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

Justice, Mercy, Kindness and Karma, Part I

From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service  on June 22, 2020

Hello.  I’m glad to see you all at the 2020 Summer Solstice Service of the Church of the Harvest.  My job as Presiding Minister of this spiritual community is to tune into the energy of the group, and do whatever I can to bring it to the next higher level.  I offer my personal perspective as a way of doing that, hoping to awaken the truth that is contained within your heart and your mind.  Today my topic is broad-ranging.  Please know that each of you absolutely has my blessing to use any of these words that resonate with you, and discard the rest.  Above all in this Church we believe in free will.  By that I don’t mean freedom to act however you want to act towards others around you.  What I specifically mean is freedom to feel whatever you want to feel, believe whatever you want to believe; and act in accordance with other people in a manner that also honors their essential freedom. 

It is always a challenge for me to write and deliver these sermons.  Spiritual reality is never fully explored through the medium of words, but under the best of circumstances we can dance with words in a way that allows dancers to sense the melodies within their eardrums and feel the rhythms in their bones.  So please forgive me if I dance around our topic. . . because it is too big and too rich to be fully captured by words.  You are invited in as I try to encapsulate what I believe is true about the spiritual journey upon which we are engaged in the present moment.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Let me start by talking about why I am framing this sermon as occurring in the “days of reckoning.”  Most of you present today know that I have speaking for many months, several years even, about the end times, and as well as the apocalyptic times.  If you heard me, you will also likely remember that I do not believe the end times necessarily mean the end of the physical world, only that the world as human beings have known it is ending.  The word apocalypse comes from the Greek. It translates simply as the unfolding of things not previously known.

For most people, there is a lot of scary energy on the phrase “the end times” as well as on the word “apocalypse.”  Likewise, there is a great deal of fear for many people when they hear the phrase “the days of reckoning.”  That is because for most people these three concepts are all firmly associated with religious dogma, mostly in regards to the abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  As such, these phrases are fraught with the assumption that we are sinful, about to be judged and most of us found horribly wanting, soon to be condemned to deep, endless amounts of suffering.  

In my meditations I have spent considerable time stripping away religious programming from my energy system.   For me, these ideas are no longer a source of anxiety. I am happy that the Creator-of-Us-All is dissolving our illusions through the apocalypse.  I was never very good at living the lies with which most people seem to be content. The end times for me personally seem to be bringing an end to my suffering, the completion of a journey of many lifetimes of brokenness in which my sense of living in the hell-of-my-own-choosing far outpaced those few moments of heaven-on-earth that I could manage to create for myself. 

In the world of energy there is no time. We are all going to the same place but our individual journey towards that place depends on the choices we make along the way, including our sequencing and timetable. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

As to the days of reckoning, let me just say that it is very clear to me that our God is a loving God that does need to judge.  We humans do a more than adequate job of that all on our own.   

What happens when you put all these ideas together?  What are the days of reckoning. . .if they are not the time after death as Muslims and Christians are told in which one has to account for one’s actions before God in order to determine whether you go to heaven or hell?  Stripped of religious programming, a reckoning is simply a time when people are forced to deal with unpleasant situations which they have avoided until that day.  A reckoning is a settling of accounts.

 

 

 

 

When are the days of reckoning? Typically they occur when an entire people are forced to deal with that which previously they as a group have avoided confronting.  You know. . .like what is currently happening with a lot of white people who were previously not really required to notice that they had certain resources and opportunities largely unavailable to people of color. Or what is happening for the more economically privileged around the globe who previously could pretend that destruction and exploitation of the environment was a problem for other people until the entire climate of the planet began to crash and effect them as well.  This is the apocalypse at work, the dying of illusions.  These are the true end times, the end of centuries-long chapters of human evolution.

I want to jump now to another concept, one that is currently consuming the national conversation and saturating the energetic airwaves.  Let’s talk about justice.  If you watch any news broadcast, participate in any social media, interact with the public in almost any context, you are going to be having conversations about justice.  Suddenly everything seems to be about social justice.       

One of the things that interests me about these conversations that people are having on the streets and in the media is how closely the concept of justice is being paired with the idea of people speaking up.  Over and over you will hear people say how vital it is, how important for people to speak up.  Many times folks don’t really even know what they want to say. . .as they busily extoll each other to speak their minds. We are searching for our collective voice, even when we don’t know what we want to do with it. 

The emphasis here is on the collective part. Previously some individuals have been vocal.  Whether or not they were truly heard is another matter but they had the opportunity and/or the desire to express themselves.  But as a collective body human beings have usually only come together as a group to express themselves in opposition to another tribe. The human brain has always overwhelmingly done an us-versus-them kind of thing when expressing group norms.

This is what we are changing. What is new here and now is our coming together to express unity rather than division.  We may not know what true unity really looks like as of yet, and we’re not very good at it so far, but we’re doing our damndest to try to figure it out. The implications for this shift are enormous. The result of this task will be to create a new world order. 

Justice, aka a place in society for all. is always inclusionary. One can see from the heated debate going on in the United States right now that what is or is not every person’s right is a topic upon which we still significantly lack agreement. Our collective political, religious and other systems need to “catch up” with the “golden rule” aspect that is fundamental in all world religions. Image by Mary Engelbreit used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Those present today will understand some of the ramifications of what I mean when I say that human beings all around the globe as a group, are attempting to bring into their physical bodies the highest vibration of energy which is founded on all of us being connected.  Last year the consensus reality, that is to say all of us on a spiritual level, made the decision to rewire the world into one based on love. Right now we are taking the first real step in bringing that commitment into the physical world, right down through our emboded individual energy systems as we talk to ourselves and each other about what that real unity will take, what that will look like.     

In recent history we had the first major wave of this new commitment to collective expression when gay men and lesbians were given the political green light to come out of the closet, the oppressive cloak of invisibility they had endured for centuries. More recently the #MeTooMovement encouraged women to explore their truth and men were told to take a back seat, listen and learn.  Those conversations involved communication. . . but they weren’t yet contextualized in the intention of unity. The latest cultural shift, this spotlighting the stories of black people and other people of color is a double whammy.  It is shifting both the message and the medium.  

Huge assemblies of people are marching together through our urban centers, often without clarity about why they are marching.  They walk under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” and articulate that they want justice in the form of an end to racism, but it is clear that there is so much more to their message. 

There is accompanying conversation about the police which is framed using a variety of filters such as police tactics, accountability, reform, brutality, etc. The police are the boots-on-the-ground highly visible reminder of the justice system.  Law enforcement serve as the tangible symbol of law and order, an order that is seen by most as overdue for an update. The interactions between police and protestors vary widely as a result not only of the personal experience of the individuals and communities involved but also the meaning those individuals and communities read into the symbol. 

Which brings us to the other aspect that fascinates me about the vibrant national dialogue we are having in the United States these days centering around justice. Journalists and other witnesses have commented upon, but I have not seen them really able to interpret the significance of the fact that the public protests are largely leaderless.  These events typically have initial organizers of sorts and periodic visible key players pop up and often disappear again but the groups are essentially coming together and going about their business with a degree of spontaneity and fluidity between huge, divergent elements not usually seen in protest movements. 

Mass movement without direction from a handful of individuals is consistent with the top-down shift of energy I’ve been talking about for awhile.  I’ve been watching the energy move downward, closer to Earth, not only in the protestors but now in the police. Even a year ago it would have been unthinkable for police officers to publicly disagree with each other. The code of silence subscribed to by those in that line of work was rock solid as a result of the perception that such group solidarity was necessary for the welfare of all, to protect members of the profession from a challenging and dangerous job.  Suddenly all over the country, individual and small local groups of police are “breaking ranks” to take differing and sometimes contradictory positions in the discussion about justice.  

The energetic shift from power being welded from the top levels to the lower levels, specifically from national and international forces to state and local forces, is the tidal wave of the future. It is consistent with and necessary for the huge shift of consciousness going on currently for human animals.  The universe is moving us from being dominated by tribal thinking to each of us finding our own individual truth as individuals within collective society. 

Many people are emotionally and cognitively devastated by this change. The anxiety and outright paranoia is enormous as people discover they can no longer rely on the religious, political and social figures and organizations they have always used to tell them what’s up. We have to break down our reliance on others to tell us what to think and feel and do. . .so we can develop the skills and abilities to manifest our own individual creativity. . .and join it with the creativity of others for common goals required to meet our present world-wide challenges.   It has been and will continue to be a really rough ride for those individuals to make sense of the changing world who do not have the experience and lack basic skills on finding their own truth.

But if you think confronting and ending systemic racism is an overwhelming task, wait until you see in the days ahead what we have to do in order to end systemic economic injustice; and what is going to be required to keep the planet from continuing to slide into a terminal tailspin.  

In human society justice is truly a concept whose time has come due. People around the world are calling for it in increasingly passionate voice. This image of Justice used in accordance with Fair Use Principles is from Palestinian artist Malak Mattar who is currently a refugee. She first started painting at age 13, during the 51-day Israeli military assault on on her homeland in Gaza in 2014.

The protests around the country are often described as “passionate” and I hear a lot of participants talking in rather vague but deeply-held language about desiring change. As a people we are trying out new abilities to speak in one voice from different life experiences.  The universe is speaking within us and through us even as few understand as of yet what is being channeled.  What is uniting those on the streets and those participating by their witnessing right now is not message or even motive as much as something much more profound and fundamental.  

To focus on what I believe is the energetic core to these demonstrations; I’d like to return to invocation used at the start of this service. Let me repeat it. This is the statement from the Christ speaking about the end times in which we are living. This is from Verse 10 of the Gospel of Thomas:

            “I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I’m guarding it until it blazes.”

Elsewhere in both Luke and Matthew of the Christian Bible, Jesus talks about a time of turbulence that would bring division to households, between father and son, mother and daughter, etc.  Jesus was all about applying the love of his father to everyone, no exceptions. He understood that this would take a burning away of social norms. He was always the social revolutionary when it came to modeling for others and urging them to follow him as he challenged tribal thinking that held tightly to the domination of the many by the few.  As he blazed a trail for us, he made clear that it would be a fiery one.  So here we are, folks. Welcome to the reckoning.     

I like the Thomas citation because to me, it also speaks to the emotional passion of the protests. Our world is on fire right now, both literally with periodic wildfires breaking out all around the natural world. . .and metaphorically.  Individuals and our society as a whole are experiencing the bonfire of the vanities, a holy fire, if you will. 

Image by Elise Huther used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

We are burning away the essential impurities that must be released it we are to survive.  The passion of these crowds that are protesting around the globe in the name of justice is a kind of collective rage built upon a foundation masking deep, deep sorrow. We have a lot of thoughts and feelings to process, an ocean of rage against the world we have created as a species.  This is the same righteous anger that had the Christ overturning the tables of the moneylenders in the temple.  We tend to think it’s about others but at its core, this anger is the natural consequence of having defiled the sacred with our profane need to exploit each other.  

For some of the protestors and many of the politicians and others commenting on them, this fire quickly loses its essential heat and illumination, and devolves into the petty squabbles of the blame-game.  Lots of folks are getting stuck on an old testament vib of guilt and shame and punishment.  At its spiritual essence though, this righteous anger is paving the way for everyone to have a seat at the table, not just the powerful, the elite, the privileged. 

Benjamin Franklin, that iconoclastic rascal of an American founding father talked about the importance of passion igniting true change  Let the outrage play out its part.

Welcome these fires of transformation, and let them burn through your life.

The world is in a 5th chakra growth period. It does not matter that most do not really understand the nitty-gritty of what they are protesting.

Spirit communicates through images. Learning to add words to the mix is an acquired taste that takes skill development. This is true both for individuals and groups of individuals. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

The first stages to owning the upper three chakras in our collective energy system has to be with opening them, and letting whatever they contain spill out. It doesn’t matter that we don’t yet know what we want to change into. We can figure that out as we go. It’s enough for now that we are open-hearted as the universe moves us, like crucial chess pieces, into the right positions to be available for its mercy.  

 

 

 

I want to remind the people here today as well as those tuning in at a later time, that we each have a part to play here.  There are no coincidences. The protests are showing up in your life because you also have fifth chakra movement to make.  Take inventory of your communication ability and find out where you need to grow.  If you are one who has spent time in the language of emotion, help others learn to regulate theirs.  Model for others as you identify your own emotions, separate what is yours from what belongs to others, express your genuine emotions without using them to attack, and maybe even help people learn that the emotional system is simply a means of communication between the individual soul and its physical body.  On an spiritual level it is not really about other people.

Speaking One’s Truth by Myron Dyal, used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

If you are one who is cautious with your words, typically expressing your true thoughts and feelings only to a few or only to those who will agree with you, take a few calculated risks and expand your repertoire of experience. 

 

 

 

 

One of the most powerful means for healing yourself and others requires no words. The witness is an underappreciated, often incredibly profound agent of change. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

If you have no trouble speaking up, maybe you need to learn to listen more or more effectively with people from a different cultural experiences than your own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And pretty much all of us need to learn to be more gentle, more kind. . .even as we hold feet to the fire for ourselves and any of our brethren who are resisting a more just society.        

Used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

In 1968 Martin Luther King spoke to an elite section of Detroit about nearby riots going on in the city.  He was nearly drowned out by the heckling when he dared to put into words the fact that the economic and social plight of African Americans had worsened in the previous years and promises of justice from a white culture were not being met. He told the crowd that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He was assassinated three weeks later.  We are listening now, Martin.

As spirit we move through the natural world that includes time and space.  Our bodies, which are a physical manifestation of the natural world require time and space.  The universe has grown weary of our tendency to kill each other when we disagree with one another even if the battle being fought needs to happen.  We are being called right now to both address injustices and to do so in a way that honors life. 

For many thousands of years, human animals have equated survival with domination over other groups of humans. It is time to update our thinking. Cartoon by Man Martin used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

That is the essence of leaving behind tribal thinking in which one group tries to overpower another group. Getting to a higher plane is going to take many new experiences starting with new levels of interactive communication.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all saying that we stop at the communications level.  Just speaking up about racism and other forms of social injustice is a good start but is entirely insufficient by itself.  It is no more appropriate to just mouth apologies and epiphanies about systemic racism then it is to offer thoughts as prayers as a solution to gun violence. Having the necessary discussions is just the first part. Translating thoughts and feelings into action is the end game and it can’t come soon enough.

The world is in a great deal of turmoil in part because human animals keep trying to use our limited brain capacity to negotiate an increasingly complicated path. To survive we area going to need to learn new ways of processing issues, develop new epistemological strategies and cultivate humility. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

We need to fix the obvious and immediate problems as quickly as we can; but not rush to judgment about complex actions and policies that require careful dissection and extensive public discussion.  Knee-jerk reactions are not helpful.

Now is the time for a new kind of diversity, not just one of basic role equality and opportunity but diversity of thoughts and feelings.  But be careful . . .because true change does not arise from a place of judgment. The medium has to match the message.  Otherwise you are just swapping one illusion for another. If you are demanding justice, it is likely not justice you are seeking. It is revenge.    

In this assembly we will talk at a later date about developing our other collective upper chakras including folding in mercy and kindness and stepping off the carousel of karma.  But for now, let us join people all around the world in the direction gracefully captured by these words from the great poet Maya Angelou: 

If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.  So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”      

Copyright 2020 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

 

 

 

Following Your Heart; Choosing Integrity in an Increasingly Fractured World

From a Sermon given Autumn Equinox Worship Service  September 23, 2018

Today I want to talk to you about following your heart.  It is actually much more complicated of a topic than it would seem on the surface.   We extol each other constantly to follow our hearts.   This is the go-to advice for the vast majority of human problems.  Whenever somebody is having difficulty making a decision between different life choices, they are inevitably told that the solution to their dilemma is to “follow their heart.”

We’re very good at generating perfect pictures aren’t we?  We’re not so good about actually defining what we mean when we tell ourselves to follow our heart.  In other words, when it comes to the concept of following your heart, we often don’t get the conversation translated from the spiritual realm into everyday life on Planet Earth.  My goal this morning is to provide a certain level of what I think of as “technical information.”  In doing so, I seek to bring Heaven closer to Earth.

When you think about it, it is not so surprising that we usually don’t REALLY know to what we are referring when we tell each other to follow our heart.  After all, in our country and in our world, we pay very little attention to what is going on within each individual.  We are too busy trying to handle the trillions of bits of data coming at us from all around us at every second.  What we process and understand of our world comes primarily from our physical senses.  It’s what we see and hear that gets prioritized by our minds, as well as what we smell and taste.  Even when it comes to what we often label as “feelings,” it’s those galvanic responses, those sensations that are generated by our nervous system associated with our outer skin, states like cold or hot, the comfort of a lover’s caress, the prickliness of an allergic response, the anxiety, surprise and pain if we step on a nail, that gets the most attention.

For every human being there are a whole slew of other possible internal states of being, states of consciousness if you will.  And this is where the internal landscape sometimes can get very foreign for folks.  Often people will refer to any sensation, anything going on within them as a “feeling.”  If asked to describe the sensation further, maybe they can say more about what the feeling is and maybe they have no words for it.  Maybe they can tell where it seems to be located, and maybe not.  We are simply not taught to attend to what the Christ would call the “Kingdom of God.”

At best we may have learned from a particularly mature adult role model or in a school or counseling setting how to label and appropriately express basic emotions.  We are rarely taught the finer viewpoints such as how to distinguish between emotions that are our own and those we have absorbed from others, much less what to do about the latter problem.

When we are not using our emotions for what they were designed–a communication system between the individual soul and it’s physical body, all kinds of distortions and conflicts become possible.

And emotional states themselves are really only the beginning. They are a statement of what our body is going through.  They can have little or nothing to do with who we really are, that is to say, who we are as spirit.

Some lucky few are taught to listen beyond a “feelings” level to their own internal voice.  Usually, however, they do so by revealing what is inside for the benefit of others.  A great poet or painter or musician might express their true nature as a spiritual being through their art.  But rarely do we validate the poet or painter who is dedicating unwritten poems to the universe within.  I know I am not the only one who as a child constantly sang songs to myself with no real need or desire to share them with any other person. Eventually the chaos of the external world drowned out my musical encounters that were a reflection of lived experience of the divine within.

How many of us are taught to converse with the indwelling divine, something available to any and every soul on Earth?  Anyone?

So in a world made blind to the internal, let’s define some terms, shall we?  What do we mean by following your heart?  The heart here is clearly a symbol.

Photograph of the heart muscle and the veins that support it. Posted in accordance with fair use principles

When we tell each other to follow our hearts, we are trying to tell ourselves to follow the lead of our fourth chakra.  This key energy center, also known as the “heart chakra” is in the middle of your chest occupying the same space as your aorta, the main artery of your physical heart. I don’t imagine any of you really believe that you should be following the lead of your physical muscle, the organ that pumps blood.   Certainly that part of your anatomy is an important player in allowing you to be alive, but so are many other components of the miraculous machine we know as the human body.

Just like there is an area in our head which we call the center of our head, that contains both the physical structure of certain parts of our brain as well as the energetic structure of our sixth chakra, we each also have an area in our chest that contains both the physical structure of a large part of your heart organ as well as the energetic structure of our fourth chakra.

The fourth chakra is usually one of the last to fully open because as the chakra that regulates attraction, it can become a major center for stored pain. Many of us are attracted to pain. We seek it out. It is what we have always known and we tend to recreate over and over different versions of the same pain. It takes a lot of experience in the world and spiritual majority to understand we can use the energy of our fourth chakra for an entirely different purpose.

Just as the center of your head was designed to be the main resting area, the seat if you will, of your consciousness, the area in the center of your chest was designed to be the main resting area or the seat of your connection with the All-That-Is, that aspect of the divine that is everywhere and is everything, that is all of life.  Other names for this area include the “God(dess) of your Heart,” and the “indwelling-God or Goddess.”  You can experience the Creator in a thousand different ways but it is in this sacred place of connection within your own space that should you choose this with “all of your heart” the felt presence of your Creator can be at its most pure.

So let me tell you a little about the fourth chakra, this “heart” that our instincts are telling us to follow.   In classes I don’t speak about it very much because quite frankly, it is one of the last parts of an energy system about which most of us are capable of learning.

For those of you who are meditating on a regular basis, there is a natural progression that happens in your growing mastery of internal processes and your development on a spiritual basis.  Development is unique to each soul but it follows certain common pathways.  Just like the infant needs to learn to sit before it can walk, and walk before it can run, spiritual development often comes in stages. One sort-of-gross generalization that can be made is that individuals typically learn to clear out, balance and more effectively use their lower three chakras, the ones that contain information primarily related to manifesting on Earth through matter; as well as the upper three chakras, the ones that contain information primarily related to manifesting spiritually using the resources of the Heavens. . .before they put it all together.

The fourth chakra has many important roles to play in our spiritual life including helping us transcend our fear of mortality. It connects our physical body to other energetic bodies including our own. This piece is “Let Your Heart Shine Even in Death” by Myron Dyal, used by permission of the artist.

It is in these latter stages that one typically begins to concentrate on the clearing and developing of the fourth chakra.  The fourth is the energy center that requires the most balancing of both physical and spiritual, the most about creating Heaven on Earth.  You might work on an important fourth chakra picture here and there that is keeping you from otherwise progressing in other areas; but you are not likely to be very focused on your fourth chakra until you are fairly far along with your spiritual development.  It is one of the last pieces of the puzzle.

I think it is fair to say that most of the people in this room (including myself, I hasten to add) are currently facing the challenge of learning to own their fourth chakra and employ it for that which it was designed.  In fact I would venture to say that it is really the challenge facing most of humanity in present time.   Think of it as we human animals trying to overcome a lack of integrity.  Used here, I’m not talking about lack of “integrity” as some kind of character flaw.  I’m simply talking about “integrity” as all parts working harmoniously together.

We are each of us an intricate work of art learning to create as spirit in the physical world. Sculpture is by Susan Beatrice of All Natural Arts and is posted in accordance with fair use principles.

To make something work well first one has to assemble all the parts, throw out the ones that do not function any more, sometimes manufacture new ones, get all the pieces that are going to be rubbing up against other cleaned up, greased or oiled, and assembly it all into working order.

Right now we have a civilization based on a bunch of parts, most of which are obsolete or rusted,  crucial pieces missing altogether and everything slapped together with a bunch of duct tape, pretending to ourselves that it will now run.  More to the point we have a bunch of individuals often with great intentions who are at war with the out-of-present-time parts of themselves who actually think that the war they are fighting originates from other people.   It does not.

The fully activated fourth chakra understands that all is connected. Our physical bodies are not separate from the body of the Earth.

Since everything outside of you is in one-to-one correspondence with what is inside of you, all the conflict in your world can be resolved by working from your own energy system.  (It’s not that the strife in the physical world no longer exists when you are fully integrated.  It just does not exist in YOUR reality.  You can be content, even as the world goes to Hell in the proverbial hand basket).  From this vantage point there is only peace.  The conflict of the outer world will wash over you but not be experienced by those with a different purpose in their heart.

 

Jesus of Nazareth knew all about the kind of profound peace that comes from within, the peace that comes only from true connection with God; and he knew it was not the kind of peace that many would even recognize.

The peace of the Christ arises from freely surrendering all of one’s being to Love, aka the All-That-Is. In that space there is no need for or even possibility of power games, only the realization that all of life arises from, reflects, and results in the Created Order.

In his words from John Chapter 14, Verses 27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither and do not be afraid.”

If you want to be at peace even as the world around us continues to deteriorate into chaos and disharmony, keep up the good work of grounding and meditating and working to clear what presents itself as obstacles to your greater growth.  Release those aspects of your past that are in your way of adapting integrity as your chosen state of being. Jesus is one of our greatest teachers here.  Follow his lead and make your heart chakra a sanctuary place for your connection with the divine.

Resting on the Heart of Jesus

There is a reason why medieval pictures of The Christ frequently show him displaying a flaming heart.  His integrity was complete, and so this Son of Man as he initially liked to refer to himself, became the Son of God, and showed us how each of us could achieve knowledge of the Kingdom of God within thorough the lived experience of the All-That-Is.

In my opinion you do not need to subscribe to what I like to call “the directional deficits” of traditional Christianity to follow the Christ. You don’t need to invite Jesus into your heart.  The Christ is already there.  You just need to turn within, pay attention and desire with all of your being the communication with and conjunction with the God of your own heart who awaits your presence.

Copyright 2018 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Money in Apocalyptic Times

 

From a Sermon given Autumn Equinox Worship Service  September 2017

Last time when this community came together for the Summer Solstice, the topic was learning to co-create with God.   I talked about how as our world falls apart and as we start to even begin to think about putting the pieces back together, we are going to need to change the way we think, in order to create a new world under the direction of the light within each us, that spark of divinity within each of us that every human can access if they so desire.   I also talked about the need to let go of ego, get out of our own way, and this time, create a world in conjunction with the divine and not in opposition to it.

Today I want to talk with you about a specific system that we are going to have to redesign:  our monetary system.  Economics is only one of the systems humans have created that are now in our collective way but it is a pivotal system; and one that must be changed rather quickly in order to keep the majority of us from prolonged and excruciating suffering.

You all have been aware of the extreme weather events this summer and fall.  And I’m sure you also aware that these events are very costly in monetary terms as well as psychological terms.  At a time when the national government is telling our State that it does not have any more funds to help us fight the wildfires that are destroying our forests, the potential costs from Hurricane Harvey alone is somewhere over 200 billion dollars.

Hurricane Harvey, near Rockport, Texas

That doesn’t even take into consideration Hurricane Irma, Maria or the fact that we’re not even done with hurricane season this year; recent and upcoming earthquakes, floods, fires or the wall that the President wants to build between the US and Mexico, the 80 billion increase of the military budget that Republicans have just approved.  Certainly there is nothing set aside to deal with the economic costs of the whatever major future slaps in the face Mother Nature has in store for us until we decide to understand and respect what she has to say.   In the world of shrinking resources that we all live in, the resources that we have been recklessly squandering and consuming like there is no tomorrow have shrunk to the point that tomorrow really is in question.

All currency derives its value ultimately from the agreement of the people in the country where it is in use.  In the United States, the dollar enjoys the” full faith and credit” of the U.S. Government.   This is actually a phrase from our constitution.  But the government itself in our country is in the process of being destroyed, at least the government as we know it.  Many have speculated that we will experience a collapse of our monetary system.  We could see something like occurred in Germany in the last days of World War II after the energetic tide had turned against the Germans.   The Reich mark became obsolete; people burned them in their fireplaces for heat, and resorted to trading cigarettes to purchase items from each other.

I don’t imagine the total collapse of the U.S. dollar is going to occur.  It’s not that I’m overly optimistic about the road ahead.  It’s more that I think other factors will destroy us before our currency goes belly up.  What I do think is that we’re going to see some profound changes in how we view and how we use money.  So let’s talk about this “medium of exchange” that most of us use daily with little awareness.  Let’s look at it from a spiritual perspective and let’s see if we can help swing the inevitable changes to our monetary system in a direction that minimizes suffering.

A popular aphorism is that money is the root of all evil.  Like many aphorisms, that one is a little simplistic. . .but there is a kernel of truth underneath.  Our currency is just paper.  Are these pieces of paper the root of all evil?  Not really. As quoted in the invocation to this service, money is not the root of all evil, love of money is. Our currency is a reflection of and often the continuing source of a HUGE amount of abuse of power.

Hopefully you all have had a chance to take a look at the sermon on our website written 17 years ago about where the economic energy has been going for the last 10,000 years or so.    https://churchoftheharvest.info/2013/02/20/the-economy-i-where-were-coming-from-2/  ) For thousands of years humans have increasingly engaged in business deals that too often involve exchanging goods and services in a manner to increase glory, power, status, and hedonistic pursuits.   These days it’s just a given that the marketplace is almost exclusively about exploitation.  Our societies honor and glorify those individuals and cultures that grab up the most power, the most resources.  That energy, that way of doing business, that way of thinking about the world we create, saturates our money to its core.

Currency is paper.   It’s about 75% cotton, 25% linen.   It’s neither good nor bad.  It’s a piece of paper that can be used to create a world based on heavenly principals, or one that can be used to create Hell- on-Earth.  Our task these days is to de-energize it and strip it of its abusive qualities; and if we can’t do that over time, well then I guess we will have to burn it in our fireplaces or whatever.  How do we do that?  Simply by the way we use it.  If enough of us change our thinking and our actions, and use money as a neutral medium of exchange and not as the instrument of abuse that it has become, we will shift the economic tide in this country.

Money is a major symbol in our country.   We even recognize that factor by stamping it in indelible ink with some of our dearest images.

So let’s talk about symbols for a bit.  As a community of meditators you all are somewhat aware of the incredible power of symbols.  One symbol can contain billions and trillions of bits of energy.   Symbols are to the world of energy what super hard drives are to computers.  When we want to store a lot of thoughts, emotions, programming, and other bits of energy in our bodies or in the world at large, we create a symbol as the shell that contains that energy.  A symbol is like a humongous compressed file.

These symbols were created by the US Army to alert all personnel of the imminent danger of mass destruction. As one could imagine, running into any of these symbols would cause a very strong visceral reaction for the viewer who recognized it.

You can create a symbol that is stored in your own space for your personal use; or you can be subject to a symbol that is outside your body that is collectively shared by thousands or millions of other people. You may or may not have noticed that our country is quite interested in symbols these days.  It’s a part of the waking up process going on, the learning that many are doing on how not be fooled by surface appearances.  Recognizing what is really going on underneath has always been the important part but many people have not known that until recently.   But after all, we are living in the apocalypse.  I remind you that the word apocalypse comes from the Greek, meaning the uncovering of hidden knowledge.  Humans are waking to the fact that symbols are full of power, although like any manifestation of energy we often greatly disagree at what to do with all that power.

Symbols can be incredibly useful and they can also be divisive. They can keep people confused about reality because while some of them are static, many symbols change their energy and therefore their meaning over time.  The rose is an example of a symbol that has changed very little over the centuries. The rose depicts the soul or individual spirit manifested in life.  An example of a symbol that has changed a great deal is the swastika.  The swastika was a symbol for good luck and well-being used for thousands of years in sacred Sanskrit and Buddhist texts, by ancient Greeks, Christians, Nordic cultures and the Navajo,

was adopted by Coca Cola, the Boy Scouts and the Girls Club of America before being hijacked by Nazi Germany.

If you want to see how confused people are about symbols, all you have to do is watch people argue about confederate statues, whether it’s OK or not for athletes to sit during the national anthem, students to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or whether or not we should be celebrating Columbus Day as a national holiday.  We are not really arguing about history or what are correct social actions, what we are arguing about is how the power of a symbol is going to be used, what you will sometimes hear me refer to as “setting the energy.”   In the previous example, for example, is the swastika going to be used to promote a sense of well being or to promote hatred?

Taking down a statue of Napoleon, circa 1871.

Veneration of an image of Stalin during the post-communism purge of monuments.

 

 

 

 

 

You see the biggest problem with symbols, apart from the fact that they can confuse things because they can have different meanings for different people,  is that they can and often are used to control the minds of individuals who have not yet found themselves.  Symbols have SO much energy that they can overwhelm people and almost poison their thinking.  If you want to see an example of that, watch films of Hitler addressing the Germans during Nuremberg rallies from 1935 on.  You don’t have to speak German or even know what he is saying.   The symbols are intimidating, the emotional sense of the rallies is terrifying, and you can almost see the brainwashing that is occurring as the energy of the symbols overwhelms any rational thought process.  The audience becomes a mob willing to do whatever it takes to please Hitler.

Like many despots and cult leaders, Hitler was a master at using symbols to intimidate, dominate, and psychologically enslave. This is from his declaration of war against the United States in 1941.

Our currency is a major national symbol that has accumulated energy over 200 years and more.  In our country we have so lost our space to the dollar such that it is essentially worshiped. 

We need to change that, to topple the American dollar off its pedestal, to return it to its rightful status as just a shortcut to fair exchanges between people.   Ironically, this would be returning the dollar to one of the symbols we have printed upon it:  In God We Trust.

I have LOTS of ideas on the topic of how to change the energy of the US currency but this morning  I primarily want to talk about three economic areas. . .and then maybe hit you with a bonus round.   These are things you all know, but hopefully after our time together, you will see them more from a spiritual perspective, and be more able to help our country and world heal.

FIRST:  Spend less. Figure out how to cut down on the amount of money you actually use in pursuit of your life. Make sure that everything you acquire is something you actually need and not something you bring into your life because you can. Don’t allow your desires to be in charge of your monetary practices; or submit to the programming we all receive in massive quantities to be consumers.

I’m not talking here about deprivation.  I am talking about being mindful and frugal.  Give your body everything it needs in terms of the basics of good food, well-designed clothing and a decent home that allows you to rest and recharge; and also feed your soul with great company, music, art, traveling, whatever. You don’t have to be a Mahatma Gandhi with only a robe and a tattered copy of the Bhagavad Gita to your name.  That was his path; you have yours.  Create and use shared resources when you can:  tool banks, renewable energy coops, community land trusts, etc.  And live more simply.

Don’t spend money you really don’t need to be spending even if you have it.  Because when you do spend money recklessly, the energy of money is controlling you, not the other way around.

Would any of you feel anxiety if I tore up a dollar in front you? That’s the programming speaking.  That’s the stuff that says these pieces of paper have intrinsic value that might go away if you don’t hoard them or convert them to other “valuable” items.

Cover the financials basics and accumulate enough of these pieces of paper for a small safety net for you and your family.  And then give the rest away to the people and causes that don’t have the basics.   You don’t need much of a safety net.  Because trust me when I tell you that if the world makes it through the next couple of years, it will be because we have actually integrated the knowledge that we each of us is connected to all other life, human animals and non human animals; and we have taken our commitment to that Truth and translated it into the action of sharing what we have with others.  And if we don’t come to the realization of that essential Truth, no amount of money is going to save us, not even the millionaires and billionaires among us.

SECOND:  Figure out how to cut down on the amount of money you actually use by getting money out of the middle of your transactions with other people whenever you can.  It’s cleaner that way; and it de-energizes currency.  Obviously you are going to have to send your mortgage payments to some anonymous worker at a financial institution somewhere and meet certain other obligations in “cold, hard cash.”  Acting like that for all of your financial interactions, however, is like people who have a lot of casual sex and never experience the real human connection of intimacy.

Essentially, we need to be creating a peer-to-peer economy where all of us are both producers and consumers, with minimal use of intermediaries.  So get your produce from the farmer down the street or join a Community Supported Agricultural network if you are in an urban area.  Sell or give to your neighbors  the extra flowers or the raspberries you have grown at your place or the hats and scarves you have knit.   Or if what you have to give is time rather than money, pick the apples off the trees that your elderly neighbor owns but no longer has the mobility to harvest, bake fruit pies for yourself and your neighbor and the local food bank.  Bartering is how humans did financial transactions for centuries before money came into the picture and “dirtied up” the process.

THIRD:  Connect the dots.  Those of us with money have been telling each other for years to become informed consumers.  Mostly, however, what we have meant is that we want to learn how to get the best possible deal.  Our financial transactions have gotten lost in the power struggles.  So we think we’re really smart when we get a good deal from a store; rather than being really dumb and not noticing that who is really paying the extra money we think we are saving.  Are we profiting off the employees of the store that are paid less than a living wage, the prisoners, the children, or other slave labor that produced the goods we are buying;  the orangutans or tigers that were burned alive in their habitat for the palm oil that makes our baked items just a tad cheaper?

from the Ricardo Levin Morales Art School

We’re better than this.  We have to be.  We are being called to a higher level.   Connect the dots.  And yes, it’s a lot of time and attention to do something other than consume mindlessly, but our ignorance is destroying our world. Whenever you need to purchase either goods or services, make sure your transactions are based on fairness for every part of life touched by that transaction.  With your dollars and cents vote for the world you want to see; not the one that allows you a bigger share of the economic (power) pie.

AND FINALLY, here is the bonus round:  Every now and then give your money away in a manner that brings you nothing whatsoever.  Make donations anonymously and/or to groups that need money but cannot give you a tax write-off or aren’t in a position to thank you for your gift. We all need to be doing this not only because it is the right thing to do, but because each of us needs to practice giving unconditionally.

Each of us needs to be creating the energy of unconditional love, in atonement for our past sins, in anticipation of a future where we are more able to accept unconditional love ourselves; and in the joyful companionship with that part of us that is aligned with our Creator. 

In case you haven’t noticed, that’s the big picture.  That’s what the apocalypse is all about.  We are attempting to transition our world from conditional love of a few, to the unconditional love of all.  GO THERE NOW!  God bless the entire world, no exceptions.

 

Copyright 2017 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven