To quote Martin Luther King: “O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women, in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives, and in this world, a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. Amen.”
We stand at the pinnacle of over 100 years of thinking that consciousness exists for the acquisition of stuff and things. We stand at the pinnacle of over 100 years of this think and grow rich mentality, this spiritual materialism, this fallible egotism of half-understanding. We stand at the pinnacle of over 100 years of reducing God to something of a cosmic Santa Claus; of reducing the Infinite to something of a cosmic vending machine in the sky.
And it’s from such a half-understanding that the human spends a life manipulating at the level of effect. Manipulating his finances, manipulating her relationships, manipulating our bodies, manipulating their circumstances. We find ourselves chanting, “I am prosperous,” one hundred times in the morning and one hundred times in the evening; pasting pictures of the latest celebrity mansions on our vision boards. We find ourselves ordering the latest pills guaranteed to reduce fat and tone muscle; standing buck naked (as my mother would have said) before full-length mirrors, complimenting ourselves on our own taught and shapely calves.
The human spends a life manipulating at the level of effect even as Joel Goldsmith reminds us, “If there is no change in consciousness, there will be no change in outer experience, because that which is consciousness comes forth as manifestation.” I like to say it this way, “Your soul operates with perfect integrity.”
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t a time for addressing life at the level of effect. After all, many who enter spiritual centers and churches do so because rent is due, or because the body fails or because the heart aches. Many who enter spiritual centers and churches do so because they are hungry. And when this happens it’s time to answer, not with a metaphysical formula or a philosophical treatise, but with a sandwich.
I’ve often considered it worthy of some notice that when Jesus began to choose his disciples, he first taught them how to catch fish. He second taught them to be fishers of men. Would he have captured their attention, would he have garnered their loyalty, if he had started with a metaphysical formula or a philosophical treatise? I’m not so certain.
So, this isn’t to say that there isn’t a time for addressing life at the level of effect. It is to say, however, that while the level of effect might be where we begin, it’s not the end game. Spiritual growth, development and unfoldment is the end game.
Think of legislation, as one example.
We can legislate racial equality, but it’s only when the consciousness of humanity changes that racial equality can truly come into its full potentials.
We can legislate clean water and voting equality and humane prisons and ecological sustainability and economic equity, but it’s only when the consciousness of humanity changes that these noble ideas can truly come into their full potentials.
We cannot become a people of equity while nurturing our greed. We cannot become a people of compassion while nurturing our selfishness. We cannot become a people of change while nurturing our comfort.
Now, as tempting as it might be to believe that I bring you a new idea today, I don’t. It’s not new. It’s been available to us for centuries. Dr. King said it this way and I quote, “God, help us as individuals and as a world to hear it now before it’s too late: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and God's justice and all these other things shall be added.’”
We stand at the pinnacle of over 100 years of thinking that consciousness exists for the acquisition of stuff and things when in truth, stuff and things exist for the cultivation of consciousness. And doesn’t it make some sense when you think about it? After all, it’s only the consciousness which endures. Everyone’s dream car eventually goes to the junk yard. But the consciousness of worth, or freedom, or creativity that you cultivated in the process – oh, now that’s something you can take into your next grand adventure.
Goldsmith goes on, “Many spiritual students believe that if they can just change a sick body into a well body, unemployment into employment, a bad person into a good person, that is spiritual demonstration. [But] these are not demonstrations. These are the effects of demonstration. We cannot demonstrate person, place, thing or condition. We can demonstrate only the presence of God, the realization of God. When we have achieved that demonstration, all these things are added unto us. Health, employment, supply, home, companionship – whatever is necessary – automatically follow.”
You see, we don’t go to God for loaves and fishes. We go to God for God, and when we have a sufficient realization of God, the loaves and fishes are added.
Goldsmith, “It will do no good to take thought for your life, your health, or your supply; it will do no good to go to God with a request, a petition, or a desire, because God possesses nothing that [God] is withholding. All that God is and all that God has is flowing constantly into manifestation, expression, and form, and to think that prayer will influence God to speed it up, or to deliver it to your doorstep, is foolishness. God is infinite intelligence and knows our needs. God will never withhold anything; and therefore our prayers must always be an acknowledgment.”
This is the heart of Unity’s affirmative prayer practice. “Thank you, God, for meeting my needs.” This becomes our prayer when our needs overwhelm.
“Thank you, Self-existence, for helping me to understand.” This becomes our prayer when our understanding wanes.
“Thank you, Infinite Is-ness, for guiding my hands, my feet, my tongue.” This becomes our prayer when our choices confuse.
In the end, we come to understand that spiritual practice (and your spiritual practice might include prayer or meditation or music or nature or study; your spiritual practice might include affirmations or vision boards) we come to understand that spiritual practice is the avenue through which we remember God.
Every prayer is a prayer for consciousness. All ideas move us to consciousness. All words move us to consciousness. All stuff and things move us to consciousness. For that which is consciousness comes forth as manifestation.” Or as I said earlier, “Your soul operates with perfect integrity.”
To seek first the consciousness of God is to elevate ourselves from the Buddha’s “low arts” of manipulating at the level of effect and to immerse ourselves in the cosmic river of divine adventure. And the price we pay is the relinquishment of our attachments to what we think we want and to how we think it should arrive.
Let your prayer be for the consciousness to sustain all the good you desire to experience.