magnetized and sent into the ethereal plane; and that person or someone who is similar in some key way to them, someone who is in possession what we call around here “matching pictures,” can kill you or harm you or impact you in some other related manner a hundred years or a century later. 

It’s not a matter of judgment.  It’s not a matter of who is right or wrong. . .or somebody being a bad person and other individual being a good person. It’s also not about being in the wrong place at a particular time, and it certainly is not an accident.  It’s not even about victimizer and victim despite the fact that in any isolated event, there is typically one or more of each. It just is.  What you put out into the universe with your God-given free will comes back to you. 

So. . .when you read in social media that some pastor who has rallied his parishioners against wearing face masks is now in the hospital deathly ill from Covid; or a senator in Oregon who left the state in order to block passage of a bill on climate change just had his home burned down by wildfires, you can label this karma if you want. You can even be thankful that those individuals are likely distracted enough by their personal suffering to not inflict further damage and suffering on their communities. But please refrain from the I-told-you-sos, or the snarky glee at someone else’s misery, regardless of how much misery others may have generated in your world to date. And for heaven’s sake, don’t choose to respond in a revengeful manner from a place of hatred.

Another way of looking at karma without using that “loaded” phrase is through the lens provided by Swiss depth psychologist Carl Jung. He discussed the unsuccessful balance of dichotomies within individuals that occurs when the individual rejects the parts of themselves of which they are not aware. Quoted in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

For your own well being, choose your reaction wisely. Acknowledge and be careful about how you are processing any emotional reactions. Live your life from the center of your head where you can be in neutral about all that you see within and around you, and thereby not project into the airwaves that which you do not yourself want to experience. Because you will. What I am giving you here is practical advice, not a moral reckoning.  

The funny thing about karma is it is correlated with intention.  You can feel whatever you feel including hatred and anger and other maladaptive emotions. Left unchecked they will certainly be corrosive to your body but they will not necessarily generate “bad karma” for you. You can hold whatever opinions you want, including prejudices and delusions. Again, these can be very harmful to your well being, your relationships and your inner and outer life, but they may not kick you in the teeth in a future incarnation. However the minute you combine negative emotion and maladaptive thinking into a desire for others to be hurt strong enough to become concrete, whether or not the other person seems to “deserve it,” eventually that harm will find its way to your doorstep. What counts here are words and actions based on your intent.

All human animals feel so-called “negative emotions” at times, although many have learned to heavily repress what they are experiencing. What matters is not what you feel. . .but what you choose to do with the feeling. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

I guarantee you that all of us have done far more selfish and stupid things in our learning process here on Planet Earth.You will not find it comfortable to have the universe have to strike you down with a deadly disease, take away your residence, or destroy some other aspect of your creativity in order to try to remind you of that fact.  

Right now, in the twenty-first century, we are balancing the books. We are reconciling all those unresolved karmic balance sheets, the ones with debits as well as the ones with assets.  Why? Because we need a clean sheet for a new world.  As a whole, human beings have made enough self-serving bad choices that Mother Earth itself is endangered.  That is not acceptable to the universe and it will not be allowed to continue.  Our brightest path forward involves the cultivation of mercy.

Angel of Mercy, Photo by Robin Hill. Used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Mercy is created when someone chooses compassion and/or forgiveness towards someone else who has wronged them, even when the person wronged has the power to do harm.  This breaks the cycle of karma. It is one of the highest uses of the gift of free will from our creator.

Mercy is a statement of profound strength.  Our society often tries to convince us it is a weakness but it is far from that.  Do you think that when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified he died because he was weak?  As the anointed one, the son of God, he could have leveled all around him, indeed all of Israel, with a single breath.  Rather he chose to not fight with the ugliness around him and in doing so, quite literally embodied mercy towards all of humanity. 

The crucification of The Christ may be one of the biggest mysteries and least understood events in human history. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Without mercy there is no freedom for human animals from continuing to experience ages old karmic cycles that lead nowhere useful.  Before The Christ, in the collective consciousness people only understood the Old Testament tribal thinking of an-eye-for-an-eye.  After Jesus, a new foundational energy as reflected in the gospels was given form for human animals: love for all, irrespective of our sins.  The Christ did not dismiss sin as nonconsequential. From a place of non judgment he eschewed it. Neither did he allow his crucifixion in order to do our work for us by having our transgressions go away magically based on belief in ideology.  He simply showed us under the most horrific possible circumstances that we can transcend the cycle of retribution by living fully in the energy of mercy.   

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

More than ever right now we need to choose the path laid before us by Jesus of Nazareth and other saints and spiritual leaders. We need to actively and consciously cultivate mercy.  Jesus showed us the way forward, but only we can take it. Without mercy there can be no real justice.  Any choices that answer wrongful actions with further wrongful actions are simply retribution. Revenge/retribution keeps us stuck on the unending carousel of karma which as I have mentioned is really not an option much longer. 

Many people are leaving the Planet right now because they don’t know how to bring mercy to the table they have set before themselves. Many, many more will be doing so before we get through our transition period.  In your world, allow the compassion of The Christ to infuse your life and your choices as fully as you can. 

Have compassion for African-Americans and other individuals from ethnic minority communities, indigenous cultures, etc that have suffered horrible systemic racism, including some of whom are temporarily lost to their wounding by going after those they consider to have harmed them. Do this even as you take all the tangible actions to end racism that you can imagine. Follow the lead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all time leading scorer and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who recently remarked:  “What I want to see is not a rush to judgment but a rush to justice.”

Shine mercy upon both those that support and those who oppose the tyrants, dictators, lobbyists, corrupt politicians and other political figures around the world who are actively destroying the natural world in pursuit of money and power, even as you report, speak out, vote, organize counter measures and take any definitive steps to honor Mother Earth that you can. 

“The Throne Within,” poster by Ricardo Levins Morales with quote from Khalil Gibran used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Forgive the trespasses of individuals involved with civil unrest in our cities, whether they are protestors, agitators, vandals, law enforcement, or whomever else you see as contributing to the mess, at the same time you do whatever it is you can personally think to do to stop the violence and bring forth peaceful resolutions. 

Correct the horrible injustice of our economic system when it shows up in your environment and choose the righteous path of nonjudgmental action towards those at the top who would steal what belongs to those below them. For example, bear strong witness against the three multi-billionaires who for no particularly valid reason own more resources than one half of all other Americans but pray for their salvation. Educate others about inhumane financial injustices like the fact that in the last forty years, compensation for the heads of corporations in the United States has increased in many cases one thousand percent in comparison to the other people who are a part of those companies. Advocate and provide for those without adequate shelter or food and confront those who would exploit or abuse workers. Do what you morally can to confront this egregious inequality without adding further to the evil forces in play here.

Above all, be kind to yourself.  I’m not talking about self-indulgence. I’m certainly not talking about that weird set of rules that pass as making one a member of “polite society.”  I’m talking about real kindness.  Mercy towards yourself, so to speak.  To whatever extent you can, acknowledge your flaws, your ignorance, all those multiple times in this lifetime and others where you have actively hurt others as well as those times you have chosen unawareness because it was more comfortable or convenient than the truth. 

This statue of the Buddha contemplating a lotus blossom–the universal symbol of spirit in the Eastern part of the world–appears to reflect the peacefulness that can be achieved when one brings balance to life. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

See yourself as you really are, and choose to love yourself anyway.  Forgive yourself even if you are impatient and judgmental towards yourself and not yet good at forgiveness.  Maybe you don’t even yet know what I’m talking about when I talk of mercy towards yourself.  You don’t have to understand me with your mind, only with your heart. Embrace mercy towards yourself and others because that will pay some karmic debts and open the right doors for your salvation.

Julian of Norwich was an English mystic born in 1342 CE who understood that Justice is another name for God. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

As we are reminded in Isaiah, Verse 30, Chapter 18:    

The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of Justice.

Blessed are those who wait for him.

Copyright 2020 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Listening to the Mountains; Honoring Mother Earth

From a Sermon given Spring Equinox Worship Service  March 22, 2020

In Greek mythology there is a story about how the seasons came to be created that is worth retelling this morning.  According to early Greek culture, Demeter, the Goddess of Harmony and Fertility, had a child with Zeus, God of the Sky, King of all the Gods.  Their daughter Persephone was a beautiful young woman, if somewhat naïve.  Demeter was overprotective and usually kept her daughter very close.

One of the other Gods, Hades, who ruled the underworld, fell in love with Persephone.  Zeus had promised Hades that he could wed one of Zeus’s daughters but Hades knew that Demeter would never allow the marriage. . .so one day when Persephone was in a field picking flowers by herself, Hades showed up, kidnapped her and took her to his kingdom beneath the earth.

Demeter didn’t know what had happened to her daughter and was extremely distraught. She spent all her time weeping and searching endlessly.  As the months went on, all the plants and animals on Earth withered and died because Demeter completely neglected her duty to tend to them.  In order to save humanity who depended on the plants and animals Zeus realized he had to intervene so he brokered a deal between Hades and Demeter.

In this classic 1891 painting from Frederic Leighton entitled “The Return of Persephone,” the Goddess is returned by Hades to the arms of her mother so that spring and new life can come again to the Earth. Painting used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

From then on Persephone lived with her mother six months out of the year which is when the Earth experiences spring and summer; and with the husband she eventually fell in love the other six months, which is when we experience fall and winter.

Origin stories are always rich conveyers of spiritual truth, using symbols to remind humans of what we need to understand to act as spirit in the material world.  Greek and Roman mythological tales are particularly important to those of us in the United States since they reflect the thought forms upon which Western civilization was founded.

There are many important messages imbedded in the story of Demeter and Persephone but the one I want to direct your attention to this morning is the theme of the Earth dying; and being resurrected again when fertility in the form of the Goddess of Spring returns after a period underground.

We are indeed loved by thousands. Not only do we “stand on their shoulders” in regards to any movement we make forward, we also have them always with us and accessible to us if we know how to tune into the spiritual world. Spirit knows no time or place. Image used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

Persephone spent time in Hades but Hades was not an evil place like we Westerners might assume. To the Greeks, Hades was simply a resting place for the dead.  Death itself was not resisted and rejected in the same way we approach it in the “New World.” Hades was a place for the ancestors and also for the unseen.  From a psychological perspective, one might say that Hades was the residence of the collective unconscious, a place where thoughts and feelings reside until they can be acknowledged and brought back into the light.

 

 

 

 

So here we are on Planet Earth.  In the calendar year 2020 we have just entered springtime. This isn’t the usual springtime of daffodils and baby bunnies, though, because in this calendar year we are also beginning a new phase of human consciousness.

Many are still in Hades, struggling to find their way out of the depth of unconsciousness represented by that formidable location.  Those who have been working to become aware of and heal uncomfortable aspects that in our guilt and shame we previously buried, have a heads start on emerging from the underworld into the fertility that is Gaia.

Many of us have even been focused on our healing long enough that we are beginning to effectively work more consciously with the ancestors, angels, saints and other non-embodied spiritual presences that have always lived alongside of us, been available and been waiting for our invitation to join us in the abundance that is Mother Earth. Some of us are even on the threshold of learning to bend time, a necessity for the human race to persevere.

One of the ways I find myself thinking about the world right now is that our illusions are being forcefully stripped away so we can find our way back to Mother Earth if we so choose. For many this is a violent and painful process, in part because their individual foundation for changes of the magnitude of this kind is not yet in place.

Many people are finding it very emotionally difficult to shelter-in-place, a key component of physical safety right now. It has been a wake-up call for them to discover how much they have depended on busyness to distract them. Loneliness is one of the most painful kinds of intrapsychic pain. The good news though, is that it is also one of the biggest lies on Planet Earth. You are never alone, even if you live by yourself. Loneliness is one the illusions that is being stripped from those who have been avoiding turning within.

For some the resistance to change is too entrenched, and/or the pain is too great and the choice is being made to leave the Planet altogether, in hopes for a new beginning at another time.

People who are waiting to be rescued by others are learning they must find the creativity within themselves and their immediate surrounding community to withstand the ongoing forces of hurricanes and tornadoes, fires and floods and famine and the like.  Some folks like those of us in the Pacific Northwest who have been privileged to avoid the worst of climate change are discovering that we don’t get to fail to connect the dots to other people and retreat into “life as usual” mode when things get overwhelming. We might not yet have the same level of extreme weather events, but we are increasingly impacted by what the rest of the world’s population is going through.

The “new normal” is that nowhere is there normality. Nor is there going to be when the coronavirus crisis is handled. Our old way of life is toast. Our new way of life involves a vastly different lifestyle.

People like the professionals in our health care system who are used to casting themselves in the role of rescuer are learning that to survive, we must all dig deeper into our soul to find those parts of our psyche and prioritize rescuing ourselves so we may re balance in a new place.  Additionally we must learn to serve others under the direction of the divine, rather than ego.

I guarantee you as we move forward into this year nothing substantive in our physical world is going to ever look the same again.  The corona virus pandemic is giving many a taste of what is further to come.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for vaccines or whatever to eliminate it; and then expect your world to return to the way it was previously.

Human history has had multiple times in which viruses and other smaller forms of life break down our man-made defenses when we become seriously out of balance with Nature. The Bubonic Plague that killed 200 million people in the 1300s, smallpox that disseminated 56 million in the 1500s and the Spanish flu that killed close to 50 million in 1918-1919 are just a few such episodes. These figures of “Plague Doctors” were done by Susan Reisner and are used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

This “novel” form of a biologically-based organism that has been around for years is only the tip of the iceberg. Technically it may have been named after its shape as a virus but it is no coincidence that energetically it reflects a “new crown” chakra tying together all of humanity, which in some people is attacking the part of their physicality most closely aligned with their fourth chakra—the energy center that at its best, connects us with ourselves, each other, and the God/Goddess within each of us.

Even as the virus currently isolates us, so too is it going to demand that we abandon our ways of working in isolation from each other and from the environment. Humans are no longer going to be allowed to live cut off from ourselves, from each other, from other life forms and from Mother Earth itself.

Earth is ever the planet of dichotomies and paradox. The ironical dichotomy here is that response to the pandemic is requiring us to separate ourselves from others aka “social distancing” and at the same time is bringing us into the awareness that “we are all in this together.” In the external material world we are working through a seeming conflict between the fact that we are all of one spirit and at the same time we each have a physical body that separates us from all other spirit. As embodied spirits evolve, we come to realize that these are not incompatible truths for the All-That-Is. Image by Jennifer Wagner is used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

Get real about this. The universe has just given us a cosmic slap down, a means to slow down, look around us, and smell the roses.  Use your time wisely. The corona virus will be contained eventually, but the main impact of the economic tsunami associated with it will be arriving shortly; and there are lots of other challenges laying in wait for human animals, including some much more dangerous ones in the long term, should we continue to try to bury our awareness in Hades as we have been doing for such a long time.

 

What does “use your time wisely” look like? Of course it will be different for each of us. Here are a few “practice tips” to help you brainstorm what that might look like in your life:

 

1. Ground. Persephone aka in Greek as Kore, she who became the Goddess of the Underworld, was sometimes referred to as the Goddess of Rooted Things.

Persephone is sometimes referred to as the Goddess of Rooted Things. This nomenclature not only reinforces the mythological storyline but also reflects the underlying spiritual truth of Mother Earth being a safer haven for life when we connect the spiritual and material dimensions. Image used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

Grounding to Mother Earth itself allows you as spirit to manifest yourself in the physical realm as safely as possible; and as a bonus round, gives you a relatively painless means to release what you need to release right now.  If you do know how to ground your energy system from your first chakra, do so with awareness several times a day.  If you don’t know how to ground from your first chakra, find someone who can teach you how.  If you can’t find someone, go sit among big trees and ask the universe to help you match them.

2.  Rest/Recharge. We are in a lull between storms of change. The universe answered our prayers and pulled the emergency break.  Thanks be to God.  The corona virus is not something to be battled, shunned, ignored or feared. It is something to be thanked and gently but firmly put back in its proper place in the created order.  Show as much gratitude as you can muster. Consolidate whatever gains you have made in your spiritual awareness to date and prepare for the next round of wake-up calls.  Help those who are ill and/or terrified and rest up for the next challenge. Have as much fun as you can right now not from a place of escapism but from a desire to follow the divine’s lead into the place of joy, peace and abundance that is our birthright, should we choose it.

3. Prepare for a Global Economy. Here I am not talking about prepping.  Prepping is just an extension of the same obsolete thinking that consumerism will fix everything.  It’s hoarding on steroids. What the universe has in mind for humans is not something that can be waited out with a few months or even years of dried food. By all means, stockpile some supplies for those inevitable times when our old infrastructure is not useable for while. But don’t stop there.

I’m talking about making the deep economic transitions that we can expect after a global monetary system that has been dependent on fossil fuels comes to a grinding halt abruptly and permanently, not just because of a temporary health threat.  The illusion there is value based on domination over nature has been destroyed.  The world is currently downsizing to make room for a place where nothing is real unless it is grounded in human kindness.

The “All-American buck” has no intrinsic value. It is simply a symbol of a transactional agreement containing energy from a monetary system heavily based on profits from fossil fuels and the combined experience of many to use said system for greed and domination. Like all symbols its underlying meaning can be changed but not quickly or easily. Energetically, the world-wide economy based on “dirty” energy, i.e. energy that has been so harmful to Mother Earth has been destroyed. Greed and exploitation are also on their way out, but on an individual rather than a collective basis. The most likely scenario at this point is that some paper money will be around for awhile, but in increasingly smaller quantities as societies all around the world return to more life-affirming methods of exchange.

What would you do if overnight all the money that normally comes to you and all the money that normally you pay out to others disappeared? What kinds of goods and services would you still really want to have in your life; and what kinds of activities would you engage in with others?  Figure that out and then make it happen NOW before the choices around the transactional nature of real relationships is made for you.

What I am talking about is MUCH more difficult than just buying a few extra supplies.

One critical component of the world-wide growth period that is going on right now is in regards to action versus contemplation. Many well-intentioned people have been sorely out of balance with this dichotomy. Effectively being spiritual in a material world in the present time frame requires both body and mind. Action without direction from the indwelling divine is busy work. Focusing one’s mental energy on spiritual goals is very important but not sufficient. We are being called to act in conjunction with and at the behest of Mother Earth and our fellow inhabitants. Image by Brian Andreas used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

This is the time for ACTION.  And the action involves changing your entire lifestyle to suit the new economy in which money will be stripped of its illusionary nature. Don’t misunderstand me. There is ENOUGH FOR ALL that engage in real relationships. There is just not enough of frivolous purchases based on ego.  Find out what makes the God of your heart really sing and let go of the other unnecessary temptations offered by your now-out-of-present-time materialistic urges.

4. Listen to the Mountains, the rivers, the oceans, the trees and other plants and nonhuman animals. There is a reason why people have always sought to connect to our Creator by immersing themselves in the natural world; and have often gone to the highest terrain on Mother Earth for our deepest conversations with God.  There are many other sacred areas as well.

Pablo Neruda was a Nobel-prize winning writer and diplomat who is sometimes considered the national poet of Chile. He passed away in 1973. This image used in conjunction with Fair Use principals.

You don’t have to journey to a mountaintop or anywhere else to find your truth. You can just shut your eyes where you are and find everything you need there.  All of Gaia is sacred and your body was designed to be an extension of that sacredness, a finely tuned instrument of access to everything you really need.  Find the places that have absorbed the purest intentions of the human spirit both within you and outside of you.

Human survival, both individual and collective, is now in a furious evolutionary dance that requires us to match our inward essential nature with the outward physical manifestation of Nature. This self portrait by Cuban-born surreal artist Jorge Ignacio Nazabal is used in accordance with Fair Use principals. Butterflies are a universal symbol of inner transformation

Choosing the best natural settings helps expedite the optimal outcome.  Go to the mountain or another sacred site nearby either in your physical or your astral form if you are so inclined. And then LISTEN.

Most people need to actually learn what it means to pray; and stop mistaking God for Santa Claus. It is the time to let go of the arrogance of telling God what we want done. Talk/dream if you want, but the real challenge right now is for all of us to up our skills at hearing from the Source as reflected in our gorgeous physical homeland.  Many of the planetary changes that are occurring right now are beyond our imagination.  Let the Cosmic Consciousness show us the way.

The Creator gives us the frame. We fill in the canvas. Any viewpoint that human animals have the only or the final word in the process of creating on Planet Earth is misguided hubris. Image used in accordance with Fair Use principals.

 

 

Gaia is screaming at us right now because we have forgotten how to listen to her. For all of our sakes, heed her call.

Copyright 2020 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Will the Real Reality Please Stand Up? Shifting Perceptions/Changing Consciousness

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service  December 22, 2019

Years ago, when I was learning my craft as a Mental Health Professional—working with psychotic felons at our largest state hospital and going to graduate school at nights to become a licensed psychotherapist—one of my teachers taught me something that has guided my life ever since.

At the time I was struggling to find a way to reach my patients through the heavy layers of delusional thinking that surrounded them, and the rock-solid denial in which they lived to order to avoid looking at the horrible suffering they had endured and that they had carelessly passed on to others in the world.  My teacher made one of those simple statements, those statements that come from a spiritual perspective, the ones that involve few words but embody an endless supply of ramifications.  He said simply: “Resa, everything your patients tell you is true. Your job is to figure out what it is true about.”

These days I reflect on his words of wisdom frequently.  As I watch our political systems degrade into a morass of vicious squabbling; as I listen to the national conversation charged with animosity with half of the country screaming at the other half of the country about what idiots the others are, what horrible people they are for thinking the way they think; as I watch the suffering increase exponentially for those who lack the resources or refuse to participate in the cultural wars that are being played out, I am reminded of what I learned from my patients.

Those who are committed to the spiritual path of manifesting their creativity in the physical world often understand that reality is a fluid construct. Each individual has a unique consciousness and each of us creates our own unique reality based on the imagination we bring to the world. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Everything being discussed right now is true, in part. Every position taken by the Republicans and the Democrats and the socialists and the capitalists and the anarchists and the liberals and the conservatives etc. has a kernel of truth in it.  For the healers in this room, it becomes our job to figure out what it is true about.

There are so many ways we could approach the subject we need to talk about during this absolutely critical time on Planet Earth.  You all know me, though so you probably know that I usually go for broke, at least when I am in an audience where people are listening, when what I have to say has a chance of being heard.  So let’s talk about the big picture here.

Let’s start from the premise that only God can know the whole truth.  That God IS the Truth. That the Truth actually is a synonym for the divine.  We are not the totality of God, but we are as aspect of it.  So right off the bat that tells us we need to cultivate humility, know that we cannot know it all, and bend to the Truth as it repeatedly tells us  what we do not yet know, in our pursuit of its glory.  Or, as my mother would frequently remind my egotistical childhood self, you can recognize the wise man because they are the person who knows that they do not yet know.

“The Truth Coming Out of the Well” is a 1896 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme reportedly based on the philosopher Democritus’s aphorism that “Of truth we know nothing, for truth is in a well.” This is a visual reminder that we are naked in our understanding of the Truth. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

That we are not in touch with the sum total of Truth,  also tells us about that which my graduate school teacher reminded me.  Each one of us, even the most damaged or broken, has at least seeds of the Truth within waiting to be discovered, validated, and explored.  When one commits to cultivating that truth, that spark of the divinity, it sets out to burn away all impurities, perhaps slowly at first, but one way or the other, it eventually erupts into a blinding light that calls out all the shadows around us.

Depending on our individual choices, according to our free will and our own internal timetable, we can callibrate our energetic system to a slow burn step by step for many lifetimes or more actively nurture it until it is brought to a raging fire, seemingly overnight.  We can even ignore that spark within us until it fades away and is extinguished by the coldness of our heart.

Those among us whose minds are dark and hearts have gone cold–to use the words from today’s invocation from St. Paul–still have some kernels of the Truth for us to discover. . . however small, however buried under the weight of their ignorance and maladaptive choices.  And we risk adding to our own ignorance if we do not try and discern what part of their life is based upon Truth, not their truth or even our truth, but the Truth that is God.

Right now, the Truth-seeking that many in our society are doing is complicated for many reasons and it is terrifying for us.  Right now many people are living in the “vanity of their mind”–alienated from the divine by their lack of knowledge and the closed nature of their hearts.

Many or most of our political, economic, religious and other leaders have effectively “lost their minds” to the physical pull of the Planet, to ego in the form of desire for power and wealth. These are the people we see every day on the news that brag about how smart they are and are quick to label others as stupid and/or present themselves as holy messengers of God and portray those who disagree with them as sinners.

The spiritual darkness in which they dwell is hellish, a hell they are interested in projecting onto others.  They are caught in an endless vortex. In their fear and commitment to ignorance they condemn others and reject any other perspective than their own, thereby effectively cutting themselves off from gaining ground.  The more they reject others, the more they create a environment of rejection by others and strengthen the energy around them of isolation and hatred .

We’ve all been there. We’ve all, at various times and to various degrees gotten stuck in the games our ego plays on us. In other lifetimes or maybe even this one,  many of us might have just chosen to physically walk away from individuals who have closed their mind and hardened their hearts to an extreme degree. That is no longer an option for us. It’s the digital age; as well as the apocalyptic time foretold from the dawn of our human history in which all will be revealed. There is no physical place we can go to get away from toxic influences for very long. Our salvation lies only along the pathway of following the God of our individual hearts into an unfamiliar spiritual place that transcends the negativity, a place that has humans energetically rising above the tribal level we have operated from thus far.  We get to grow up. Praise be to God.

In the invocation we used in this service St. Paul advises us to “put on the new man” created by God in righteousness and true holiness.

In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul advises us to “live not as others who live in the vanity of their mind. . . who are alienated from the life of God because they have no knowledge, and because of the blindness of their hearts.” Rather, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And put on the new man who is created by God in righteousness and true holiness.” Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

What does that mean?  What I hear in these words is validation for the idea that now is the time for a shift of consciousness.

Consciousness is not a concept that is easily understood. Another famous quotation from spiritual leader Ram Dass who just passed from his phsycial body this week provides perhaps a good clue: “We are all just walking each other home.” Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Those of us who wish to leave behind the “vanity of our minds” must adopt a different worldview.  I hear the notion that the required shift in consciousness, in how we think about and act in the world is so profound that adopting it will make us into an entirely new type of human being.

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps we’ll talk about what this will look like at our services next year.  For now I’d like to say a few words about some things that might help this community prepare cognitively and emotionally in the immediate time ahead as we deal with the unfolding chaos around us.  Because trust me, the chaos will not be going away anytime soon.  The death of the old systems will leave a gap for some time to come, before any new systems can be built.

 

Those of us healers who have been systematically going through one gnarly growth period after another after another after another will be called upon to share with others how to persevere in the world-wide growth period presently underway.  Each of us is going to need to recognize and work with as much of our own truth as possible.  Somewhat ironically, that will include looking for the bread crumbs of truth the universe sends us by way of the mirrors of who shows up in our life, not only those brilliant souls we enjoy but also those who have darkened their minds and let their hearts go cold.

So here are my “practice tips” on how to stay alive in a dying world, spiritually and physically.

Embrace the big picture. Learn as much as you can from and about others. Psychology has determined that there are five major aspects of what makes up our worldview. One of the most important is “openness.” An open-minded person seeks new experiences and enjoys meeting people from different backgrounds. This creates new neuronal pathways in our brains, makes empathy aka love more possible and allows us to learn from and enjoy life to a greater degree.  Most importantly to this group of listeners, it also raises your overall vibrational level and invites in a new level of consciousness.

This meme came through Facebook from a stranger on the other side of the country, just as finishing touches were happening to prepare this sermon for publication. Coincidence? Broad band telepathy is a skill to which all human animals have access but not all use with awareness. It can be very useful in connecting with people all over the globe; and is the basis for the joke we often make that “great minds think alike.” That said, if you are not in control of this ability, it can control you. Many people express ideas and emotions that are not consistent with their own experience. It behooves all of us to expand our horizons so we can find our own truths and recognize when we are acting on the basis of programming from others.

Unfortunately, many religions, societies and cultures are stuck on fear-based pictures that have them believing their worldview is more “perfect” or “pure” if their members are not exposed to alternative points of view. Don’t buy it. In apocalyptic times it no longer works that way. If you suffer from any programming that invites you to stay safe in your own small world, get rid of it. Don’t think for a moment that you can hide any longer.

"Listening is Golden" by Ilona Lantos Gold is one of the highest vibrations available to us, a source of much healing. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

“Listening is Golden” by Ilona Lantos.  Gold is one of the highest vibrations available to us, a source of much healing. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals .

LISTEN as much as you can, as deeply as you can, particularly to those with a point of view different for your own, as long as it makes sense.

 

Recognize that everyone has some of the Truth and is in your life to teach you. They might be expressing 99% bs and 1% truth, but if they are showing up in your life, you can bet that that 1% is pretty vital for you to learn.

 

 

 

On the other side of the dichotomy . . you don’t need to listen to anyone if it is a futile exercise.  When people are talking at you rather than with you or at the very least to you, it’s not about anyone learning anything.  It may be that the game is just about power and control.  In those situations it benefits noone for you to get drawn into the drama. Give them a healing by walking away; and heal yourself remotely by looking in your meditations for what they are bringing forth in you, and search out the pattern of who else with a similar message keeps showing up in your life.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals

If you determine that certain individuals around you are lost but are still seeking the Truth, engage with them when possible. Share those pieces of truth that are already in your possession,  firmly if you must, but do so with much kindness aka neutrality as you can.

By the way, it often helps to cultivate patience.  Be mindful of their timing and sparse with your words, as helping others up to the next level needs to be something based their needs as well as your own. If you find your body is angry or grief stricken as you observe the process, own it, run it and pay attention to these valuable clues of what in your energy system still requires healing.  Let off emotional steam in private with your friends if needs be, but don’t act on your frustration by allowing it to overwhelm and thereby embitter you; or voice slander or malice towards the other, thereby hardening your own heart.

If the person is promoting evil, call it out. This is the righteousness Paul talks about that is a requirement of the “new man.” There is a world of difference–quite literally—between those who with their words or actions express disdain for the sacredness of God’s created order because they cannot recognize it; and those who recognize the Truth but have turned their back.

The former was the case with my psychiatric patients who had perpetrated great suffering because they had never experienced love.  Their ability to cast further demons into the world as they struggled with theirs, had to be absolutely stopped in its tracks, while gently coaxing them into a higher reality.

“Melancolie” by sculpture Albert Gyorgy is a statement of the emptiness of life without soul. Image used in accorance with Fair Use Principals.

There are many in the world right now, including many among our national leadership who sincerely wish to know Truth and live in Truth but have little or no actual experience with the divine’s presence.  In most cases, the healing of these individuals is best left to the heavenly forces. . .and the election box.

On the other hand, don’t let people who know better get away with glorifying ignorance and channeling hatred because that is an affront to God.  When someone knows the truth and is not just “spinning it” because their mind is not open enough to contain the whole of it. . .but is rather consciously rejecting it in order to gain power over others or wealth, we all have to stop them any legal and moral way we can.

There is evil occuring in our world that cannot be tolerated; and must be dealt with not just by spiritual forces. It requires the action of embodied souls who must act in accordance with the indwelling divine. That said, because we cannot see into another’s heart, it is sometimes very difficult to tell what is truly motivating the actions of another person. One important foundation of effectively countering evil has to do with emotions. It takes a great deal of mastery over emotional systems before evil can be laid to rest since that level of sin can only be truly laid to rest from a place of love. Image by Horst Haitzinger used consistent with Fair Use Principals.

When individuals and groups actively work to destroy truth seeking, such as encouraging violence towards those with differing opinions; using deceit intentionally; shutting down truth-exploration  systems like higher education and rigorous science; subverting communication systems like the internet and the media; destorying watchdog agencies that exist specifically is to counterbalance the various systemic biases to which human brains are currently prone, and pathways meant to bring justice into the world; etc. it is on all of us to notice these transgressions against the Truth; and stand up to them.  Otherwise, your silence becomes a part of the rejection of the divine.  There are karmic/heavenly consequences for that you are not going to want to experience.

“Our Calling” by Ricardo Lewins Morales School for Social Justice, Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

And finally, Go for the heavens.   What I want you to hear this morning is what I understand about the tao, nirvana, the creative blueprint, God’s plan for us, evolution, the master plan, whatever you want to call it. The times we are living in, these times for which many of us have waited our entire existence on Planet Earth, are all about creating Heaven on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the time to bring the spiritual fully into the physical. It’s a real possibility, folks.  It’s actually our destiny. . .but like any destiny, we still have to consciously choose to live it out, in order for it to manifest.

A shift of consciousness is about working from within. It requires a deep committment that few individuals have had to date. Many forces are at play in the present time frame to motivate us, support us and otherwise make possible such a tranformatival level of change. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Recognize you can have an ever-deepening version of Heaven-on-Earth now.  In all the political debates have you noticed how two people can be in the same environment exposed to the exact same information and bring to the discussion two completely different points of view about what is going on?  Have you watched a person who defines themselves as pro-Trump and a person who defines themselves as anti-Trump talk about the Mueller report, the impeachment debate or the latest tweet but arrive at two diametrically-opposite seemingly-incompatible conclusions?

It has always been possible on Planet Earth for one individual to create a completely different reality than another individual. It’s just that right now with the light shining down on all the shadowy corners of the globe and the digital age giving all these different corners an opportunity to argue with each other in real time, we can and do live in and debate contradictory versions of our world. It is consciousness that has the last say in what we create in our reality.  You can choose to bring to your corner of the world whatever level of consciousness through which you would like to live.

Do you want to live in the peace and prosperity and love that is God’s gift to all of us? Go for it!  Don’t wait for your neighbor(s).  Give them a step up as much as you can because among other things, this helps you get more rapidly to where you are going–to the peace and love that offered to all of us. Show them the way, as the way has been shown to us by various individual souls who have tread the sacred soil beneath us,  including that humble carpenter from Nazareth who is with us on this winter occasion, as always.

Copyright 2019 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

 

 

Turning the Other Cheek in A Time of Unremitting Violence

From a Sermon given Spring Equinox Worship Service  March 24, 2019

Last year—2018—was truly a transformational point in time for all of us on Planet Earth.  As spirit we human animals  who share the physical world stage and who have been endowed by our Creator as the species with the right to set the energy for all life on this planet, made a MAJOR fundamental shift in our collective mind.

There are many ways to talk about the new spiritual agreement that we put into place in the consensus reality, that agreement that has dramatically shifted the consciousness of many folks almost overnight.

Hatred is a learned behavior. It is not “natural” to humans but it is common. It can and must be unlearned.

One way of talking about it is that we have decided to base our world on love, not hate, as asked of us, indeed required of us, by our Creator.

 

 

 

 

 

Another way of saying it is that we have decided to embrace inclusiveness, not exclusivity.   Or we can talk about Truth.  A “tipping point” of people decided once and for all that we are going to base our life on the Truth that all life is connected, all that is Created by God, is an aspect of God and is God and therefore worthy of respect.

One example of the emerging new way of thinking.

However you label it, in order to turn the tide, enough people in enough places all around the globe said, it ends now.  I refuse to knowingly trespass against other people just because I can and because I am part of a group that thinks of people outside of our immediate selves as “the other.”

Humans have perpetrated great horror on each other as a result of our ability and willingness to divide the world into “our” social group and the “others.” The divine knows no such separation. This picture is of Australian aborigines “owned” by their enslaver under the “Flora and Fauna Act” which was finally repealed in the 1960s.

Energetically, we globalized. We made the commitment to get over the tribal thinking that has stifled us for decades. Ultimately, nothing will be the same in our world.

The ramifications of this newfound commitment to universal life is profound.  The actual unfolding of our new reality though will likely take years or decades to fully manifest, if we have that kind of time.

Unfortunately, while white supremacy and other hate-mongering may be going the way of the dinosaurs, all us dinosaurs are still at risk from a meteorite strike to end it all.  But now at least we have a fighting chance.

There have always been occasional individuals among us willing to reach across the divide that human political and religious structures have imposed. Graves of a Catholic woman and protestant husband, Holland, 1888. Now is the time for collective awareness

We are finally on the right road; and we ought to celebrate that fact.The truly great news is that this new human commitment to creating in the physical world from a place of Love is no longer just the pipe dream of a new advanced souls, an occasional side trip of a brave person here or there, or the intellectually-based statements of people who are willing to talk the talk but not walk the walk.  It is the intent within our hearts and an intrinsic piece of the group mind that connects us with our God.

At the same time we cannot be complacent because we’re not out of woods yet. For one thing, in the immediate next period of time there will be ongoing massive amounts of suffering.  The meditators in this room will recognize that periods of rapid spiritual growth can be confusing in a VERY uncomfortable way for individuals.  Between the old ways that are no longer functional and the new ways that have yet to manifest there can be an ocean of chaos, disharmony, and even danger.  Multiple this dynamic a hundred thousand fold and you might recognize our current society.

For another thing, there is this other little issue that has to be resolved immediately if human animals are going to survive on the Planet, if we are indeed going to avoid a meteorite, nuclear war, shifting of the poles, whatever.

Now the real work begins: Growing beyond our physically-based senses to embrace the All-That-Is

Now that the consensus is we must base our relationships on Love, we have to decide whether those Love-infused relationships extend not only to other humans but to non human animals, to plants and our waterways, and to Mother Earth itself. In some ways, this is the greater challenge in the sense that it requires the most insight and the greatest behavioral changes.

So here it is spring of 2019. The beginning of a new cycle. What can we expect from a world-wide growth period?  Also, what can we do as individuals and as a community to facilitate a graceful resolution of our upcoming battles centering on the natural  world.  This morning I want to talk about how we might use our time effectively as we shelter in place, so to speak, as we wait for various parts of the world to catch up with the new consensus reality.  And I also want to drop a few hints for this body of experienced spiritual seekers as to what we might expect in terms of the next growth cycle.  (More on that at our Summer Solstice gathering.)

Let me start by talking about where we are coming from, our shared history.

Art by Dave Granlund.  Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

You may or may not have noticed a recent increase in the attention being paid to history.  By nature human beings are story-tellers and so we often construct narratives about our past to help us make decisions about our present and our future. Individuals keep family photo albums and diaries; schools display trophies won by their sports teams and offer history classes about our culture; organizations have archives, cities have their statues and historical sites, churches have their relics, and so on.

Poem and illustration by Rupi Kaur. Shown in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

In the United States in the last few months there has been an ever-growing retelling of our history taking into account other perspectives than have previously been brought into view.  I’m not talking about those who are resisting the change process of our world by trying to rewrite the existing history books in order to impose their distorted perspective, “whitewash” our collective narrative (pun intended). These are the people who say the holocaust was no big deal, the founding fathers enshrined the Christian version of God in our political structures, slaves actually liked slavery, that kind of nonsense.  I’m talking about the larger majority of us who are trying to flow with the changes and expand our awareness of a greater Truth than previously contained in history books.

In the sixties, when I studied the history of African-Americans in the United States and the history of women around the world, the resources for these stories were few and far between.  There were only a handful of books on the subjects, almost no sources of information in mass media.  Most people would give me a blank stare when I would even mention that there was something called women’s or Chicano or African-American history. Even my most ardent friends usually believed I was being weird and eccentric in thinking it was important  to know more about history from the perspective of marginalized groups.

In these digital days in the United States we just finished an entire Black History Month and in a few days will complete an entire Women’s History Month in which commercial breaks for nightly mass media programming on our screens have been awash in images of the women and ethnic minorities whose contributions to our culture were heretofore minimized or overlooked, who are now  being celebrated as pioneers and heroes and reclaimed by our collective story.

For spirit we know that time is an illusion.  The body, however, operates in time as well as space.  So why is there this increased spotlight on history? Why now and why to this extent?  And what has this got to do with spiritual growth?

My take is that in order to create a world based on love as we have decided to do, we have to bring up the energy of not-love in order to let it go.  We can do this by creating more situations where we feel/think/act in a hateful manner towards ourselves and each other.                                   We can suffer through many more experiences of what doesn’t really work and we don’t really want.  I am certain many in the United States will continue to indulge in that type of painful way of healing.  However, many of us are pretty sick of using this method to change the energy.  So we have turned to an alternative method of healing ourselves.

When we tell each other that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, we are reminding ourselves that by viewing the past using the perspective of Truth we can break the karmic chains and grow beyond an outdated version of ourselves.  As a society we can increasingly have love be the “new normal” by looking with new eyes at the experiences we have already created individually and collectively; and use those trips down memory lane to forgive ourselves for our trespasses, and forgive others who have trespassed against us.

Looking at human history however, can be tricky and potentially very disturbing unless your goal is changing rather than perpetuating problems.

Like everything else in the human experience, our brains like to dichotomize our experience.  We fill our stories with heroes and villains and repeat a lot of myths that are very far from the Truth.

                            To use history as a source of healing, you have to look at the times we have been cruel and unjust, as much as the times we have been kind and brave.  We have to tell the stories about our family or country or other group who have been mean and spiteful and stolen things as well as the times we have been generous and kind and produced great artists and interesting civic leaders for the benefit of our communities.

The Osage murders are said to be the FBI’s first big case. This picture is of tribal leaders, FBI staff and President Calvin Coolidge. It is from the Bettmann Archives and used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Recently there has been a rash of stories coming into the light on social media that have helped the healing of our national soul.   One such is of the Osage Indians who originally were forced from their ancestral  homelands in Kansas to a rocky, presumably worthless piece of land in NE Oklahoma.

When oil reserves were discovered in Oklahoma, the Osage became some of the wealthiest people in the country. Some 50 years later about 60 or so of the Osage were then systematically robbed and murdered so that their riches could be stolen from them again, this time their personal wealth rather than their real estate holdings.

The Tulsa Riot fire-bombings were also said to have been the fruit of years of resentment by whites towards the area nicknamed the “Black Wall Street.” Jim Crow laws and segregation resulted in African-Americans in this area amassing a great deal of wealth in a manner that strengthened their community bonds.

Another resurrected part of the American saga that of late is finally being talked about is the Tulsa Riot of 1921.  After blacks tried to ensure that one of their community members would not be lynched, a 35 square block of an all-black-occupied section of Tulsa was actually fire bombed by private airplanes owned by white folks worried that they were seeing a “black rebellion.”  Somewhere between 300 and 3000 blacks were killed, and at least 1500 homes were destroyed leaving thousands homeless, in what is now being acknowledged as the worst riot in American history. We do not know the actual body count with any precision because this event was systematically covered up by white authority figures and did not make it into the history books we use in American schools.

It bears emphasizing that this method of healing the present and future by reexamining the past is effective only if we look at stories from a place of neutrality with acceptance for all involved who played a part.

Your power to change your reality is in the present moment. View the past as needed, but do not let yourself get lost to it.

“Perfect pictures” is a term for a certain type of very common programming that we have accepted into our consciousness, often originally for very good reasons. Perfect pictures can be quite deadly as they can act like a invisible Plexiglass ceiling that interferes with our evolving spiritual growth. They are a rigid view of how the world around us is supposed to be. Since we and the world seldom measure up to these expectations, they become a source of ongoing invalidation and suffering.

You have to get beyond the false dichotomies with which we view the world, those troublesome perfect pictures to which we are so addicted.

In actuality all human society is pretty damn flawed.  Evil is everywhere in our collective narrative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think most of us can all agree that the actions taken by National Socialism in Germany, i.e. the Nazis, during the last World War were evil.  It is to our great credit in the United States that we were a big part of stopping that horror.   But can we let ourselves know that we also had a role in setting up that history lesson?  Why are we not talking about the fact that the Nazis recruited IBM to design the new punch-card system that allowed them to track Jewish lineages?  Truth be told, the numbers tattooed on concentration camp residents were an extension of American technology.

How convenient that we have forgotten that when US soldiers invaded Europe in 1944 not only were they using tanks and jeeps produced by American Motors, they were battling an enemy also driving tanks and trucks produced by 100-percent GM-owned subsidies.  The cozy relationship between US business interests and the Nazis was acknowledged by Hitler maintaining a portrait of Henry Ford on his office wall in Munich.  Ford and the senior executive for the GM factories in Germany were awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagles for “distinguished service to the Reich.” It is well accepted that Hitler would not invaded Poland and killed approximately six million people without the new synthetic fuel technology provided by GM.

You have all heard the saying that history is written by the victors.  What you may not have heard is that many historians think that this saying which is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, was actually coined by Hermann Goering, one of the greatest criminals of Nazi Germany. If the Nazis and their allies had won the war, our history books would be accounts of their supposed glorious and righteous achievements.

Right now in 2019, you are seeing a lot of folks trying to reexamine the past, but too often from a place of judgment that keeps them stuck in their sense of entitlement or victimization, depending on what role they have most recently been playing.  It heals nothing; it does no good to perpetrator(s) or victim(s) to continue to see their experience as one-sided.  You HAVE to be in the center of your head, you HAVE to be coming from a place of detachment to benefit from healing through a historical review.

This is a humorous depiction of an all-too-familiar confusion in the religious thinking of many. We are here on Earth to learn to co-create with God. It is neither entirely up to us as some believe in their egocentric way. . .nor is it entirely up to the divine who honors our freedom to screw up as much as we need or want to learn our place in the universe.

None of us are perfect. Only God is perfect. All we can do is commit to bridling our own maladaptive impulses and approaching the world with the clarity of love, as best we understand it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This message is conveyed in Mark, Chapter 10, Verse 18 as well as in Luke, Chapter 18, Verse 19 of the Christian Bible.  A man approaches Jesus of Nazareth to ask him how to obtain eternal life, and in his approach the man addresses Jesus as “good master.” Before even answering his question, Jesus rebukes him by saying:

“Why do you call me good? Only God alone is good!”

 So here we have the Christ, the embodiment of the divine on Earth, reminding us to get over our perfect pictures about human life, because the only wholeness is the All-that-This.

Sometimes one can find Truth in the most unlikely of places. Here comic artist Dan Piraro captures both the prevalence of humans dividing our world into good-and-evil; and its place in our learning curve as we seek return to the divine. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Finally, I want to talk a bit about violence. This has to do with the road ahead, the next growth period, the next issue about which the consensus reality must come to terms.

Violence is a particularly harsh form of trespassing against life, one that promotes a great deal of suffering. Violence has always been on the planet.

We have MUCH work to do to stem the tide of violence against holy Mother Earth. In this image a man seeks to honor the Hindu god Ganesha through the incredibly polluted waters of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, India, Many of the life-giving qualities of our waters in the United States have also been destroyed by humans.

There are many forms of violence including what we are currently doing to other life on Earth, but let’s focus right now on killing and over forms of overt harm done to each other.

Human beings learn by doing for the most part, and so we have been at war in a multitudinous fashion for thousands of years. Being prone to violence is really almost a part of our DNA.  Currently, the United States is the major source of direct violence around the globe, in part because of the role we assumed after World War 2 of being the peacekeepers of the world.  According to a new report by Brown University since 9/11 the US has spent nearly $ 6 Trillion dollars in 76 countries or about 39% of all nations, resulting in the death of around 500,000 people.  This does not include the nearly 500,000 people killed in Syria.  In many regards those of us ins the United States have the most to do, the most we must change.

Because guess what? This need to kill and hurt others is going to change.  It has to! Violence is not consistent with a world based on Love.  Either we are going to be moving violence out of our human repertoire . . .or we are going to be moving on.  The decision about which trajectory we will be using will likely be made this year by all of us on a spiritual level. Therefore, I want to mention another great teaching from the Christ.  Some might argue this is greatest of Christ’s teachings, but one that is routinely misunderstood:  Turning the other cheek.

In Luke Chapter 6, Verse 29; and Matthew Chapter 5, Verses 38-42 Jesus states that if someone slaps you on one cheek, you are to offer them your other cheek.  If someone steals your coat, offer them your shirt.  So what is that about?  I’m not going to say much about this crucial piece of information that ironically, has been the subject of thousands of fierce arguments over the centuries and dozens of wars.

On the other hand, I cannot walk away without some commentary on what it means to choose nonviolence in the current time of unremitting violence.  Violence is increasing exponentially in our world of overt hatred towards other groups in the world, compounded by the problem of shrinking resources as we battle over the scraps left available in our dying natural world.  I think we are going to see more wars, uprisings and mass shootings before we see less.  I believe that 2019 will be the year in which the consensus reality decides whether or not there will be nuclear warfare or some other form of extinction event(s) happens for human.   So what Truth do each of us need to understand and build upon in our individual lives to be a part of the solution to the group problem that is violence?

The Christ is quoted as talking about turning one’s cheek and offering more clothing to someone who forcefully disrobes us, in order to not resist evil.  When Jesus himself was disrobed and tortured and crucified he was largely quiet. I believe he did this not to model for us being passive. He was and is God on Earth. He chose to not fight back but he participated fully in the events surrounding him. He could have easily killed his tormentors with a single glance, a singular thought:  Romans, Jews and everyone else. Instead, he chose not to even utter a harsh word. He did remind all present that the scene being played out was done at the will of Almighty God.

This Black Jesus image is from Ethiopia around the 17th or 18th century CE. Ethiopia was the site of one of the earliest and most robust of Christian communities. Jesus of Nazareth was of Mediterranean descent and not the “white guy” often depicted in Western culture.

The Christ did not model for us turning his cheek as some sort of sophisticated form of rebellion, as some religious types have argued. What he demonstrated for us is nonresistance to that which was asked of him by his Creator.  In choosing to surrender to the All-That-Is even at the cost of excruciating, unimaginable pain that would have caused even the kindest of souls to act from hatred, he transcended physical boundaries, and demonstrated a spiritually-based reality that humans had to that point believed was not possible  He refused to return evil with evil.  Rather, he remained loyal to the word of God, which is Love.

Many of us are dealing with our personal crosses right now, and many more will be shortly.  If you find yourself a part of a world awash in a sea of violence, whether you do this by coming to terms with your own past, having ongoing struggles with others in present time, or being the witness for others in various stages of working through or getting stuck in their own narratives, remember the end game is Love.

Whenever possible, view the world from the center of your head, that sweet spot of balance between dichotomies where you have the best chance of living a path of nonresistance and acceptance. Heal the blocks that keep you from knowing your truest self as much as possible.  And above all, follow the ways that allow you to regularly communicate with the God of your Heart, that aspect of the divine that lives within you.  Your answers for all the challenges facing you will be there.

Or as Stevie Wonder tells us in the song to which we are about to listen:  “Believers keep on believing; Sleepers just stop sleeping.  Don’t let nobody bring you down. God is going to show you the higher ground.”

Copyright 2019 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

 

 

The Art and Majesty of Co-Creating with God

From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service  June 2017

Over the years in this meditation community we have had a number of worship services devoted to exploring the dichotomy of creation and destruction.  The vast majority of these sessions have been primarily about the latter, the destruction side of things.  For the longest time, it was important to help each other get over thinking that destruction is a bad thing.  Like every dichotomy that gets played out on Planet Earth, it is simply what it is.  Destruction, as well as creation, is not intrinsically bad or good.  We needed to get more comfortable with the idea of things coming to an end, things dying, if you will.  We needed to get more skilled at helping destruction happen with a minimal of suffering; and get ready for the times in which we now find ourselves.

And here we are.  You can call where we are in the U.S and the world right now the apocalypse if you want.  My preferred term for this time in our history is the Great Balancing. 

Whatever you call it, we are swimming in a sea of destruction of every aspect of our natural and human world, our environment and infrastructure, our way of life, played out in our political, social, economic and religious systems to name a few.

I was very happy after I realized the implications of being drawn to doing a sermon on co-creating with the divine.  Time for us to get on with reestablishing a new world order, so to speak.  This order is not the kind of order that humans build when we get lost to our need for domination and power over each other.  This world order has to do with the kind of order that naturally arises when we surrender ourselves to the indwelling God.  Or as the Christ would say, as quoted in John 14;27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.

 

As Ghandi reminds us.

In the interest of some of those in this community making  and helping others to make this miraculous transition, I thought we would explore some of the nuts and bolts of what it actually means to go about co-creating with God.    Co-creation is a concept that resonates with many people but few really could put their finger on the message that those words actually contain or how to make it happen.  So let me give it a shot.

We know that God is an awesome, majestic unending Creative force.  Indeed, one of the most common synonyms used by various religious people for God is the Creator; or the Creator-of-Us-All.

God the Creative Spirit by Alex Grey

Most people also believe that humankind reflects the creativity of the divine, that we are made in God’s image and so we are intrinsically creative.  But what does that actually mean. . .and how do we go about creating in conjunction with, as opposed to opposition to the will of the divine?

As I have been preparing this sermon, I have been watching the news about our current rash of extreme weather.   In my opinion, climate change is one of the clearest reflections of how much we have gotten out of sync with the divine.  Sometimes I can find a slight bit of amusement about the irony of someone like fundamentalist Christian Tony Perkins, leader of the highly influential, hate-filled Family Research Council saying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexuality and then having his own home destroyed by a flood.  More often I am filled only with sorrow, anger and on my better days, compassion.

But here’s the rub.  Our extreme weather events these days are both a consequence of our inability to understand co-creation; and a call to action for us to start getting with the program.  We can no longer sit on the sidelines and blame God, or attribute to God everything that is happening in our world.   Humans have a LOT to do with what happens on Planet Earth. When you look closely at the political discourse around climate change, the question of who is responsible is what you see at the core.  Too many individuals are trying to pretend, increasingly unsuccessfully, that humans have little or nothing to do with climate change.  For decades, humans have mindlessly slaughtered animals, fouled the oceans and waterways, desecrated the Earth through drilling, mining and most recently fracking, et. al.

The North Pacific Gyre is an area of trash twice the size of Texas consisting of 30 feet deep of mostly plastics, floating in the Pacific Ocean. There are many similar human-generated “dead zones” in our waters, including the 2010 death of about 68,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.

Many indigenous cultures acknowledge Nature as God, This is an image of Pachamama, the Inca Earth Mother Goddess by Jose Garcia Chibbaro.

Destroying the Earth was and is not a God-given mandate.  God is Nature and Nature is God.  God cannot destroy itself.

Humans?  That’s another matter.  You have to be really out of touch with God if you do not see that human animals have set the stage for our own annihilation through our treatment of our physical home.

 

 

It’s hard not to get lost in the fear in regards to our extreme weather events. In actuality, they can be seen from a spiritual perspective that the tornado is right on track, forcing us to wake up.

God/Nature is not punishing us through hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, droughts, etc.  It is giving us our (final) warning(s).

We already have been co-creating with the divine from day one.  It’s our basic nature to do so. We have just not been doing so with any degree of awareness or finesse.   God creates the stars, the planets and the entire Heaven; and we decide how to invite them into our life.  We decide whether to base our health care decisions on the movement of Heavenly bodies through astrology or the science of the physical Earth through biology.

The divine’s awesome creativity is everywhere in nature. Anemone Stinkhorn, (aseroe rubra), a truly beautiful fungus.

God sets forth the rivers, and we decide whether to swim them, sail vessels or construct dams on them.  I’m being a bit simplistic in that all human behavior is based in part on spiritual forces so even the invention and application of technologies contain the hand print of the divine, but you get my drift.

 

 

 

We are in partnership with God one way or the other.  Whether we experience a loving and supportive relationship or some kind of toxic soup depends on our choices.

Over the centuries many people affiliated with many religions have lost their sense of God, lost their faith because they have accepted the lie that everything in our World is up to God.  In human history, loud are the periodic questions about why God allows so much suffering and the episodic conclusions that God has forsaken us.  Our Creator never leaves us.  The Creator loves us enough to allow us to create whatever hell or heaven on Earth we wish to experience.  It waits for us to wake up to the responsibility of free will; and participates joyfully in any partnership which we offer.

So, it’s 120 degrees in Phoenix.  Anyone here want to experience that?   Let’s talk about what we need to not make that a reality in Washington State and elsewhere.   This morning I want to talk about two aspects of co-creation and how to think about it, about which we all could stand to make some progress.

First and foremost, we need to figure out where God actually lives; or in the words often used in religious discussions, where God dwells.  This is one of the great mysteries, is it not?  For eons people have tried to make sense out of the idea that God is everything and everywhere.  And still we have evil and ugliness and things of that ilk that seem far from God-like.   People who do not understand dichotomies often try to resolve this confusion by assigning all the evil and ugliness to what I believe is a mythical creature called Satan or the devil.

Harrowing of Hell, image from England, circa 1240 CE

But then, how can you say that God is everything and everywhere?

We are not going to resolve this mystery today.  After all, mysteries are meant to be mysterious.  But  I want to give you a way to think about it and encourage you to start training your mind, if you haven’t already started this process.  Because it is a critical one.  There is a reason why Jesus of Nazareth talked more about the Kingdom of God than any other topic of his ministry.  He did so because this topic is at the center of human confusion.  Christ was VERY CLEAR.  The Kingdom of God is WITHIN.  Within each one of us, without exception.

God is everywhere and everything.  But God cannot be fully experienced unless we seek our Creator within us, unless we choose with our free will, to know the Father, the Mother, however you want to envision that Creative force, to acknowledge it living in our own God-given space.  The Living God, the indwelling God, can only be fully known within each individual.  Where does God dwell most intently?  Within you, waiting for your discovery of it, your communication, your adoration.  In the words of the 46th Psalm:

Be Still and Know that I Am

 

There is a second part to co-creating with the divine that is critical.  When people first learn to turn within, whether they do that through some form of meditation or prayer, religious practice, surrounding themselves with Nature, great works of art or music, or as my atheist Mother learned to do in the latter part of her life, sitting quietly with her own thoughts over a cup of coffee each morning—whatever the process, people generally have to contend with what in Buddhism is referred to as the “chattering monkeys.”

 

Buddhism emphasizes training the mind. The resulting serenity is reflected in its sacred art.

Encountering your inner world, you will probably find the chaos of the external world that you have fallen into the habit of letting have full access to your brain    You may find the voices of parents and teachers and others who have shaped your reality in the absence of you knowing how to shape your own.   You may even see images or run into stored emotion from periods of time long since gone, from your childhood and from other lifetimes.   For most people it is a process that takes a lot of time to find yourself in all that mess of repressed and out-of-date energies.

In this voyage of self-discovery, it is what comes after finding yourself that is so crucial to the art of co- creating with God.  Once you find yourself, you have to give yourself away.  Not to the world, not to another person, but to your creator.  You have to choose to lay down your resistance.  You have to surrender.

When you think about how many centuries of warfare we have created on Planet Earth, along with its perspective that surrendering is a bad thing, it is amazing that any of us want to or are capable of doing so at all.  But we need to.  We need to learn to give up our ego, which is what surrendering is all about.

Ego is a tricky thing.  Telling someone that they are dealing with their ego is considered an insult.  However, mental health professionals like to talk about “ego strength” as an important part of healthy personalities.  In psychology at least, we acknowledge that ego is not only common but also can come in handy at times.   So here we have another dichotomy.  Ego is neither bad nor good.  It depends on what we do with it.

Ego is the band aids we put over our owies to keep them from getting infected.   It allows us to put pain on hold, repress it until we are more ready to resolve it.  Hurts a little when you rip it off band aids but is really no big deal except for sissies.  Sometimes if the hurt has been huge, ego is like scar tissue, and then it’s a little bigger of a deal to recover from it.  You might even need the help of someone with surgical skills.  The point is, to move forward at some point you are going to need to get better and better at processing hurtful information, as well as resolving earlier repressed pain.

Since the universe is always moving forward, you can do the passive thing and let the universe decide when this point is and let it blindside you.  Or you can ask the universe aka God to set before you that which you need to heal at the time and in the manner that is most pleasing to it.  This is the essence of surrendering.  That is the essence of co-creating with the divine.  You find yourself and you give yourself freely into the hands of the Almighty

.

As I write this, I am aware that most of you are primarily focused on the finding-yourself part of spiritual development.  If you want to start practicing the surrendering part of spiritual development, my suggestion is that you make this a part of your daily meditations, however brief.

For several years I ended most of my meditations with a mantra of sorts.  I would maintain a strong focus inward after clearing my space using the techniques you all know how to do; and then I would say slowly and repeatedly, speaking  to the God of my heart, “Make Me an Instrument of Your Love.  Make Me an Instrument of Your Will.”  The first statement was an acknowledgement of my individual path in this life; and my need for help finding it.  The second statement was the surrendering part.   After a couple of years I noticed that much to my chagrin, I was still tripping over my ego on a regular basis.  But I could no longer base major decisions on my ego.  When I would try, I would hit what felt like an invisible brick wall.  As our Muslim brothers and sisters would say:  Allah Akbar, God is greater.   God was answering my prayers and protecting me from the worst of my stupidities.

We all have a lot of learn.

My Creator became a greater participant in creating my life when I, with all of my heart, invited it to play an active role.

If you want to use universal words, surrendering is also a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  Repeat that sacred prayer if it has meaning for you.  Thy Will be Done.  Not My Will or Our Will, Thy Will.

Find your own methodology.  Create your own words but give your energy to the indwelling divine.   The extent to which you do this will dictate the amount of the peace talked about by the Christ you will experience.  As the Tibetan meditation master Ajahn Chah says:  “If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”

So back to it being 120 degrees in Phoenix this week.  Can we really change our descent into global heating enough to take the human species off the endangered species list?  Possibly.  Probably.  I don’t know yet.  But what I do know is that not only is the endpoint at hand, but so is the beginning point.

This I also know as truth:  We can’t do it by ourselves.  We are going to need to use our collective will and enormous creativity to lay our fate in the hands of the divine.

Glory to our Creator for all of the Beauty around us. Now let us do our part!

The solutions are far beyond what human brains can envision on our own.  Join me in asking for the intercession of the universe, as we learn to harness our own God-given creativity in the service of us all.

 

 

Copyright 2017 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

The Wintering of America

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service 2016

Winter Solstice is the time we traditionally get together to celebrate the transition that begins at the end of the year and moves us into the beginning of the new year.  Winter is such an underappreciated season, maybe because it forces us to slow down, nudges us into reflection, sets us on the path of integration and changes to come.  It’s like Nature’s growth period, not in the biological sense of things growing, but in the spiritual sense of destroying old cycles with which we have been living; making room for new cycles that are not yet apparent.  It is a time of bareness, of winnowing the exterior world down to basic necessities, so we can look around at a blank canvas and dream about what we want to create.

This year we have the opportunity to do this reinvention not only in our individual lives, but in our collective lives.  I know of many people in America and around the world who are reeling from the shock of the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.  They say that even most of Trump’s followers were in shock that he actually got elected.  To all who are confused, in anger or fear, or otherwise distressed, I dedicate these words.  This sermon is not about politics.  It is about life on Planet Earth and moving forward when we find ourselves in deep and unfamiliar winter territory.  uncertainty

When I woke up the day after the Election to find we now had a President-Elect Trump, I had many thoughts and feelings, many of which were unpleasant to experience to say the least.  But in the deepest part of me I found a small but very bright and very profound ribbon of gratitude.  I knew exactly what it was about.  I knew in my heart that Donald Trump was not “destined” to be President as of the day before the election.  There are very few times that I know something beyond a “shadow of a doubt.”  But I believe without a shadow of a doubt that the mockup a scant day before the election was that Clinton be elected.  We can blame the media and the pollsters all we want for not preparing us better.  There is certainly no end to the “soul-searching” that the media needs to do about their choices during the election, but they are not to blame for projecting defeat of Trump.   On a spiritual level we had decided that Clinton was going to be the “winner” oflightening-and-lava the election.

And then we changed our collective mind.

The day before, no less.

I mention this almost in passing because perhaps it will bring some solace to individuals who are still lost in the maze of the election energy.  But mainly I mention this because miracles need to be acknowledged, especially ones that are invisible to most people.

It is nothing less than a miracle that an entire nation changed its mind within 24 hours about who to let become President.  The ramifications of this energetic shift are enormous.

 

What it said to me is that there is hope.hope-changes-everythingYou all know that my primary focus and concern these days is on the very real possibility that human beings will not survive on Planet Earth.  In order to “weather” (pun intended) the changes we are bringing to Mother Earth in our arrogance we must make some rapid behavioral shifts in our thinking and behaving.  Further, these changes require a change in human awareness that in my darkest hours has seemed light years away.

If you have any idea of how the consensus reality works, you will recognize that apparently, enough of us have made and/or are making those changes in awareness that a massive shift in the time-space continuum is now possible.  Nothing else explains the fact that one day Trump was not slated to be President and the next day he was.  The fact that collectively so many of us can manifest an energetic shift of that magnitude in that short of a time frame means that we stand a fighting chance of surviving climate change.  And for that, my heart sings with deep gratitude to God and to all of us who are trying to learn to genuinely live consistent with its will.  This was so much bigger and more important than who occupies the Oval Office (or the Trump Tower as it may be).

Here at the Church of the Harvest we have been talking for several years about the fact that humans have constructed a world on the basis of scarcity and conditional love; and in order to move to a world based on God’s endless bounty of unconditional love many of our social, economic, religious, political, and other institutions will need to be destroyed with some being rebuilt in a far different form.  What we just did in our electoral process is greatly accelerate the timeline in terms of destruction.  I was hoping we would not have to do the destruction phase overnight because I know all too well what a hard time people have with change.  The American people decided otherwise.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that all that we upped the stakes in terms of destruction of our world?  It remains to be seen.  We know that from a spiritual perspective there is no good or bad, just experience.

mayan-dancer-representing-an-owl-symbol-of-death-in-mayan-mythology

Death=Rebirth=Potential Wisdom. Mayan Dancer Representing an Owl, Symbol of Death in Mayan Mythology

We also know that our human brains cannot comprehend the master patterning of our Creator.  History has repeatedly revealed points in which horrible things have happened to individuals and to the world within which they live, in order that even more horrible trends are stopped in their tracks.   Think Pearl Harbor for example, where over 2,400 individual souls made the decision on a spiritual level to sacrifice their life, and another 1,000+ were injured so that the U.S. could wake up to what was happening in Nazi Germany and make a decision to enter the World War 2.

pearl-harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

If Pearl Harbor had not happened, it is very likely that not only all of Europe and Asia but probably our continent as well would be under occupation by National Socialism.   The destruction acceleration we just made possible in the United States can bring those who withstand it closer to each other and to Nature and therefore, to the ultimate preservation of human life.

I have been tracking the destructive trends for many years now, but the aspect of those trends that I feel drawn to discussing this morning is the perfect pictures we all have about the United States.   Most of you have heard me say that the road to Hell is paved with perfect pictures.  Perfect pictures are those insidious little bits of programming on an energy level with which all old spirits struggle, that tell us that things are supposed to be or go a certain way.   being-wrong

They create a great deal of grief in part because the world doesn’t oblige us by conforming to our pictures so we lose our way more readily.  Additionally, they generate a ton of blame, hostility, and intense fear when the world doesn’t live up to said pictures, which actively interferes with the learning that needs to happen to get closer to the ideal.  Blame and hostility:  Thinking about this election, does this sound familiar?

The United States is a place rife with perfect pictures, almost like an orchard of overripe fruit that falls from the tree and makes such a big mess that it’s hard to even walk around without falling.  The idea that this country is a new and better version of any other country on the Planet has been part of our national credo for over two centuries.  “We the People,” our “creation myth” to use a label from anthropology, did indeed reflect a giant step forward in the evolution of humanity.  Our fledgling democracy was a great achievement but contrary to the popular belief it was never a perfect one.  The “New World” as we called it, afforded some of us a chance to move beyond our history, but not all of us.

Initially the constitution of the newly formed United States primarily protected the rights of wealthy white men.  Right off the top, over half of the population could not actively participate by virtue of their sex–women.  And then there were the Africans who were not yet called “African Americans” and who were not even acknowledged as human but rather, were each designated as 3/5s of a person for the purpose of property taxes.  The over 12 million Africans who were forced into slavery by the 1900s primarily for the economic benefit of white people were missing from our national narrative of greatness. Also by the 1900s  immigrants primarily of European ancestry had  destroyed 80-98% of the indigenous Native American population through displacement, war, other forms of violence, a fact that we happily justified by the 19th century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.   In the United States, we have tried very hard to not notice that American dream was very hard on many; and that everybody in our country did not exactly have the same degree of a chance at reaping it’s rewards.

Nonetheless, the idea of America as the land of opportunity for all has been important to the entire world, not just those in the United States.  For both spirit and body, dreaming is VITAL and America has provided a life-affirming destination for everyone.  With our shiny idea of a place for all, the U.S. has provided hope for hundreds of years to people all over the Planet, allowing thousands with torturous lives to believe in something outside the drudgery of their existence. As a political institution, the U.S. may not have always lived up for our ideals, but that does not make our support of them any less important.  Perfect pictures are often created for noble reasons.  Eventually they always crash under their own weight unless one actually walks the walk, as well as talks the talk.

Lest you think that we worked out all our earlier quirks with constitutional amendments and changes to the law, no.  Yes, women got the vote, almost 150 years late but we did get to participate.  Indentured servants and slaves were eventually set free.  But as to the national culture, we never really worked through our perfect pictures, our ego-based sense of importance.  Even the fact that we made some laws more just for segments of our population became just more evidence in our collective mind of our moral superiority.  We just kept adding to the narrative, calling ourselves the most powerful, richest, smartest and therefore, by implication the most deserving country on Earth.

We began to believe that the United States was uniquely qualified to lead the world in every respect, not just some areas.   We carefully tried not to notice that the ways in which we were exercising our leadership was typically disrespectful of other cultures, sometimes aggressive and/or exploitative, and frequently self-serving.  In the United States the lifestyle of not only the rich-and-famous but even the working-class-families-who-routinely-shop-at-Wal-Mart, has greatly benefited from our commitment to American superiority.  In the lifetime of those in this room, United States citizens who are 20% of the world’s population at best have been owning, controlling, and in most cases using 80% of the world’s resources.  We made it to the top of the heap.  But at a price to our soul.

What has this got to do with the elections?   The recent U.S. presidential election was essentially a cultural war between perfect pictures.  That’s a war nobody can win.

change

Obviously, we all have a sense that change is needed.  We just don’t agree on what the problem is or how to go about fixing it.

Trump got a lot of voter support because of his carefully chosen motto:  “Make America Great Again.”  Some folks recognized the cultural arrogance of such a motto; and proposed their own slogans.  I enjoyed the various wordplay in such mottos as “Make America Smart Again,” “Make America Mexico Again,”and my favorite “Make America Kind Again.”  But the reality is that as a whole, America has never been smart, kind, or great.  Not consistently; and not as a whole.  Individuals and small groups of Americans have at times done truly great things, chosen innovative, courageous and selfless words and deeds.

c495d8bc8cbff92155a422231c852bbf

The Navajo code talkers were critical in helping the United States defeat the evil of WW2 Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism. Twenty nine of these dedicated Marines were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. There are an additional 33 other tribes that have been code talkers using their incredible communication skills at other times when the United States has needed them, acts of generosity and true patriotism given what Native Americans have endured from white society.

As a nation we have often been generous and insightful, but intermittently.

Clinton’s “Stronger Together” motto was much less embraced, not only because of people’s reactions to Clinton but because it is a weaker archetype that did not spark the nation’s imagination.  We don’t need to be stronger, exactly.  We need to be strong in a different way.  We also don’t need a false sense of togetherness.  We need the real thing.

The social fabric that is the United States of America is vast, multilayered, contradictory and imperfect.  We need to acknowledge that, stop trying to insist we have already got it right, and realize how much we have to learn.  We need to atone for our sins/trespasses to date, move with more honesty and whole lot more humility towards the ideals to which we aspire.

perfection-words-by-anna-quindlen

Perfection. Words by Anna Quindlen

The universe just gave us a hand.  It just knocked us flat on our collective ass so that we could go back to the drawing board. No more building houses on foundations of sand.  We have to change the way we think.  As a society, we have to create a new narrative based on Truth.   In this story line I imagine us still pledging ourselves to the justice of democracy for all, while acknowledging that we don’t always achieve our goals.  We have to grow beyond our tribal thinking.  We have to learn to think from a spiritual perspective, one that respects the basic unity of all life and the moral superiority of no one.

That said, the landscape before us at this point is looking pretty dark. At this point when we are all swimming in the ocean of confusion, getting back to the basics may be warranted.  So I have three things to say today about negotiating the Wintering of America.

First and foremost:  Do what you came here to do.  You choose this time.  On a spiritual level you made the decision to bring yourself back to Planet Earth during this time period which may be the most fascinating and crucial years in human civilization, apart perhaps from those brief 30+ years that Jesus of Nazareth walked on Earth.  You are here now for a reason.  Find your path.  Let your light shine brightly in these dark days.  The rest of us need that; and you need that.  Don’t let the chaos, anxiety and confusion of the world stop you from finding yourself.  It’s more important now than ever.  Your interests are of paramount importance to us all.  It’s still all about individual responsibility in a time when thousands of people are wanting to dictate what direction you should take.  Find your own Truth.  The God of your heart will tell you where to go, what to do, and what to be, if you just take the time to listen.

Second and also very important.  Do what you can with other people.  If you are a part of the Church of the Harvest, you are a big giver.  Most of you work with the public through your jobs in social agencies, government, private industry and the like.  You are all highly social people, committed to family and country, generous to a fault.  You already know what you can do FOR other people.  All of you are skilled at that.  Now figure out what you can do WITH other people.

Little known fact is that from a spiritual perspective, human beings are really at the very beginning stages of learning to work collectively in a genuine fashion.  We have not gotten much beyond survival mode.  We have learned to hunt together, necessary to bring down large mammals. We know how to band together to fight wars against other humans not a part of our immediate community whether it’s “playing politics” at a local level or waging conflicts and wars on a massive scale.  Humans have been very good at uniting AGAINST things.  As a species, we are still in elementary school when it comes to genuinely uniting FOR things.

inclusion

This is the time where the world must learn what it really means to be united in spirit while at the same time allowing for, even honoring and celebrating individual differences.  It’s about transcending the dichotomy, living the Truth, understanding that on a soul level you ARE the other; and they ARE you; and we ALL ARE aspects of the same God. . .at the same time that each of us is an individual soul with an individual mandate to follow the dictates of the indwelling God of our individual hearts.

You have a head start with this vital learning; and you can model for others.  If you are part of the Church of the Harvest, through your meditations you are committed to a process of manifesting the unity of spirit within a unique body. Figure out where you want to be giving and helping others and go for it, while never losing sight of your own path.  Work together with others whenever you can do so without undermining your own integrity.  Do what you can think to do but know that you can’t do it all because not everything will be on your path.  Support people who have found a different vantage point for their gifts, as best you can.  Speak up and lead righteously in the areas which have been given to you; and be a great witness, listener and supporter in the areas where others are on the forefront.

The model we all have for transcending the dichotomy of the individual soul living within the unity of all was given to us 2000 years ago by the Master.

mosiac-of-jesus-in-a-church-in-rome-ad530

Mosaic of Jesus from a Church in Rome 530 ACE

Listen to the words of the Christ as he discusses the idea of the individual soul living as a part of all-that-is.  This is from Matthew, Chapter 23, and Verses 36-39.  Remember that when he talks about God he is talking about the Kingdom of God within each of us–not some old white dude in the sky.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

            Jesus said to him:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart

            And all your soul, and with all your might and with all of your mind.

            This is the greatest and the first commandment.

 

            And the second is like to it,

            Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

My third piece of advice is this:  Don’t be afraid of the wintertime.  We know that from a spiritual perspective there is no bad and good.  But we all have a tendency to fall prey to the perspective that winter is the not-so-good or even bad season.  Nature knows better.  All plant and animal life needs an extended period of rest.  In the Pacific Northwest we know that the very waters that sustain our life come predominantly from the snow that falls in the winter to recharge the aquifers.  Recognize the richness of the wintertime of dreaming up new futures, reflection and prayer.

Yes, some of Nature always dies in the winter, adding its carbon and other minerals back to the Earth so that other species will have room.   And with great regret I will confirm what you all know, a greater amount of life on Earth will be dying during this Winter than ever before, both human animals and nonhuman animals so that we all have a greater chance to find eternal life.  But from the big picture, from the mind of our Creator, it’s all good.  We need to hold that Truth in mind.

Again, words of the Master, from Matthew Chapter 24, Verses 10-13, in which he speaks about the “end times” that we are now experiencing:

Then many will stumble, and they will hate one another and betray

                    one another

And many false prophets will rise and will mislead a great many.

And because of the growth of iniquity the love of many will become cold.

But he who has patience to the end will be saved.

fireplace

Hunker on down.  It’s going to be a long winter.  Let’s keep each other warm.

Copyright 2016 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

The Illusion of Time

From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service 2016

This fine morning I want to talk to you about time.  This sermon is a little more advanced than I usually present.  It is not something you are going to understand using your rational brain.  So please feel free to just let my words surround you, and awaken within you whatever is evoked by them and resonates.

At the Church of the Harvest, we try to focus on what makes you more aware of yourself as spirit.  Thus I have entitled my sermon the “illusion of time.”  Time, like everything else in the physical world is ultimately an illusion.  Time is an aspect of what in Indian culture is called the “maya.” Maya is a Sanskrit word.  In early Vedic writings “maya” referred to extraordinary power and wisdom, but as the concept developed over centuries “maya” came to be seen as the world always changing; and changing such that it becomes nearly impossible to see things as they really are.  In other words, “maya” implies the infinite reality of spirit that cannot be fully understood by human beings in terms of being contained by the human brain as it is presently constituted.

time3

Time is an illusion.  For you as spirit there is no time.  When your body passes away, you will leave the space-time continuum that exists on Planet Earth and return to the eternal heart of our Creator.  And when you come back to this Planet, assuming you will, you will again submerge into the time-space continuum that is necessary for the enormous power and wisdom that is you, to slow down enough to function in physical matter.

Time-space continuum.  That’s one of those phrases that people freely use, know there is some kind of truth to it, but don’t really know what it is.  You hear New Agers sometimes talk about the time-space continuum.  Or maybe you’ve heard about the concept from science fiction shows like Star Trek.  Some of the best descriptions of the time-space continuum come from the physical sciences.

einsteinmain

The time-space continuum burst into human consciousness primarily through the work of Albert Einstein, a man who was able to bring spiritual truths through scientific inquiry using mathematics, which he called the language of God.  Einstein taught us that time and space is actually the same thing, they exist on a continuum.  He challenged our views of time as static.  He talked about how an object in motion actually experiences time at a slower rate than an object at rest.

This is the kind of concept that the rational human brain has a hard time wrapping itself around.   Isn’t time always the same?  Well no, actually it’s not.  It changes.

time2

I was given the opportunity to learn about the non-static nature of time, the illusion of time, during the automobile accident in 1998 about which several of you have heard me talk.  I was horribly “late” for an event for which I thought I absolutely could not be late.  I was driving much too fast on a gravelly backcountry road, when I lost control at a sharp turn of the road and flipped the car.

These days nearly 20 years later, I rarely think about the miracle that I survived.  Or the fact that I was taken to the emergency room where the medical staff seemed to think there was something fishy about what the ambulance personnel were reporting after rescuing me from a ditch by the side of the road.  I not only had no broken bones, I didn’t have any lacerations or even any significant bruising.  They could not find anything wrong with me.

These days, what I often think about is the gift I was given that day I learned that time is an illusion.  I was thrown out the car window nearly fifteen feet away–so they tell me.  The car was totaled.  But what I experienced in a very visceral and real way was that time literally froze.  I can recall hovering above my body and spending what seemed to be many, many minutes “minutely” fine-tuning every muscle and curvature of my body so that it would land in EXACTLY the right way.   Apparently as spirit, I had decided it was not time to leave the body permanently or even damage it in order to learn what I set out to learn.  Instead, I raised my vibration level to such a rapid degree that time was unrecognizable so that I could position my body in the manner that would sustain minimal damage.

Time is an illusion. . .but it is a very powerful one, as I also learned that day.  I never allowed myself to drive at an excessive speed again, no matter how important a meeting was for which I was late.  Because time is an illusion only for spirit.  For the body, it is where we live. In the physical, there is only the present moment. And it is very important for the body that we live in present time.  As the science fiction author Ray Cummings has said, “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”  Can you imagine what it would be like if every thought you ever had, every emotion you’ve ever felt, every experience you have gone through all happened at the same time?  If you as spirit are not working within the body’s need for time (and space), all hell can break loose.

All lifeforms require that we work correctly with time.  When an animal is hungry, it needs to find food then, not some indeterminate time in the future.  If it does not, its very life is threatened.  When a plant needs water, it cannot be provided whenever.  The plant will wither and die if it does not receive water at the time when it needs it.  The reason I decided to talk about time today at our Summer Solstice service is because currently on our planet, all hell is breaking loose in large part because there are too many people not paying attention, or the right kind of attention to time.

We need to understand both the illusion of time and the fact that it is a powerful one which we have to take into account if we are going to manifest our essential nature as spirit here on Planet Earth.  We are here to learn about creating as spirit through matter, and there are several challenges that each of us need to meet for that learning to have an optimal outcome.

These days more and more people understand some of the basics about the space aspect of the time-space continuum.  In the United States we’ve been talking about codependency for several years now, which is just another way of people learning to work through their own space and not trying to work through others in the name of “fixing” them somehow.  We’ve been talking more and more about the importance of and what it really means to “consent” to sexual encounters.  And we increasingly dialogue about diversity, meaning that individuals can have a variety of different experiences that we need to respect with their free will within the context of a complex social fabric.

Most recently the entire world has been hot on the trail of trying to understand and diminish violence, whether perpetrated by gun-wielding haters, war mongers, bullies, human traffickers, exploiters of vulnerable others, or even the equipment that we use to protect (or not) the heads of football players.  We’ve been learning about economic, racial, sexual and other forms of inequality and privilege, and having national debates about how best and how much to help people that don’t have enough, without forcing them to live our chosen lifestyles.

These issues are all manifestations of trying to make sense of the dichotomy that as spirit, we are all one; but as a physical presence, we each have a body for which we are independently responsible.  These are not new issues.  Humans have tried to make sense of this paradox from the beginning of our time, but many people are on the verge of balancing these key dichotomies; and the space aspect of our physical existence that makes them so difficult to comprehend.

In my opinion, there has been less progress on the time aspect of the time-space continuum.  There is some interest in concepts like mindfulness, which is at its essence just a way to help people learn to live in the present moment.  But too many people have the vast majority of their energy tied up with the past, or the future; and are not very present in their actual physical body.  time-travel

When you are out of sync with yourself individually, that is to say when spirit is not creating in conjunction with the body’s need for time, at the very least you probably “waste” a lot of time; and at the worst you create pain and loss.  And YES, everything has a purpose, and YES, even the times of losing your way can help you learn. . .but do you really want to learn using pain and not joy as the vehicle for change?    53e6ead70d9c487e90883d8f579bd66f

When individuals are not in sync timewise—or as we say around here, having a body/spirit split—all kinds of disharmony is possible.  You can just waste resources, such as when people hoard a lot of material goods they don’t need  because they are living in past lives when they did not have enough; or trying to prepare for a future they can sense but can’t really see, where their fear says there will probably be less.  Some of the problem with hoarding includes the fact that people tend to be owned by too much stuff rather than owning it; and in the end excessive amounts of stuff usually deteriorates anyway if it is not being used.

Even if you don’t collect things when you are unaware of time, other disharmony is possible.  People can waste opportunities, opportunities that do not easily come again.  Some of the greatest regrets that are verbalized by those who are dying, are that they did not spend their time wisely, did not spend more time with their children or their family, did not travel, make music or art, or pursue some other dream.

In Erik Erikson’s final stage of human development, older individuals either integrate their life. . .or leave it feeling disgust with themselves and despair.  To put this in spiritual language, I can tell you that there is probably nothing more dehabilitating than getting to the endpoint with your body and realizing you have failed to learn what you came here this life to learn, failed to walk your path. . .and need to do it all again at another time.

Rest assured, I really have no fears about that level of disharmony with anyone present today.  You would not be here hearing my words unless you are closer to integrating body and spirit.  But I do have some concerns about our understanding of time as a society and as a world.  When many individuals are out of sync timewise—all kinds of disharmony are possible within our collective society. There are far too many people in key leadership positions, politically, economically, religiously, and throughout almost all of our other institutions that are living in the past or living in the future; and have no real ability to help with the problems of the present. confederate-flag-rally

In regards to the past for example, we have hundreds of people who still think they are fighting the civil war; thousands of Westerners who don’t even believe in past lives acting like they did when they were a part of the Roman Empire with all the world to subjugate; millions of people in other parts of the globe who are willing to wage war in a futile attempt to return their lifestyle to pre-industrial revolution days, etc.

preppers

And don’t get my started about people living in the future.  We can acknowledge the intense fear of preppers who are putting all their energy into a false notion that they alone will be able to meet our collective challenges by hiding away; along with the millions of Americans who believe that God will rapture them away from our sins against the planet.  It is hard to deny that those who are putting their energy into living in a future that will likely be very different from the one they expect are wasting their time.  As we used to say in the sixties, they are part of the problem, not the solution. When you stick your head, i.e. your consciousness in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, you are not helping the very real challenges we face together as a species.  Because the sad truth, my friends, is that the endpoint for human animals on Earth, as well as for many other animals is far too near.

politicans-discussing-global-warming-sculpture-by-issac-cordal-berlin

Politicans Discussing Global Warming. Sculpture by Issac Cordal, Berlin

So what needs to be said to those of us who mostly understand space; and are beginning to understand time from a spiritual perspective?  Time is an illusion, but a powerful one.  Address it head on.  To the extent that you want to continue to operate as spirit on this gorgeous planet called Earth, please honor NOW the Mother Earth as our body-at-large, by increasing your awareness about time.  Be aware of the fact that collectively we are running out of Time. time-busyness

Please do not run my words through the programming so rampant in Western culture that you need to do more.  What I am saying is. . .in your individual life, do Time more wisely. For you, that might mean that you do less. Be in charge of the portion of Time you can control in your own space.  Use the techniques that you know to put spirit in charge of your own life more completely.  Ground for safety sake.  Center to bring you peace of mind and the ability to confront our challenges without getting lost to anger, grief, and/or despair.  Run your energy to clear sources of confusion and disharmony from your space.

Talk to the divine within.  Ask what you are spending your time on that you don’t need to be doing or thinking.  Ask what you are not spending your time doing or thinking that needs to be more of a focus.  Be still enough to listen for the answers.  And know that whatever changes you make as a result of these internal conversations will have a ripple effect, in some cases a major ripple effect, on all the people around you who are not similarly paying attention.

Some of these changes in how you spend your time will be big ones and some small.  Some will involve other people and some will not.  Join the human family with greater awareness, as we all learn more completely to be spirit in human form on Mother Earth.

Copyright 2016 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

The War Between the Sexes

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service 2002

All this year, as a Church we have chosen to focus the healing energy of these services on the issue of peace.  We have talked in various ways about war and peace in the world at large as a reflection of war and peace in our individual lives.  In today’s sermon, I would like to talk about what is for many of us the greatest war that we experience in our lives, even though it is sometimes so huge for us, so all-encompassing, that we forget we are in the middle of it.

Unless you are a member of the military, or some other war-related industry or profession, you are probably not exposed to the ravages of physical combat.  But there is one war that is ongoing, one war that is waged in all nations and all cultures, and among all races on the face of the earth on a daily basis, one war that can be funny at times, approached by some people in good humor and can also be horrific and hard to laugh about, and everything in-between–and that is the war between the sexes.

The war between the sexes has been around as long as human beings have been on the planet.   I would say that it began with Adam and Eve, except that according to some religious traditions, there was a woman named Lilith, who proceeded Eve, but got in trouble with Adam and/or God the Father, because she was not acting in the approved feminine way.  So we might say that the gender wars even predated the couple that are considered by many to be the ancestors of us all.  In any case, as long as spirit has been incorporated into physical matter on Planet Earth, there have been problems and dissension among the ranks in regards to the gender differences between bodies.

Adan, even and Lilith

Adan, Eve and Lilith

On a physical level, there is not much difference between genders, certainly not enough to justify the controversy.  These days, in this country at least, we mostly acknowledge at least some of the time that almost everything about the human experience is universal in nature, including our physicality.  It is said that there are only two activities in the world that are gender-specific.  Only men can contribute sperm.  And only women can bear children.    Apart from these activities, everything we feel, everything we think, every choice we make, can be felt or thought or chosen by the individual involved, whether they happen to be male or female.

On an energy level, there is one very small but far-reaching difference between genders, and that is the placement of the first chakra.  The first chakra is that powerful energy center that contains much of our information about physicality.  The majority of everything about how we relate to our individual bodies as well as the body that we call the Planet Earth, is connected to or is stored in the first chakra.

In men, this chakra is physically much closer to the Planet, and is greatly affected by gravity and the other forces associated with the Planet.  When we talk about men having heavier energy and women having lighter energy, when we talk about men being more caught up with the earth, and women being more focused on the heavens, when we say that Men are from Mars and women from Venus, when we notice that men are more interested in self or creating a separate space, and women more interested in others or creating relationship connections, all we are doing is noticing the differences in perspective that come depending on where the first chakra is located.  If the first chakra were in the same place in both male and female bodies, these differences in perspective would not exist.

So why, do you ask, is there is difference in the placement of the first chakra?  What is the purpose to this, in the larger scheme of things?  The reason for the difference in placement of this spiritual center, as well as the reason for the differences in gender of the human body is the same:  it’s all about creativity.  It’s all about creativity.

It Takes Two to Lay an Egg by Jade Lavey

It Takes Two to Lay an Egg by Jade Lavey

We are spirit, and as spirit, we are a part, an aspect of the Creative Force of the Universe.  There is a reason why God is often referred to as the Creator.  The existence that is sometimes labeled “God” is pure, unadulterated, conscious Creativity.  And we are here on this planet of substance and mass, to learn to be the children of God, to learn how to create through physical matter.

Creativity at its most basic, can be broken down into dual energies that in eastern traditions are called “yin,” and “yang.”  In our part of the world these energies are sometimes called “the male principal” or “male energy” and “the female principal” or “female energy.”  These are the basic building blocks of all creation.  This is the ebb and flow of life as it manifests itself.  When male energy, the active part of the cycle of life, unites with female energy, the receptive part of the cycle of life, creativity is born.

On the physical level, when a male body unites with a female body, a new life is possible.  We all know this.  What we tend to forget, unless we have formed the habit of looking beyond the physical, is that each of us is male and female energy.  Since everything in the physical ultimately arises from the spiritual, each one of us is composed of male and female energy, regardless of the gender of our body.  And everything about our lives is an interchange, a dialogue of sorts, between these two forces in ourselves.  That dialogue can be a harmonious chorus, a spirited debate, a silent standoff, an outright screaming match, whatever but it is always an interchange of some kind.

On the energy level, when the male part of any individual’s energy system unites with the female part of that individual’s energy system, creativity is possible.  When an artist produces an object of beauty or a musician plays an enjoyable melody, they are using their male and female energy in concert, to create the object or experience that is pleasant to see or hear.  When a miner extracts coal from the earth or a baker makes loaves of bread or a doctor takes care of injured persons, they are using their male and female energies to create a synergy within them that allows healing to happen outside of them.  At every point, we create our individual lives, and we use our male and female energy to do so.  And at every point, we choose whether these parts of us will work together, complement each other, support each other; or whether our male and female energies will be at war.

Unfortunately, one can tell from the state of the world at large, what we call around here the consensus reality, that there are a lot of us making choices that have us at war with ourselves.  Everywhere around us are individual men who are brutalizing the women in their lives in order to try to get themselves to notice that they have brutalized their own female energy.  And everywhere around us there are individual women who psychically, psychologically and emotionally manipulate and/or dominate the men in their lives because they cannot allow their own male energy to act on their behalf, and therefore, attempt to force others to act for them.

To complicate the equation, we have created whole societies in which those in female bodies this time around spend their time engaged in power struggles with those in male bodies, and vice versa, just because we are unwilling or unable to ground and work through our own space.  When we need the other gender to complete what is missing in us, then we create dependency, as well as resentment of the object of our dependency.  So then we have centuries of experiences on Planet Earth of relationships between men and women that are based on scarcity or lack, and are compounded by bitterness and blame of the other gender for that lack.

The good news, folks, is that the times, they are truly changing.  It is the time when the male and female is scheduled to come together.  Everywhere around us we are seeing the mirror images of the vast changes that are being made in human consciousness.  We have female astronauts, welders, and body builders, and male nurses, nannies, and househusbands.  We have whole societies who are making major shifts of consciousness, virtually overnight.

One such that occurred recently with little media attention, happened in Afghanistan when the women of the country decided to oust the patriarchal Taliban leadership, and quietly convinced their Afghanistani husbands to take this action with evident success.  The United States might like to take the credit for the radical transformation of the political structure there, but the real success story is about those spiritual beings in both male and female bodies who live in the area who were determined to move the next step for them towards a greater honoring of the feminine.  Granted, there will likely be a kick-back of sorts.  Humans typically resist change.  We can expect that the patriarchs of Afghanistani culture will not give up without many, many more battles, but the game of change is on.

Afghanistani Women Outside Polling Place, 2014

Afghanistani Women Outside Polling Place, 2014

And now, in this country, we are coming up to the end of the cycle that has lasted almost 3,000 years, as we shift from a rationally-driven male-energy-based technological society, to one in which intuitively-based female-energy leads the way.  In this brand new cycle, the male and female energy in each of us will be honored but the female principle in both men and women is moving into the leadership position of our individual and collective soul.  Throughout history, certain forward-thinking individuals all over the world have made this necessary shift, but I predict that the United States may very well be the first society that will embrace the balancing of male and female, under the leadership of the female.

Left Brain Right Brain

Even our very body/brain reflects the feminine and masculine.

It is the time.  It is indeed the time.  It is the time for each of us to make peace with our self by the simple act of acknowledging, running, and balancing in our own space, our own female and male energies.

Do you truly desire peace in the world?  Then find your male and female energies.  Find yours, not your mother’s or father’s, your wife or husband’s or even your children’s.  Find yours.  Find the messages that your female energy gives you every day through your dreams, or your “random thoughts,” or in your meditations, that precious guidance that your female energy gives you each and every day, if you but listen.  Give your male energy permission to act on that guidance, don’t put it in the front and let it charge forward on its own initiate, recklessly and impulsively.    Rather, give your male energy full permission to carry out your dreams, to organize your thoughts, and bring into the physical things from the desire of your soul.  When enough of us choose this level of unity, war in the world at large will no longer be a reality.

I’d like to end my sermon today with the words of the Master. Jesus of Nazareth knew everything about balancing his male and his female energy, although his words on this subject were arguably the most edited aspect of the New Testament.  I’d like to read you from the Gospel of Thomas, a book that did not make it into the Christian Bible, despite the fact that many biblical scholars consider it to be the book that is the most historically accurate record of the words of the Christ.

In this passage, Jesus is asked by his apostles for more information about finding the Kingdom of God.  He gives them these words:

When you make the two one,

          And when you make the inside like the outside,

                   and the outside like the inside,

          And the above like the below,

          And when you make the male and the female one and the same,

                   so that the male not be male nor the female female,

          Then will you enter the kingdom. 

The growing pains involved ending the gender wars are potentially enormous, but so are the rewards awaiting us by this unity.  Hopefully we can all weather the upcoming skirmishes in good humor, helping each other as we go, knowing full well that in the end, we will all return to God, the Creator.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Copyright 2002 by Rev. Resa Eileen Raven

Angels and Devils: The True Nature of Good and Evil

angels

From a sermon given September 2002 at the Fall Equinox Worship Service

When we originally picked the topic for this service, I had no idea it was such a controversial one. I just thought it would fun to look at one manifestation of a great roadblock that faces individuals and society as a whole who are trying to find peace. That is: the tendency of all of us to divide the world into good and evil.

Planet Earth really is a world of dichotomies; a vast playground full of polarized opposites. It is our job to notice these opposites and learn to choose the middle ground, the high ground so to speak. Other places in the universe do not provide this same challenge of polar opposites. The overarching defining principle of Planet Earth is that we have been gifted with free will. To maximize the learning process upon which we are all engaged, it is helpful for us to be presented with a wide range of opportunities so that we can learn to make choices that are productive and in keeping with divine intention. We are constantly given choices that involve one extreme or another. Thereby we can choose, if we want, to find the balanced perspective in between the extremes. That middle ground is where the peace lies, the inner peace for individuals; and the outward manifestation of it–the peaceful coexistence for groups of individuals.

The tendency for we humans to dichotomize runs so deep that we create situation after situation of “us versus them” in the world at large. As humans, our very brains become accustomed to, and find it most familiar to process the world from an either-or perspective. That same tendency runs deep enough in our basic makeup that we even dichotomize the world of spirit, much as we dichotomize the material world. Thus, in most religious traditions there exists angels, who are the good guys; and devils, who are the bad guys. Sometimes the latter are talked about as fallen angels, acknowledging that they are simply a point in a continuum; and sometimes they are seen as a class of villains by themselves with no particular angelic etiology.

It’s been many years since I looked at the concept of angels and devils. I deal with the spirit world on a daily basis, but I use other filters with which to view that reality. So to prepare for this sermon, and reacquaint myself with how many or most people think about angels and devils, I did what any good researcher would do: I watched a lot of movies.

There is a plethora of messages about the spirit world coming through these days. In this time and place, as the heavens and earth move ever closer together, and the basic fabric of the time-space continuum transforms, our culture is flooded with spiritual images and archetypes to which many people are exposed, often without any real awareness of what it all means. Angels and devils are everywhere in increasing amounts—not just confined to paintings in museums or gargoyles on structures built in medieval times; but on key chains and other knickknacks, and Hallmark cards, and on television, shoes, and rock songs. I am told, angels are mentioned in one out of every ten popular songs. However, movies are one of my favorite ways of tuning into popular culture, so I will start there.

There are some great movies out there that work us over on a subliminal level in a positive direction. I would recommend three in particular:  Michael, in which John Travolta plays a beer-drinking, ball-scratching, bull-fighting babe magnet as the Angel of Destruction. Then there is Devil’s Advocate, in which Al Pacino is a magnificent Lucifer trying to charm an attorney played by Keanu Reeves into fathering the Anti-christ. And my personal favorite is Dogma, a movie that was subjected to a concerted boycott by fundamental Christian groups, always a good sign. Armageddon is the main event in Dogma, with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon playing fallen angels, the talented Alan Rickman as one of the angels on the right hand of God, and George Carlin with a short stint as a Catholic cardinal who doesn’t even get that the battle is raging.

Hollywood movies, as fun as they are and as important as they are at both reflecting and shaping our thought processes, are considered only entertainment. So I also did research into how most people are viewing the subject of devils and angels by reading various serious popular and religious texts. And that’s where the real fun begins. Because, as with most aspects of spirituality, people are all over the map. There is no consensus about the nature of the spiritual beings we call angels and devils.

As it turns out, the Christian Bible, that ultimate source document for many people in the United States, is strangely quiet on this subject. Although there are a number of references to angels, there are very few actual details contained therein. In the accepted scriptures of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition , there are angels who exist to worship God, and angels who are sent out by him to protect, destroy, or carry messages to mankind. But we do not know much about who these beings are, where they live, or what they typically do in an ordinary angel day. There are only two angels who are actually named in the Bible: Michael, and Gabriel. This is not very much information about beings than are generally considered to be more numerous than the stars. I am told that in the 14th century, the number of angels was calculated by certain segments of Christianity as numbering 301, 655, 722.

Information about devils in the Bible is also largely or wholly missing. Satan is mentioned sporadically. In the Old Testament he is more in the role of a prosecuting attorney in ongoing theological debates than an evil figure. In the New Testament, he is certainly not the tunnel-visioned, stand-alone, cartoon-like figure that is portrayed by many present-day Christians.

For example, in Matthew, Chapter 17, Jesus of Nazareth has a disagreement with Simon Peter. This is directly after Jesus has told Peter that Peter is the rock upon which Jesus’s church will be built, so obviously within the context of Jesus having a great deal of faith in Peter and his abilities. Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon be crucified, and Peter tells Jesus that this isn’t going to happen. Jesus says to Peter, you are thinking from the ways of man, not God; get out of the way, Satan. What I hear from this story is Jesus’s acknowledgment that even the strongest and brightest of us can have energy not aligned with God. I do not hear validation for a separate being which we might simplistically call “the Devil.”

There is actually, a lot of information about angels and devils out there in popular literature and apocryphal or noncanonical literature, but none of the world’s religions seem to have a consistent, coherent stance on the subject. In polytheistic systems of religious belief, there seems to be more mention of but less focus on angels and devils, probably because when you base religions on inward meditation and not outward-based truth-seeking, you have less need for intermediary spirits between an individual soul and the Cosmic Consciousness.

In all the great monotheistic religions, devils and angels galore exist, but also a great deal of controversy about them, even within each church or religious denomination. Even in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the like, there are many acknowledged spirits or devas that pursue out good or bad ends.

At various times in various ways Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all gone through periods of awakening interest in the functioning of the spirit world; followed by periods of anxiety that acknowledgement and exploration of the spirit world will lead to an undermining or destruction of faith in the teachings of the church; followed by further periods of rediscovering sacred literature about angels and devils; followed by further rejection by church leaders in the populace’s interest in these entities, etc.

For the record, I will tell you that personally, I do believe that there are spirits that will assist us in following God’s will, if we choose to avail ourselves of their assistance, spirits that might accurately be labeled “angels.” In the words of the 91rst Psalm, Verses 10-11:

He will give his angels charge of you,
To guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

I don’t know about you, but I am very prone to dashing my feet against stone, and consequently am quite glad for the assistance of the spirit world, which I receive freely when I remember to call upon them.

I also believe that there are spirits who are more than willing to encourage us in making choices that are detours on our path back to God, many who are simply curious or mischievous; and a few that rise to the level that might be called evil. The former could be called devils and the latter “the Devil,” if you prefer that terminology.

Ultimately, however, it is our choice who we hang out and allow around us, and who we follow–whether they have a body they work through or not. Because we have free will. We demand of the substance abuser that if they claim to be sincere in controlling their drug-seeking behavior, they must surround themselves with those who will support patterns of sobriety and other pro-social behavior. So too, is it up to us to surround ourselves with those who will lead us to the righteous pathway. When we can acknowledge the self-responsibility that derives from our free will from a place of awareness and a place of nonjudgment, than we can make clearer and more productive choices that are the more direct route to the true peace that comes only from connection to our Source.

So what is the True Nature of Good and Evil? You know me. Of course, I’m not going to impose my truth upon you. Feel free to discover your answers in your meditations over time. But I would like to leave you now with an interesting tidbit I ran across in my research. According to Malcolm Godwin, who wrote a book called Angels:  An Endangered Species, among the stories about the war between the angels in heaven in various Christian texts, there was one version that was suppressed by the Catholic Church. In this version of genesis or the apocalypse or whenever this war supposedly takes place, there were three groups of angels, not two. One-third sides with God, one-third with the Devil, and one-third chooses to stay out of the conflict. Reportedly it was this third group of angels, the ones who chose neutrality, the not-very-bad but not-very-good-ones, who later bring the Holy Grail to Earth.

Copyright 2002  Rev. Resa Eileen Raven

Simplicity

From a sermon given March 2000 at the Spring Equinox Worship Service

simplicity

Back in the dark ages, when I was in my late 20s and beginning to focus on my spiritual development, I had a teacher who said to me once, Eileen, you do understand, don’t you, that simplicity is a spiritual concept? I remember looking at her with what I’m sure was a puzzled expression on my face, tilting my head to one side and just listening. With all the new information to which I was being exposed about how the world of spirit works, listening was often all I could do in those days. Really, I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about then. I knew what she was saying sounded right, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell myself or anyone else why.

In those days, I was still revealing in the freedom of a life I was creating entirely on my own, beyond what I had known for so many years in my family of origin. I was filling my life with new experiences, some constructive, some destructive, but all ones that I craved–experiences I had not been able to have living with my parents. I was stacking my days with places I had never been allowed to go, activities that I had never done before, relationships with people who sometimes weren’t the kind of people my parents would approve of, joining groups that were beyond my family’s and sometimes even society’s norms. It was all pretty thrilling. Sure I was exhausted, chronically sleep-deprived, emotionally unstable most of the time, financially irresponsible, but I felt alive! I was living the loca vida and it felt great.

It probably was a good thing that I didn’t have the words to respond to my teacher talking about simplicity, because the words might have been the unproductive, argumentative kind. Because for me, at the time and place in which my attention was first drawn to the concept of simplicity, what simplicity really meant was boredom. A simple life, in my immature view, was one that was devoid of meaning, one that didn’t have much going on, a state of deprivation.

I tell you about my earlier view on simplicity because I think it is one shared by a lot of people, particularly in American culture. Of course, young adults often have the need to explore the external world in new ways beyond what they have known in childhood, and this is a legitimate developmental phase. Each new generation has a tendency to accuse the last one of being insulated to the point of being boring. But it’s not just youth that equate simplicity with boredom. I think many people believe, at least on some level, that simplicity is for fools, for people who can’t get it together enough to create an interesting life. According to this view, the simple life is for those who are dull by nature, fearful, or who simply don’t mind being stuck.

On the other hand, there are many people who believe the opposite. On Planet Earth, we like to learn through dichotomies, so there are also a great number of people running around who believe that simplicity is not only a good thing, it is the solution for all of life’s woes. These are the people who are nostalgic for the “good old days.” The idea here is that life used to be simple, and now it is not, and a great deal of what is wrong with the world would be corrected if we could simply go back to the time when things were simple. I am always amused by the capacity we have as humans to idealize situations which were not really ideal. Returning to one’s childhood which did not have the responsibilities we face as adults, but usually had other more invisible responsibilities equally challenging, is not the solution. And as a society, returning to times when technology was at a minimum, is not the solution for our collective problems. As you all are probably aware, you can only truly solve problems from present time. You can never really resolve anything by living in the past.

What I find particularly interesting about the “nostalgia” view of simplicity is that it is generally not grounded in reality. I don’t think that life on Planet Earth has ever been simple, at least for the vast majority of people. Of the 800 to 900 or so generations of human beings that have passed through this plane, nearly 700 of those generations have lived in caves, and have been preoccupied during nearly every waking minute of each day with the task of gathering enough food, clothing, and heating fuels to survive. There’s nothing particularly simple about a life in which it takes enormous concentration to bring down a mastodon with wooden spears tipped with flint, or wander to the right area that may allow you to scratch out edible roots when you don’t have any solid information about geography, upcoming weather patterns, or how to stop the bleeding if the mastodon catches you before you catch it.

And what about our last few generations, when we have had increasing amounts of technological information at our disposal? Are our lives now simple because we have more information about how the physical world works? You can find people who tell you that technology has, indeed, made life much simpler. And you can find people who insist that technology has made life much more complex. For the first time in human history, there are large numbers of people in the world who are not solely and totally preoccupied with survival. We actually have something called “leisure time,” which has only been around for less than a hundred years or so. Now that many of us can choose how we want to spend at least some of our time, is our life more simple, or less simple? And even more fundamentally, does it matter? Should simplicity be the goal? Is living a simple life a virtuous thing, is it simply settling for less than is possible, or is it different for different people? And what is simplicity, anyway? (So, now we’ve come full circle in this discussion).

All I can do is tell you a little about my experience, as a person committed to using meditation as a means of connecting with my inner world with the creative force that lives within me, as it does within us all. As the months have gone by in which I spend more time acknowledging what is going on within me, I become less driven by the world around me. My outer world still interests me, in some ways more than ever, but I am less hooked by it, less attached to it. As a result, lots of material things, certain experiences, and even some relationships that used to command my attention, have simply ceased to be important to me. They’ve just fallen away. And other things, experiences, and people in the physical world have become more important to me, but somehow in a way that is effortless.

I’m actually busier now than I’ve probably ever been in my life. These days I have more businesses going, clients, personal friends and projects that I’m working with than I did in my entire 20s and 30s. To an outside observer, my life looks very hectic. But in actuality, I’m getting all the sleep, rest and leisure time I need, and I feel at peace most of the time. Because the people and the resources just show up when they need to and the experiences happen as they happen, and it is all very simple. My life is very simple. My lifestyle is extremely complex. If you can understand how those two things can both be true, than you are well on your way to understanding why simplicity, true simplicity, is indeed, a spiritual concept.

Copyright 2002   Rev. Resa Eileen Raven