Archive for April, 2013

May Day: A Look at its Origins and Meaning for us Today

April 30, 2013 - 1:35 pm 35 Comments

May Day… A Look at Its Origins And Its Meaning For Us Today

The Rev. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Throughout the progression of humanity’s religious quest, there has been either a desired dialogue or a dubious denial of the importance of nature to our religious practices and spiritual imaginations.

On one side, there have been the mystics, poets, philosophers, and artists whose source of inspiration was drawn directly from the natural world. In response to the mystery and majesty of nature, its balance and its beauty, we are given invaluable lessons that we need to take seriously. In the natural world, they observed, there is a visceral wisdom that requires our awareness and our respect. The cycles of weather definitely have an effect on our sense of health and well being and will lead us to acknowledge that nature cannot be divorced from our humanity and therefore deserves an important or central place in our religious understanding and expressions of worship. The variegated petals that unfold to us form around the truth that Nature is a pathway to God- and this pathway is as wide as Pagan festivals to medieval mysticism, from the Native Americans to the Transcendentalists. What they all share, from the flowery verse of Hindu Vedas to Whitman’s earthy leaves of grass, they speak of nature with respectful and reverent tones.

The contrasting viewpoint is that nature is our adversary, that it is something that we, as humans, need to conquer and control for our personal benefit. It declares that nature exists for our social and personal use. If it cannot be overcome, then it had to be dominated or domesticated, tamed or controlled. Often, this outlook falls into two primary camps- the ascetic and the opportunistic. In the first way of dealing with nature, we are to deny any connection to it… That somehow the physical being is bad, that nature is cruel, and life in the body is a harsh ordeal.

This point of view was most vividly championed by the Victorian celibate priesthood and earlier, in this country, it was well represented in Puritan times by Yankee Protestantism with all of its puritanical codes and its capitalistic ambitions. Under this approach to nature, we are to use, to plunder, exploit and harness nature to fit or fuel our desires for progress and for profit. Only then or in that way, does nature have any value for us!

As I have outlined it, it is obvious where I stand… And even though it is not an objective comparison, it is one that operates clearly in our culture today. It is historically factual and its influence on theology has contributed greatly to how religion can be used to support environmental deregulation and it has contributed to the ecological and spiritual crisis we now face.

As this relates to May day, we gain our first appreciation of its origins from the Roman revels of Flora, the goddess of the flowers, and most likely an earlier Pagan celebration that they adopted. Historically, the people of Southern Europe or more temperate climates observed that Spring could easily begin in March. However, if you lived in Northern Europe, or in the Northeastern and upper Midwestern parts of our country, a good claim could be that Spring really doesn’t arrive until May 1st!

But May… Ah, May… Well, we can always hold good thoughts about the weather in the month of May… It is after the cold winds of winter and before the harsh heat of summer…

It is the month of Camelot… the merry month of May when we can celebrate our delight in the flowers and in all greening and growing things…

And so it is, that we derive our best source for the origins of May Day from Merry Old England… Of course!

Many of you already know something about the Celts and Druids. They were famous for many things that later became infused into our modern culture. Among the more curious and phenomenal were the ideas associated with nature spirits, leprechauns spirits, fairies and the like… But we also have the marvels of Stonehenge, and we have the vivid scenes from Shakespeare’s plays that are filled with nature, alchemy and symbolism such as MacBeth’s witches with all their toil and trouble!

More importantly to our spiritual quest, there has been a revival of deep and earnest interest in the divine feminine and in the ideas and practices associated with the worship of the goddess. The classic text, that is almost required reading for those interested in this feminine spiritual outlook would be Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon. What is on major importance for us is that these practices, images and symbols were pre-Christian ( and from what I have observed in the Low Country, they are post Christian) and the central teaching is that we cannot live our lives apart from nature or without a central correspondence to nature as a source of wisdom and understanding. We cannot or should I say, we dare not live hermetically sealed off from nature in our condos and skyscrapers, or training out nature by being constantly plugged in our MP3 players and our smart phones!

In fact, there is now a new malady making its appearance among our youth- a deficit of Nature that keeps them alienated and out of touch with how nature teaches us to live. They are removed from healthy food, exercise, exploration of the natural world, and are living in a largely artificial way! While technology can certainly be useful, it needs to serve our aesthetic and compassionate values, not create them!

The major obstacle to a more full and joyous celebration of  earth based holidays such as May Day, Midsummer’s, Equinox, even Halloween,

comes from the suspicion associated with them being carnal, being visceral, being joyous… or in short, not being Christian, and therefore evil!

Furthermore, these revels associated with May poles, and bonfires might be demonic and could corrupt your orthodox and pious soul!

And yes, if these festivals are lived out as they are portrayed in Hollywood, they are certainly lascivious and “over the top” and could easily be seen as a corrupting influence on youth and society as a whole. However, most of these rituals and rites are respectful and celebrate the connection of our bodies with our souls, and that our lives are drawn from nature and to give thanks and to be exceedingly grateful that our existence depends on keeping a respectful balance and correspondence to the natural cycles and rhythms of the year…

Another objection to celebrating May day and the earth festivals is simply because… Well, Pagans do it! What is a Pagan? Is it someone like Aristotle, Plato, or Marcus Aurelius- someone who does not believe in a Christian understanding of God? In short, the word pagan has been drastically abused and when it has been employed it is often derogatory and dismissive. Its Latin origins simply meant to be a country dweller in contrast to someone living in walled cities…

The truth is that religion has always taken the ways and rituals for worship from its environment or natural surroundings. If you live among the animals, amidst the trees then these living things can take on a symbolic expression and have a spiritually significant meaning for you. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed … Almost all the great religious leaders of humankind did not draw their most enduring teaching stories from life in the “concrete jungle”

The NT parables are filled with natural symbolism… Similarly, the Native Americans looked to animals, birds, and tress, as did the Celts.

However, when the Christian missionaries arrived in Northern Germany, France, and the moved into the British Isles, they were… Appalled to see such displays of joy and celebration! It was so licentious and it was accompanied with heathen drumming, flute playing, and dancing- Horror!

They saw it as their moral duty to root out this decay, and to train people to abandon their bodies in favor on their rational sensibilities…

In doing so, their aim was to break their spirit, and abolish their Myths and symbols. In other situations and circumstances, where the Myth and the cultural observances were deeply engrained, and the resistance was too great, they decided to “sanitize” their festivals and practices and gave them new, tame meanings… From those efforts we have the origins of the Christmas tree, the Easter egg, etc.

So all this review, brings me to May Day, a joyous Pagan Holiday!

Among the Celts and Druids, it was called Beltane, and it was celebrated as part of the wheel of life, one eighth that signals Summer’s impending arrival!

Of course, May day is the more tepid and tame version of Beltane…

Originally, Beltane was a holiday celebrating and encouraging fertility!

And the May Pole… well, its an upright symbol that it to be encircled by flowers. All who wished to be fructified, or to encourage their own fertility  were encouraged to use this time to seed the soil or the awaiting wombs so that there would be a joyful harvest in the coming seasons! Young women would dance around the large trunk trunk/pole and offer signs and songs for fruitfulness- in any way you wished to desire it!

Other customs associated with May day were hobby horse riding, Morris dancing, and washing one’s body in the morning dew!

When I was preparing this topic, I purposely spent time in my home garden… While I am usually filled with the ideas of the tasks to be done, this time I stood, and walked mindfully through the rows… As it was, by the time and phase of the Moon, time to plant, I took some seeds and stooped over, make some rows with a hoe, and started to lay out what I hope would be an abundant summer harvest…

As I began the process, I became lost in thought… My mind flashed on how universal and timeless this act of seeding was! Most every year of my life has had a garden in it… Across the generations of my family life, up and

down the rows of humanity, people have planted… Humans have planted their seeds, their hopes and their desires for a million years, and I am but one of the recent ones and it is just my time in the unfolding centuries to take my place, make my effort to grow food for my life …

Suddenly, my reverie ended… And I stood up and was still … It was almost totally quiet …empty… Expectant…

Well, almost quiet until a defiant mockingbird decided to wake me up and bring me back to his particular form of celebration, his enthusiasm seemed to have no bounds! Yet, for a short precious while… I was one with the Chinese rice farmer, the Cherokee planting the early corn, my grandfather putting tomatoes deep into the soil…

Now I could begin to understand how the reverent Celt would have felt when he or she was confronted by the many mysteries of nature and how it enveloped life, and how deserving nature is of our care and dedication. It was a feeling that made me quietly content, serene, happy…

If this is a more enlightened form of what it means to be a Pagan… Then count me in! I am a Pagan, too!

Whether our concern is for ecological integrity or personal peace, try to take some time this May Day to offer someone a flower, a smile, some loving regard… Go for a walk, open up your senses to all the natural lessons, epiphanies and miracles there are to behold…

Take nature into your keeping, and place it near to your heart…

Amen; So Be It; Blessed Be….

 

A Prayer for May

From Julian of Norwich

There is a treasure in the earth.

Be a gardener. Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat.

Turn the earth upside down, and seek the deepness.

Continue in this labor, [then] take this food…

And carry it to God and to your neighbor as your true worship.

 

In God’s being is Nature; God is the true Father and Mother of Nature, and all are made to flow out of God to work the divine will.

Nature and God are in harmony with one another.

For Grace is God as Nature is God.

Neither Nature nor Grace works without the other.

Let us never forget our debts to both Nature and Grace.

Our Father/Mother/Spirit God;

You who are the Creator, Provider, Sustainer of Humanity and the Natural World, we offer our praise for the beauty of the earth, and all that is nature that surrounds us. We affirm that both Nature and Grace are our gifts from the Creation, and that we are to be the willing and grateful stewards.

As we respect our bodies, we respect the animals and all that lives alongside of us and that shares this planet with us.

May we never act in arrogance, but always seek to live in balance,

in praise, and in peace.  AMEN

Reprint: Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 16, 2013 - 2:18 pm 46 Comments

As many people in our country will be eagerly lining up to watch the wonderful film, Selma, I feel that it is important to read more of the words from Dr. King speeches and especially this inspiring and challenging letter that he wrote during one of his incarcerations.

Personally, I feel that it one of the most important letters in American history. It is an urgent plea to my brother and sister clergy to awaken the call to a transformative ministry, rather than remain safely a part of the status quo, or remain content with modest outreaches and polite, non controversial forms of protests. His words have been a formative source from my prophetic ideas and actions all through my ministry…. Peter

 

Letter from a Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963

 

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

King, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lost Years of Jesus? A Brief Overview

April 13, 2013 - 3:32 pm 44 Comments

Handouts/Reprints:

Thoughts for Reflection

 

How we begin, and in what direction our soul point our attention towards is central; That intention and direction guides its evolution, the process of ripening and deepening, and needs to become the central concern for our spiritual aspirations. We all live in the two dimensions of time: Time that we can observe, and time that we can redeem…The time and the years that roll by us, and those moments of time that redeem or bring value to our struggle for meaning and for purpose in our lives…

“The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every [person is entitled to, and is contained within them, although in almost all of us it is obstructed and unborn.] In this action, it is genius, not the privilege of here and there a favorite, but the sound estate of every [person.] In its essence, it is progressive.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson From A Year With Emerson by Richard Grossman

“The greatest accomplishment in life is to be who and what you are, and that is what God wanted you to be when [God] created you.” Abbot Thomas Keating

Meister Eckhart wrote: “A perfect and true will is one that always is perfectly aligned with God and is empty of everything else. The more a person succeeds in following God’s will, the more she or he unites With their depth with God’s. By aligning with God’s will, a person takes on the taste of God. Grief and joy, bitterness and sweetness, darkness and light, all of life becomes a divine gift.”

I have kept that quote on a stand on my desk for twenty years… Andrew Harvey

“We must work hard and be the messengers of light, spreading divine love and brotherhood around the world. It is our task as the children of God to strive to preach and to live brotherhood and to spread that spirit of love.”

Paramahansana Yogananda

“There are many paths available for seeking the light within. To start, you have to recognize that there is something precious within to be found, in spite of our culture’s pressure to keep us externally oriented, looking for happiness by being consumers of external goods.

You have to continually struggle against the social current, of course; people who go within are dangerous and unpredictable, so society distrusts, discourages, and often punishes them…

All paths require courage: courage to buck the social tide, courage to see yourself as you really are, courage to take risks. Progress on any genuine path is a gift to us all, as well as a gain for yourself.”

From the book, Waking Up by Dr. Charles Tart, and included in the collection, Meditations for The New Age edited by Carol Tonsing

“[ be patient with everyone, but above all, be patient with yourself. I mean do not become disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with new courage. How are we to be patient in dealing with our neighbor’s faults if we are impatient in dealing with our own? He or she who is fretted with their own failings will not correct them. All profitable, long lasting correction or behavioral change comes from a calm, peaceful mind.]”

St. Francis De Sales

We cannot change anything unless we first accept it- Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses!       Carl Jung

” Not everything that is faced can be changed- but one must face it before they can change it”                   James Baldwin

Nothing we can do can change the past; but everything we can do will change the future!                          Sr. Joan Chittlser

There is a difference between knowledge and enlightenment:

Knowledge

the task of the first half of life- teaches you how to hold the torch so that others might see and find the way…..
Enlightenmentthe task of the second half of life- is when you, your life becomes a torch from whom all others can see and find their way…..   Kabir

“Joy comes into our lives the same way that peace does– after we have made certain decisions about our goals and about the things that are of value to us. Joy is not for sale; it slips into the soul when we are serious about life’s sources of meaning and when we are honest about our personal commitments…
Jesus has a simple message that tells us that joy and peace are the prizes for those who take on the flesh of their humanity with courage and love…. It flows from being human, from affirming our own incarnation, and from finding our way through pain together.”  Eugene Kennedy

Each year that passes, is a time when we spin the wheel of life, and we take another step in the endless soul’s deathless journey. We move ever so slightly forward along the path of our self discovery, or if you will, along the road to learning how best to live from God/Spirit perspective. Our maturity can be seen as the process by which the Spirit becomes fully infused into our lives, and finds its rightful residence, its sacred place, at the very core of our being… PEL

 

The Lost Years of Jesus… And Yours?

The Rev. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Adapted from Mark 4:

[“12: When speaking to his disciples about The Good Seed and the parables, Jesus said:

To you have been given the seed of grace, the mystery of growth in wisdom and understanding [of growing in the Kingdom and Queendom of God…] And this seed has been planted deeply and secretly within you…

22: For there is nothing hidden except it is to be disclosed later, nor is anything to remain a secret once it is brought up to the light; Pay attention to what you hear, the measure you give out will be the measure you will get, and still more (because of your listening) you will receive. [For those who have wisdom,] more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away…]”

When looking at the ideas of what happened during the time Jesus was 12 or 13 and the time when he reappeared for his baptism and the beginning of his ministry at age 29 or 30, we can ask: What happened to him during those years, and how did it affect his preparation to become The Christ? And the obvious corollary question: What happened to us during those years, and how by drawing comparisons and contrasts can we learn more about our spiritual development?

The first question I have for you today is this: Is there a difference between age and maturity? Can one have a different age for their bodies, minds, emotions, and spirit? Do we develop at different rates, speeds depending on our life experiences, on our teachers, family, and how much wisdom we have learned among the way?

Please take out a piece of paper… And create a timeline of your life…

I——————————–13———————-30—————————?

Keep this timeline in your mind, as we will use it during our explorations of stages of life tasks and spiritual development and as we trace the journey of Jesus throughout his accelerated life…

Another question, but this one is to ponder… What determines our readiness, or “our ripeness” in spiritual development? Are there signs and attitudes, outlooks and values that will indicate this? What type of person would that be, and in what ways would she/he reveal themselves?

What is implied in Jesus’ teachings, later supported and corroborated by the Wisdom literature East and West, and a catalogue of timeless mystical experiences, is that there is a recognizable path to spiritual awareness, to spiritual maturity, and that we can begin to develop a theology of maturation or a universal path towards holiness and understanding.

Anyone who thinks this can be done quickly, needs to release that idea in the face of mystical facts; Rarely, if ever, do we see a rapid transformation! While they certainly do occur, they are exceptional rather than usual. While isolated insights can come to us quickly and the resulting urge to change can rapidly impel, even compel us to take a necessary next step, there are only rare instances of a permanent “zap” or an experience of instant enlightenment. Yes, we can read about them and can marvel at their intensity- those times of instant recognition that lead to permanent personal change and to an identity transformation that makes you totally different that who and what you were the day before!

 

(Elijah; St. Paul; Gupta Krishna; Shakti pat; Kundalini, etc.)

So when it comes to being aware and supportive of your spiritual growth, be kind and patient… It is far more typical to see gradual and progressive spiritual growth over the decades of your life and that your insights and awareness grow throughout the stages and times of your life. You learn or experience and internally come to understand that there are stages of growth within a spirituality of maturity…

I crucial and helpful reminder: The Aramaic word used for readiness or ripeness, Tubwayhun, that Jesus used in the Beatitudes has been translated into King James English as “Blessed” and so we can say that we are blessed when we become ripe and ready to be blessed or when we are in our full maturity, then we are fully “the children of God.” So try to think of yourselves as luscious fruit, like grapes, who in their fullness and ripeness can become spiritual wine, then you will be filled with inspiration!

The Lost Years Recalled

Let’s frame the central question: Do we know of any reliable or authoritative source that further describes the life of Jesus after the temple incident? And if those writings prove to be substantial, then what can they teach us about Jesus and ourselves? What would be the possible reasons they were omitted?

First , let’s look at what was preserved or given to us about the boy, Jesus…

We are given precious little concerning the boyhood of Jesus in the Canonical Gospels… Yes, there are some citations and even a few amusing incidents about the boy, Jesus that are to be found in the Gnostic Gospels, but since those are to be considered secondary sources at best, I would prefer to examine the story in Luke, and then later I will relate it directly to what has been preserved for us in the writings of St. Issa…

A speculative note… It is said that up to 63 references to a St. Issa are being kept locked up in the Vatican library somewhere… When the books about Jesus’ travels were first known and before they were to be published there was significant opposition because it was thought that they would “promote” atheism and encourage disbelief!” Another intriguing consideration that I think is worthy of serious appraisal centers on the apostle Thomas who traveled to India and lived, taught and died in Southern India. It is easy to assume that he could not have taught the Indian people in Greek, so what language did he learn in order to teach about Jesus? Some say that they would not be surprised if the Legend of St. Issa, did not originate with the writings and teachings of St. Thomas or among the disciples he first taught! (The Lives and teachings of The Great Masters- Baird Spaulding gives a 1800’s chronicle of these encounters with advanced spiritual beings, practioners, and wise teachers…)

Our passing reference we have for the boy, Jesus, also known as Yeshua bar Joseph, ( a derivative of the Hebrew Joshua which means he who saves or he would shows the way to wholeness…) comes to us from the second chapter of Gospel of Luke, and it occurs right after  his presentation or his circumcision in the temple, and the recognition by the prophetess Anna about his future destiny or divine mission.

Here is a modern more descriptive rendition of this incident…

L 42-52 When he was twelve years old, Joseph, Mary, Jesus and his siblings when up to the yearly festival that is held in Jerusalem. After the festival was over, they started to return, but Jesus stayed in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it…. They had traveled a day’s journey from the city, and had assumed that Jesus was in another part of the caravan. When they started to look for him among their friends and relatives, they became alarmed, and had to turn around and go back to the city to search for him. After three days, they found Jesus in the Temple; sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard him were amazed by how well this young boy understood and also by his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? We have been searching for you with great anxiety.”

Jesus replied “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?  But they did not understand what he had said to them. So Jesus went back to Nazareth with them, being an obedient son…

His mother treasured all these things in her heart…

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor….

That’s it! In the accepted or authoritative Scriptures, we literally do not hear a single word from the man/prophet/divine son until some 18 years later!

We have to ask … Why?

REPRINTS:  Excerpts from the Legend of St. Issa; Fowler’s stages of Faith; Erikson’s stages of psycho-social development; Shalem reprints; Definitions of Spiritual maturity; spiritual direction and others…

According to the writers of the central book on the Lost Years, it is possible that any mention of this missing time period was expunged because it did not serve the editorial and theological priorities the Early Church bishops and leaders wanted to convey… And since there is nothing definitive written or available for us to read in Western religious libraries, it remains an open question… And maybe, as these authors suggest, that is as it should be… Open questions lead each of us towards our own inner answers- answers that transcend the safe confines of ecclesial authority and tradition, and answers that invite us into our own spiritual journeys that span the years of our soul’s growth and wisdom…

I have to ask: What would happen to your faith IF you found out that Jesus had to go to school to learn about philosophy and religious ideas? Would it influence your trust in him to find our that he studied in various mystery schools in India? What would be the objection to finding out that he had to be trained or groomed to become The Christ?

If any of you know about the connections between spirituality and art, painting and the search for world peace, these concerns come together in the life of one unique artist/philosopher  Nicholas Roerich… I mention this because he also traveled in the East, some 35 -40 years after Notovich, and asked why these writings were discouraged or suppressed… I recommend learning about this fascinating man who embraced imagination and inspiration in all of his works…

(Picture)

Now some approaches to discussing this material would give you a line by line exposition, that is not my preferred style. While there is no doubt that you are all bright enough, there is a tedious factor in going through twenty pages of text that can be arcane and mystifying in certain sections, and difficult to comprehend without also having comfort in reading Victorian English, or without having sufficient knowledge of Eastern mysticism. So I have decided to hand out a synopsis and then highlight the crucial passages with you…

So without too deeply into the journey yet,  we can begin our comparison with what the various contributors to the materials around the Lost Years call the most crucial early piece of  his travels as it pertains to this same time period in Issa’s life… Namely, why did Jesus leave? And What happened to him at approximately 13 that would have triggered or precipitation such a radical traveling experience?

From Section IV: Line 10-13

When Issa was thirteen years old, at the age that an Israelite was expected to marry, the modest house of his industrious parents became a meeting place of rich and illustrious who were anxious to have a son in law like the young Issa, who was already celebrated for the edifying discourses he made in the name of the All Powerful.

Then Issa secretly absented himself from his father’s house; left Jerusalem, and, in a train of merchants, journeyed towards the Sindh,

With the object of perfecting himself in the knowledge of the word of God and the study of the laws of the great Buddhas.

(Word of God: 1st is the letter/literal; 2nd is the Logos/reason; 3rd is the Reality)

What strikes you about the two differing accounts of the same experience?     In my probing for answers, I often find myself making etymological choices, as the editorial choice of one word over another can hold significant impact and importance on the over-all meaning of any passage we might read or seek to understand.

When I read this account in the KJV, I find it poetic and inaccurate…    When Jesus declares why he stayed behind, we are given this statement of exasperation and impatience: “How is it that you sought me? Do you not know that I am to be about my Father’s business?”

Now the word business is the crucial one here… As I understand this choice of definition, it is a poor choice for the original word in Greek… It is better translated as intention or purpose, even similar to destiny… Now how does that change your understanding?

Another translation declares that it is My Father’s house! Well, that has a different set of insights and interpretations. These range from the straightforward historical consideration that places of worship have always been considered to be “God’s house or the place where God can be addressed and where God is principally found; In essence, God is only available from clergy and the church- there is sacred ground, and the rest of the time we are living on secular turf or the profane earth!  In my metaphysical readings and teachings, I always have been impressed with the definition of house as the place of consciousness… Our homes express, and some would say, one’s house “mirrors” back to us our consciousness of the       divine, and good stewardship of house and home are vital to an over-all health, our well being, and our understanding of spiritual discipline and balance. Lastly, house as a metaphor for what dwells within/without- The Biblical passage “as for me and my house (which can mean for me and for my family or it can means what lives in my heart) it is the Lord whom I will serve!” Joshua 10

Let’s stay, for a moment , with the ideas of purpose, mission, destiny…

Q: Have you ever been so sure of your purpose that you were willing to defy your parents or the status quo authorities and their rules to stay true to it?

Is Jesus’ declaration indicative of just someone who knows or does it say something different? While it might be precocious, it does certainly provide the faithful and orthodox Biblical reader with the idea that he was a child destined for greatness or who was born with a special purpose…

The large question follows… While we can accept, on faith, that we are given a record of a special child, already chosen by God and as a God/Man who was born with an innate divine nature combined with his human nature,  and so it is easy to assume that he was God’s son or a God from the very beginning …

Of course, that would be the rationale why he would be challenging the Rabbis and displaying his inordinate and highly developed sense of ethics and wisdom from his earliest years! Therefore, there would be no necessary reason to include any reports of his years between 12 and 30 as they are largely irrelevant for someone who has already attained the title, Son of God! From the lens of faith, there is no need for further discussion!

However, is such an assumption enough for modern people who understand far more about human development, education, and the process of maturation? Is that brief passage sufficient enough to understand how he arrived, 18 years later, as the man who was ready to become the Christ?

More importantly, it could be said that during those years, Jesus just spent time as a carpenter, as a dutiful student of Jewish thought, and just awaited his proper time to become a teacher and to reveal himself as the exclusive or only son of God…

Now that seems like some form of divine resting incubation… Or maybe, like a butterfly, a chrysalis, so that we see what mysteriously appears as a new animal that looks normal, and what we get is not only a changed appearance but a complete new inner being!

Metamorphosis versus Metamorphosis

Can we, as humans, just wait to change, wait to grow? Looking at it another way, how many humans wait, or even resist change? The poet W. H. Auden once remarked,  “people would prefer to be ruined, then to change”… Think about that connection to the resistant Southern mindset…

But does that make sense? Given that Unity, New Thought, and those among us who are mystically inclined understand the Scripture that declares that we are all the daughters and sons of God in our potentials, then using Jesus as our guide to spiritual maturity, we ask, is there any records of how he prepared himself, how he was educated, or trained to embody so much of the divine energies or  possibilities that he could assume the Christ role in all manner of speaking and teaching?

We will see how, in The legend of St. Issa, we are given his reasons for leaving his parents and his culture behind in order to gain knowledge and to receive wisdom…

Q: How have you had to leave behind what you were taught, what your parents expected from you, your peers and their cultural or social beliefs?

Now let’s briefly examine what the best of religious scholars say about the steps of human progress and process of human maturation. Let’s see if there are any insights and connections that could help us to fill in the gaps between the two accounts and assist us in our personal journeys…

Patient Trust In Ourselves
And in the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God…
We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end
Without delay.
We should like to skip all the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
Something new,
And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made through some stages
Of instability… And that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you…
Your ideas mature gradually- let them grow, let them shape themselves
Without undo haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be that today… What time (that is to say, what grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
Will make you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Given our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Arise and Awake! Behold and Bless

This is a Hindu story and its modifications, first taught to me by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi….

Jai was a Hindu student who eagerly sat at the feet of his Guru, or wise teacher… One day, Jai asked, “Since we cannot control the weather, or if it is light or dark, how is it that you will repeatedly remind us to look to this day, and to check and see if the sunrise has happened to us?”
“Ah, my boy”, the Guru answered, “the lessons of wisdom and caring come to us daily, even if we recognize them not. Every moment of our lives are moments and opportunities to extend love, peace, and empathy to one another….
Therefore, the sun does not truly rise, unless we see with our eyes, our sister or our brother walking toward us, and we greet them with respect and compassion. For it is in our looking and in our greeting, that we first offer them joy, peace, and assistance for their day…”

From these teachings and insights, it could easily be said that the positive or good result of all the meditation, all the prayers, all the spiritual disciplines you might practice is to prepare you to be ready… To be willing, to be ripe…

The Journey of St. Issa… And Ours?

Let’s resume the discussion and bring into focus what the legend of St. Issa gives us as the timing of his departure and the intent of his journey Eastward…

As the legend states it, Jesus or Issa had to leave before he was given all the expected responsibilities of a family!

It is important to remember that there was an abbreviated lifespan in ancient times… According to the average life, few, if any people lived beyond 40 or 50 years- given the tests and trials of war, famine, disease, and the rudimentary approaches to health care and medicine that existed, it was almost a miracle to make it to Middle age! Maybe that is the connection between wisdom and age- that you were wise and smart enough to take care yourself well enough to arrive at middle age in one piece!

Remember, according to the Biblical times, Mary was about 13, and surely no more than 15 when Jesus was born… And good old Joseph was probably 35 or 40! Biologically, once you could have a child, you were an adult… That is the rational behind Bar Mitzvahs and Confirmation… You were an adult at 13!

13! Today, you can most likely trust a 13 year old with a cell phone, but marriage?

I often tell anyone under 25 to wait! Now I could go into how ludicrous that idea is for us today, and how incomprehensible it still is that our churches offer these rituals to young teens as rituals of entering into adulthood… but I think you can get that picture! If I were to start a spiritual community and add any traditional religious rituals to it, no one would be baptized under the age of 30-

which would still be in accordance with rabbinical laws of readiness or ripeness, and to try to ensure that the person had sufficient wisdom that allowed them to teach with any kind of credibility!

To summarize, because of the advances in medicine and health, because of the enormous amount of complexity in our modern world, and the education necessary to be able to function successfully in it has changed, we have extended adolescence to mid twenties, or from what I hear from women today, that men do not really grow up until they are 30!

Lastly, as we begin to explore the journey, and later, when we come back to Jesus at 30 years old, let’s remember that according to his days and times, his life was already half over! Age 30 in those days was closer to 50 or even 60!

Given that the legend has Jesus/Issa traveling East, and spending most of his time on the Indian subcontinent, it is useful to remember that in Hindu teachings there are similar rules and guidelines based on age and family status. In the Teachings concerning Vedic marriage, they deliberately are aware of the 4 stages of life, and they link these stages progressively and purposefully to human spiritual development:

The first stage is the one of the

student– or simply the time of preparation which usually was from childhood to physical and sexual maturity

The Second stage is the householder– the time of career and family obligations and having domestic priorities that spans the years of our  20’s and into the 40’s.

The Third stage is retirement and/or contemplation which arrives in our 50’s  or begins when our family responsibilities are over and when the children leave your home… Remember, even in India today, that means the children leave before age 21; so that the parents, who are often grandparents by 45 are relived of their primary responsibilities…

The Fourth or final stage is Renunciation (usually only done by men…)

These are the senior years of life, when marriage as a primary concern is over, and you are actively contemplating or preparing for your death…

The man leaves home to become a mendicant/beggar, giving up everything, including his family connections. The older woman stays connected to her family as grandmother and wise counsel…

Interesting, isn’t it? Quite a contrast from today’s world…

According to the authors who write: “Thirteen year old Issa appears to have instinctively known that marriage is a mating not of bodies and minds, but also of souls temporarily clothed in bodies and minds. He was able to see that short term desires of a physical world in relation to life’s ultimate purpose.”

Later as an adult, Issa’s teachings include great respect for spouses, for their physical and emotional health; for their dignity and their alchemical powers.

 

The first stop in Jesus’ journey Eastward, was most likely from Jerusalem to Arabia, and from Arabia to Persia… Along that route, he would have encountered the teachings of Zoroaster, for Islam was still seven hundred years in the future…

He would have been familiar because the Hebrew Scriptures contain so many influences from the Persian, which later would find an acceptable place in the Christian writings. Ideas such as heaven and hell, angels and demons all come from a Persian origin as Zoroastrian religion contained many dualities and same life, creation the world as a balancing of opposites, the greatest of these was the difference between truth and evil. Because of the briefness of this class, I will reluctantly move on without much of a discussion of these teachings, as they had a minor role in his preparation…

The first significant stopping place for Jesus/Issa was the Sindh, the historical name for the Indus River valley, that green, lush and fertile area of the river’s ends that now flows as the natural border between Pakistan and India…

The legend gives us this text:

“Fame spread the name of the marvelous youth along the northern Sindh, and when he came to the country of five streams and Radjioutan, the devotees of the Djain asked him to stay among them…”

So, I can safely say, according to this text, that he arrived in Pakistan and India when he was 14, or approximately a year after he left Jerusalem.

As he traveled northward towards the origins of the river, he was invited to stay and study with the Jains. Jains are an ancient offshoot of Hindu or Vedic teachings that is older than Buddhism and older than the Sikhs… Again, while I would like to give you world religions 101, I have to restrict my material and give you what the Jains have taught about Jesus…

They believe that his discourses with Jain monks taught him about the virtues of nonviolence, peace, and brotherly love. They state that Jesus most likely lived as they did- with all their austerities and self denials: Celibacy, vegan diet, charity work, and other ways of being and acting gently and softly on the earth… There were no sacrifices or violent actions permitted that would have been the most contrasting aspect to the Judaism that Jesus had known… It is believed among the Jains, that Jesus spent up to six years with them…

So that would be years 14-to age 20…

The next most significant stay was among the Hindus and the obvious clash, at least to superficial thinking, would be the absolute monotheism of Jewish teachings and the polytheism of the Hindu tradition that sees God as manifest in many ways, shapes and forms…” It does not mean that each is a separate God mutually exclusive of any of the others…

While Jesus spent time among the Caste society that was so well established in that culture, he showed a vigorous, almost defiant disregard for those teachings that restrict people into strict classes based on past lives, but also on the privileges of money, power, and long running status of their families.

While it was a grandiose system where each class is equated with a different part of the human body, and it was taught that each had an importance of its own and was vital to the whole, it operated as a system of privilege and social shame. That was a major disconnection for Jesus; his view was one of radical equality, and equal dignity… And it remains surprising that any of his followers would accept a social class system that was so prejudice or divided…

Compare to I Corinthians 12:

I Corinthians 12  (NIV)

Spiritual Gifts

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

One Body, Many Parts

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Even with this contrast, it can be securely said that the inner teachings of Vedic wisdom that he received made an indelible transformative impression on him… Jesus/Issa spent the next six years studying Vedic teachings and embodying their practices at the highest levels of transmission… (Apotheosis)

Central to what we could glean from this immersion experience, would be what it means, in the Vedic tradition, to be seen as an Avatar. Most simply put, an Avatar is a divine purpose that assumes a human form.” Jesus, as St. Issa, was considered to be an Avatar. Through his humanity, we are taught about our universal divinity.

This compares well, but not completely to the Talmudic teaching: “[Every child born is a potential Messiah, so treat everyone as if they were your deliverer, and act as if there was only peace, love, and justice to be found in our world.]” The comparison differs because of the detailed process or progression towards the goal; while we are all born with this divine potential, it is only through rigorous training, and years of applied concentration that we can arrive at most of its potentials!

Briefly, Vedic wisdom is based on the foundational assertion that we humans can and do experience multiple and progressive lifetimes. This belief is called the theory of reincarnation. If we can presume incremental steps of progress towards Nirvana- the place where the winds of karma do not blow- or if we can assume optimistically that each lifetime we have will earn us steps of progress in our journey towards greater awareness, heaven, enlightenment, etc., then higher levels of consciousness are progressively possible- however, in the Vedic form

of this theory, progress is not assured! There is no Universalism in this understanding of reincarnation. Alternatively called the transmigration of souls, one can conceivably be born again in a lower life form! So just like the more punitive forms of Heaven and Hell teachings in Christian thought, This brand of Eastern teachings also require us to be ethical, good, moral, just, etc., otherwise we can come back as a rat, or since we are in SC, a palmetto bug! Something less desirable than our beautiful and wonderful selves! Right?

( contrast with the Western view- Species Specific evolution…)

As the text, The Jesus Mystery defines it, being an Avatar means that you are “recognized by your actions- [He, I have to say He here…] Has control over his five bodily functions: speaking, eating, reproduction, elimination, and motion; He has control over his five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing; and he has control over the five elements of nature- fire, earth, air and water… And ether.

In addition to these 15 qualities called Kalas, all of which can be attained by every human through spiritual disciplines and practices, an Avatar has a 16th quality, not humanly earned or attained, by that is given as a God given quality: It is omniscience. As the text puts it, once a person is free from human limitations, he receives the need/demand/responsibility to live his life as the extension of divine purpose in the world.]”     Now, without this class becoming a travelogue of where and when he visited places in India, I will summarize it by stating that his six years in India were demanding, his training extensive, and his ability to synthesize these teachings and express them in ways of language and embodiment were distinct and remarkable.

Lets take the example of yoga…

From its root purpose, yoga is defined as a Sanskrit word that means yoke  or instrument by which we can carry and lighten our daily burdens of ego, cultural life, and the responsibilities we have to live compassionately on the earth.

Again, without going deeply into the whole explanation, there are four kinds of yoga that culminate into a fifth or synthesis approach. The four kinds are Hatha- the physical; Jnanna- mental; Bhakti- devotional; Karma-service, and they all culminate into Raja yoga- or what is considered to be the highest wisdom synthesis of the teachings…

 

What differs is in the way Jesus understands and applies this to the Western mind and heart… In the Gospels we read how Jesus invites his disciples to “take up my yoke because my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” He knows full well that to take up one own personal karmic responsibilities is necessary to attain the soul’s freedom. From the Vedic or Yogic wisdom, he recommends a holy surrender of the body and the ego, and to in order to carry your burdens, to attach yourself to the wisdom embodied by Jesus as The Christ… Dropping or letting go of the self imposed burdens and the cultural expectations, and being able to shoulder your responsibilities because you have yoked yourself to Christ, to wisdom, compassion, and justice. By connecting yourself to the reins and harness of divine will, you can walk with confidence and grace and overcome the tests and challenges of your lifetime…

A reflection from Bede Griffths, a Benedictine priest and Hindu sanyassin and teacher: ” The goal of the spiritual life is to become a living transfiguration… The human embodiment of mystical truths…”

After his six years in India, studying the many sources and applications of Vedic wisdom, Jesus traveled northward to the mountains of  Nepal and Tibet. From the inspiration of sources such as the Bhagavad Gita, we are told of the many incarnations of God, and how God, from time to time, incarnates as a human in order to help teach, redeem, or save humanity from itself… We are informed that an Avatar appears when things decline so much culturally and religiously and when a crisis of great proportion is ready to manifest.

In other words, God regenerates humankind from time to time, through the life and teachings of an Avatar.

According to prophets such as Edgar Cayce, these succession of  Avatars in the Biblical tradition makes Jesus the last or most current one… It starts with Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Joseph, Joshua, and then Jesus…

As a convincing supportive reflection, the renown Hindu teacher of the last century, Yogananda, he of the Biography of a Yogi fame, made this intuitive and declarative statement:

“God made Jesus an Oriental in order to bring East and West together. Christ came to awaken the divine consciousness of brotherhood in the East and in the West. It is true that Christ lived in India… Studying with the great masters. That does not take away from his divinity and uniqueness. It shows the unity and brotherhood of all saints [East and West] and avatars.”

Bede Griffths: The rise of a Christ consciousness will have to go through three stages:

1st: People will passively ask/pray/expect the necessary changes- Which will fail!

2nd: The decline and death in our world will continue into a time of crisis or The Dark Night” that humanity will share or experience together…

3rd: With heartbreak and spiritual breakthroughs, a new Christ consciousness of peace, love, justice, and compassion can be realized… Co-creation of a new spiritual awareness and a new basis of self and society…

Following on that premise and if we wish to investigate this much further we can find many parallels between Biblical wisdom and East thought. This would not be limited to the thoughts about Jesus  but would include reincarnation, healing, and personal transformation…

A last thought, based on an observance and teaching by Edgar Cayce:

Jesus is the man, the activity, the mind, the relationships that He bore with others. Yes, he was mindful of his friends; He was sociable. He was lonely; He was kind; He was gentle. He grew faint; he grew weak, and YET gained that strength the He has promised in becoming the Christ, by fulfilling and overcoming the world!

Ye are made strong in body, in mind, in soul and purpose by that power in Christ. The POWER is in the Christ. The PATTERN is in Jesus.”

And from the conclusion of  book The Jesus Mystery:

[The Jesus Mystery is our mystery, too. For each of us is living with the chance to fill and fulfill a lifetime, that has been God-given. If we cannot wander through foreign lands, we can follow the path of Saint Issa ( Jesus) and our own instincts. …  Issa learned that it was not a God who stands apart from us, handing our human punishment and retribution. But that God lives within each human heart, patiently waiting for our recognition, that we are one with God, and that knowing God is the true goal of our life.]

Thank you! Amen!

 

Addendum: More thoughts about Age and Maturity

About Mid-life, Age, and Change

Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul, which has been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or more fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this: That you are the master of your thought, the molder of your character, and the maker and shaper of your condition, environment, and destiny.
As A Man Thinks   James Allen

You can create opportunity for yourself by speaking about your Life Work as you want it to be. All of your life counts, and you do not know where your most important opportunity will show up.

You create the significance of your Life’s Work.

Start today, telling yourself about your Life’s Work in its largest way. Let yourself dream and envision the impact you want your Life’s Work to make.

How can you make a difference in the life of your work? What do you believe needs to happen about its course or pattern that would give you great joy? If nothing stopped you, what and how would you live your life? Life Work is a big idea. You get fulfillment and passion when you put talk into life, and life into your talk. Living On Purpose     Brown, Paulson, and Wolf

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections, And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly that I am ill.
I am ill because of the wounds to my soul, to the deep emotional self, and those wounds of the soul, take a long, long time … only time can help… and patience, and a certain difficult repentance; a long, difficult repentance, [which includes] a realization of life’s mistakes, and the freeing of oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake…. especially of those that humanity and society have chosen to sanctify.
D. H. Lawrence

All things in the creation exist within you, and all that is within you exist in the creation; there is not border or boundaries between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things.
In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of our minds are found the laws of all existence ; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence… “[Thus] your life has no end, and you shall live forever more. ”
Kahlil Gibran

Mid-life and Change: Readings from the World Religions

If I desire to accomplish or complete anything of merit or lasting worth in my life, I have to remember this:
Before I can do anything, I must be willing to be someone;
That I am not a human doing, but a human being– and that the greatest and most challenging task of my life is to be myself- to find, to affirm and then to be my truest, kindest, most transparent and highest self.

May I outgrow whatever problems currently beset me– May I replace worry and fear with courage and trust;

May I believe in my own self-worth, and my own capacity to express love for others and through my community.
May I remember that any limitation of my humanity is not better and no worse than any I might find in others, and that we are together to promote understanding, justice, forgiveness and compassion.
May I be open to knowing the dark and unresolved that is within me, and to be courageously true to whatever light there is in me, and allow it to shine–
And in these ways,

May I become a living poem, and become an embodied blessing.

Prophecy

“Master”, the young student exclaimed,” I want to become a teacher, a teacher of Truth! The Master replied, “Are you ready, then, are you willing and prepared to be ridiculed, ignored, poor and starving until you are at least forty-five, even fifty?
The student said, “Yes, yes I am. But tell me: What happens after I am forty-five, even fifty? “By then,” the Master said,” you have gotten used to it.”

Pueblo Prayer

Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth;
Hold on to what you believe, even though you might feel that you are a tree, standing alone; Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here, a long way from home. Hold on to life even if giving up and letting go is easier
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.

The Guru and The Scholar

A Guru was asked by a scholar how he would be able to obtain greater self-understanding than anything he had found in the Scriptures. The Guru said, “Go out into the next rain, and raise your eyes and hands to heaven… That should bring you to your first self-revelation.”
The scholar came back after the next rainy day to report conscientiously to the Guru… He told the Guru that he followed his advice, raising his eyes and hands towards heaven, but the cold water just flowed down my neck… That as I stood there getting wet, I felt like a perfect fool!
Well, said the Guru, for the first day, that is quite a self-revelation, isn’t it?

To Change The World

The Sufi saint, Bayazid, said this about his life and his effect on people:
“I was a revolutionary when I was young. All my prayers and all my actions were aimed at giving me the power, the attention of others, so that I could change the world!
As I approached middle age, I realized that half my life was over, without knowing whether I have changed one soul, or one situation. So, I changed my prayer asking to give me the ability to be heard by my family and friends, and then I will have changed enough people to have changed the world.
Now that I am older, and my days are numbered, I have only one prayer left- give me the grace to change myself- If I had prayed and acted in that way from the beginning, I would have not wasted my life, I would have changed the world.”
And with that prayer, he became enlightened.

Kabir

What good is it if the scholar pours over the words and misses their meaning? Reads intently what is holy but does not feel soaked in love?
What good is severe ascetic disciplines and multiple prayers, wrapped in saffron robes if your soul remains colorless and your spirit bland?
What good is it if you scrub your ethical behavior until it shines, but your heart contains no music?

Reprints from Shalem: Authentic Spiritual Experience by Dr. Gerry May MD

Someone describes a vision, an encounter with the divine. Is this “real” or is it an illusion contrived by the ego? People interested in spirituality and psychology have always been concerned with differentiating authentic spiritual experiences from psychological symptoms. In my recent research, I have collected eight qualities that may help in reflecting on those differences.

We must remember, however that the philosophical line between reality and illusion is a very shaky one. Because our minds continually create images of reality through our senses and conditionings, it would be true to say that all experience is at least somewhat psychologically contrived.

Similarly, since God’s grace cannot be destroyed even by our most extreme psychological distortions, it is just as true to say that all experience, no matter how crazy it may appear, holds at least something of God’s truth.

Therefore, the qualities that follow should not be used too arbitrarily. Further, our experiences cannot be judged on the basis of that content alone. We must look at how these experiences are integrated in the larger picture of life: In contrast, in community, and over time.

1) Meaningful Integration

Authentic spiritual experiences do not exist as isolated “highs.” They occur within the context of real life and are integrated in a way that is meaningful for both the individual and for community. Authentic experiences may contain a perfect end-in itself quality, but they still have meaning and impact on life.

2) Bearing Good Fruit

Authentic spiritual experiences lead to good effects for the individual and the community. Classically, this includes deepened faith, hope, trust, compassion, creativity, and love. Authentic experiences do not lead to privatism or destructiveness.

3) Decreased Preoccupation

Authentic experiences lead people to feel more identified with the rest of humanity and the world. Experiences that lead to feelings of being more special or better than other people , or to self absorption, are probably not authentic.

4) Self Knowledge

Authentic experiences lead to a greater understanding of oneself. Signs of repression, denial, or shutting out self awareness indicate a lack of authenticity.

5) Humility

Authentic experiences lead to a particular kind of humility, one that painfully recognizes more of one’s human inadequacy, yet at the same time, increasingly realizes one’s own preciousness and worth as a child of God. It is a humility that is combined with dignity. This is in contrast to experiences that lead to either arrogance or devaluing of oneself.

6) Openness to Differences

By deepening trust in the power and goodness of God, authentic experiences leads to less defensiveness about one’s own faith, and increased respect for and openness to dialogue with people of differing faiths. Authentic experience may lead to a desire to share the truth, but they do not result in defensive or aggressive clinging on to one’s own understanding.

7) Open Ended-ness

Authentic spiritual experiences contain a quality of further invitation: deepened yearning, inspired energy, continued growth and healing. In contrast, experience that communicates a sense of “having arrived” are cause for suspicion.

8) Ordinariness

Although authentic experience may be accompanied by celebration and enthusiasm, or by fear and trepidation, their integration brings about a quality of wondrous appreciation of the ordinary: life is holy, and the miraculous presence of God’s grace flows through all of it. Experiences that lead to a strong separation of the holy from the mundane must be questioned.

Much more could be said about these qualities, but I hope that this abbreviated discussion will assist you in your own reflection. If there is one basic factor that distinguishes the authentic from the inauthentic experience, it can be found in a paraphrase of John of the Cross:                                                 In the end, all of us, and all of our experiences, must be judged on the basis of one thing, and that is love.

Symptoms of Inner Peace

Beware! Watch for these Signs! The hearts of many people have already been exposed to it … Soon, we could find our society experiencing its effects in epidemic proportions! Here are the signs and symptoms to watch for:

Tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than from fear based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

Loss of interest in judging others

Loss of interest in judging oneself

Loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others

Loss of interest in creating conflict

Loss of the ability to worry ( this is a very serious symptom!)

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others and with nature

Frequent attacks of smiling, laughter, and the willingness to look at things through the lens of a caring heart

Increased tendency to let things happen, rather than feel you must make things happen…

Increased susceptibility to love; to extend loving regard and gestures towards others, and the uncontrollable urge to extend your love and caring, respect and support to others…

IF you have some or even most of these above symptoms, please be advised that your condition might worsen until a general feeling of Peace will manifest, and become so advanced that it will be not be curable!

If you are exposed to anyone exhibiting several of these symptoms, remain near them at your own risk! This condition called PEACE is probably in its most infectious stage when you surround yourself with ethical, spiritual, and caring people.

adapted from the popular list by Saskia Davis

What Defines Spiritual or Religious Maturity?

As an interfaith minister, a spiritual director and transpersonal counselor, over the years, people have come to me with a wide variety of probing and earnest questions. Among those that are the most commonly asked, are the questions about “Am I on the right path? How do I know that I am making any progress? Depending on the person, the path, and the practice, my answer can vary… But here are some general guidelines, from trusted sources, that most people asking these kinds of questions find to be most helpful:

One of the better ways to assess our growth or depth comes to us from the renown psychologist, Gordon Alport. He developed what could be called a spiritual maturity scale by which we can begin to assess or measure where we have been, where we are now, and where we might be going next… Here is my summary of his conclusions, and I will ask you to compare them with your own insights and understandings.

A religiously mature person is someone who has:

1) A well differentiated sense of yourself; You are willing to explore, and you readily acknowledge that being genuinely religious or authentically spiritual in today’s culture is a complex challenge- one that comes at you from all sides, and tests how well you can keep centered, resilient, free…

A more mature assessment of yourself begins by admitting that your current state of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are ongoing, fluid, and in need for further refinement.

2) One’s religious outlook and one’s spiritual awareness is dynamic, and never static. It realizes fully and for the most part, gratefully, that our comprehension of faith (what we trust or have confidence in- what gives us courage and/or solace) comes from a combination of sources. It comes to us from our parents and formative religious experiences, from our personal desires and needs, and it also can come from our adult aspirations and opportunities.

3) A mature understanding or religious expression is one that functions as a moral compass that directs your behavior. The experiences gained for the choices and from the consequences of your choices act as a reliable ongoing reference point for your life.

4) A more mature religious expression or spiritual affirmation has an interpersonal and social component that makes it accountable and makes it complete. Self concern, while important, cannot be one’s only focus. To be mature and more aware involves us directly in social justice issues, human rights, and ways that affirm the worth and dignity of each person.

5) A mature spiritual outlook or a deeper religious understanding is effective; to promotes problem solving on both the personal and interpersonal levels. While the personal quest is important, often it is when we are working in relationship, being involved in community, is when we can discover answers that the individual search alone may not perceive. Being together serves or blesses us.

Matthius and Discipleship

 

More directly, many philosophers, theologians and psychologists will define a life by what you come to love and respect; what your discipline is, and what you are willing to devote your time, energy, money and personal resources to achieving or supporting.
This morning, as a beginning exercise in inductive religious study, I am asking you to try to relate to this forgotten apostle, Matthias in some way… Because we distinctly lack information, and are given scarce facts, we do not wish to let anyone, in the words of Emily Dickinson, “die obscure” so in order that his story can be better understood, we can begin to understand and appreciate him through our own life experiences. To accomplish this, we employ a more artistic and imaginative approach. In this way, Matthius, any of the various characters from Scripture, or any personalities from great literature, or drama, can become alive, compelling or inspiring for you…
From the willingness to suspend factual analysis and linear thinking, we permit ourselves to ask- What if this person were me? What if I were there? Would I have acted in the same way, or would I have tried to change the outcome in some way?

Q: Have you ever been the subject of a bet? Did anyone ever bet on you or did anyone ever expect you to win? Did you feel any pressure? And conversely, did you ever win without trying, were you ever chosen without necessarily wanting the prize, the job, or the person involved? How did you respond?
In ancient times, the practice of casting lots was employed to determine an important outcome; it was far more than a mere game of chance or child’s play…

It was considered to be a sacred way of coming to a decision- sort of a holy dice game, or an inspired game that allowed the Spirit to step in, or that allowed Fate to determine the outcome. Then, once the choice was determined, it required that the players would trust that the outcome was ” for the best” and that it was somehow foreordained or its outcome was divinely chosen.

Q: Have you ever felt as if you were chosen or called to do something- something vital, important, noteworthy with your life?
And conversely, have you ever been passed over, in some arbitrary way for a promotion, or for recognition… Just to find out that it was indeed, a fortunate failure… All the world faiths, in one way or another, teach this: That there is no such thing as absolute free will; Some of the greatest experiences of our lives have been already chosen for us, have been outlined for us, and are in some way imposed on us. The value and lasting importance of these outside decisions are framed or determined by how we respond to the twists and turns of choice and fate, duty and opportunity. …

We do not have complete free will because of our previous choices, or our parent’s choices and decisions, but we always retain the freedom of how we are going to respond to the calls to discipleship we receive in our lives: how well we handle the lessons, demands, choices, and challenges that life presents to us. One of the most useful definitions of faith fits here: That faith is not simply what one believes, as much as it is how one lives- the measure of one’s faith, one’s trust, one’s strength, or one’s confidence comes from how we respond to what choices we are given, and how determined we are to make the best of the choices we have, and the decisions we need to make. …
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one, we are different because of it. We will feel compelled to pursue it, we could be said to have become apostles or disciples of that truth, ideal, or mission….
Outside of psychology or religion, I can think of some of the great scientists and inventors who felt compelled to work feverishly to discover or complete something; I can think of artists, composers, and writers who, following their demanding muse, worked all night or exhaustively for days, even weeks at a time. …
If, in this case, If you were like Matthius, how would you respond to being chosen for some great work? Would you protest and declare, Oh, no! You got the wrong guy here, no, not me! I want to take a spiritual mulligan, I want a do over!
Or would you be quietly grateful for this unique and wonderful opportunity to put your faith to its truest, most demanding test- to begin to teach passionately and preach persistently about those transformative experiences, telling any who wish to hear it, what your highest sense of good, your highest sense of truth is, spreading that word out to the far corners of civilization!
To follow a call to discipleship, in its larger most inclusive sense is to be willing to transform who you are into who you will become…. Most often, this will require a life change; either a new direction, a new relationship, a new career…

But even more personally, the willingness to follow your calling, or your compelling sense of discipleship, can and will often require a deeper commitment to yourself, and it will take your renewed courage to brave those feelings of being lost, broken, abandoned, and yet still be willing, open and expectant.

Two quotes from sources that have been meaningful and trustworthy for me during my vocational questions and personal crises are these:
As the author of the personal journey book, Broken Open, and workshop leader Elizabeth Lesser puts it: “If we don’t listen to the voice of our souls, it sings a strange tune. If we don’t go out and look for what lies beneath the surface of our lives, then the soul comes looking for us…. And further in the book, she describes her watershed year in these words. “Now I know what Dante meant when you come to a place in your life where you feel lost, and it is there, and then that the real journey of life begins.
Within a year, my husband left, my children went off to college, my father died, and I lost my job. I felt I had nothing left to lose. Now, looking back, I call that “my ashes to wings” experience. It was as if I were born a second time.”
Then, in the book, She goes on to recap the philosopher of religion, William James’s idea of what it means to be twice born, and she ends with this: As Hazarat Inyat Khan, the great Western Sufi teacher put it,” Out of the shell of the broken heart, arises a newborn soul.”

And the second quotes comes to us from his excellent book about finding yourself and your direction in life, Greg Lavoy in his book, Callings, makes this observation about a modern sense of discipleship:
[“Our calling, our true vocations, might be a call to do something- become self-employed, start a new business, go back to school, start or leave a relationship, move across the country, be a parent… Or the call might ask us to be something; to be more creative, less judgmental, to be more loving, less fearful- thereby adding new meaning to our lives. The call might be to move toward or to move away from something or someone; It will, almost always compel us to review our lives, and then move in a new direction; even to work to change something that has been chronic or long-standing.
Whether you receive the call to discipleship from your soul, your imagination, from your gut, from your breaking heart, or from the enlivening of your mind, it is, as Khalil Gibran puts it, life longing for itself.]”