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Spark

Spark

What on earth keeps us going? What is it that gets us to the end of this, our roller-coaster ride that we call life. Of course ego claims the rights to our existence. We live in a dangerous world and ego has carried us over the line, like some Saving Private Ryan Marine type figure, exhausted but mission accomplished. I’m afraid that I can’t agree and here’s why.

Suffering is only in the eye of the beholder, and that eye is our fragmented psyche-soul, the one known as ego. The psyche is here to help us ‘experience’ what appears to be reality, this space-time simulation of existence. It’s the software that helps us feel every up and down on the wave of life. Its settings are either winning or losing, exhilaration or pain. All relational battles that cause us dismay are felt here. All circumstances are interpreted by psyche as a high or a low.

And so we travel along the illusion of time, picking up little victories here and there, along with the painful defeats that edge us ever closer to rock bottom. Now, the power of positive thinking or its New Age equivalent will get us so far. Shiny faced successful gurus point us in the direction of their secret, one usually packaged for the self-help marketplace. Now of course things seem to go better when we’re positive, the power of attraction and all that. Yet, a downer usually lurks around the bend, as we sail along reckoning we’ve got this life thing cracked. The downer in question may be a result of our presumption, but often it’s sent along for our own good. For there’s nothing worse than an ego in full flight, gliding on the winds of its own achievement. No, the downers are needed for us to reach our ultimate but unknown destination.

Now some of us feed ego with all the ammunition that it craves. Paranoia, sees defeats lying along both past and future timelines of our lives. If the sun shines it’s too hot. If everything is freezing over, it’s hell in reverse. The little interpreter within our heads is skewed, leading us into the wilderness of depression and despair. Ego, loves it, feeding our darkness to justify its role as saviour.

Religious belief, particularly the Charismatic/Pentecostal brand that predominates much of Western Christianity, gives us a measure of relief, albeit temporarily. For to be involved, is often not to think, and that definitely nullifies the contradictory ups and downs for a while. Cleverly interpreting the highs as God’s blessing and the lows as Satanic attack, we ride the Christian life, quoting the relevant Bible verses until the big one blocks our path. The Transpersonal Crisis shakes up everything, dislodging our stoical belief in the protection of God, the One who looks out for us. No wonder, such a crisis leaves us disillusioned and broken, for we later discover that ego was the sponsor of our religious ride, an ardent ‘Amener’ who backed our every move.

So then what are we to do. Well, I reckon that we need to turn our attention away from the psyche-soul, our sensor of life, and turn to another hidden participator in the human experience, the real power behind our being, viz. our spirit. Now before you think I’m getting a wee bit too esoteric, please let me explain. When I make something, I leave something of myself in the work concerned. Hopefully in my own writings, there is something of me transmitting itself to you, an inexplicable touch that is received within. Similarly I believe that Source has deposited something of its own Being within us, a spark from the Divine Fire of Creativity. An altogether other that lies deep within our consciousness, waiting for our day of awakening. A pin-hole of Cosmic Consciousness that lets in the Light, that we call God.

Such a spirit is altogether different form our wounded psyche-soul, not having a trace of defensiveness in its essence, for it has been birthed in the Divine. When all around is a high or low, spirit sits quietly, confident in its own Being, waiting for its time of appearing, waiting for ego to burn itself out in the pursuit of happiness and security. And burn itself out it most surely will. So, let’s step back from the spin of ego, smiling as it attempts to recruit us in its dervish dance of salvation. No, rather embrace the Queendom within, the portal of Divine Love, where all is well and shall be well.

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Growing A Church?

Growing A Church?

Now I’d better own up before I proceed. I used to be a church junkie, albeit a slightly reticent one in my somewhat zealous youth. You see, I believed the evangelistic take on God and his kids. God is working in the world and His agency is the institution belovedly known as church. Back in my Irish homeland, as soon as one came into an experience of the risen Nazarene, one was instantly ushered into a sheep fold under the name of a ‘sound’ church. I was never really sure what a sound church was, for those who embraced the standard orthodoxy seemed to be asleep to me, the only sound being my snoring during the pastor’s sermon. No, for me it was a more radical version of Jesus community, or so I thought. I was a founding member of a Charismatic, (yes, speaking in tongues etc) fellowship that attempted to do things differently. I should have known better though, for all life-giving religious or spiritual movements eventually conservatise, becoming clones of their older predecessors. Northern Ireland was, and still is, peppered with man’s attempt to get Divinity into a box, much like any other Bible Belt area of God’s good Earth.

That being said, I want to look at our fixation at growing a church, to use a trendy but ineffective term that’s doing the religious rounds. If one has a church, a group bang in the centre of Divine Will, then why not grow it – the bigger the better right! Well no, at least in my experience. Here are a few reasons for small is beautiful.

1) God isn’t obsessed by church like most of His/Her kids.

Jesus groups were to be transient expressions of God realignment, not the be all and end all. Packed buildings of Jesus people on Sunday mornings aren’t on God’s agenda.

2) Spiritual life is best shared through conversation and friendship.

The Nazarene hinted at this when talking about the two or three gathered into His name. When a few folk, with open and respectful hearts tune into the Divine in conversation, there is an opportunity for Presence to manifest and flow between those present.

3) Growing churches was never a Divine suggestion.

Growing things is frankly more to do with market share than the Way of the Kingdom/Queendom.

Institutionalised faith needs institutions and institutions need cash to survive. Once established, rigid faith groups frankly need bums on seats to keep going, and of course as we all know failure is never on the agenda for those believing God is with them.

3) Growth is an organic experience and one that is deeply personal.

The numbers game in religious circles, patronisingly disguised as a concern for the lost, is nothing to do with true growth.

Spiritual growth is the growing awareness of who we are, and our place in the Divine Heart. Such growth often follows times of great personal darkness. It cannot be manufactured on the assembly line of programmed religion. Rather it takes place in the desert of aloneness, when Light invades our Darkness.

4) Growth of our group encourages religious competition.

I’m afraid I have to smile when a new church opens up here in Lincoln. The pastor priest will always claim to be in total harmony with the existing churches in the city. Their targets for membership are always the ‘unchurched’, especially the young unchurched who are susceptible to subtle, or not so subtle, love bombing. What often happens though is a case of sheep transference. When the shiny new religious stall is set out, Jesus people sniff out a better pastureland and hop the church fence to enter the new field of fellowship. And so it continues, throughout the ages. Like competing supermarkets, religious groups are in the marketplace of desire. the subliminal message is always this: ‘Our take on Jesus is more authentic than that of other groups, so come aboard!’. The merry-go-round world of church membership falsely feeds the growth dreams of model pastors/priests. We are getting new people so we must be fulfilling God’s agenda.

5) Big numbers inflate ego’s group identity.

When we get high on our numbers, ego is lurking, willing to elevate us to a special status, that of God’s chosen.

Growth is put down to God adding to our numbers rather than our clever marketing or manipulation of broken folk looking for answers. Ego, looks over its sacred empire and gives itself a pat on the back, while giving God all the glory, at least publicly.

It’s empowering to be a member of a large and cutting edge group, though in time the ride will end in disillusionment and tears. It’s at this stage that God may get a chance to have a wee chat with us and bind up our self-administered wounds.

6) Church and its size is irrelevant in the great scheme of things

While caught up in the church growth delusion we tend to see life as a life-saving operation. It’s a case of getting as many folk as possible into the Jesus lifeboat as possible before they check out of space-time. And as most of us know who’ve sailed the seven seas in such a craft, it’s really a delusion, for the boat of salvation is merely a church expansion programme. Divine Love has birthed all and will embrace all, church membership or not. To limit a spiritual coming home to joining a church is a big mistake. For often we leave the integrity of our God encounter at the door to play a different game, one driven by the need to belong and be accepted; a shinier version of the game that we played in our wilder days.

So there you have it. Some wee thoughts why it’s best not to get involved with your church’s expansion drive known as evangelism. Since the days of my evangelistic zeal I’ve discovered that God is big, very big indeed. Faith groups are only part of a world that is loved, a Love without restraints that waits at the city gate for those with ears to hear to listen and respond. The Voice is everywhere, even, dare I say it, in the back pew of my old hemorrhaging church.

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roller-coaster 11

Roller-Coaster Religion

In our youth many of us loved to visit theme parks with their precarious, spine-tingling rides of terror. It was cool to be scared and come out safe and sound at the other end, before heading back for another go. It’s got me thinking about the religion of my youth. I reckon it was a roller-coaster ride to beat all roller-coaster rides. The big one where Cosmic powers laid down the tracks of my life, taking me on a topsy-turvy  spin of life and death. I guess I’d better explain.

I got on the roller-coaster when I was converted, when I bumped into the Divine at the Theme Park of Northern Irish religion. now at the time I believed that God was the owner of the Park, but I was mistaken. Like me He/She was just visiting, looking for lonely souls like myself, a Divine pick-up if you like. No, I was quickly ushered onto the Charismatic/Evangelical roller-coaster ride, not by Divine Love, but by the ride operators at the Park, the teachers of a faith, full of excitement and thrill.

At first things sped along nicely, as I ate my Bible snacks on a daily basis, drinking from the fizzy fountain of answered prayers. Just around the first bend though, things started to pick up. We weren’t on this ride for fun, rather we’d been recruited by the Divine, who incidentally was wistfully watching from the sidelines, for the Battle of all battles, the titanic struggle of Good v Evil, or Jesus v Satan. My wee psyche had inadvertently been hijacked for a cause, one that had strapped me in for the long-haul, by the vows of group commitment. For beside me, to the right and to the left, were my brothers and sisters, those fellow warriors who joined me in the cause – an army we were told that would storm the Gates of Hell. Boy, was that a rush. One mass of screaming solidarity flying around our God ordained track of Spiritual Warfare. We couldn’t lose with God on our side or could we?

Of course we had some wonderful ups along the Way, when we glanced far below the Face of Divine Love, smiling at us. Unfortunately we mistook this for Its approval, rather than the compassion that awaited us on our dizzy return. Anyway, it was an adrenalin blast, as we danced, sang, spoke in tongues and fell on our faces in the frenzy of devotion. And there sitting in front of us were our elders, who’d ridden the ride for many years, knowing each twist and turn, stoical in their steadfastness and control. All we had to do was copy them and everything would be all right, as we soared into the very heavens of God.

Of course, the downers followed the ups. There were casualties as we peaked and headed down into the tragedies of life at lightening speed. No matter how euphoric the ride, things got messy at times, both personally and collectively. We were bombarded by the fiery darts of the Evil One as we attempted to claim Northern Ireland for Jesus, through the cries and screams of intercessory prayer. And boy, did he pack a punch, knowing how to hit us in our spiritual solar plexus. Depression stalked our downward path, yet we cranked up and efforts and prepared ourselves for the next upward surge of Spirit. The Sunday sermon told us that it wasn’t an easy ride following Jesus, and so it proved, though not for the reasons that the preacher promoted. For a ride with Jesus and the Devil wasn’t a bed of roses, one that we could easily escape from. If we jumped, Evil had won and we’d pay for it for the rest of our lives. If we stayed we pleased Jesus but had hell to pay.

I managed to stay on the ride for 16 years or so, before I was pushed off , so to speak. Having lost my firstborn son Ben, to cot death at 5 months, I began to doubt the supposed All Powerful Designer of the Ride. Yet, even this wasn’t enough to have me get off the Revivalist track. It took some plain old rivalry with my leader friend to have me finally pushed off, an act of unintended mercy, that paradoxically saved my future, psycho-spiritual bacon. And of course, there was God standing by the kiosk of Compassion, granting me all the time necessary, for my cold-turkey detox from the adrenalin-fuelled track of Revivalist religion.

Eighteen years later, it was time for us to be reintroduced. Not on the Fairground Rides of Programmed Religion, but in the aching emptiness of a human heart. And so it has continued, a courtship of Aloneness, a Union in the fields of Self, far from the victory screams of Satan-obsessed souls.

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Awareness Lane

Awareness Lane

‘Two roads diverge in the middle of my life,

I heard a wise man say’

Larry Norman ~ singer-songwriter

I think we’d all agree that life is a journey of sorts. A space-time walk through a kaleidoscope of images and experiences. For some it’s a simple passage, for others the most complex of trips, full of twists, turns and unexpected reversals. It’s amazing that so many of us make it through to old age, even those 60s rock stars who refuse to accept that the glory days are now but fading memories.

One thing regularly appears along our space-time Path, viz. Will Junction. I’d better explain! Life conspires to bring us to a fork in the road, one where we’re presented with two choices, the way of Ego & the Way of Love. Just when we’re sailing along on a seemingly steady course, up ahead lies the dreaded divergence that none of us like to face. One road is wide, a busy, noisy highway if you like, the other a narrow, silent, country lane.

Those of us who wish to get ahead in life, believing the promises and fears of ego, appear to be automatically wired to head down the highway, joining the crowd, those seeking the security of a cultural nirvana. Safety in numbers seems to be the way to go, as we eagerly rush towards our material and status destiny. As long as we keep our inner rev counter at full throttle, we can navigate any obstacles that come our way and make it. So the narrative goes, that regularly broadcasts itself at every junction choice. This is Ego road, the one that ultimately leads to our physical, mental and spiritual burnout. A road of promise, but a road of destruction.

Thankfully, we’re regularly presented with two roads throughout our earthly sojourn. We are not locked into the GPS directives of ego. For, another Path, runs parallel to desire highway, a lane most natural, at one with All. Here, we leave behind the craving to have, swapping it instead for the contentment of being. Letting go of our adrenalin-fuelled drive for status, we discover a sense of quiet ease, as Life takes us where it wills. And beside us on the Journey, walks Another, a reassuring Presence, that ultimately All is well, and shall be well. Here, we catch sight of, perhaps for the first time, a Natural order and balance in our space-time dream. Life and death, joy and sadness, appear to dance together, to carrying us further into that quiet acceptance of Mystery. On this Lane of Awareness we say little but observe a lot, for in our focus lies a revelation of sorts, a knowing that we are already Home.

So how do we tackle these circumstantial junctions of choice, those planted there by Divine Source. Well, simply through the exercise of the most potent of our gifts, viz. will.

Will, is an internal switch that seems to set our psyche-soul direction. It can be a frenzied fan of the Highway, or the calm sponsor of Awareness Lane. If activated by our spirit core, it flows effortlessly in its default choice, leading us into the Path of Peace. Will is our helpmate, once freed from the fear-driven shackles of ego. A most powerful aid in life’s journey, as it paradoxically submits to Divine Desire, that Cosmic Energy that carries us back into the Bosom of Ultimate Source.

So, safe journeying, my fellow travellers. May all roads lead us to Being. May the Lane of freedom, teach us the shocking heights, depths and width of Divine Love.

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Running In Circles

Running In Circles

Trying to escape all things Divine is extremely hard work. For the more we run away, the more frustrated we tend to get. Why? Well, we always seem to end up back at the place where we initiated our attempted break for freedom. Life appears to conspire to bring us back to what we run from, with God being its favourite drop off point.

For those of us who’ve been raised in a religious belief system, the most logical tactic for our planned escape is to ditch God completely, converting to a quasi-confident atheism, with all its promised allure. Out of mind, hopefully out of sight, is its beguiling mantra. Just take up a rigidly atheistic viewpoint and the Divine will leave us alone to enjoy our non-belief in peace. Alternatively, we may prefer to take the slightly less dogmatic agnostic approach to bathe our religious wounds, while swaying to and fro between the opposing belief branches of promise.

Of course, Divine Love lets us have our day of supposed freedom, glad to see us free of our prior religious shackles and metaphysical misconceptions. For God really is into liberty, even if it involves being ignored by those who run a mile from belief systems that go by His/Her Name. So off we dash, running along the remaining track of life, entering each new bend with a renewed vigour and vim as we head for our godless utopia. The old ways lie far behind, distant memories of past metaphysical illusions and pain. ‘Thank God there is no god,’ we cry out in our paradoxical, liberated fervour.

However, the trouble is that we’re not running along a straight track, one that follows the flying crow into the remainder of our space-time existence. For, much to our amazement, we find ourselves running around a circular path that takes us right back to the big Mysteries of life, and eventually bang into a Presence, One that stands tall to block our illusory progress. Yes, at some stage we experience the Track Designer Supreme, stepping out onto Its creation to catch us totally unaware. Thankfully, we’re not frog-marched back into the tepid bath water of our religious past, but into the pulsating Rapids of Spirit Life, an Energy Flow that wells up from our hidden depths within. The Life abundantly as promised by the Nazarene, the Spring of Self from which gushes the endless Source of All.

Only then does it begin to make sense – this topsy-turvy Journey race that ends in healing tears of joy and release. No longer the hurdles of ego, no longer the fear of stumbling on the relational blocks of others, no longer the nightmares of finishing last in the adversarial affairs of humanity. Just a Presence, One that lets us collapse in a heap of sheer relief, just a Presence that allows us to rest before standing up once more to re-engage as Children of Source.

Remember, contrary to ego’s advice, there’s no  place to run and no place to hide. Best to cut short the Great Escape race and fall into the welcoming Arms of Divine Love.

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Suspicion

Suspicion

In the world of metaphysical thought there abounds the negative vibe of suspicion. For me, it’s clearly observed in the mutual wariness between the dogma-defined Christian Tribe and its experiential next door neighbour, the Spirituality movement. I picture these two clans of thought standing back to back at the garden fence, unwilling to acknowledge that the other may just have some valuable glimpse of ultimate Truth.

I guess we’re back into the analogy of blind men each having a hold on the Elephant of Mystery. Holding onto the Trunk, the Christians believe that they have it all worked out in the person of Yeshua and all his extrapolated  traditional add-ons. The Mind, Body, Spirit folk have their hands on the Ears, believing that they convey Cosmic Consciousness, the answer to all our dysfunctional ills. And the result? Separate teacher-gurus, publishing houses, conference circuits, rituals and sub-cultures.

I guess that I’ve jumped into the wide chasm of mistrust between both camps, in my desire to write for both. We do so love our sense of Divine ownership, our compulsive, obsessional belief that we have it all and don’t need to cross into the mindset of the other. All that I need is my big black Bible, a good church and, of course, Jesus. I’m saved and on my way to the sweet by and by, unlike the other lot! Alternatively, I’ve had enough of the Nazarene and the guilt trips of his hypocritical followers, for I’ve found my inner Self, the authentic home of Cosmic Love. I’ve finally cracked the Me thing and don’t need an external divinity, thank you very much. Just top up my supply of crystals and mantra chants and I’ll be fine with my free-flowing chakras. Let the other lot do the us and them thing, for I now love everyone even though I don’t engage with them.

And so the partially sighted march on into certainty, brushing aside the challenges and opportunities for further growth which the other tribe provides. The meeting of minds rarely occurs, though in the case of contemporary, Christian writer, Rob Bell, it has taken place, though at the cost of being demonised as a heretic by fellow admirers.

So, is there really anything to learn from each other? Well, I most certainly reckon that there is. I’d better explain.

The Christian Tribe

Can the Christian band of brothers and sisters learn anything from the Spirituality movement.? May, I humbly suggest that they can. Firstly, the generousity of Divine Love and its inclusive nature. We are all born in the divine image, despite the protestations of guilt ridden St. Augustine. Something deep within, very deep within in most of us, possesses the essence or imprint of Divine Love. Hidden by ego and its swirl of fear-fuelled defensive postures, there is a pearl of great price lying there in the sands of our pained psyche. Only ego sees and us and them – God or Cosmic Source sees all mankind through the Window of the incarnated Tao-Logos, the Beloved Son. We followers of the Nazarene can afford to be much more expansive in our view of the Queendom and who populates it.

The Spirituality Tribe

The SpIrituality Tribe tend to focus on the positive sides of life. All very good, methinks for such a take on Self and others is much-needed in our pessimistic media-driven world. I love the exhilaration of celebrating this mystery called Life. Yet, there is a brokenness in our space-time world that many spiritual folk choose to ignore. Violence isn’t one of the main topics at Mind, Body, Spirit conferences. The violent execution of the Nazarene is irrelevant to our Self growth and meditation, goes the party line. Sometimes the Galilean gets a quick acknowledgement as a spiritual, wisdom teacher, before being airbrushed out of the main tribal metanarrative. Yet, I reckon the tragic end, and claimed resurrection of Yeshua bar Yosef cannot be ignored. It challenges our cultural and metaphysical take on Reality, especially Source Reality. I’d love the Spirituality gurus to discuss the Nazarene more often, something that might help their ex-Christian followers reconcile with their religious pasts.

Of course, I could go on and on. It’s a topic for further discussion and mutual respect. Meanwhile I’ll continue to try to do my little bit in encouraging the estranged neighbours to look each other in the eye, for, it’s there that we can truly glimpse Other. Left to our own devices we head into exclusivity, together we get to have a clearer picture of the Mysterious Elephant in the Cosmic Room.

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Freedom

Freedom

 

I guess that everyone’s after it; freedom, that is. It’s often used as a raison d’être for the vicious violence that swirls around individuals, communities and nation states. Everyone who fights sees themself as a freedom fighter of sorts. Yet the very fact that one fights is a sign that freedom lies a long way off. For true freedom isn’t just the rearrangement and temporary pacifying of our psycho-spiritual subpersonalities, but a much more radical process.

Freedom is ultimately the freedom from desire, the beguiling energy that draws us into the obsessive acquisition of both things and people. Unsurprisingly, mass market advertisers hate genuine freedom – for it’s their negating nemesis. Rampant, restless desire is their mistress. They use her to fatten their wallets and those belonging to their clients, the wealthy multinationals of our world.

It’s hard to escape desire’s clutches for its tenacious tentacles wrap themselves around our every waking moment. Newspapers, TV, Radio, and the Internet, all pulsate with demanding desire. ‘If you get hold of this then you’ll be free and happy!’ It’s one big lie of course, but that’s what makes human culture tick. We all operate within a subconscious con-job. No, freedom isn’t to be found within the citadel of establishment or the hippy tent of countercultural values.

Surprisingly, freedom is found within and only after an awakening to some disturbing wee facts. We are not autonomous creatures as suggested by cultural norms. Far from it. Rather, we’re constantly responding to a network of encroaching desires, a subliminal matrix that controls us like a puppet on a string. Desire disguises itself in the most intriguing of ways. It can come in materialistic, relational or, even more deviously, metaphysical forms, pulling us towards the illusory goal of acquired happiness and pseudo-freedom.

Authentic freedom usually comes after we imagine we’re going under; when the last of our desire attachments are cut away by the pruning Gardener of Divine Love. Each little snip results in a pain-filled howl, yet bit by bit, we arrive at a place where the only desire left is the one for Source. The bloom of Union will come after the Winter of angst-filled death, the hellish stripping away of our skewed desire web. Realigned with Source, we can tentatively re-emerge into the desire-flux world of men. This time though we’re not easily fooled, for our eyes have been opened. We’re now free to engage or disengage with oncoming transmitted desire. We see the matrix for what it is, the Deceiver of all deceivers.

So, best to let the illusion of personal autonomy go and jump into the embrace of Divine Love. The Dancer and the Dance, a Union of freedom, one beyond desire.

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