Creating Sacred Space; The Return to Paradise

From a Sermon given at the Spring Equinox Worship Service on March 26, 2023.

In this community we’ve been talking a lot lately about time, about the importance of taking time into consideration to respect the body’s needs, about the importance of remembering that time as an illusion as far as spirit goes, and about the need to learn how to work with those seemingly contradictory perspectives.

I remind you that they are not in Truth, contradictory. They just appear to be so when viewed by the human brain. As human beings struggle to negotiate current events with the unfolding landscape changing far in excess for which many are prepared, what is required is a leap of faith, a commitment to not only growing beyond the glass ceiling imposed by the human central nervous system and its brain; but taking huge steps into territory previously left primarily to artists, prophets, saints, indigenous populations and others who have had the courage and/or permission to explore beyond what can be known through the five senses of the physical body.  

I have been (largely) amused by all the individuals in our society who actually think they can stem the tide of these waves of new levels of spirit-driven human consciousness. Political and religious leaders in particular seem to be convinced that they can maintain their power and prestige by blocking those who are trying to unearth—i.e., bring up from the hidden caverns of the Earth—our collective history so we can reexamine and expand it to include others who have been marginalized or misrepresented.

But this expansion of perspective that society is undergoing, this debate about whether we are going to allow larger and more truthful representations of who we are as a collective entity is not really about our history. It is about our future, our future as a species on Planet Earth.

Let us get right to the point of how we go about further growing human consciousness, and what a leap of faith will require of us as individuals and a collection of individuals.  

Leap of Faith by Lucy Campbell, Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

I want to talk about two key aspects of this subject. First of all, I want to talk about the unchangeable aspect of that leap that will continue into the future irrespective of whatever else takes place. Second of all, I want to talk about the part we CAN and must change as we recast human history in a way that will help us make the transition into an unknown future.

So first of all, what is the existing part of the game plan here that is NOT subject to change over time? By the way, we have prepared ourselves for accepting that there is an unchangeable and a changeable aspect of reality as the path to serenity, a commitment to peace, through a widely-shared mantra. You have all heard the words: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.    

What can’t we change? Simply put: God.

In our arrogance human beings have been very confused about God. We get lost to our lack of understanding of what is God and what is not God. Most or all of the evil done on the Planet has been in large part because we struggle with this question. Wars have been fought and genocide or enslavement of whole populations have been carried out by defining outside groups as “other”—the ones that are not of God or blessed by God by virtue of belonging to whatever group to which we belong. This is the “tribal thinking” human animals have done since day one. Horrific acts of injustice and other forms of persecution have occurred when policy-makers think they are speaking for or doing the will of God, when really, they are only speaking for themselves and those immediately around them.

To add insult to injury, those who have been victimized then often go through enormous further suffering as a result of their belief that if God is not “on their side,” they have been abandoned by God. Many who have witnessed these outbursts of evil played out in the world turn their back on the Creator-of-Us-All, choosing instead the desperate emptiness of atheism or harsh adherence to the misery of determinism. God is on everyone’s side, in a manner that often confounds our physical brain.  

At the heart of all of these problems is a misguided dependency on the human brain as the decision-maker about our reality. Don’t get me wrong:  the human brain is a magnificent miracle of the highest order. But it only processes what is brought to it by the body’s sensory systems. Compared to human consciousness, compared to that capacity that human beings have to access all the information in the entire universe, the brain is a tiny cog. A mere speck of dust in an endless ocean of energy.   

God does not change. So, how do we make sense of a rapidly changing world that comes from a Creator that is everything and everywhere and everyone and is unchangeable?  We don’t. Not, at least, with our brains.

When I am struggling to conceptualize everyday problems from a spiritual perspective, and I run into this perceptual dilemma, this conflict that my brain has with the world being both unchangeable and changing, I find a certain allegory useful.  I like to think of God as the frame. And I like to think of human animals as the painters of the picture within that frame.

We can’t change the frame. We can, however, pick out whatever colors we want for the picture being created in the framework. We can leave the canvas white, infuse it with rainbow hues or paint the whole damn thing black if we want. We can use acrylics or watercolors or glue weird objects to the canvas. We can use delicate brushstrokes or splash colors on willy-nilly. We can paint in the nude, or totally encased in a suit of armor. We can share our resulting masterpiece with thousands of people on social media, sell it to a museum, or destroy it on the spot. All of that is up to us.   

We can’t change the frame, though. That is why we don’t need to be much concerned most of the time with creating sacred space, not really. It’s already created. The framework that we know as Mother Earth is already sacred, every inch of it. Every person, every creature, every plant, every rock, every molecule. The Creator-of-Us-All is all and is in all in some form or another.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

We can’t change the frame. That is also why Mother Earth will survive, whether or not human beings remain on it. Personally I believe it is in the framework, or you might say the destiny of the very planet itself that it will eventually be returned to its original state of Paradise. Whether or not human animals are a part of that renewed state, that remains to be seen. I may be wrong.

So, second of all, what can be changed? Pretty much the whole picture of life on Mother Earth. Human beings have been changing it in destructive, unaware ways for many centuries. Many fear that it is too late for human beings to be a part of the picture of life on Earth in the future. From a scientific perspective that relies almost exclusively on that which our brain can process, that may be true. From a spiritual perspective, though my truth says otherwise. It may be and very likely is quite late in the game for human animals to “come to our senses” and we may have only just begun to look at the possibilities for restoring the Earth to its natural state as a paradise, but it’s not too late. How do we create that sacred space, that return to an everyday Paradise?   

To discuss this topic let us look a how human beings as a collective temporarily lost our sacred space. I would like to dive into our “origin story” as the cultural anthropologists call it. In anthropology each culture has a narrative of how it came to be. I want to read you the origin story that pretty much all of us in today’s service were raised on, irrespective of whatever religious tradition or lack thereof your family followed.  This is from Genesis, Chapter 2, Verses 8,9, 15-17.

            And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

            And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the Tree of

Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

            And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.

            And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.

            But the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

This is what we believe, or have been told to accept as the starting point for human civilization. Most of us have been HEAVILY programmed to see this starting point in pejorative terms. In other words, there is this stupid person who is given everything beautiful, nourishing and wonderful; along with one simple instruction. That same human willfully disregards the one and only suggestion; and brings death to people forever after. BAD human! Or, as you have probably been programmed to believe—SINFUL human, worthy of disdain, guilt and shame, all of which automatically gets passed along to all descendants.  

One problem here. . .but it is a doozy. God never judges us. That is not a part of the frame. Only love is a part of the frame. Where there is judgment, there are only humans who have lost their way due to foreign energy and other forms of programming. 

I am going to read you Genesis once more. This time, though I invite you to use that simple but profound meditation technique that we teach here at the Church of the Harvest. I invite you to seek out the center of your head. . .and see if you can hear another message this time, one that is not based on condemnation. One in which God simply gives us a choice.

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

            And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

            And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.

            And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.

            But the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

What I hear in this passage is the Creator-of-Us-All very lovingly and with detachment asking the human species essentially—do you want to do it the easy way. . .or do you want to do it the hard way? I personally do not hear judgment. To me, humans as a species were simply asked which trajectory we wanted to experience–one that was easy-peasy; and the other, more difficult. Each presented different kinds of challenges but also different levels of rewards. The hard way involves repeated death, as in death of the body, not the soul. The hard way also involves dealing with something called the knowledge of good and evil. 

I don’t hear God saying humans are evil, or good for that matter, only that what we wanted to experience was going to result in the frame being set up in such a way to support that experience. Essentially, God was inviting us to cocreate with him/her/it, bless its soul. And for us mere human animals, for those of his/her/its creations most closely made in his/her/its image, what choice did we make? We decided to go for broke, so to speak.

The divine takes great joy in cocreation with that which it has created. But we have to bring our full selves to the table in order for the partnership to work out well.

I could easily do a whole sermon on what the full ramifications are of this version of Paradise as our origin story. Obviously there are a lot of interesting questions about why we chose the hard way, what we stand to gain. Perhaps we’ll talk about that another day. For now, we are running out of time this morning so I need to cut to the chase somewhat.

If we want to meet those advanced challenges to which we have agreed, and continue to agree by our very presence on Planet Earth, what do humans need to do?

Face death head-on squarely, with as much compassion and as little fear as we can muster. Realize more death is coming for many, but death of the body is not real death. It is a temporary transition, a shift in consciousness.

Let Your Heart Shine Even in Death by Myron Dyal. Image used by permission of the artist.

And finally, as individuals and as cultures, we need to fully explore that thing called the Knowledge of Good and Evilfrom within the framework of Love.  Recognize that dichotomies are what we signed up for. As a society we are just beginning to understand the importance of dichotomies. You can see this every day as the flurry of social media postings and mainstream media stories increasingly focus both on our “dark side” as a species; and the ability of everyday people to choose the path of light that takes us towards the loving framework around us.

Play jump rope with the dichotomies that show up in your life. Having fun with them deenergizes them. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

In the past, as a society we tended to try to hang out on one side of the dichotomy pretending everything was fine, unless the pretense was so ludicrous that we could no longer maintain it. Endorsing positions on an extreme end of a dichotomy is alluring, almost addictive. In part this is because one of the great dichotomies human animals face when they decide to incarnate on this planet is that we have to learn to give up expectations, aka perfect pictures, those deceptive thoughts and feelings that tell us the world is supposed to be a certain way.

As you have heard me say many times, the road to hell is paved with perfect pictures. Truly we cannot experience Heaven-on-Earth until we clear those pesky pictures, those expectations of self or others upon which we operate in a socially-accepted fashion. You know the ones. The rules about how we and others should live. Perfect pictures create anger, fear, disillusionment and confusion. They put us at odds with each other as we battle over the best way to judge each other. In short they cut us off from “the frame” where there is only peace and love.

A soul working to be a part of Mother Earth and thus embodied can strive for perfection or it can strive to be real. Generally it cannot do both in the long run. The latter requires experience and periodic failure. Image with words by Anna Quindlen used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

How do we clear perfect pictures? One set at a time. Any way you can. Noticing them is often the first step, (but not always). Stop being fooled by them, and start disengaging from them by ceasing foolish arguments

By partaking from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, our perspective shifted from the natural neutrality of the spirit world to a consciousness that can involve neutrality but can also exclude it. With our free will we now get to choose what we want to experience. We also opened up a universe of societal expectations with which we grapple on a daily basis. (Apologies to legal professional viewers). Comic by Dan Piaro used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Suspect perfect pictures when you find yourself in judgement. Work on the energy behind them diligently, knowing they are what is between you and your personal sacred space. Find, that place of peace, the place of balance in-between. This is the part humans can change.

The return to Paradise awaits us in ways our brains cannot yet imagine, with the full blessing of Mother Earth.

You could say that humans are hardwired to divide the world and everything we see therein into “good” or “evil.” Our brains automatically does that for us. Finding the sweet spot in the middle of that dichotomy requires spiritual maturity, awareness and persistent choice. We are being called upon in the present time period to learn to see the bigger picture. In the eye of the divine all are important and sacred. Cartoon used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

And finally, I want to get back to that leap of faith that is possible and needed if we are going to be a part of the journey back to sacred space.

Other life created by the divine is capable of great leaps into the unknown, consistent with its evolution. So too are human animals. Do not be afraid. Take stock of where you are, set your intention for the new space, and leap my friends! Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

I want to finish today by rereading part of our invocation and adding a couple lines that were not previously included. This conversation by visionary Perdita Finn is about what Mother Earth wants to tell us right now. For now, while we wait to see how many individual humans are going to find sacred space within themselves, thereby making themselves a part of a new healthier Planet Earth as it returns to its mission of Heaven-on-Earth, keep this in the back of your mind:


The tapestry of the world is dyed with colors only a fraction of which you can see. There are designs you know nothing of.

So hold fast to that body and know it by the single name that I have written in your heart.  Be neither fearful or fearless,

but rather keep yourself still within and simple without. And listen for the moment when I say, “NOW!”

Copyright by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

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

Sacred Writing

Gutenberg-BibleYou have heard that it is said, be kind to your friend, and hate
your enemy.

But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless anyone who curses you,
do good to anyone who hates you, and pray for those who
carry you away by force and persecute you so that you may
become sons of your Father who is in heaven, who causes
his sun to shine upon the good and the bad,

And who pours down his rain upon the just and the unjust.

Matthew, Chapter 5, Verses 43-45 of the Christian Bible

Continue reading