Traditions such as Unity would say it this way: there are not 8 billion lives. There is one life being expressed in an infinite number of ways. There is one life being expressed as humans and animals and plants and countless other forms that are beyond our capacity to see, know or even imagine. That the expression of life would somehow be limited to that which we can see during a momentary sojourn on a fragile blue orb spinning around a temporary star in a remote galaxy for a second or two within the eternity of time itself, is really quite absurd.
It reveals the staggering egocentrism of the human creature, don’t you think?
What you see around you isn’t life, per se. What you see around you is but the scantest hint at life. Even on this planet, there are more extinct species than there are living species. And this isn’t to minimize life but to awaken us to the awesomeness of life – that even beyond that which we experience, there is always more and more and more life!
And traditions such as Unity might say that there are not 8 billion minds. There is one mind being expressed in an infinite number of ways. There is one mind from which idea and intuition and revelation are drawn. So yes, it is correct to infer that you share a mind with the greatest thinkers from Socrates to Aristotle to Plato to Jesus to Gautama to Muhammad to Mozart to MLK to Madonna.
Psychic phenomena and angelic visitations and so-called channeling are not demonstrations of evil any more than some of the everyday choices people make while they’re driving down the highway, you see. They are demonstrations of this beyond-local nature of mind. They are demonstrations of this deep connection we share as a family of life. They are demonstrations of the foundational oneness of creation.
The appropriate response isn’t to fear an experience of non-traditional wisdom. The appropriate response is to use non-traditional wisdom wisely and mindfully; to use non-traditional wisdom for something life-affirming.
Nor is it well to carelessly elevate employers and inheritances and windfalls and fortune as our source. Traditions such as Unity might say that there is, rather, one source being expressed in an infinite number of ways.
This one’s a very real danger to ministers, you see, because ministers – over time – tend to get sloppy. Over time, ministers tend to confuse the vehicles for what I like to call God sufficiency for God sufficiency itself.
And it’s with some intention that I say God sufficiency. I avoid phrases such as God’s sufficiency and God’s giving-ness because to use a possessive implies a possessor. To use a possessive suggests a God who possesses and from there a God who has arms and legs and from there a God who gives to some and withholds from others and so forth.
God is not a person. Humans like to make God a person. We also like to make trees and goats and hurricanes people. We’re hardwired to do so. We’re hardwired to assign human attributes to trees and cats and hurricanes but it will never will make them people.
I saw it written this week that in order to grasp the God that makes people, we must release the God that people make. And I think there’s deep truth in this. Unity Cofounder Charles Fillmore said the same thing in different words.
Over time, ministers tend to confuse the vehicles for God sufficiency for God sufficiency itself. In specific, instead of turning to God sufficiency as the ultimate source of all supply, we find ourselves increasingly turning to audiences and members and tithers; we find ourselves increasingly turning to the ways in which God sufficiency is expressed instead of turning to God sufficiency itself and in such moments, we launch a whole stream of limitation and constriction.
When we assign God power to people, we start some real trouble. And there are plenty of religious leaders who would have us do just that. But the same can be said of individuals in virtually every profession.
And let me be clear: let us remain ever grateful for every vehicle – for every audience, for every member, for every tither, who practices the law of giving and receiving in this intentional spiritual community. And let us remain ever mindful of the source that resides behind every vehicle – behind every audience, behind every member, behind every tither.
It’s both/and, you see.
We do well to say “thank you” to the doctor, even as we recognize the workings of life. We do well to say “thank you” to the teacher, even as we recognize the workings of mind. We do well to say “thank you” to employers and inheritances and windfalls and fortunes, even as we recognize the workings of God sufficiency.
It’s easy to say, “God is my source,” when times are tough. But let’s remember to say, “God is my source,” when times are sweet. Because that’s when we tend to forget. Or worse, we start to think that we did it ourselves.
And I have to wonder if this idea of a personal God – this idea of a life behind all expression, of a wisdom behind all thought, of a source behind all vehicles, is what Jesus meant when he referred to that kingdom of heaven within.
Now, I happen to believe that at the level of a human incarnation, we have some authority of choice. I happen to believe that at the level of a human incarnation, we can cooperate with the life, cooperate with the wisdom, cooperate with the sufficiency we would call God and we can also frustrate the life, frustrate the wisdom, frustrate the sufficiency we would call God.
We have some authority of choice. Anthropomorphic male God doesn’t insist that life be lived with vigor, that wisdom be used for good and that sufficiency be shared with mindfulness. People can be as small, cruel and selfish as they want to be.
Perhaps you know one or two who have made such choices.
So, here’s the deal: if you’re willing to entertain God as the life behind all expression, don’t we honor God as we honor life? Don’t we acknowledge the sacredness of God as we acknowledge the sacredness of each other?
And while I know it’s a bit of a reach for some, don’t we come to love God as we come to love the tree, the animal, even the wind and the stars? You see, I think some of our tribal religions have it right. We snub our noses from our post-enlightenment thrones, but they have it right.
Consider the following prayer from Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark. It’s from the late 1800’s:
Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever hold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.
Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy: myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.
When we were on the junior high playground, we would say, “Okay, you go over there and I’ll go over there and we’ll play the game and see who wins,” and one of the problems with adult life is that we’re still saying, “Okay, you go over there and I’ll go over there and we’ll play the game and see who wins,” but as adults, we’re too stubborn to admit when the game is over, much less to come back together for a hug.
Don’t we honor God by celebrating the diversity of God’s creation even as we remember the creator behind all diversity? If you say grace before a meal (and boy, that’s a throwback), let it include a mental acknowledgement of every life that contributed to your meal. Let it be an intentional blessing of every life that made your meal possible. That’s a prayer that honors God.
This is why what I might call oneness teachings are so foundational to all other teachings. From our unity within God, we can redefine ourselves in better ways. From our unity within God, we can redefine each other in better ways. From our unity within God, we can redefine life in better ways.
And if God is the grand repository of ideas from which each of us thinks, don’t we honor God by entertaining our boldest thoughts?
If God is the grand repository of thought possibility upon which each of us draws, don’t we honor God by thinking thoughts that reflect possibility over limitation? Don’t we honor God by thinking thoughts that reflect evolution over stagnation? Don’t we honor God by thinking thoughts that reflect expansion over contraction?
Someone posited that we are educating college freshmen for careers which don’t yet exist. If so, how important is it that we encourage thinking that reaches beyond the knowables of our histories, beyond the knowables of our traditions, beyond the knowables of our institutions? How important is it that we encourage thinking that reaches beyond that which I have seen to that which I can envision?
I think we’re experiencing this in masse right now. Organizations that will survive, even thrive, during this time of change will be those organizations whose people are willing to make just such a jump. If you’re biding your time waiting for normal to come back, may I suggest that you’ll be waiting awhile? The bus of life is closing its doors to move on down the road and the choice before you is whether or not you want to be left standing there tapping your toes and checking your watch.
And if God is the source behind every vehicle, if God is that benign and boundless substance from which all in the world of form is drawn, don’t we honor God with every decision to lean into its bigness instead of relax into our smallness?
Well, how about this: if there is one life, even though that life seems to be enjoying that altered state of consciousness in which it appears as separate bodies and forms in all shapes and sizes; if there is one life, how might you bring life closer together this week? And I’m not talking about ringing the same old comfortable person you’ve been ringing since high school. I’m talking about making a meaningful connection with someone unlike you.
And if there is one wisdom and if it contains great ideas (someone once said that the currency of the divine is ideas) if there is one wisdom and if it contains great ideas capable of stretching, growing and blessing us as souls - even evolving us as a people - what’s holy or noble about playing small? Or worse, what’s pious or saintly about squashing dreams and visions and daring notions?
And if God is your source (not your employer, not your portfolio, not your savings) and if the nature of that infinite source is availability, even givingness, where’s the wisdom in living a life of hording and protecting? Unity Cofounder Charles Fillmore certainly cautioned each of us against such a consciousness and I have to believe Jesus did the same when he taught, “Don’t store up treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, where thieves break in and steal, but store up treasures in heaven,” meaning store up treasures in consciousness where they can demonstrate again and again and again.
You see, in the end, from what I can tell, that’s what spiritual evolution does. It brings us closer together as people and it lifts us up as individuals.