I am deeply grateful to you who have stood with me while I asked my questions

and to you who have allowed me to stand with you while you asked yours

 


***********

 


The SUN knows about people

            I go to Him to learn to meet.

 

But the SEA knows about life

            I go to Her to learn to live.

 

**********

 

 

 

 


WHO AM I?


            On a foggy morning I stood on one of Her shores, talking, as I often do, to myself. "Why are you standing here," I said to myself, "instead of speeding on to work?" I thought for a moment before answering my own question. "Because," I responded, silently of course, "I am not yet ready for working today. This foggy arm of the Sea called me as I passed. What else could I do, except stop to answer?"


            Suddenly the foolishness of my internal dialogue struck my awareness. "Why am I standing here arguing with myself?," I thought, yet I continued. One part of me was drawn by the Sea, wanting to stay, another part said, "No, you must get to work. What will those people in passing cars think of you, standing here in the fog?" "Stay awhile," one voice said." You have a right to be here." "No," said the other; "Duty calls. On to work."


            Almost like an innocent bystander, I listened as their argument escalated. "Yes." "No." "Stay." "Go." Reasons. Reasons. Reasons--each voice loudly making its own case. Torn between which to heed, uncertain of which was me, I turned back to the Sea. I asked aloud the eternal question:


            "Who am I?"


            For a moment only the silent fog rolled back. Then She spoke. A hint of laughter in Her voice eased the weight of Her answer. "You are the bystander," She said, as though reading my mind. "You heard My call, dared to stop, but then stepped aside in favor of those voices on the stage. You became an observer in the wings of your own life. Instead of listening for Me or speaking to Me, you escaped into the audience of your mind. Fleeing who you are, you pretended to be the fictional selves who argue over reasons.


            "You are the creator of these 'I's' within your mind. They are figments of your imagination rather than your essential self. The size of your brain allows the luxury of these fictional characters. Such mental productions leave you uncertain, confused, and distant from who you are. If the excitement of remaining yourself is too great, these escapades can provide temporary relief. Yet the danger is great. By fleeing into the false selves, you risk forgetting who you now are and failing tobecome who you can be.


            "In fact, you are the 'myself' whom your fictional 'I' addresses. When you say, 'I said to myself,' the division has already occurred. You have fled who you are, into the 'I' you are not. Your large brain has allowed you to imagine being a separable 'I', capable of talking back to you. You are yourself, rather than these 'I's' who argue on the stage of your mind. You are the hidden prompter who supplies the material for their debates. While they argue, you are freed from the responsibility of speaking yourself, or the faith necessary to listen for Me. If you are not careful, however, you will die in that temporary freedom.


            "I often observe your people who have so thoroughly escaped into their imaginary 'I's' that they have forgotten about being somebody who is one. They continually engage in internal dialogues. One false self speaks to the other, which then answers back. Sometimes these fictional entities argue, fight, orcomfort one another. If one such 'I' becomes predominant, the person may so identify with this imaginary self that he actually believes he has separate existence as that 'I'.


            "Such a person often becomes egotistical, thinking he is somebody special. He may act like a king or god, trying to manage, help, save, or use other people to serve his own self-centered ends. Often he will function as though he has special rights such as the praise, approval, support, or service of others. On the other hand, one may perceive his fictional self to be subhuman. He may imagine that he is a worm, a clod, or a piece of dung. Considering himself a nothing or a nobody, he may go about trying to hide, pretend, or improve himself.


            "In any case, he, the essential person, has played God by creating an imaginary self--high and mighty or low and paltry. In occupying the frame of this entity, he becomes a false god of either the angel or devil variety. Sometimes false godhood is carried to such extremes that the individual concludes he exists independently of his body. Some even imagine the 'I' they have created has perpetual existence.


            "Actually, the escape into a fictional self leaves one spiritually dead. You cannot be one who is alive in spirit, if you abandon yourself in favor of an imaginary 'I'. You are fortunate to still be able to ask the timeless question, 'Who am I?' Many of your people, now dead in spirit, no longer ask."



            I was getting more than I bargained for. In fact, I was beginning to shake. Since my youth the Sea has drawn me. Often I have turned aside to visit. Never before, however, had She spoken so clearly. I was both astonished and intrigued. Was She truly speaking, or was my imagination getting the best of me? Lest the mystery of the moment disappear, I hastened to ask a question which had haunted me for years.


            "Am I anything?," I asked. "If I am not the 'I' or selves I imagine myself to be, am I anyone at all?" A shudder moved through me as I raised the question.


            "You are one," She replied. "Since the moment when they cut your cord from Me, you have been a separate individual, one apart. You exist in the activation of your given capacities such as your ability to breathe, sense, feel, think, speak, and do. As breath moves in and out, you can say, 'I am breathing.' When you sense some part of the world around you--for instance, when you see Me--then you are seeing. When you hear Me rush over a bed of rocks or dash against the shore, you are hearing.


            "If emotions swell within your breast, you are feeling. Then you may say, 'I am afraid,' or, 'I am excited.' As thoughts move across your mind, you may say, 'I am thinking,' or, 'I am remembering...' If you open your mouth to express yourself, you are speaking. In honest deeds, you are acting. In each of these ways, you are being yourself. You exist in doing any of them.


            "Even so, you are not an 'it'. You are not a separate 'thing'--soul, self, or I--who exists apart from the activation of these physical capacities. When you are seeing, you literally are seeing. Seeing is who you are just then. If sight were your only capacity, you would cease to exist if you stopped seeing.


            "If you say, as anger moves within your breast, 'I am angry,' you make a literal statement. In that instant, you are angry. Angry is who you are. You are not a separate 'I' who happens to feel angry. You are angry. If you are recalling an event from yesterday, you can literally say, 'I am remembering.'Remembering is you, just then.


            "Engaging in an honest deed, you are doing. Doing is who you are. When any capacity is activated, you exist in its expression. Without breathing, sensing, feeling, thinking, speaking, or doing, you do not exist.


            "You are like a hurricane which comes to be when winds reach 75 miles per hour. At that point in the activation of the wind, a hurricane is named as though it were an it. When the winds of your existence begin to blow, you too are named. You come to be in the activation of your capacities, yet not as an 'it'--only as the living of potential.


            "Because the scope of your capacities is great, you are not dependent on any of them. You can exist in feeling without thinking. You can be thinking without speaking. Your activation in doing requires neither feeling, thinking, or speaking. Finally, you can be breathing, without activating any other capacities.


            "Also, the size of your brain allows you to be aware of yourself in each mode of existence. You can breathe and know of your breathing at the same time; feel and be aware of feeling; speak, and be conscious of speaking.


            "The capacity for consciousness is a great gift, allowing your sense of time. Self-awareness lets you profit from mistakes, plan ahead, make promises, and wait. But the blessing contains the seed of a curse. Consciousness also allows the illusion of a separate existence apart from all bodily capacities.


            "Because you can consciously realize yourself in the activation of each capacity, it is easy to conclude that you exist independently of them. The breadth of your possible expressions adds to the temptation. As a thinking person who is not feeling at the moment, you logically recognize yourself to be more than emotions. Since you know you can act without thinking, speak without feeling, sense without talking, and breathe without doing ought else, logically you may conclude that you exist apart from any and all capacities.


            "This is the tragic conclusion which allows you to imagine yourself an 'it'. If you fall for the idea, you escape into a mental coffin. An 'I', ego, self, soul, personality, or any other 'it' is an illusion only. You may be breathing, sensing, feeling, thinking, speaking, doing, or many combinations, but you do not exist apart from the activation of one or more of your given capacities.


            "You are one, but not an 'it'."


            I was awed by Her answer. How could She know so much? I realized then the power which had called me to stop at Her bank on this foggy morning. Many other questions flooded my mind; yet I dared not ask more. I needed time to absorb the awareness She had alreadygiven me.


            Returning to my car, I knew I would meet Her again.


**********




WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?


            I was in one of my familiar double-binds on that warm July afternoon. I knew what I ought to do, that is, what I had been taught to do, but somehow I just couldn't feel right about it. What I wanted to do was the exact opposite of what I felt I should. I told myself, "You shouldn't want to do that." Paul's words in the Bible jumped to my mind: "The good that I would I do not, and the evil which I would not, I do." How could I be so confused? All of a sudden I turned to Her and blurted out: "What's wrong with me?"


            She wildly plunged on Her way, as though ignoring my awesome question. I waited, daring Her to answer. After what seemed an endless time, She spoke without once stopping or even looking up at me.


            "You are many," She said, "rather than the one you are."


            I shot angrily back, "What do you mean, many?" I recalled an image of a crazy man in the Bible who said, "My name is Legion, for we are many." Certainly I was confused at the moment, but I didn't think I was crazy.


            Ignoring my anger, She laughed and continued: "You have many imaginary selves residing in your mind, each one pretending to be the real you. They parade around the halls of your head, keeping the one you are in subjection. They direct you, as well as judge, criticize, condemn, praise, and compliment. You hardly stand a chance of being yourself, because of the many 'I's' you have around. You are continually in a state of conflict, with your I's battling yourself. Not trusting yourself, you allow these imaginary entities to rule your life on most occasions."


            The devilish Lady could apparently read my mind, for then She said, "Yes, your name could be Legion. You are indeed many."



            The sobering truth of Her observation slowly pierced the armor of my anger. She was right. I am many. Only on rare occasions do I become myself. Most of the time I am what the Bible calls "a double-minded man." Or triple. Or quadruple. I remembered Her response when I had asked, "Who am I?" She had referred to my expression, "I said to myself." I did not understand at the time, but now it began to make sense to me. If I can speak to myself, then I must be divided within. I asked Her to tell me more.


            "You continually exist as if there are at least two persons present in your mind: one, whom you refer to as 'myself', and another you designate as 'I'. When you say, 'I said to myself,' I have the image of 'yourself' down in your skin, and an 'I' on a cloud talking to you--all, of course, in your own mind."


            I began to recall other such expressions I use. Earlier, I had told myself, "You shouldn't want to do that." "Is that what you mean?," I asked, repeating myself--as though She could not read my mind.


            "Exactly," She replied. "It is as though you are an 'I' speaking to 'yourself' down below. In this instance your 'I' is condemning yourself for what you want to do."



            I remembered earlier in the morning when I had forced myself to go to work. Before I could ask, She continued, "Yes, that is the same, You function as though you would not work if your 'I' did not force you. Your 'I' plays watchdog with yourself." 


            "But that is necessary," I protested. "I do not trust myself. If I didn't force myself, I'd never go to work:" Then my words struck me. I realized I had confessed that I consider myself untrustworthy.


            She smiled acceptingly before continuing. "Yes, that is what is wrong with you. You presume yourself to be an inadequate and defective bit of creation. You act as though God made a mistake in creating you. Assuming yourself untrustworthy, you have created these imaginary 'I's' to direct your life. They tell you what you should think, feel, say, and do. They praise you when you follow their dictates and condemn you when you err. They are the cruel master's of your fate.


            "Fortunately they are not real. Your 'I's' exist only in your imagination. You created them in the distant past, when you began to doubt yourself. Fearing yourself, you fled into these imaginary 'I's'. Your Adam said, 'I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.' You sewed fig leaves about your naked self, and escaped into the 'I's' of your mind. Since then your work has been a curse.


            "Continuing to hide yourself, you have repeatedly fled to the 'I's' in your head. Refusing to be your naked self, you have become a god in your own mind. Satan said, 'You shall be as god,' and you believed him. Gradually you have developed, maintained, and advanced these imaginary 'I's'--the gods in your head--until you sometimes believe they are truly you. Suppressing yourself and indulging your 'I's', you often forget who you are. Instead of being yourself, you reside on the clouds of your mind, playing God with who you are. The naked Adam gets lost behind the fig leaves of your mind. Only the imaginary 'I's, who fear the responsibility of tending to Eden, are left to inhabit your world."



            With that She continued lustily on Her way, pausing only to say, "Goodbye, Legion."


            I cried.


**********




IS THERE A GOD?


            Six inches of snow fell during the night. Only when the crisp sun awakened me did I rise to welcome the white stranger. In the intimacy of her presence I moved to the edge of the bluest captured Sea I have ever seen. In that wilderness sanctuary I worshipped God. What else could I do?


            Soon, however, my feet got cold. I suppose it was one of my assorted 'I's' who first raised the doubt. Anyway, I began speculating in my mind's eye. What am I doing here shivering in the morning air? Who do I think I am worshipping? What is God? Finally the critical question emerged. Turning to Her Blue Majesty, I asked aloud: Is there a God?"


            Expecting to be reprimanded for even asking the question, I was thoroughly amazed at Her quiet answer: "No," She said, "There is not a God."


            Much to my own surprise I rebelled immediately. "What do you mean, 'there is not a god'?" I have been religious all my life, and though I have sometimes doubted God's existence, I had never heard anyone I respected say openly, 'There is not a God.'


            As usual She took no offense at my rebellion. She calmly continued: "There is not a God," placing emphasis on 'a'. "God is, certainly, but God is not an 'it' which can be set apart as 'a' God. Just as you are not an 'it', neither is God."


            It sounded like gobblydegook to me. "You're just playing with words," I challenged.


            Again ignoring my interruption She continued. "God exists in the creating universe, in the being of all that is. God is the Ultimate in Reality, the Supreme in Being. Wherever there is reality, God is. All being is God's manifestation.


            "He exists in Me. When you think you hear Me thunder in My waves, you hear God speak through My voice. When you see Me roll endlessly on the shore, you see God in My form. He came silently during the night, cloaked in falling snow. He awakened you this morning, dressed in sunlight.


            "When you hear a quail call, 'Bob-bob-white,' and you think, 'It's only a bird,' you are wrong. It is God singing His song through the voice of the quail. He speaks Himself likewise in the night wind, the baby's cry, the animal's wail, and the laughter of the rustling leaves.


            "God shows Himself in the blooming flowers, the towering trees, and in each animal which drinks at My bank. You can smell Him now in this morning air. God is all and in all. Whenever creation unfolds itself, God is revealed. In fact, one of the names of God is Creating. God is creating."


            At this point I interrupted. "You mean Creator, don't you?" I have been taught that God is the Creator of the universe.


            "No," She said, "a creator is an it, a separate entity. God is not an it. God is Creating, but not a creator. He is always Creating, but never an entity which creates."


            I did not understand. "Are you saying that God is creation rather than a Creator?" I have heard that some religions identify God with all creation, saying He is everything.


            "No," She replied again. "God is neither a creator nor the creation you perceive. He is neither an objective maker of the world nor the objective world itself. He is not an object. Rather He is Creating. The statement is literal. God is Creating. Creating is God. When Creation is going on, God is being revealed because He is Creating.


            "I told you that God reveals Himself in all creation, not that He is creation itself. When you see the sun shine, you may see God revealed yet God is not the sunshine itself. Many see the sunshine without seeing God."



            Still I did not understand. Perhaps She used the word, Creating, in an unfamiliar way. I asked,"What do you mean by Creating?"


            "Creating is bringing into being. It is making, unfolding, bringing the new into existence. Creating is living. Each time a flower blooms, God creates beauty. When the snow fell last night, He created this winter wonderland. Each time an animal is himself, God is creating life. Each new season is God's creation. He is continually creating in the evolution of the universe."



            "But what about death?" I asked. "How is God related to dying?"


            "Death is as much a part of creation as is birth," She replied. "There is a natural rhythm in all of life--the rising of birth and the falling of death. Each is a creative act. God is Creating in birth; He also is Creating in death. The death of one form is the birth of another. When an animal falls to the earth, the elements of his body are recreated in other life forms. Continually God is Creating through birth and death."



            "What about existence beyond death?," I asked. "Isn't God also related to those already dead?"


            "No," She said. "God is Creating in life only--in the arising of growth and falling of dying, but not after death. As your Jesus said, 'God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.'"


            I wanted to interrupt and ask further about death, but She continued. "God is Omnipotence. He is Unlimited Power. Each display of power is a show of His strength. He flexes His muscles in the lightning's flash and thunder's roll. He breathes His power in the wind. When I crash upon the shore you see Him tapping His fingers on the sand. The beat of the eagle's wing against the air is but a fleck of God's Omnipotence.


            "And He is Omniscience. Ultimate Knowledge is another name for God. All Knowing is Him. When I speak the truth to you, I voice a fragment of God. As the earth yields its knowledge, God is made known. He is spoken in the secrets of the universe. Glimpses of good are but the skirt of God. When one knows, he is knowing God.


            "He also is Immortality. Unending Existence is another of God's names. The life and death of each element in the universe is an expression of His continual being. You and I, as mortals, are forms in which He who is Immortality is temporarily clothed. He plants eternity in our hearts."



            At this point I realized She had continually referred to God as He. Although I felt ridiculous in asking, I wanted to clarify the point. "Is God a male?"


            No breeze yet stirred the morning air. Still, ripples began to move across Her face. I realized She was chuckling at my question. I laughted too.


            "As I told you,"She said, "God is not 'a' anything. He is neither 'a' male nor 'a' female. I use He in deference to your language structure, which requires the use of gender in personification. When we name God, your language requires designation as He, She, or It. I use He only because of your tradition. God could as easily be referred to as She or It. In fact, 'She' would be a more accurate designation in many instances. Sex, as an expression of power and creativity, is but one of God's revelations."


            The idea that God is not an 'a' anything struck me with force just then. I had been thinking of Him as an omnipotent Being, which would also be an 'a'. Reflecting on what She had said, I realized She used nouns rather than adjectives. She referred to God as Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Immortality--not as omnipotent, omniscient, or immortal. I wondered if this was coincidence. Before I could ask, She answered:


            "God is revealed in sexuality, just as He is shown in power, knowledge, and mortality. Yet He is not a separable being who is either sexual or powerful. As I said, God literally is Omnipotence, not simply an omnipotent one. He is Omniscience, rather than one who is omniscient. Immortality is one of His names, not a description of His tenure. God is Supreme Being, not simply a being which is supreme. Whenever you see power, knowledge, or mortality, you have witnessed one of His revelations. Whenever being occurs, the Supreme in Being is present. God literally is All and in All. He is the Ultimate in Reality."


            I stood silently for a long time, sensing that language had been pushed to its limit. Yet I needed more time to grasp its import. The chill in my feet again rose to my mind. Lost in thought, I retraced my tracks to the warm fire outside my tent.


**********




WHEN AM I MYSELF?


            I skirted Her shores deep in the woods on a winter afternoon, carefully recalling what She had said about God. The phrase, all and in all, kept coming to mind. It began to dawn on me that She had spoken of His revelation in nature--in flowers, trees, animals, and Herself--yet She had said nothing about people."I too am a part of nature," I thought. "What does God have to do with me?" I knew She was eavesdropping on my thoughts, so I turned and asked: "Is God revealed in me also?"


            "He exists in you when you are being yourself," She said. I fancied a smile on Her face.


            "What do you mean, 'When I am being myself'?" I asked. "I am always being myself." Even as I spoke, my lie became apparent. Yet I persisted. "Who else could I be, other than myself?"


            I knew She saw through my protestation. Kindly, however, She spoke my mind for me. "Sometimes you are yourself," She affirmed. "You were yourself when you worshipped God on my snowy banks that morning. But soon you fled, as you do so often, into the imaginary 'I's' in your mind. Denying your own immediate experience of worship, you escaped into one of your fictional selves. You knew God's presence at that moment, yet you fled into your speculative 'I'. Whenever you leave yourself, becoming an entity in your mind, you die. You cease being yourself in that very instant. God no longer exists in your awareness. Though you do not think of your escape in these terms, you become a false god in your own head. Rather than being who you are, you start playing god with yourself.


            "It matters not what this fictional god, which you call 'I,' does. Whether he pats you on the back for being good, criticizes you for being bad, or engages in such pointless academic endeavors as asking Me if there is a God, the death has already occurred. You have ceased to exist whenever you pretend to be an imaginary 'I.'"


            "Well," I thought--to myself, of course--"She knows how dead I actually am." Being exposed, I thought I might as well pursue the matter further. "Will you explain?" I asked. "How can you tell the difference between my 'I's' and myself?"


            "When you are being yourself you are activating one or more of your human capacities. You are breathing, sensing, feeling, thinking, or expressing yourself in words or deeds. You are creating. Your power, knowledge, and mortality are activated. Just as I am being a lake now, you are being human then.


            "At any given time you may be looking and listening at the wondrous world in which we live--feeling the peace, joy or anger in your breast; silently thinking your own thoughts; voicing what you sense, feel, or think; doing an honest act; or dreaming in the womb of the night. In each of these activities you will be yourself, a son of God. His Creating will be shown in your living. Omnipotence will be reflected in your power, Omniscience in your knowledge, and Immortality in your humanity. When you are yourself, He is revealed in you also.


            "As yourself, you are one, a whole, independent person. No division exists within you. You have integrity, that is, are integrated at the time. Heart does not war with head. No independent 'I's' separate you from the 'myself' in your mind. You are then what you are. As yourself, you exist with power; knowing, you know who you are; mortally, you go along your own way.


            "Regrettably, you seldom be yourself. Instead of being who you are, you most often pretend to be what you are not. You function as a false god, existing before others as an image. Concealing your true identity--hiding your feelings and thoughts--you speak and act to deceive them. Instead of voicing yourself, you speak falsely, to convey an impression you think will please them. Rather than doing your honest activities before them, you pretend by acting falsely. You strive to keep up a reputation instead of doing your own deeds.


            "Even when alone or in the privacy of your mind, you escape yourself by moving into your imaginary 'I's.' You have pretended to be these assorted 'I's' for so long that you actually believe they are you. When you say, 'I said to myself,' you truly think you are the 'I.' That 'I' is a false god."


            The phrase, false god, struck me. "Why do you refer to me as a false god?" I asked. "Certainly I do not think of myself in a godly way."


            "The issue is not how you think," She replied," but how you live. Your humble image of yourself is but another of the deceptive tricks of your godly 'I.' Think what you will; most often you exist in a god-like manner. For instance, you are not content to activate your limited human power, accepting its natural boundaries. You assume Omnipotency--strength and potency you do not actually possess. You pretend to be more powerful than you truly are, both with others and yourself."



            "Be specific," I implored. "In what ways have you seen me pretend to be omnipotent?" My question was half-denial and half-invitation. I feared the answer; yet I wanted to know.


            She gently continued. "Although you are, in fact, limited in every area, you act before others as though you can do anything. With some you act unmovable, as though you can stand anything, without response. You pretend they do not hurt, anger, amuse, or arouse you. With others, you act as though you possess godly powers for helping and healing. You sincerely believe you can make people feel good or bad.


            "At times you become a godly dictator, assuming rights over other creatures and people. You act as though you truly own the dog which lives with you. Sometimes you function as though you own your friends, spouse, and children. You treat them like servants who exist only to support you or cater to your every whim. You expect your spouse to love you, no matter how you act, as though it were your innate right. Only God deserves love. Constantly you use people as though they are objects in your possession. Often you look down on those who are unlike you--those who think, dress, speak, or act differently. Only a god can look down on any person.


            "Sometimes, in your car, you act as though you own the highway, assuming rights over all pedestrians and even other drivers. How dare they delay you for a second at a green light! Although your Bible implores you to be a good steward, taking responsible dominion over the created order, you act as though you are the god of the land with the right to abuse, foul, and destroy the earth if you wish.


            "Your assumed omnipotence is revealed in the threat you feel when you approach the limits of your physical endurance or sexual potency. Accepting being tired or needing rest is like an admission for you. You delay going to a doctor as though it would be a defeat. Any sign of weakness is treated with contempt. The idea of needing help--physical or emotional--is quite unacceptable to you. Only God is without weakness.


            "You play games to prove yourself rather than for fun. Seldom can you take losing lightly. You make love as though it were a contest. The bed becomes but another battleground for proving your potency. Competitors and lovers become enemies and conquests for you."



            "Stop! Stop!" I interrupted. "You have said enough. I see how I act omnipotent." I was devastated. Never had I felt more attacked in such a short time. I stumbled on blindly for two hours, before regaining my presence of mind. "Ok," I thought, "so I do sometimes act like a superman. Surely I do not pretend to be the smartest person in the world." Turning to Her once more, I asked, "What about omniscience? You don't see me pretending godly knowledge, do you?"


            As though there had been no interruption, She continued, "Yes, you pretend even more omniscience than omnipotence."


            I was startled, and almost too afraid to ask. Yet I wanted to know. "Tell me how," I dared.


            "Often you act as if you know it all. You pretend to have ultimate knowledge, to know how things are, rather than to accept the limited human condition of knowing only how I have found things to be. You pretend to others, and often to yourself, to know how things should be done. Freely you tell others what they ought to do. Even when you do not tell, you often believe you know.


            "You have, as your Bible describes, eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Forgetting that humans are limited to pragmatic findings, constantly subject to revision in light of new discoveries, you believe that you truly know what is good and what is evil. As a false god, you think you know right from wrong. I would not make such a judgment. I know what I have seen and experienced, but never presume to hold a final truth. Even what I tell you now may be discarded tomorrow if I discover new knowledge."


            Strangely enough, I was fascinated rather than offended. Though She was describing me perfectly, I felt a sense of relief in being forced into the open. She continued:


            "Whenever you assume the right to judge--either to praise or condemn--you reveal your false omniscience. We mortals can respond positively or negatively; we can like or dislike, but we never have the right to judge. Only God can judge. When you move from 'I don't like' to 'That is bad,' you have donned God's cap. To step from 'I like you' to 'You are good,' is to abandon humanity in favor of a false godhood. Whenever you pretend to know a good thing from a bad one, a good day from a bad day, a good person from a bad person, a good feeling from an evil one, or any right from any wrong, you have stepped beyond the borders of humanity.


            "That you have assumed a degree of omniscience is further reflected in the abhorrence you feel over any signs of ignorance. You are threatened when you do not know the answer to a question. Often you go ahead and give an answer, even when you are uncertain, rather than admit your ignorance. You find it difficult to openly say, 'I do not know,' as though a chink in the armor of your omniscience would be a fatal flaw.


            "Sometimes you make mistakes rather than admitting your ignorance through asking a question. I have never seen you as open with your fellow humans as you are with Me. Around them, you appear to have all the answers, to know it all. Your fear of sounding dumb is certainly beyond the limits of reason. Yes," She concluded, "your assumed omniscience is abundantly evident."



            I had nothing to say. The truth of her description was irrefutable. Going ahead seemed the only logical course. Somewhat numbly, I asked, "What about my immortality?"


            I know this sounds ridiculous, but I think She smiled before answering. Then gently, She asked in a rhetorical tone, "What immortality? Only God is forever. You are mortal. It is true you often pretend to be everlasting. You sometimes act as though you have all the time in the world. You delay living as though you will always have tomorrow.


            "Ignoring the fact that you are continually in the process of dying, subject to immediate termination by accident, you think and speak in such terms as, 'If I die,' rather than, 'When I die.' Accordingly, you take life for granted. When parting from friends, you frivolously say, 'See you later,' rather than a respectful, 'Goodbye,' realizing you may never see them again. Most of your moments are left empty because you believe you have an endless supply.


            "Even though you say you are mortal, and that you know you 'will die someday,' your living belies the shallowness of your belief. Obviously you think you are immortal."


            I was stunned by the weight of this realization. In fleeting moments I had previously chanced a glimpse at being mortal, but never had the full import of my assumed immortality struck me with such force.


            Quietly I turned away, not daring to face Her. Without looking back, I walked deep in the woods.


**********




HOW CAN I KNOW GOD?


            A month passed before I dared to return. Confronting my false godhood proved to be the greatest challenge I have ever faced. My waking hours were consumed in constant reminders of how omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal I pretend to be. Even my dreams were not untouched by the challenge. On three separate nights I woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare about dying.


            Gradually I began to face another issue. If I am to give up my own false godhood, how can I know the real God? It was late on a March afternoon when I met Her at sunset and asked, "How can I know God?"


            "God is known in not-knowing," She said quietly. "One knows God only in facing mystery. As you dare to stand in awe in the world, with other people, and as yourself, you will meet Him at every turn. He will show Himself in every raindrop and snowflake, in the eyes of every stranger and friend, and in yourself--when you are you."


            "What do you mean by not-knowing?" I asked. "That is a nonsense phrase. How can I know through not-knowing? Either one knows or he does not." No doubt I amused Her again. Ripples moved across Her lovely face.


            "Technically you are correct," She replied.


            I could not believe the admission. With Her it seems I am always wrong.


            "However," She continued, "you equate knowing with comprehending or understanding. God is never known in this fashion. In fact, the way we know God appears to be the exact opposite of such knowing. That is why I call it not-knowing. Only when you move beyond the borders of intellectual comprehension will you catch a glimpse of God."


            "Do you mean I must be ignorant?" I asked.


            "No," She said. "I mean you must accept the fact that your so-called knowing is partial, limited, subject to change, and perhaps completely in error. You must abandon knowing for sure. By your definitions that is not-knowing. In your false godhood you have assumed omniscience--ultimate knowledge. You act as though you truly know some things for certain. Such assumed knowledge prevents your knowing God. As a false god, you can never meet God.


            "Conversely, by abandoning your omniscience, giving up ultimate knowledge or not-knowing, you become truly human again. Becoming yourself, you are granted the privilege of knowing God."



            Although I followed Her logic, the meaning of not-knowing still eluded me. For me, to not-know is to be ignorant. I could not comprehend how stupidity could be the avenue to knowing God. All my life I have tried to understand. Now She tells me I must be dumb to know God!


            "Not dumb," She said, apparently reading my mind again, "but openly accepting the truth of your limitations and God as Omniscience. Your problem lies not in your definitions and observations but in your conclusions. You may freely name, define, observe, and respond, but, if you would know God, you can never conclude that your observations are ultimately right. That is omniscience and is the domain of God only. When you pretend to enter, becoming a false god yourself, you negate your opportunity for knowing Him.


            "For instance, you may observe a rose and define the color you perceive as red. That is within the range of human limitations. However, if you proceed to conclude that the rose is red, you have assumed an ultimate knowledge which is false. To you, the rose appears red because you have named the wave length of light you perceive as red. It looks red to you. To say, 'I see the rose as red,' is as far as you can go, remaining human. In fact, other wave lengths of light are also reflected from the rose. Bees see a wave length which you name ultraviolet. If a bee could argue, and cared to, he might say, 'No, the rose is not red; it is ultraviolet.'


            "The point is, you cannot conclude, as a limited human, what color a rose is. You may speak only of the way you perceive it. Even other humans, whom you call color blind, may see it in a different light. Furthermore, the flower in your vision is a rose only by your own definition. To a bee it may be a honeypot, rather than a rose. In fact, it is a flower only by your classification. To call it a flower is but to speak of your accepted human way of subdividing phases in the process of the plant. To Me it is not a flower; it is one of the faces of God.


            "When you see this face of God you say, 'That flower is just a red rose.' You conclude that you truly know what it is. Thereafter, you may dismiss it from your mind. You have no reason to stand in awe before it, because you have defined away its mystery. You do not see God's face because, in your own omniscience, you have displaced God. You think you know what it is.


            "Only by not-knowing will you ever see God's face in a rose. Only when you accept the limitations of your own perceptions, definitions, and observations will you be able to recognize His revelations. Even your conclusion that a rose is an 'it' must be abandoned. Perhaps the rose is a she. Maybe she thinks and feels in ways beyond your understanding. Perhaps she is God's favorite, loved more than you. To pluck her might be a gruesome murder in God's sight. Who are you to think yourself more important than this face of God?


            "Certainly you may have your observations and responses when you stand before her. You will not be dumb, pretending you have not classified her as a flower, named her a rose, and perceived her as red. Yet you will accept the limitations of your knowing. With your partial knowledge, you will also be open to the vast mystery which embraces your human limits. To you she may appear as a rose, but she can never be just a rose, if you are to know God. With your partial knowing, you will learn to stand in the eternal presence of not-knowing also.


            "As it is with the rose, so with every other part of creation. Each person is also a mystery. You may name a friend--or accept the name he gives you--observe how he looks to you, learn many facts about him, but you must never conclude that you know him if you would see God in his face. Forever your friend must remain a mystery to you, bordered by the limited number of facts you have about him. Once you fall for the illusion that you know him, you will take him for granted, thinking, 'Oh, that's just old Joe.' At that instant of knowing, you assume omniscience. You will forever thereafter miss the light of God in his eyes."


            I began to understand what She meant by not-knowing. Certainly I am limited in what I know. Although I avoid facing the fact, my ignorance often crashes in on me. Seldom do I stand in awe as She described. When I do not understand, I usually look for an answer or become afraid or angry. I try to figure people out, but am often disappointed when they reveal some facet contrary to my understanding of them. I feel let down. Then I avoid or reject the person because he has not lived up to my image of him. "What do you mean by standing in awe?" I asked.


            "Once you face the fact of your limited perceptions, giving up omniscience, you are ready to meet God. In that instant the ground becomes holy. You will stand in awe, perceiving His presence. Instead of retreating in fear, cloaking your finitude in anger, or looking down on a friend who has failed to live up to your expectations, you will stand in the awesome presence of the Ultimate in Reality. Accepting your finite knowledge as but a tiny reflection of Him who is Omniscience, you will dare stand openly before Him, naked in Eden. In the awesomeness of the moment you will know God, whom to know is life eternal."


            The awesomeness of the present moment overwhelmed me. I dared ask no more.


**********




HOW CAN I BECOME MYSELF?


            I walked along the shore, listening to Her music for several hours that morning. She unheedingly continued to be Herself. The thought crossed my mind, "If I could as consistently be me, wouldn't life be wonderful!" I asked, "How can I become myself as you are?"


            She continued to dash upon the shore for several moments before answering. "First you must die to 'I.' You cannot become who you are until you cease being the 'I' you are not. As long as you pretend to be the 'I' who speaks to yourself, you cannot become yourself. You must abandon the form of false godhood if you want to become the one you are created to be."


            Although She had often spoken of my false 'I,' still I was uncertain about what She meant. "Tell me more about this 'I' who must die," I asked.


            "I refer to the mythical god in your mind, revealed in such expressions as: 'I thought to myself,' 'I said to myself,' 'I made myself go to work,' 'I forced myself to think,' 'I analyzed myself,' 'I do not trust myself,' 'I got control of myself,' I am afraid of myself,' 'I patted myself on the back,' 'I condemned myself,'..."



            "Enough, enough," I said. I realized how often I think in such terms. "But isn't that just grammar?" I asked. "Do you mean I need to change my way of speaking?"


            "No," She replied. "Your speaking accurately reflects what you have become in your mind. You perceive yourself as the 'I' rather than the 'myself' to which you speak. Although it is a fiction, a false god, you have escaped yourself and become this imaginary 'I.' The issue is not grammar. It is existence. Sometimes you also refer to yourself as 'I.' If you speak truly in saying, 'I love you,' then you refer to yourself as 'I.' When you say, 'I decided that I ought to leave,' the first 'I' is the false god. The second 'I' is yourself. Whether you refer to yourself as 'myself' or 'I' is not the point. Your pretended existence as a separate one is the critical issue. That is the 'I' which must die if you are to become yourself.


            "So long as you exist in such a divided manner you are not free to become yourself. Energies designed for activating your potential, for breathing the breath of God through your lips, are dissipated in endless efforts to play god with yourself. So long as you are busy as an imaginary 'I,'--directing, judging, criticizing, or proving yourself--you are not free to be who you are. While you expend precious energies in producing false images, in building and maintaining reputations, in pretending to be what you are not, your finite reflection of the Infinite lies dormant.


            "Furthermore, to play god with yourself is to remain in a continual double-bind. Whether you, as a false god, direct yourself properly or improperly, still you are double-minded. In telling yourself what to do, you are like a parent directing a child. Suppose you tell yourself to relax. 'You ought to relax,' says your godly 'I.' Now you are trapped. If you refuse to obey, you hurt yourself by remaining tense. If you follow orders as a dutiful child, you may win points with your godly 'I,' but you lose the confirmation and integrity inherent in making personal choices. You are in a double-bind, damned if you do, damned if you don't. In either case you are not free to be yourself."



            "But how?" I asked. "How do I go about dying as an 'I'?"


            "You abandon false godhood by relinquishing each godly attribute--omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality," She replied. "You become weak, dumb, and in the process of dying. In giving up omnipotency, you stop pretending to have strength you do not actually possess. You cease being an 'I' who can do whatever he wants to. You become the relatively weak human you are. When tempted to flee into the 'I' who needs no one and can stand anything, you will resist. Accepting weakness, you will not be ashamed to ask for guidance.


            "Naturally, you will stop pretending to be a dictator in the world. Realizing that you have no inherent rights beyond becoming yourself, you will stop acting as though you own the land, things, animals, or people. For instance, you will cease pretending to have a spouse. Your wife will become the mysterious woman who lives with you, rather than the object you now pretend to own. You will encounter plants and animals as a steward rather than an owner.


            "Even when invited to become a god by other people--through their admiration, praise, or worship--you will steadfastly resist. Realizing that you lack the power to bear the burden of any other man, you will carefully limit your service to meeting and walking with your fellow man. Never will you presume to live his life for him or to use him in supporting your own.


            "When you approach the limits of your given strength, you will welcome weakness as an acceptable friend in the household of your life. As you avoid playing god with the lives of others, so you will resist the temptation with yourself. You will never abuse your body. Recognizing it as Spirit's temple, you will accept its limits gracefully. Instead of using it to prove yourself, you will respectfully become your embodied self.


            "In like manner you will stop pretending to be omniscient. Because you have played the game for so long, you will first have to unfigure the world. You think you have things figured out. You believe that you know how things are. Your false godhood rests on the shaky foundation of your own understanding. Often you think you have another person figured. Sometimes you even presume to understand yourself. Before you can become yourself, you must unfigure the world and all its contents, including yourself."



            "What a strange phrase," I though--"unfiguring the world." For as long as I can remember, I have attempted to figure things out. I have assumed that the path of happiness is through understanding. Not only have I tried to mentally grasp the outside world; even more diligently I have attempted to figure myself out. Self-understanding has been a life long goal. Constantly I ask, "Who am I, really? Which is the real me?" I could not grasp the idea of "unfiguring the world." "Please explain," I begged.


            For what seemed an endless time, She rolled noisily on the shore--first advancing, then retreating. Obviously She does not respond to begging. In frustration I waited, wishing I knew how to force an answer. After I calmed down, assuming our meeting was over, She quietly replied.


            "I can only tell you what you already know."


            While I puzzled over that cryptic remark, She continued. "To unfigure the world is to erase all names, categories, reasons, explanations, and conclusions, save for practical purposes only. It is to dismantle your ideas which have become walls instead of bridges. For instance, naming is a pragmatic tool for thought and speech. One needs to name in order to refer to. However, naming easily becomes an escape to, and an excuse for, false godhood. You may name a person for practical purposes, but naming in no way removes his mystery. Yet you deceive yourself, becoming an 'I,' by concluding that in knowing his name you know the person. In like manner, you may name a certain fruit, apple, for convenience in reference. Yet to conclude that you know what the fruit is, when you have only the name you have given it, is to succumb to omniscience.


            "So with all labels and categories. In fact, each is but one of your mental forms. Labels are useful in thinking and speaking, yet they never define. Reasons and explanations are also useful in coping. You can discern an earlier step in a process, label it the cause, and have a helpful tool in coping with the process. For example, you may observe that a dark cloud often precedes rain. You may say the cloud is the reason for or cause of the rain. Such explanations are useful in avoiding being rained on. However, your reasons in no way define that which you say they cause. You do not understand the rain simply by figuring out what causes it.


            "It may also be useful to observe the following steps in a process which you call the results or conclusion. To note that darkness follows the setting of the sun is useful in knowing when to light your candle. After observing this process repeatedly, you may decide that darkness is the conclusion of day. Such observations can be helpful in coping with the world. However, to conclude that the observed results allow you to know the world is a serious mistake. That you have observed three steps in a process which you name the reason, the event, and the conclusion, does not mean that you know what it is. Armed with your information you will be better prepared to cope with the process, yet without a final understanding.


            "Unfortunately, you have not been content to leave your names, categories, explanations, and conclusions as practical devices only. With them, you have marched on to assume false godhood. Knowing about, you have fallen for the illusion that you know. You have used figuring out as an escape from facing mystery in life. That is why I say you must unfigure the world. Before you can become yourself, you must reduce all your explanations and categories to the status of mental devices only."



            "But how can I do that?,"I asked. "What is the way of unfiguring?"


            "You may begin with things," She said. "That will be easier. Pick up a stone." After I held one in my hand for several moments, She continued. "In the beginning you may be tempted to throw it down, concluding, 'Oh, it's just a rock.' That is your false 'I' speaking. A stone is 'just a rock' in your mind only. Instead of relying on your pre-figured conclusion, unfigure it. Say to the stone, 'Before, I have used a classification, which I learned as a child, to keep you boxed-up in my mind's eye. I have mistakenly acted as though having a name is the same as knowing who you are."



            "Wait," I interrupted, "Do you mean you want me to actually talk to this rock? Aloud? People would think I am crazy."


            "So what," She replied, "that is their problem. If you want to become yourself, you must unfigure the stone. You have figured it out and used your information as an escape to omniscience. To have named a rock does not mean to know it. If you would become yourself and see God's face in a stone, you must first unfigure it. Certainly you may keep your name, rock, plus whatever facts you have acquired about stones in general, but now you must proceed to face its mystery also. The stone may become God's way of speaking to you at this time.


            "After confessing to the stone your crime of omniscience, begin to unfigure each conclusion you have placed on it. Stand openly with it. Without judgment, look carefully at each of its faces. See its colors and contours. See it in context. Look at the shadows it makes. Observe its participation with its surroundings. Touch it, gently, allowing for a tenderness you have assumed it does not possess. Caress its surface. Previously you have judged stones to be dirty. Unfigure your conclusion. Perhaps it is cleaner than the hand which touches it. Smell it for hidden fragrances. Free your heart to respond to God's mysteries cloaked in the rock. Loose your mind from the prison of its classifications. Allow the stone to awaken memories and initiate fantasies. Listen for God to call your own name from the cracks and crannies of the mysterious silent world of the stone. In unfiguring a rock you may find yourself."


            Apparently She recognized that I did not think I could talk to a rock at that time. Respecting my embarrassment, She continued with instructions. "Next you may practice with a plant. Any one will do. Select a weed by My shore. Though you have learned to call it a weed, and have concluded it to be worthless, unfigure the one you select. Hopefully you will have no name for it. Respect is easier without a title. First, say 'hello' as a sign of your recognition. Say, 'Hi, Little Stranger, may I meet you today?' "



            Again the idea of talking to a weed struck me as preposterous. I did not think I could stoop to such a ridiculous act.


            She smiled, seeing my consternation. "That is your problem," she said. "You have played god with plants for so long that you actually believe you are better than they are. In your assumed omniscience you have concluded that only humans receive communication. How do you know the weed is not listening for you with ears unlike your own? For once, unfigure a weed. Treat it with the respect God deserves in each of His faces. If the weed does not say he is too busy to meet you just then, stop and visit awhile.


            "Introduce yourself. Honor him with the gift of your response. As with the stone, look carefully at his many colors and shapes. You may touch him if you wish, yet gently, since you do not know how sensitive he may be. Receive his aroma as a token of his response to you. Unfiguring any previous notions you have had about weeds in general, meet this one in particular. In the process, open your heart to him. Allow him, in the diversity of his forms, to call your mind to attention. Tell him who you are just then and listen for any revelations he may have for you. When your visit is concluded, wish him 'Godspeed' as you take leave of his presence.


            "In time you may begin to practice unfiguring the people you meet. Begin with a stranger, perhaps a clerk in a store. First, approach her with respect, realizing that God may reveal Himself in this unnamed creature. Fortunately, you will not have her name to use in an escape to omniscience. You will not be able to falsely conclude, 'Oh, I know her. That is Jane.' Even so, you may be tempted to call upon your other avenues to super-knowledge such as prejudice and judgment. This time, avoid them. Unfigure a stranger just this once. Draw no conclusions based on the color of her skin, the nature of her occupation, the structure of her face or figure, or the manner she presents.


            "Let this unnamed creation become the mysterious other which she in fact is. Unfigure even your prejudices about her sex. Approach her as someone, rather than as a clerk, a black, a skinny person, or even as a woman. Certainly you may observe these incidental facts, but do not use them as a springboard to omniscience. Remain on the level ground which allows humans to meet. Neither look down on or up to this one. Move respectfully into her presence, anticipating the light of God in her eyes.


            "Once there, continue to unfigure her. Instead of rushing to hasty conclusions, walk reverently into her mystery. Avoiding judgments, such as, 'She's too skinny,' 'Her nose is too short,' 'She is slow'--or smart, dumb, pretty, ugly or endlessly on--chance responding openly yourself. As with the stone and weed, look and listen. Receive her sights, sounds, and smells as introductory offerings on the altar of encounter. Honor each with the gift of your own response. Instead of attempting to figure her out, diligently engage in unfiguring her. Explore her wonder rather than categorizing her signs. Allow her to silently pluck a melody on the strings of your heart. Free your mind for this exciting venture in meeting. Perhaps she will awaken a sleeping memory or elicit a beautiful fantasy.


            "If feasible, you may enhance the encounter with words. If so, let your communication be a revelation of yourself rather than a device for pinning her down in your mind's eye. Ask not her name nor seek any information lest you be tempted to omniscience. Unfigure her. Die to your 'I' in this mysterious moment.


            "As you learn to unfigure stones, weeds, and strangers, proceed to unfigure the world. Accepting your limited understanding and using it for maintaining responsible dominion over the created order, carefully avoid any permanent conclusions. Let your knowledge always be tentative. Make no irrevocable constitution. Pass no laws which cannot be suspended. Let all rules be rules of thumb, subject to change in the light of new experience or information.


            "Never pretend to know it all about anything. You may say, 'This is how I have found it to be,' but never, 'This is how it is.' Allow ignorance as the necessary counterpart for knowledge. Welcome the dark side of your certainty as but another face of mystery. Stand as openly with your ignorance as with your surety. Freely say, 'I do not know.' Wonder always in the mysterious world where we live."


            Her words had a profound impact on me. They made sense in a way I had never felt before. I sat for a long time, pondering unfiguring the world. As always, my mind eventually returned to myself. "What about me?," I thought. "I am a part of the world." I remembered She had referred to unfiguring myself also. "What about me?," I asked.


            "What about you?" She replied, with emphasis on 'about.' Somehow She always seemed to take me literally, as though I meant exactly what I said.


            "I mean, what about unfiguring myself," I replied in a condescending tone.


            Ignoring my haughtiness, She continued. "But of course. Unfiguring the world is only a prelude to unfiguring yourself. Although you are godly with the outside world, you are far more omniscient with yourself. Freely you direct, suppress, praise, and condemn yourself as though you actually know who you are and what you should do. As long as you insist on playing god with your own life, you will never be free to become yourself."


            "That sounds ridiculous," I said, "Self-control is essential, and self-understanding makes it easier to get along with myself."


            My belligerence apparently amused Her. With a smile, She continued. "As yourself you will of course be aware of many personal facts. For practical reasons, as well as the pleasure of it, you will be continually alert both to the outside world and to yourself. Gather as much information as possible concerning your abilities, motivations, and limitations.


            "However, if you will die to your false godhood, you must abandon any objective conclusions about knowing who you ultimately are or will be. Your limits, as a human, will be, 'This is who I am just now. This is how I am feeling; this is what I now think.' To go beyond that is to assume godhood. If you unfigure yourself, you will abandon all prior conclusions about who you finally are. As God is undefinable, so you, as one of His expressions, will not be subject to definition. When you are being yourself, you too will be continually recreated; that is, you will be emerging in ever-new forms. Just when you conclude you will be a caterpillar for ever and ever, a butterfly will emerge from the cocoon. Limit your expressions to 'Now I am such and such . .,' always holding the door of your mind open to whomever you may become.


            "Judgments of yourself will be laid aside. As yourself, you may say, 'I feel good,' or, 'I feel bad at this time,' but never will you conclude, 'I am good'--or 'bad.' All judging is to be left to God. Nor will you cling to any other conclusions such as that you are smart, dumb, clever, stupid, handsome, ugly or crazy. Certainly you will relinquish all notions of being better or worse than any other person, animal or plant.

 

            "In like manner you will unfigure all conclusions about any of your emotions, memories, beliefs, fantasies, thoughts, or desires. As yourself you may declare what you feel, think, or want, but you are not to judge either as good or bad. Only as a false god can you presume to pass judgment on yourself or any of your attributes. Your human business is becoming yourself rather than judging yourself.

 

            "If you function in an inferior manner, you may say, 'I did poorly that time;' but never conclude, 'I am stupid.' If you perform well, you may say, 'I am pleased;' but do not say 'I am good.' If an emotion disturbs you, say, 'I am upset.' Never proceed to the judgment, 'That is a bad feeling.'

 

            "Eliminate should and ought from your vocabulary and practice. Both tempt you to omniscience. Only as a false god can you pretend to know what you should feel, think, want, say or do. Certainly you may deduct, based on your prior experience, and say, 'It appears to me that the most practical choice would be. . .' However, do not venture beyond the seemingly feasible to the domain of the ultimately right. Unfigure every should and ought which your godly 'I' pretends to know.

 

            "In dying to 'I' you abandon the right to praise or condemn, compliment or criticize yourself. Only as a double-minded person could you be judging yourself while engaged in being yourself. If you are one, all energy will go to being. None will remain for judging yourself good or bad.

 

            "Immortality is the third godly attribute you must abandon if you are to die to 'I.' Only God is forever. So long as you assume perpetual existence you remain a false god. Mortals have limited time. If you are to become yourself, you must quit living as though you have forever."

 

 

            I was so overwhelmed by the implications of what She said that I dared ask no more. Silently I nodded to Her, turned without saying goodbye, and walked away. It was to be weeks before I regained my mental balance after that meeting.

 

**********

 

 

 

HOW CAN I BE ME?

 

            For long days and endless nights I reflected on Her message about dying to 'I.' The weight of the necessity for giving up omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality was heavy upon me. Finally I turned to consider the positive aspects of becoming myself. She had said the dying must come first; I began to wonder what would be next. On a Spring afternoon I was ready to ask: "If I die to 'I,' what then?"

 

            "You will be ready for the rebirth of yourself," She replied. "Energies previously dissipated in forcing, directing, and judging yourself will be freed for the exciting process of becoming yourself. Years of developing and maintaining your 'I' have left the real you languishing in the womb of time. The death of the dictator precedes the rebirth of the creative one.

 

            "The goal is that you become one--that is, an integrated individual. Whereas you have been double-minded with a godly 'I' and an infant 'self,' you are to become single-minded. The inner division is to be phased into inner wholeness. Because of your fragmentation you have previously been pulled in many directions, torn between this and that. As one who is yourself you will be single-minded, focusing fully on one thing at the time."

 

            The language seemed strange and dramatic to me. Still, She sounded so certain that I tried to think in Her terms 'dying' and being 'reborn'. "What will I do as a 'reborn one'?" I asked.

 

            "Primarily you will be 'sponding' in the world where you live," She replied.

 

            I had never heard the word 'sponding'. "What do you mean?," I asked.

 

            "You will be continually promising yourself--committing yourself honestly. At each juncture in life you will be putting yourself on the line. 'Here I stand,' will be your constant theme song: 'This is what I think,' 'This is how I feel,' 'This is what I will do.' Like a perpetual flower, you will be continually unfolding yourself, always revealing the newest dimension of your heart. Like an insect in its cycle, you will be constantly unraveling your cocoon, freeing the butterfly within. Your Jesus once stood at the grave of a dead man, saying, 'Lazarus, come forth.' You, like Lazarus, will be continually rising from your tombs.

 

            "As you traverse your path, you will be regularly declaring yourself--feeling your own feelings, thinking your own thoughts, voicing your own ideas, and doing your own activities. In the fullest 'sponding' of yourself, in the becoming of all you can be, in the being of all you are, you fulfill God's highest call for you.

 

            "As you are 'sponding' yourself, so you will, in each instant, 're-spond' honestly to the world around you. Responding is the door to responsibility. Instead of walking in the world as a dead man cloaked as a false god, you will walk as a responsive human being. Without pretending to be omnipotent, omniscient, or immortal, you will be thoroughly human. Each dimension of your human capacities will be wholly activated."

 

            "Do you mean I will react more?" I asked.

 

            "No," She said. "You are to stop all reactions within the range of human choice. To react is to present a programmed response, to act out a learned pattern of behavior. Your 'I' is a reactor. To continue to react is to maintain false godhood. Instead, you will re-spond. In sponding you promise yourself to the world; in re-sponding you promise yourself back to that which the world gives you.

 

            "First, you respond with your senses. If the world gives you a sight to see, look openly at it. If it offers a sound, hear it completely. If a fragrance is wafted, receive it graciously. If your skin is encountered, touch honestly. Always respond sensually to the world around you. Your omniscient 'I' is blind and deaf. It reigns over the kingdom of your mind, insensitive to the world where you live. As yourself you will never be insensitive. Always you will be sensually alive to the gracious gifts presented on the altar of your senses.

 

            "For instance, if a plant enters your world, you will not show disdain by ignoring its presence. You will carefully look at its form, shapes, contours, and colors. Nor will you ignore the shadows and dancing figures created by its romance with the sun and wind. You will listen for any song it may sing in harmony with the breezes. Awakening your nose, you will receive each subtle fragrance as a gift from God. If the plant allows, you may gently touch its leaves and branches or taste its fruit, completing your sensual response to its wonder.

 

            "Next, you will open your heart in response to each offering of the world. Thawing the streams of your frozen emotions, you will respond with feeling. Your 'I' has no heart. It reacts as it has been programmed. No joy, anger, passion, or peace move within its breast. It is, as you say, 'cool.' When you die to 'I,' you will open the gate of your warmth. You will feel in response to whatever you sense.

 

            "Each emotion will be that one which honestly arises within your breast at the moment. In being yourself you will feel your own feelings. No attempt will be made to force any emotion or to deny one. You will feel whatever you feel rather than trying to feel what your 'I' says you 'should feel,' or trying to avoid what it says you 'should not.' Without judgment, you will experience fully each emotion which comes in response to the wonderful world in which we live.

 

            "As you sense and feel, so you will free your mind to think your own thoughts. The dictatorial 'I' which rules your mind with such an iron hand will be no more. You will be freed to think whatever you will. The prison doors of your memory will be opened. The gateway to fantasy land will be unlocked. You will personally reason out your own answers, discarding the beliefs of others as you hammer and shape your own ideas. Doubt will be welcomed as the closest friend of certainty. In any given instant, as you mentally respond to the world around you, you will rove as bidden among your memories, fantasies, and reasons. No corner of the rich domain of your mind will be unexplored.

 

            "As with feeling, your thinking will always be a present activity. That is, you will be thinking in the here and now, rather than 'having thoughts.' Your 'I' has thoughts. It merely re-entertains old ideas gathered in the past. It holds beliefs it has been taught and voices what it has been programmed to think. Never does it dare to doubt the old or to create new ideas. Being reasonable is constantly avoided. It selectively chooses to entertain only those memories which fit its programmed beliefs. It dictatorially guards the gates of your dreams and imagination lest you be tempted to become yourself through thinking your own thoughts.

 

            "Mental slavery will be abolished with the death of 'I.' No longer will you be forced to react with learned thoughts. The energies of your mind will not be dedicated to pretending to think what other people want you to think or to suppressing your natural thoughts. Nor will you dissipate your intellectual strength in the godly activity of judging yourself or any thought which crosses the screen of your mind. You will reasonably evaluate your ideas, weighing each on the scales of experience. But never will you banish one for being 'bad' or enthrone another for being 'good.'

 

            "In responding to the world you will sometimes choose to speak, voicing the current flow of your emotions or ideas. As one who is being himself, you will speak what you are feeling and thinking at the moment. Only for practical reasons will you voice old thoughts or tell about former feelings. Most often you will say, 'I think. . .' rather than, 'I have thought. . .,' 'I feel. . .,' instead of, 'I felt. . .' Your speech will be an additional revelation of yourself. You will speak to show yourself. As a flower reveals its heart in the wafting of its fragrance, so you will make known your soul in the truth of your words.

 

            "As an 'I' you often hid, using words to conceal rather than reveal yourself. You spoke in cliches, using verbal routines such as asking a memorized list of questions. The sounds of your mouth were cleverly devised to please or offend your hearers. All such deceptive speech will be abandoned as you become yourself. You will always speak honestly when you are you.

 

            "In like manner, your chosen deeds will be a revelation of the person you are. Your work will be a labor of love, an unfolding of your potential. Whatever you do will be done with heart. Though your labor be difficult, requiring the sweat of your brow, the strength of your arm, or the taxing of your mind, yet it will be done with joy because you have chosen to do it.

 

            "Never will you work for others or to please others. Though they may reap where you have sown or take pleasure in your labor, such results will always be secondary--beyond the scope of your purposes in working. Whether they praise or condemn the fruit of your labors will be incidental to you.

 

            "Because you work to express and reveal, you will listen for direction from within. In clarifying your mind, you may wonder, 'What will I do?' 'What is my next appropriate step?' 'What do I choose to do now?' Having died to your godly 'I,' you will never ask, 'What should I do?' or, 'What step ought I to take?' 'Should' and 'ought' are words for gods. Humans think in terms of 'will' and 'won't.' All decisions will be guided by God's spirit within."

 

 

            I skipped rocks on Her surface for an hour, contemplating Her words on responding. She had made sensing, feeling, thinking, speaking and doing seem so simple. At first I thought anybody could do that. Surely there must be more to being myself than merely sponding and re-sponding.

 

            In time, however, Her message began to trouble me. The apparent simplicity of Her directions turned into a profound challenge. I realized that in spite of years of attempting to analyze myself, I still do not know who I am. How can I freely respond when I do not know what I will think and feel? How can I speak my mind when I honestly do not know what I believe? How can I do my own labor when I am torn between doing so many things others want me to do? How can I be myself when I do not know who I am? I realized I have so long identified myself with what She calls my "false godhood," that I do not know the real me. What I have most often considered myself She says I must die to. If I give up being godly, will anything be left? How can I be sure I am somebody to become? Maybe dying to 'I' will eliminate me completely.

 

            With these questions flooding my mind, I spoke to Her again. "You have told me that sponding and re-sponding are to follow the death of 'I.' Yet I am afraid. How can I distinguish between the false god I have become and the real self which You say I may be? Can you give me directions?"

 

            "Your fear is in order," She replied. "Being oneself is a matter of great faith. You have given years to developing, perfecting, and pretending to be your godly 'I.' He is not likely to die easily. Nor will the rebirth of yourself be without its labor pains. As a false god you had the illusion of knowing for sure. No faith was required. As a human you will continually walk in the wondrous unknown. You will, indeed, live by faith. As you are learning to walk by faith rather than sight, follow these guidelines.

 

            "Always remain alert to your wants and desires. They are the most primitive expressions of who you are. Never move more than a step away from being able to say, 'Right now I want. . .' As a false god, you were continually analyzing your motives. You constantly asked 'Why?' As you become yourself you will realize that the only real reason is 'because I want to.' Your earlier efforts at analysis were designed to give your 'I' leverage in manipulating yourself. That effort will no longer be feasible as you die to 'I.' Now you will give attention to the deepest of all reasons as your primary means of staying in tune with yourself."

 

            Once more Her directions sounded deceptively simple. Thinking further, however, I realized that often I do not know what I want to say or do. Many times I am deeply fearful of my desires. In fact, I have often identified 'wanting' and 'evil.' Somehow I have learned to be suspicious of my deepest desires as though they are inherently bad.

 

            "Isn't there some connection between desires and evil?" I asked.

 

            "That is a trick which your godly 'I' plays on you," She said. "No desire is right or wrong within itself. Your 'I' condemns your desires as a device for keeping you in subjection to his wishes. Since desires rise from the heart of you, you will never rise in rebellion against his false godhood as long as you are separated from this deep expression of yourself. By keeping you suspicious of your wants he keeps you divided within. No one can be himself without continual awareness of his own desires."

 

            "But isn't it dangerous to want?" I asked, thinking of certain desires I have had. In moments of passion I have wanted to rape. In times of anger I have wanted to kill. Certainly these must be evil desires!

 

            "Wanting is the basis of your power to be," She responded. "If you do not want, you cannot be. Certainly desires initiate challenge, yet that is the fabric of life. The greater danger lies in not wanting. Then you are dead as yourself.

 

            "For practical reasons, many of your wants will not be expressed in their most elemental forms. They may be contained or translated into more feasible avenues. Your experience and capacity for being reasonable will allow you to make these practical decisions. Though you may or may not express a particular desire in its most primitive form, still you will be attentive to it. No desire is inherently good or evil. Such judging of your wants is the activity of your godly 'I.' Your business, if you would be yourself, is to want, to know your wants, and to responsibly express yourself in life.

 

            "As a practical matter, you will withdraw the massive amount of attention you have devoted to the desires of others. Your false 'I' tricked you into believing that doing what others want is virtuous while following your own desires is evil. Such an irrational conclusion has kept your wanting self locked in a tomb. For practical reasons, you may at times wish to know what someone else desires, but primarily you will remain attuned to your own wants. For instance, avoid asking another, 'What do you want to do?' Instead, express your desires. If you give a gift, let it be an expression of what you want to give rather than the result of a search for the desires of the other.

 

 

            "But that sounds very selfish," I protested. "I thought it was good to be selfless and bad to be selfish."

 

            "Another trick of your godly 'I,' " She replied." The selflessness you have admired is but the natural expression of a fulfilled self. One who truly becomes himself has no need for display. He therefore appears selfless. In truth, selflessness is selfishness embraced. To attempt to be selfless without becoming yourself is to exist in a double-bind. You will constantly work at destroying the only basis for what you seek. The more you succeed, the greater you fail. If your godly 'I' convinces you that self-negation is a virtue, then you will not threaten his omnipotence. Only in becoming wholly selfish will you be able to die to 'I' and become yourself. Then, at one with yourself and the world around you, you will indeed be selfless."

 

 

            Sometimes I hated Her for making things sound so deceptively simple. Yet I did seem to understand. "What else can I do?" I asked.

 

            "Speaking as though you are one will keep your attention focused on becoming one. Carefully limit your language to expressions of a person. Exclude all godly talk from your vocabulary. In denying the language of your false 'I' while encouraging yourself as a person, you will remain in touch with who you are. Of course speaking as somebody will not make you a person. Yet it will continually remind you of the quest."

 

 

            "But how does a person speak?" I asked.

 

            "Primarily you will speak yourself in terms of yourself. Since the major purpose of speaking is to reveal and express who you are, you will do so in the most direct and straightforward manner. Most commonly your sentences will begin with I. 'I see. . .,' 'I think. . .,' 'I feel. . .,' or, 'I want. . .' "

 

            "But that sounds egotistical," I protested." I have been taught to avoid saying I."

 

            "Another trick of your godly 'I,' " She said. "If he can discourage you from speaking yourself directly, half his battle is won. If you are yourself, you will naturally speak yourself plainly. Speaking as yourself encourages becoming yourself."

 

 

            As I pondered this kind of personal speech I recalled Her distinction between 'I' and 'myself,' as in my expression, 'I said to myself.' She had referred to my 'I' as false and 'myself' as 'me.' How can I draw this distinction in my speech? Before I could ask She continued.

 

            "Your personal expressions will usually be direct and present tense. You will be voicing who you are in the current moment. 'I see the sun reflecting on your face,' you may say to Me, expressing your current vision. 'I feel peaceful sitting beside you' might voice a present emotion. 'I am thinking of changing my ways' could reflect your current thought. Note that each expression is present tense, revealing some facet of who you are at the time. These personal messages are to be distinguished from internal dialogues in which your godly 'I' speaks to yourself as though you are a foreigner in your own mind. I refer to speaking yourself, not talking to yourself.

 

            "Reclaim 'I' as a symbol for yourself rather than the false god in your mind. Let your 'I' become you instead of remaining your dictator. Eliminate all talk or thought which grants your false god the status of I. Never speak as though you are a stranger or step-child in the household of your own mind. For instance, never say, 'I thought to myself.' In so doing you act as though you cannot think on your own. Apparently your false 'I' must do the thinking for your infantile self. Not so. It is a trick. When you think, you are thinking. Therefore say, 'I think. . .' rather than, 'I thought to myself.'

 

            "If you say, 'I told myself, you shouldn't do that,' you treat yourself as a stupid child, while feeding the egomania of your false 'I.' Instead of lecturing to yourself as though you are a rebellious infant, speak yourself. Say, 'I decided to. . .' Eliminate the voice of the false god in your mind. Snuff him out like a candle.

 

            "Instead of, 'I forced myself to. . .' say, 'I struggled with the decision before I. . .' Rather than playing god by patting yourself on the back with such compliments as 'I said to myself, you look great today,' voice your good feeling personally. 'I am pleased.' Instead of criticizing--'I told myself, you did terribly,' speak yourself personally. 'I think I can improve next time.'

 

            "Whether you fail or succeed, speaking yourself personally is a confirmation of your existence. To say 'I failed' is to confirm yourself even if your endeavor was not successful. To say 'I am pleased' when you succeed, confirms you without catering to false pride. On the contrary, when you criticize or compliment yourself, you grant godly powers to the 'I' who passes out the judgment. With criticism you may suffer from self-negation. Compliments tempt toward egotistical pride, which, as your Bible properly says, 'goeth before destruction.'

 

            "In fact," She reminded me again, "you will do well to eliminate the words, should and ought, good and bad, right and wrong, from your vocabulary. Though technically appropriate on certain occasions, more often they tempt you to a godliness unavailable to humans. Instead of telling someone, 'You should do. . .such and such,' as though you are omniscient, treat yourself as a human. Say, 'I have found that this works better for me. . .' Rather than, 'That is wrong,' say, 'I dislike what you are doing.'

 

            "Judgments--right or wrong--cater to false godhood. Personal expressions--pleasure or displeasure--confirm you as human. In like manner, to pronounce anything as good or bad is to feed your false sense of omniscience. As a human you may recognize a difference between the practical and impractical. You may learn what has worked best for you in the past and project what you imagine to be feasible in the future. You may accordingly say, 'I think such and such is more practical,' or, 'In my experience that has not proven feasible.' To proceed from your limited experience to an ultimate judgment of good or bad is to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As you have been warned in your Bible, when you do--you die.

 

            "This applies to the outside world, other people, and yourself. If you will become the one you are, avoid the temptation to speak judgment--either praise or condemnation. Respond positively or negatively. Voice your response when it seems practical. But carefully avoid compliments, criticism, or advice which are not clearly limited to the revelation of your personal response. You may say, 'I am afraid of that animal,' but not, 'He is bad.' If you enjoy your food, say, 'I like it,' rather than, 'It is good.' Tell your friend of your love if you choose, but avoid pronouncing him 'a good friend.' If the language of a child offends you, speak of your sensitive ears rather than judging his words to be dirty.

 

            "As a fully human one, you will be aware of yourself even while being yourself. Voice your self-awareness when you choose. Speak of your pleasures, desires, frustrations, and dissatisfactions. However, limit your speech to self-expression. Say,'I am pleased. . .,' 'I want. . .,' 'I feel frustrated,' rather than slipping into your godly 'I' who makes pronouncements about yourself. Never compliment, criticize or advise yourself.

 

            "Certainly you will weigh alternatives as you reach any decision. 'I think this is more practical,' 'I think that is unfeasible.' Finally, you may say, 'I will do thus and so.' Do this rather than playing god with yourself in such statements as, 'You ought to do this,' 'You ought not to do that.' Speak of what you will instead of what you should or should not do.

 

            "Since you will speak to express and confirm yourself, avoid using negating words such as 'not.' Speak in terms of who you are rather than who you are not. If you say, 'I am not happy (pleased, contented, sad, etc.),' you only reveal yourself in reflection. You are left vague, hidden, or essentially negated in the present moment. So you are not happy. That tells what you are not without revealing who you are. It is better to say, 'I am angry at having to wait on you.' To be angry is to be feeling; to 'not be happy' is to not be.

 

            This is like introducing yourself as, 'I am not John Smith.' All right, so you are not John Smith. But who are you? Always say who you are--what you sense, feel, think, want--rather than who you are not--what you do not think, feel, or want. For example, say, 'I want to sit and talk,' rather than, 'I do not want to go out.' The first is affirming, while the second is negating. Replace your 'nots' and 'won'ts' with 'ams' and 'wills.' "

 

 

            Throughout my life I have been proud of my ability to hear and understand the thoughts of others. Once more my pride had a moment of glory. I had listened to Her. I grasped Her message. But my pride was short-lived. Unlike most of the listening I do, this message placed stringent demands on my life. I knew that understanding is not enough. Change is necessary.

 

            Pride turned to humility and fear as I left Her that day.

 

**********

 

 

 

WHAT IS GOOD AND EVIL?

 

            Months later I met Her on a sunny afternoon. The challenge of becoming myself had so consumed my time that I thought of little else. Only one question troubled me while I was away. In becoming myself, She had advised dropping the words, good and bad, right and wrong. At that time, I thought I understood. Only later did the import of Her suggestion strike me.

 

            Does dropping the words imply that there is no such reality as right and wrong? Is everything relative? Are there no absolutes? The most significant part of my earlier religious training has been learning the difference between right and wrong. I have considered the major issue in religion to be being good rather than bad. In fact, the goal, as I have been taught, is to be perfect. One is to strive for one hundred percent goodness while eliminating evil from his life. How can I try to be good if I banish the words from my mind? "What is good and evil?" I asked.

 

            "God is good," She said in a cryptic tone of voice.

 

            I knew She was saying more than the words implied. After puzzling over Her answer for an indeterminate time, I asked: "Do you mean that goodness is an attribute of God?"

 

            "No," She said. "My statement is literal. God is good personified. Impersonal good is named, for language sake, as God. GOD is GOOD; GOOD is GOD. In like manner evil, the absence of good, is personified as the Devil."

 

            She said "absence," rather than opposite. I have always thought of evil as the opposite of good. I presumptuously attempted to correct Her. "You do mean opposite, don't you?"

 

            "Good and evil are not a pair of opposites," She said. "The Devil is not an adversary of God, existing independently. Evil exists only in the vacuum of God's absence."

 

            I could not grasp what She meant. Still struggling to comprehend in my mind's eye, I continued with my questions. "How can I know what is good?"

 

            "We know good in the experience of knowing God," She replied, "but we can never know what is good." She emphasized 'is.'

 

            Again, I could not follow what She said. "If we can know God or good, why can't we know what is good? What is the difference between 'good' and 'what is good?' "

 

            "Good is absolute," She replied. "All things are relative. Therefore, no thing can be inherently good."

 

            "What do you mean by 'thing'?" I asked.

 

            "A thing is an it. Anything which can be perceived as an entity is a thing. Common things are persons, places, paths, objects, words and deeds."

 

            "Then what is 'relative'?," I asked next.

 

            "All things are in relation to one another," She replied. "Entities do not exist alone. Each is related to its context. Only God is absolute. Things are relative."

 

            I was more confused than before. "Do you mean that good does not exist?" I asked.

 

            "God is good," She repeated, "so of course good exists. You can know good as you know God, yet you cannot know what is good."

 

            "Then how can I know what I should do? If I cannot know what is good, how can I determine the way I should go?"

 

            "Now you ask a practical question," She said. "Whereas good and evil are unknowable absolutes, your path is to be decided pragmatically. At every juncture one path is more practical than the others. You do well to seek the most feasible way in each instant. Yet you can never find the good way, because good does not exist in any particular way. Paths are neutral. They are neither good nor evil.

 

            "On the most practical path you may meet God. In such an encounter you will know good. Yet the path itself will not be inherently good apart from your meeting God on it. You could not truthfully say to another, 'This is the good way.' On that same course he may encounter evil. All you can say is, 'On this path I found good.'

 

            "In like manner, good does not lie inherent in any deed. Although you may wish to know what is the good or right thing to do, such knowledge is impossible. There is no 'right thing to do,' apart from you as the doer and the context in which it is done. All deeds are morally neutral."

 

 

            "Wait," I interrupted. "I cannot believe that. Surely some deeds are evil. Murder is wrong, isn't it?" I challenged.

 

            "Evil may be manifested in any deed," She replied, "yet the deed never contains the evil. Since deeds, like all things, are relative to one another, the rightness or wrongness of any act is dependent on the context in which it occurs rather than inherent in the deed itself. The right way is a product of who you are, how things are, and what time it is. Good emerges from a proper wedding of you, the circumstances, and the moment. What is right for you may be wrong for another. What is wrong at one place may be right elsewhere. What is good at one moment can become evil in the next. In life there are appropriate times for killing, birthing, and loving. Each may manifest good in its appropriate time or evil in an inopportune moment."

 

            "If there are no good or evil deeds, does this mean it doesn't matter what I do?" I asked.

 

            Laughter was evident in Her voice as She replied. "Of course your deeds matter. In every situation there are appropriate choices. Some deeds are practical; others are entirely unfeasible. Among the acceptable choices in a particular situation, one will be best of all. It will be most appropriate for you in that context, at that moment. Good is manifested when you make that one most fitting decision. Then God will be revealed in your act. In keeping with your language structure, you may say, 'It was a good deed,' yet with the realization that the good lay in God's revelation rather than in the act itself.

 

            "Although there is always a most appropriate act in each circumstance which, when done, reveals God, you can never know what it will be ahead of time. The possibility of good or evil is continually present, yet your knowledge of each is limited. If you will become human, you will continually strive for the most appropriate option yet never succumb to the pretended omniscience of knowing it beforehand. When you are one and you choose the best, in that moment you will know God. You will know good in the fullness of the encounter. Afterward, you may say, 'I did what was right for me at the time.'

 

            "Your error in searching for the 'right thing to do' lies not in your attempt to determine the most appropriate course, but in your assumption that you can know it objectively. That knowledge is limited to God alone. When you assume it, you do so at the cost of your eternal life. In pretending to objectively know good or evil you become a false god, dying to the person you are. You cannot be yourself, a finite human, and maintain the illusion of ultimate knowledge."

 

 

            "Tell me again," I asked, "what you mean by being a 'finite human.' "

 

            "As mortals, we are finite; we have limits. This includes our knowledge. We seek the best way, reach for the highest path, and attempt to make the most appropriate choices, yet always with limited knowledge. We choose, based on available information, knowing our finitude. Striving for the good, we make commitments without prior knowledge that we have chosen aright. The issue is not the existence of good and evil, but rather our possession of this knowledge.

 

            "Nor can the realization of good in a particular decision be assumed applicable for others or for later times. What is good for you may be evil for another. With full commitment to our present paths, we must always be open to complete change. All our current truth may be superceded in the next moment. What we now know to be good may be consumed in what we discover tomorrow. We make total commitments in a tentative context, realizing that today's conclusions may be swallowed like the sun in the night. Our faith is based on our capacity to change, rather than any permanent knowledge we possess.

 

            "At each juncture we consider the alternatives, recall prior experiences, evaluate our goals, gather further information when feasible, and decide what seems best. Then we commit ourselves, without knowing for sure. We step forth, based on our best calculations and clearest thought, yet without the ultimate knowledge of 'being right.' Always we are subject to mistakes, errors in calculation, and limited information. This is the way of finitude. Determining an appropriate course at each juncture is a weighty matter. Your temptation to assume the omniscience which would eliminate the necessity of faith is understandable. Even so, you cannot assume that knowledge and remain yourself."

 

            "But how will I know if I have chosen the way which is right for me?," I asked.

 

            "You will never know it ahead of time," She said. "Waste no energy in searching for the right way. Look only for that one which is most practical and feasible for you at the time. Listen for God to lead you through your mind and heart. Always He calls those who are themselves. When you hear Him beckon, follow in faith. You will know good as you meet Him on the path."

 

            A throbbing in my head turned into a persistent ache. I knew I had heard more than I could absorb at the time. Hopefully Her words would remain with me in the days ahead. I wanted to understand but for now I could hear no more. Even my questions were confusing. I turned and left.

 

**********

 

 

 

WHY DO I GET LONELY?

 

            The morning was cold when I returned to Her. Ice covered much of Her surface on this inland lake. Ice covered my heart also. I felt frozen inside as though locked out of myself. I wanted to run to somebody, seeking relief from my loneliness. Unfortunately my experience has proven such escapes to be temporary. People sometimes are able to distract me from being lonely--but not for long. I wanted a better solution so I turned again to Her. For long moments I stood alone wondering if Her icy surface also left Her lonely. Finally I asked, uncertain of Her hearing, "Why do I get lonely?"

 

            Apparently Her icy face is unlike my icy heart. She spoke warmly as though Her covering were a beloved blanket. "You get lonely when you refuse to accept aloneness," She replied. "I never get lonely, because I always know I am alone."

 

            "How can you say that?" I asked. "You always have your shore, the trees close by, and the sky overhead. Often I am all by myself."

 

            The irrationality of my response struck me before She could reply. I too have the earth, trees, and sky always with me.

 

            "But I have no people," I protested, as to myself.

 

            "Nor do I have any other lake beside myself," She responded. "Sometimes I am joined by the rain. I meet the streams who come to me; yet I remain myself alone. As do you."

 

            She is right, I thought. Sometimes I meet others; yet even then I remain myself alone. "But why do I only feel lonely at certain times?"

 

            "When you are yourself, one alone as I am, you have no reason to be lonely. Always the face and hand of God are revealed. I see Him in the yellow flowers of spring. I hear Him in summer's breezes. I feel His hand in winter's winds. I am never lonely because God is always present with me. If I am blessed by a meeting with my own kind as when the streams are swollen by melting snow in the spring, it is a double blessing. Even so, I have no cause for loneliness. He is here.

 

            "He also is always with you. Yet you forget Him when you escape into your false 'I,' ceasing to be yourself. You get lonely when you stop being you. Locked away in the isolated tower of your false godhood, naturally you feel abandoned. You are. By yourself. God has not abandoned you, but you have left Him in your flight to omnipotence. Such loneliness is a blessing rather than a curse. It serves to remind you of your escape. Unfortunately you often languish in the loneliness of your godhood or else rush to other lost ones to help you forget. Each is a mistake.

 

            "If you do not wish to be lonely, avoid seeking another to relieve you of your burden. You but prolong the night of your absence, while developing dependence on your false savior. Rather devote your attention to the return to yourself. In so doing, you open the door to meeting God. When you are present with Him you will not be lonely."

 

 

            Although what She said made sense to me, I wanted to understand more about loneliness. I asked my first question again. "But why do I get lonely? Surely it is not pleasant. Why would I feel lonely if I have a choice?"

 

            "To remain one alone is a matter of faith," She replied. "One must face the challenges of standing apart--of sometimes being with but never having or leaning on another. In being who one is, you must risk standing naked before God, activating your own potentiality. Naturally you are tempted to avoid the responsibility of being such an one.

 

            "That escape is easily possible if you flee into your false 'I,' pretending to exist separate and apart from yourself. The flight to godhood relieves you of the necessity of faith in living, but at the expense of your participation in reality. As a false god you can pretend to own, use, serve, or be dependent on others, but you can never meet--person to person. Your loneliness is, therefore, the inevitable result of your escape from yourself. Although you do not like the feeling, it is one of the prices you must pay for your separation from who you are.

 

            "The feeling is accurate and legitimate, because in fact you are out of touch when you pretend to exist as a separate 'I.' As an isolated entity in a world of participation, naturally you will be lonely."

 

 

            "But how can I get rid of the feeling?" I asked. As She spoke, I felt that She was indulging my pretended ignorance.

 

            "You can only avoid your awareness of the feeling through temporary distractions. The feeling itself will remain so long as you insist on maintaining your godhood. The paradox of meeting is that participation is based on being a 'one.' Only those who are one, integrated and apart, are able to meet, becoming apart-of.

 

            "As you die to your separate 'I,' you will become the one you are. Then, as an individual, standing alone, you will continually encounter God in all creation. No longer will you be lonely. Whether you are alone with nature or alone with people, you will be at one with God. Who can be lonely in the presence of the Infinite?"

 

 

            Obviously She lived as She spoke. For a long time I sat silently beside Her, lonely no more.

 

**********

 

 

 

DO I HAVE A SOUL?

 

            In the days of my youth I was taught that I have an immortal soul which resides in my body until I die. At death, they said, my soul will leave my body to go to heaven or hell, depending on how I have lived my life. The idea of having an everlasting soul certainly appealed to me; yet somehow I was never fully convinced.

 

            I wondered what She thought. I was thinking about death late on a winter afternoon when I asked: "Do I have an immortal soul."

 

            The speed and decisiveness of Her response startled me. "No," She said firmly, "you do not have (She emphasized this word) a soul--mortal or immortal. As you become yourself you will be immortal, but you have no soul in your possession."

 

            "But I have been told I have a spirit in my body," I protested.

 

            "You have neither a spirit nor a body," She replied.

 

            The latter comment caught me completely off guard. "What do you mean 'nor a body?,' " I asked honestly. "Obviously I have a body," I said, holding out my arms.

 

            "Obviously you are somebody," She said, emphasizing 'are,' 'but I see no evidence of your being a separate one who has a body. That notion is an illusion of your false 'I.' Having escaped into your assumed godhood, you mistakenly imagine that 'you' own a body which exists apart from you. In like manner you maintain the illusion of a separable soul residing in this body you pretend to have.

 

            "If you become yourself you will be the body you now think you own. You will literally become somebody--your body. Or if you prefer the language of spirit, you will become spirited. To be yourself--to be embodied, is to be spirited. Spirit is the culmination of indwelt flesh. Soul is not an entity you inherently possess but rather what you become when you are yourself.

 

            "As a concession to the structure of your language--which requires subjects and verbs, you may say, 'I have spirit or soul,' as a grammatical form of describing yourself. However, if you succumb to the belief that spirit is literally a possession you have rather than an apt description of what you are like, then you tragically err. You may be spirited, but you do not have a spirit. You may be somebody, but you do not have a body."

 

            I felt a growing sense of frustration. Her strange idea eluded my logic, leaving me in confusion. Not knowing what to do, I clung to my old way of thinking. My voice rose to a higher pitch which I did not like but could not help as I pursued my questions. "If I don't have a soul, how can I be immortal? Obviously bodies die. If there is no soul which outlives the body, how can there be eternal life?"

 

            She must have known that I do not think clearly when I am frustrated. She waited half an hour before replying. During that time I became more relaxed in my confusion.

 

            "Eternal life is another kind of life, a new existence open to those who become themselves. When a mortal is born again as himself, he is resurrected as a new being. As your Bible says, 'mortality is swallowed up in life.' A mortal one becomes immortal.

 

            "When one accepts aloneness and becomes himself, isolated mortality is swallowed up in continuing participation. One literally becomes immortal. No longer is he a separate, dying mortal. Then he is at one with all that is. Immortality is far more than mere perpetual existence of an isolated entity called a 'soul.' Eternal life is a new dimension of existence in which all time is merged in each now. Immortality transcends time. Now is forever in the kingdom of God. As your Bible says, 'a day in God's sight is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.' "

 

            "But what about an after-life?" I asked. She spoke as though the kingdom of God is now. I have been taught that heaven is a place we go in the after-life.

 

            "Heaven will be open to you in an after-death, not an after-life. The kingdom of God is here--now. You speak as though you are alive and it is absent. You have things reversed. In fact, the kingdom is present and you are absent. Existing as a false 'I,' you are dead to yourself. There can be no after-life when you are already dead. The life you seek will be after your present death."

 

 

            Confusion gripped me. In some deep way I understood, yet my conscious mind could make no sense of Her strange talk. I could grasp an after-life, but an after-death? What could that mean? In desperation I asked the question which has haunted me since my youth. "Where will I go when I die?"

 

            Again, I sensed Her laughing. "What's so funny?" I cried out.

 

            "You are," She replied. "Your clever way of reversing things amuses me. You speak of 'when I die' as though you are not already dead. You ask 'where you will go,' as though you are a separable entity capable of moving elsewhere. You imply that there is some other world to go to. I find you amusing."

 

 

            "There is nothing funny about it to me," I said. "This question is critical to my basic beliefs."

 

            "Then I suggest you change your beliefs," She replied, "or you will never reach the kingdom of God." Suddenly She was sober again. The speed of Her changes from laughter to seriousness amazed me. She lived as though the ridiculous and sublime are opposite sides of the same coin.

 

            "This is God's world. His kingdom is here. Heaven is on earth. I know naught of any other world. What need is there to imagine another world when this one is so wondrous? You are not a soul or body to go some where. You are yourself, to be where you are. If you will leave your present death and be born again to yourself, you will have no need to go anywhere. You worry about 'where you will go when you die' instead of facing who you will be if you live."

 

            "But isn't there a heaven?" I asked, clinging to my old beliefs.

 

            "Certainly, heaven is," She replied, "but there is not a heaven. There is no city in the skies, no Camelot, no utopia, no place beyond the sunset known to me. Heaven is not limited to a geographical location. The kingdom of God is everywhere. If you will stop pretending to be what you are not and become who you are, you will find heaven here where you are."

 

            A cold shiver moved up my back. I knew She spoke the truth. Because I could not let go, I turned to go.

 

**********

 

 

 

WHY AM I AFRAID?

 

            While I was away, one question kept returning to me: Why am I so afraid to be myself? Deep down I know She is right. I realize I will have to die to this godlike self I pretend to be. The shallowness and inconsistency of my childish beliefs is easily apparent. Why can't I give them up? What is so frightening about what I most want to do? When I met Her again, I asked.

 

            "Your fear is well justified," She said. "You have many reasons for running from yourself. Although none are truly adequate, each is logical. First and foremost, you are ashamed of yourself. Long ago you ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Assuming a knowledge you do not truly possess, you judged your nakedness to be evil. Disembodying yourself, you became ashamed of the body you abandoned. You ran and hid from God, as you have been doing ever since. You think you are ugly."

 

            "No," I protested. "That is not true." I hated to admit it openly, but I felt compelled to confess. "I think I look O.K. In fact, I'm rather proud of my appearance. I exercise and take care of my body."

 

            "Foolishness," She replied. "Your vanity is but a thin covering for your shame. You fear being seen as you are. You are afraid to be naked, not because of what others will think, but because of your deep bodily shame. Your so-called admiration, which you only admit in private, is but the titillation your false 'I' receives in glancing at the forbidden body. You preen and primp, comb and dress--not to reveal but to deceive. Your clothes are not worn for practical purposes, but to conceal your nakedness. You do not exercise and diet for health but to present an idealized appearance. Would that you were proud of yourself. Your false pride only cloaks your shame. You think you are ugly."

 

            That stung. I wanted to deny what She said. Yet even as I began to formulate a protest, I knew She was correct. It is true. I act pleased with my appearance only after I am carefully groomed. I avoid looking at my body except when tending to it. I would be terribly embarrassed to be caught naked. That word, caught, is correct. I do feel guilty about my body. Somehow, in spite of my occasional admiration, I am deeply ashamed to be physical. Although I have avoided the thought, I must believe I am ugly.

 

            She continued. "If you are ashamed of your body, you are even more ashamed of your feelings. You have carefully judged all emotions, cataloguing each as good or bad. Rather than openly feeling with your fellow men, you act out emotions, trying to have the so-called good feelings and carefully suppressing those your godly 'I' has judged as evil. If you spontaneously become emotional, you are ashamed of yourself. Although you give lip service to good feelings, you are afraid to be emotional.

 

            "In like manner, you fear thinking. Carefully, your false 'I' monitors your mind, allowing only those thoughts which it has judged to be good. Selectively it permits only those memories which are consistent with your godhood. Wondrous fantasies are meticulously avoided. You dare not be reasonable about your accepted ideas and beliefs. You have thoughts; that is, you re-entertain old ideas which are tolerable to your false godhood, but you will not risk current thinking. Only in your dreams, under cover of sleep, will you grant your mind temporary freedom. Even then, should it become creative, you either 'forget' when you awaken or else condemn its work as absurd."

 

            Her observation cut me deeply. I have considered myself a thoughtful person. Granted, I am afraid to be emotional; still I have seen myself as rational and open-minded.

 

            "Furthermore," She said, "you are deeply ashamed of your desires. You have leveled a summary judgment against wanting. Under cover of 'pleasing others' you systematically suppress your own desires. You live as though wanting is the ultimate evil. Through the clever procedure of labeling the objects of your desire as good and bad, you effectively kill your capacity for being a wanting person. By trying to only want the good and to avoid the bad, you place yourself in a double-bind, negating your desiring self.

 

            "In the final analysis, you are ashamed of yourself. You have escaped into a judgmental 'I' which condemns your dispossessed body--with its feelings, thoughts and desires. Certainly you are afraid to become yourself. So you will remain as long as you judge your body as ugly, your feelings shameful, your thoughts dirty, and your desires evil. You must die to this judgmental 'I' before you can become yourself."

 

 

            I stood condemned. After that description there were no grounds for doubt. I am guilty of condemning myself. Truly I have eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 

            As though this were not enough, She continued, "You also fear becoming human. Both the limitations and powers of humanity frighten you. On the one hand you are afraid to relinquish the godly attributes you have assumed. The possibility of becoming relatively weak instead of all-sufficient, scares you. You fear giving up the people and things you pretend to have. The assumed powers to influence, help and control are very much a part of your shaky self-image. You are afraid to ask for help. The possibility of impotence is so threatening that you refuse to think about it. Only in your dreams do you sometimes dare to face the challenges of being finite rather than Infinite.

 

            "That you may lack the knowledge to make the ultimate judgments you perform daily is a fearful thought for you. To face the limitation of never knowing for sure what is right and wrong, good and bad, frightens you. You are afraid of abandoning omniscience and accepting your relative ignorance.

 

            "Your involvement in the process of dying looms as a black spectre over all your life. Always you avoid and hide from signs of aging and the return to the soil. The possibility of giving up your illusion of perpetual existence is continually intolerable to you. You never admit the fact that death is always close at hand. You, my friend, are afraid of accepting humanity which includes dying.

 

            "You also paradoxically fear the powers inherent in being fully human."

 

            "Wait a moment," I interrupted. "True, I am afraid of giving up the knowledge of right and wrong. Also I fear facing death. But power? How can I be afraid of power? I confess that I have always sought more power. Having power appeals to me."

 

            "Yes," She said, "you have wanted to have (She emphasized that word) power, but that is different from being with power. Your false 'I' has greedily grasped for external power. Having none of its own, it has been forced to sap its strength from every available source, including yourself.

 

            "You, on the other hand, have various inherent powers. If you become yourself, power is generated in the activation of your human capacities. You become powerful; that is, you exist with power. Not that you will have power as a possession, but you, literally, will be powerful. Of course there will be limits. Only God is All-powerful."

 

            I did not understand. "What do you mean by 'being with power?' What is the difference between having power and being powerful?"

 

            "Weak ones can have power as a possession. While they personally are impotent, they may wield assumed power in a heavy-handed way. For instance, one may have powers granted by virtue of position or education. When power is generated within, however, one is powerful. The power is inherent rather than given or assumed. Such a 'one' exists with power. He is power personified. A portion of God's Omnipotence is manifest in his potency. Although possessed and inherent power may appear to be the same, they are in fact very different."

 

            I understood the distinction, but could not apply it to my own life. It seems that I have always tried to get and have power. The idea of being with power fascinated me. "Where does power come from?" I asked.

 

            "God is Omnipotence," She reminded me.

 

 

            For the first time I realized why She has said 'omnipotence' rather than 'omnipotent.' "You mean that all inherent power manifests God, don't you?"

 

            Her accepting silence left no doubt about my insight. I continued, "But how is His power made operative in me?"

 

            "When you exist in any of your capacities, God is manifest in you. Being emotional generates His power. Each feeling activates its own appropriate degree of power. Anger makes strength available as does contentment or frustration. Thinking produces power. When you chance opening yourself in the pursuit of an idea, His strength is manifest in you. Wanting generates energy. When you risk being your desirous self, abundant power is revealed."

 

            I had never thought of it like that. She was right. When I am being emotional, in spite of my embarrassment, I feel stronger. When I think my own thoughts rather than accepting the ideas of others, I feel more energetic. When I risk wanting what I want, the power of my desires often scares me.

 

            That was what She had said! The truth dawned like a light. I am afraid of the power generated in being myself! That is why I am afraid to be emotional. It is not what others will think but the power I feel. Have I also resisted opening my mind because of the power manifested in thinking? Have I judged desiring to be evil in order to avoid the strength inherent in wanting?

 

            She smiled Her confirmation. "One thing further,"She added. "You also fear the unknown. As a false 'I,' you predetermine yourself, eliminating awareness of the unknown. Carefully you restrict feelings and thoughts to the familiar and safe. Stronger emotions are eliminated. Creative thoughts are not allowed. Desire is continually suppressed. By drastically limiting yourself, you avoid mystery. You walk only by sight. Curtailing His power in your being, you have kept yourself as an infant, impotent and afraid of the unknown which surrounds your self-limited world.

 

            "If you become yourself you will learn to walk by faith. You will open yourself to our mysterious world without knowing who you will be or what will happen. Trusting God's power to be manifest in you, you will joyfully step into the unknown. As a creating one who is being with power, you will always be able to say, 'This is who I am now.' As a finite one you will never say, 'This is who I will be.' Always you will stride into the wondrous unknown, walking by faith."

 

 

            Quietly I turned and walked way. I realized why I am afraid to be myself.

 

**********

 

 

 

 

AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS?

 

            The question of my responsibility for others was heavy upon my mind the next time I met Her. Since childhood I have believed that my main purpose in life is to help others. Although I have seldom lived up to my goal and often failed to help when I tried, still I have tried. When I do not attempt to help someone in need, I feel guilty.

 

            She was in an unusual frame of mind that day. In one instant She was still and calm; then an immediate response to the wind would drastically alter Her face. With some uncertainty I asked my questions, "Am I responsible for other people? What is the meaning of human responsibility?"

 

            After the wind had temporarily departed, She replied. "You are responsible for re-sponding with your fullest self. Responsibility is but the activation of your ability-to-respond."

 

            I was struck with the fact that I have never thought of the word literally. Responsibility is a combination of response and ability. I have always understood it as duty. My responsibility, I have assumed, is what I am supposed to do.

 

            "Correct," She said, making me again wonder if She were reading my mind. "You are supposed to be continually re-sponding. You are created able-to-respond. Only when you are responding do you fulfill your destiny as a human."

 

            "But wait," I interrupted, "I was thinking of my responsibility as a way I am supposed to act. I have assumed that in every situation there is a responsible and an irresponsible way to act. If I am to be a responsible person, I will always act in the way I should. My problem is in determining just what is the responsible way. In particular, I am wondering if I am responsible for others, and, if so, how?"

 

            She laughed as a breeze began to blow. "You sound as though responsibility is a choice," She said. "Do you think you can decide to be responsible or irresponsible? That is an illusion of your false 'I.' To be is to be responsible, as you use the word. As your Bible says, you 'reap whatever you sow.' You may act as though you are irresponsible, but always it will be an illusion. Continually you harvest the results of your activity even if you pretend you are not responsible."

 

            Now I was totally confused. She had completely dismissed my question as impossible. Still, I knew I was wondering something. Perhaps it was a matter of wording. I decided to try again. "What I want to know," I said, "is how I am supposed to respond to other people. Should I try to help them as I have tried to do in the past?"

 

            She persisted with the word, responsibility. "Your responsibility, if you will be yourself, is to be responding to your fellow humans with your fullest self. Remember you are human also--one among many. Only God is our helper. To assume the place of God in helping another is to remove yourself from the level plane of humanity. You are responsible for responding, not helping. If your response should prove to be helpful, that is a bonus for the other. Yet it can never be your goal as a human."

 

            I was amazed. Her idea was totally foreign to my way of thinking. "But you are helping me," I protested.

 

            "Wrong," She said. "If you are helped, God helps you. I only respond to you as I do to the wind which moves over my surface. You do not think I am helping the wind, do you? I respond to your questions with who I am, yet I make no attempt to help you. To do so would require that I cease being the Sea. I will not abandon who I am."

 

            "But are you saying I should not try to help others?" I asked. "I though it was my duty."

 

            "Your duty is to be yourself," She reminded me. "In the process of being who you are, you will encounter others. When so, you will respond honestly to them as I do to you. You will sometimes let them see you more plainly as fits your purposes at the time; you will respond to the needs they reveal. As one who is able-to-respond, so you will be responsible."

 

            Still I could not believe what I heard. "Do you mean I am not even responsible for the feelings of others? Certainly I am supposed to try to make people feel good! That is the least I can do."

 

            Again She seemed to chuckle. "Wrong," She said. "That least is more than the most you can do. You cannot make any person feel anything. Each one has the key to his own emotions. I cannot make you feel. Only you have that prerogative. Your people sometimes play a game in which one person pretends to be controlled by another. He then uses the other to give himself permission to feel. Yet it is a game which is best played only for fun. In fact, the power to feel remains the possession of each one.

 

            "Besides," She continued, "how do you know what another person should feel at any given time? If you set about to change the feelings of another, you must presume his current feeling to be wrong and yourself omniscient to know the right feeling for him. How godly."

 

            I reacted to her idea with mixed emotions. Not having to try to make others feel good would certainly be a burden off my shoulders. Yet to risk accepting the feelings of others, whatever they might be, seemed an inordinate challenge. How could I stand with a sad person without trying to cheer him? How could I tolerate a discouraged person without trying to give him hope? Could I possibly allow someone to grieve without trying to comfort? Did She imagine I could accept anger without attempting to calm the person?

 

            "Maybe I have to help, for my own benefit," I said.

 

            "You have had to help--you thought," She said, emphasizing 'have had.' "But that was in the past. That you have previously felt it necessary places no bond on tomorrow. The future lies open before you. You may remain a false 'I' until you die, continuing to manage and direct the lives and feelings of others and yourself as though you are a god. Or you may resign from your omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality--dying to your 'I'--and become the responsible human you are created capable of being."

 

            After a long pause, She said quietly, "I hope you will."

 

            Her remark touched me deeply. In all our hours together I had never felt Her heart so clearly. A goodbye would have been superfluous.

 

**********

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS ETERNAL LIFE?

 

            I moved silently along Her shore for several hours that last morning. Reflections of timeless mountains intrigued me. Snow drifts, capturing the Sun, diffused His light, sending it on to gently shower Her face with thousands of warm kisses. Lost in the majesty of endless moments, I began to wonder once more about eternal life. Already She had shattered my earlier idea of heaven as a wonderful place where good people go after death. That morning I was attuned to the possibility of heaven on earth. Who could ask for a more wondrous place than where I was just then? Speaking softly lest I break the spell I asked, "What is eternal life?"

 

            Obviously She feared no loss of the moment. Her voice rang firmly, bringing an echo from the face of the mountains. "Eternal life is God's gift to those who become themselves. When you die to your false godhood, fully becoming who you are, you will be ushered into His kingdom. You will, as your Jesus said, come to know Him 'whom to know is life eternal.' His presence will be your continual gift."

 

 

            The idea fascinated me, but I could not grasp 'knowing God' in the dimensions of time and space. "When can this happen?" I asked. "When does heaven begin?"

 

            "Heaven has no beginning or ending," She replied. "With God there is only the eternal present. All time is now."

 

 

            Immediately I became confused. Everything must have a beginning and end or else it lasts forever. "That's it," I thought to myself, "heaven is everlasting!" I remembered then what I had been taught about living forever in heaven. Yet I recalled also what She had said about our being finite and mortal. "Does eternal mean unending?" I asked.

 

            "Eternal life cannot be measured by a clock or calendar," She replied. "Although your human invention of time is useful in most arenas, it does not apply to heaven. In the kingdom of God it is as though time is suspended. The nature of eternal existence is such that one, as it were, forgets about time. Of course clocks continue to tick; seasons pass and years change. Yet in His presence, time is of no consequence. All that matters is the eternal now."

 

 

            "But I have been taught that heaven is everlasting," I said.

 

            "If you must attempt to measure heaven with your clocks, then the only reasonable comparison is forever. To describe heaven in terms of time you must push the dimension to its limit--which is, of course, forever. His presence could not be defined as just a moment, or even as many years. Only everlasting can point toward the timeless quality of eternal life. Yet in using the term you do well to realize its limitations. Eternal life is far more than perpetual breathing. The idea of simply living forever does no justice to the majestic quality of eternal life."

 

 

            I stood quietly for a long time, pondering the relationship between time and eternal life. Then my attention turned to space. If heaven cannot be adequately described in terms of time, what about space? My old image of a gold-streeted city in the clouds came to mind. Yet it obviously contradicted a possible heaven here. "Where is heaven?," I blurted out before thinking further.

 

            Even as my voice echoed from the mountain, I sensed the foolishness of the question. Her smiling face embarrassed me. I looked up at the cloud-laced blue sky and the snow-touched slopes, before turning back to face the dancing lights in Her eyes. Gold streets could hardly enhance the beauty of this place. To try to imagine another world seemed suddenly ridiculous. I realized that my embarrassment was my own. I blushed at my blindness.

 

            "Heaven is here," She said simply. "Only your false godhood blinds you to the golden path lying continually before you. God is present in every place, all the time. You are the one who is absent. You fantasize about another world because you have blinded yourself to this one. You would be equally sightless in any other place until you open the eyes of your heart. When you do, you will see Him everywhere. Each place will be heaven. All ground will be holy. Each moment will be forever. Continually you will abide in His presence."

 

 

            An awesome quiet settled over us just then, as though our conversation had been invaded by a mysterious presence. Further talk was inappropriate. I stood gazing in silence for a time I could not measure. At that point I realized what She meant by an eternal moment. That and much more.

 

            The truth of what I am was apparent as I faced the wondrous mystery of what I may become. My necessary path lay obvious before me. In the holiness of that sacred time I nodded to Her, knowing that She knew also. Without words I turned to go, realizing somehow that I would not see Her again until my resurrection.

 

**********

 

 

 

Confused

            I went to the Sea

                        Asked there

            and came back

                                    to

                                    me 

 

**********

 

 

 

The Sea

            you will perhaps

                        have known

 

            is for me

                        the Daughter

                                    of God

 

**********

 

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