DINER MYSTIC LOOKS AT JESUS THROUGH THE SCRIM OF CHRISTIANITY AND SEES A SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT PERSON

The “True Self”

If you want to know what Jesus thought about our “true self” – it’s simple – one’s “true self” can be discovered when we achieve the openness and receptivity of a small child. It’s the state of innocence human beings possessed prior to developing an “ego” or “false self” to deal with a potentially hostile world.

            “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:14-15.

Jesus – in telling us to become “like a small child” – means we need to move towards a radically different, and earlier, version of the human spiritual world – accepting the “natural reality” directly created by God –  as opposed to a “reality” created by technically and theologically “sophisticated” human beings in modern manmade civilizations.

The “Essential Choice”

What deters us from becoming “like little children?” It’s our desire for and love of money – creating a stark choice between love of God and love of money.

            “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Mathew 6:24.

Jesus made this crystal clear by pointing out the impossibility of someone who’s rich to be able to enter God’s kingdom.

            “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  Mark 10:24-5.

Jesus also emphasized God’s preference for the poor:

            “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20.

And said we needn’t worry about clothes or food:

            “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body, more than clothes.” Luke 12:22.

What Kind Of “Human Love” Does God Want?

If you want to know what God is “like” – that is, how human beings can start “living like God” – it’s simple: “God is Love” and “Love is God.”

But that begs the question, doesn’t it? What is this “love” God wants for us and how are human beings supposed to achieve it?

Jesus radical (and true) answer is: “Love your enemies!”

            “I tell you: Love your enemies… that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mathew 6:44-48.

So, don’t be nationalistic, tribal, or self-centered – no, be like God. Remember, people who love their enemies have no enemies. If we can live like this – that is, how God would live if God were a human being – then we’d be able to enter God’s world and start living like God’s children. After all, there’s no ego in the sun or rain!

Another good example was love of one’s “neighbor.”  In response to the question of “Who is my neighbor?” (in the context of “Love your neighbor as yourself”), Jesus gave the example of the “Good Samaritan.” Because there was serious animosity between Judeans and Samaritans at that time (another example of “Love your enemies”), the story demonstrates that non-Jews (and, later, non-Christians) sometimes follow God better than the “official people” of God. Therefore, people like Muslims, or even atheists, may be able to do what God wants even better than those committed to the Western majority faiths.

Such “radical” examples of love go further than the “Love Commandment” later set forth in the Gospel of John:

            “A new command I give to you” Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

This, however, is the least radical of Jesus’ love teachings. That is, it’s significantly less radicalthan loving one’s enemies or hostile neighbors! This kind of “love” was addressed to Jesus’ immediate circle of disciples.

Who Should We Spend Our Time With?

Jesus tells us that people who act on behalf of God can be spiritually closer to us than our blood relations or close friends – and emphasized doers over listeners.

            “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:21

How Can We “See” God?

Finally, how can we see and experience God’s kingdom? Jesus indicated that God’s rule is close or already present but unobserved – that God’s rule is all around us but difficult to discern:

            “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say “Here it is!” or “There it is!” because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21.

In other words, God is spiritual, not materialistic. God’s Spirit can be seen and felt through one’s imagination and heart. That is, it takes an awakened inward “mystical” sense for us to be able to “see,” “feel,” and “sense” the presence of God.

DISCOVERING WHAT GOD WANTS US TO ACTUALLY DO

“Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process
of the universe gradually waking up and becoming
aware of itself.” Thomas Nagel

Given that enlightenment, by itself, turns out not to be enough,
The next question is: what does God want human beings to actually do?

Since human beings have all the potential mental and emotional “firepower” they’ll ever need,
how can they gain access to it?

The number of processing units within our mind/brain exceeds 100 trillion (1015) neural connections –
(which may be greater than the number of galaxies in the universe.)

Each one of us has this same potential.

But this “power” is not needed for literally everything – in fact, we’ll only encounter a limited number of critical moments in our lives when a “right” decision is necessary. When we reach such a crossroads, that is, when we find ourselves attempting to figure out what God would do if God were a human being – just like us – that’s when we’ll require access to this almost astral “mind.”

To achieve it, at a specific time and place, we first need to relinquish our “ego” or “false self” (even though a “shadow” ego might still be hanging around) and become a “nobody.”

This can be done!

Of course, to gain access to all this mental and emotional “firepower” – after our ego has once been set aside (even if only temporarily) – one also needs to get past our normal everyday human “appetites” for money, sex, food and status, as well as escape all the “stories,” socially-created and individually accepted, that have provided us with acceptable quotidian identities – whether national, racial, or religious.

So, to successfully become “nobody” is not such an easy task. We’ll need to acquire the innocence of a small child who accepts the “natural world” created by God – “thinking” and “feeling” in an open and natural way – to make the kind of decision God hopes we can make.

Each one of us has the necessary mental and emotional capacity to make a “right” decision for one’s self.

First, however, we have to want to get there – to that place of freedom and clarity. As I’ve said, this can be easy – even though usually considered almost impossible – but we are able to do it if that’s what we truly desire.

Our minds possess this almost “stellar” capacity to address essential life questions –  using our thoughts and feelings to discern the right answer – the same answer as God’s answer would be.

It’s the love of God that makes this possible.

ENLIGHTENMENT IS NOT ENOUGH

I talk a lot about becoming “nobody” – about giving up my ego –
The identity I’ve developed over years of trial and error
While projecting my “self” out into the world
To gain an acceptance of my self-created identity.

Eventually, however, I start feeling inauthentic
For relying upon this self-manufactured ego
Which, one day, I hope to replace with a new, improved identity –
A “better” ego –
Which, of course, will also invariably turn out to be a dead-end.

Giving up one’s ego – completely – as the final step on the way to enlightenment –
Is never enough however,
Because becoming a “nobody,” by itself, doesn’t accomplish a thing –
The point of relinquishing one’s ego is to replace it
With love of God –
Along with an ability to take concrete steps to bringing God into the world.

In sum, relinquishing one’s ego is only the first step –
But what follows needs to be a life dedicated to “understanding” God
And God’s true nature as much as humanly possible –

For example, who is God, what does God want, and are there any exemplars of God
Appearing in the world today
Who make one’s heart “sing with joy?”

Starting this process of “understanding” God
Is the same thing as “falling in love” with God –
Both, however, entail a commitment to a lifelong process.

Once you’ve actually fallen in love with God
Means you’ll want to act in ways that God desires –
Jesus was able to do this –
Faced with a painful, disgraceful death administered by Roman troops –
He acted solely for God
Which resulted in an historically impactful release of Holy Spirit out into the world
Occurring simultaneously with his physical death.

This spirit of Jesus was transformed into a human “sun” –
That perpetually is creating more spiritual life in our world –
Often in ways not manifested during his earlier physical life.
Take Saul/Paul, for example, who was able to transform himself,
At least partially, into a brilliant reflection of Jesus.

So, enlightenment is not enough by itself – instead, we need to “fall in love” with God
And then commit our lives to bringing God, by our actions, into the world.

We lose nothing by giving up our egos
Because, without God, we’re nothing anyway –
All our other efforts – no matter how materially meaningful –
Don’t matter at all –
The only thing that truly matters are actions on behalf of God
Everything else is – dross.

Every single human being, whether righteous or unrighteous,
Has the potential – while still alive –
To make a choice about each single individual act –
Whether or not to contribute something towards making God’s world real.

God began existence with a simple gesture
Unfurling out into the cosmos –
From its initial cosmic explosion, followed by evolving life, and then radiant spirit
All – moving steadily towards God –
Where, by the end of time, all of us will end up participating with God

Who is “Love”
Who is “Truth”
Who is “Justice”
Who is “Beauty.”

If you can do this, you’ll gain everything – and lose nothing –
Even if, by then, you’ll no longer have any personal identity or name –
Which won’t matter because, in your actions, you’ll have become part of God –
And God will recognize you and know your name – even if no one else does.

Jesus deeply understood this, and you can trust him about it –
That is, we need to love God the same way he did.

So, a loss of ego leading to enlightenment may be an important first step,
But, by itself, amounts to almost nothing
While acting in the world for God turns out to be the only thing
That’s actually truly meaningful!

REALITY AT ALL LEVELS

How can we see like Jesus could see –
As fully human and fully God?

He saw with two eyes – one a human’s and one God’s.

A real human eye is found only in a “true self” –
Like the eye of an infant – where everything is fresh and new –
And, as the scientists say,
Pure uninterrupted experience is limited to three seconds,
But is never found in the head of a wooden puppet – like Pinocchio
As an “ego” or a “false self.”  

God’s eye is different –
It sees through time (eternity) and space (infinity) –
Set within the four cardinal points of love, truth, justice, and beauty –
With the lines meeting at the top of a spiritual pyramid –
Love meeting truth, truth meeting justice, justice meeting beauty,
And beauty resting on love –
All conjoined at the tip – where God lives.

Two eyes – one a human being’s and one God’s.

Jesus could see through a child’s eyes
Balanced by those four spiritual attributes of God.

When those two eyes exist in a single head
They see reality – and at all levels.

EXCHANGING THE EGO FOR A “TRUE SELF”

             Some say the most profound scientific discipline is theoretical physics which has vastly expanded our understanding of the structure of the physical universe using the language of mathematics, but I think this now needs to be matched by an even more profound spiritual/theological discipline that can further our understanding of the relationship between God and the human self through expanded human consciousness of love, truth, justice, and beauty as expressed through the arts. Materialistic evolution via science and technology has taken us about as far as we’re going to get while still retaining our basic humanity, but the prospects for our species will be pretty dim if that’s the full extent of what we’re ever going to achieve.

             I propose it’s time for human beings to make a conscious choice about which evolutionary path they should take: materialistic evolution (especially digital artificial intelligence) or the next step in humans’ spiritual evolution. Greater spirituality, however, won’t necessarily increase our intelligence or ability to manipulate the material world, but could, eventually, evolve us into an entirely different type of humanity – the kind originally pointed towards by Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed.

            When a person enters the world as a baby, they’re totally open to God – arriving as pure energy in human form. Because they come straight from God, they’re completely natural upon arrival. After their surprise landing in this world, however, they need to figure out how to survive in this particular time and place. They eventually do, but the cost is often high. They’re faced with the necessity of becoming the kind of person that other people readily recognize and the surrounding culture use. Since usually they’re raised by parents – people who’ve already made the requisite compromises and adjustments – the baby ultimately learns how to “fit in.”

            This baby, who started life as a tiny energy “sun,” eventually begins “dimming” because so much of her original natural energy will be perceived as “alien” to her family’s world. Eventually, the baby matures and becomes a “person” by developing an ego – and ultimately joins society. One day, however, that baby – after attaining adulthood – might begin wondering where all her previous energy had gone – and whether it might ever be regained.

            In traditional societies, a person’s roles remain largely the same throughout their life and also determine how their children will turn out.

            In modern societies, however, by early adulthood, a person usually gains abilities and opportunities to change “who” they are by making individual choices – leading them away from predestined family roles – becoming partly a family-destined person and partly a self-determined one – in a “composite” role. Nevertheless, whatever this composite role turns out to be, it’s still just a role.

            All roles, traditional or modern, become included in one’s “life story.” As Shakespeare asserted in As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” So, the problem with developing an “ego,” along with one’s accompanying “story,” is the temptation to “make up” that story as one goes along – like in a dramatic film – even if carried out mainly unconsciously.

            Another problem with “roles” is their need for consistency and continuity, so the self can seemingly remain “the same.”

            This is why “higher” values are necessary to effect any serious changes in our quotidian roles and stories. Traditionally, humanity’s highest values have been attributable to a “Spirit” (usually “God’s”) – as well as to divine spiritual attributes like love, truth, justice, and beauty.

            Roles and stories, however, compel us to live as unfree. Since we believe these roles and stories (as reinforced by the surrounding society) constitute our “identity,” we sometimes even believe we would need to “die” as the price for achieving freedom. If a person becomes threatened with losing their identity, frequently, they’ll think they might as well be dead. That’s how important roles and personal stories are for a normal human being. In fact, there’s a general consensus in the humanities, as well as in psychotherapy, that the ego, as a person’s chief fictional character, is one’s essential self.

            So, how is it possible to free ourselves from embedded roles and stories that obstruct our natural human self-understanding and close down our best, most spontaneous thoughts – in order to gain the freedom necessary to become our “true selves”?

            The answer is that we need to be “born again” – at any age. That is, we’ll need to reverse direction, spiritually, and become a “child” all over again so as to become as free as God.

             Jesus himself said this, did this, and then died for it – all to show us how.

             To be “born again” is scary – few can do it all at once. Most people need time to shed their artificial roles until they’re free enough to make a long daring leap into their “true selves.” Starting at an older age, it actually becomes easier to work towards greater spirituality by breaking up and discarding pieces of one’s earlier “false selves” and gain a greater naturalness and openness spiritually even though one is at the same time physically degenerating.

NOBODY

             One trump card used by “enlightenment masters,” when meeting prospective new followers, is asking: “who are you?,” knowing in advance they can’t answer that – because, in actuality, at the deepest levels underneath their “ego,” they’re “no one” and “nobody.”

            Recognizing the need to rid myself of ego before taking up the search for my “true self,” I started studying Western medieval mystics like Marguerite Porete and Meister Eckhart, as well as more modern writers, like Emily Dickinson and Simone Weill, all of whom wrote about becoming “nobody” or “no one,” as being necessary to approach God directly. Marguerite Porete wrote: True freedom is when we “become love.” This reaches far beyond simple humility (because, obviously, a lot of pride can be hidden behind a show of humility). Going all the way – to zero – and then experiencing the world – is what they seemed to be recommending. At first, this approach seemed meaningless to me, even nonsensical, yet they repeatedly kept saying it.

            Eventually, I came to accept their approach as being centered on freedom. That in order to escape one’s ego, one first had to free oneself of one’s “old” self – along with all the wrong ideas and assumptions about one’s “life” and “the world.” Apparently, becoming nobody does the trick! As Marguerite says: “The soul swims in a sea of joy!”

            We need to go to the place where we stand alone – waiting for the promised meeting with God –and then just wait. As Meister Eckhart says: “To be empty of all created things is to be full of God, and to be full of created things is to be empty of God.”

            The promise is that God arrives out of “nothing,” That by accepting loneliness – even depression – and waiting patiently, God will eventually “come home” – into your heart.

            Immediately upon “waking up,” you’ll be seeing through fresh eyes – a newborn’s eyes – and what you’ll see and experience is what God sees and experiences – through you – just as if you’re God and God is you.

            This is the easiest, as well as the hardest, thing in the world to accomplish – to give up your ego in order to find your “true self” – to become the individual you were born to be. It’s what Jesus understood – that one’s old self has to “die” for one’s “true self” to come to life.

            And this is what he accomplished – and why people either spontaneously followed him or desired to kill him. The former filled with a joy they’d never experienced before, while the latter became angry that any human being would dare to become that kind of person.

            As Meister Eckhart says: “God’s ground and the soul’s ground are one ground.” That is, God’s essence and the soul’s essence are the same – at least in the eyes of great mystics

OWSLEY ACID

        In the late 60’s, after putting out the first edition of a community-based poetry and photography magazine, People on the Streets, based in Washington, D.C., and engaging in several large anti-War rallies, my friend and I decided to take a break and travel to Mexico. Friends had told us about a village high in the mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean that San Francisco hippies had discovered. So, late in December, after a long drive South, we crossed the border and arrived at Zacatecas where bright-eyed Huichol Indians (who take psychedelic peyote and play tiny violins) live. Leaving that city behind, we traveled to Puerto Vallarta where we boarded an ancient ship (resembling the African Queen) which took us down the coast to Yelapa. Left on an empty white sand beach, we were greeted by a tall young blonde woman who told us to leave our baggage on the beach (because no one would disturb it) and go into the village to rent a pelapa (cottage). This pelapa was constructed out of stone and colored glass bottles in the lower third, dark timbers with large open wooden windows in the middle, and a thatched reed roof on top. In the interior, stone steps led up to a one-bedroom loft. We had been told, and the young woman confirmed, that Owsley acid was readily available. The next day, after taking the acid, we climbed to a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful tropical trees and multi-colored birds surrounded us, while beyond the blue, shading into deep blue, Pacific Ocean was shining. Taking acid was like having the coverings of one’s eyes torn off – forcing us to see everything “fresh” – like looking at the world through a newborn’s eyes. It was exhausting seeing everything as if for the first time. Later on, coming down just a bit, I thought this must be how Jesus saw the world – no “ego,” no “self” – just pure consciousness.

       When I came completely down, I wanted to experience life like this all the time, but knew this experience had been a gift of “magical” chemicals and that I would never be able to repeat it in the same way – no matter how many “trips” I took. I understood that I needed to earn my way back – by changing my life and becoming more “like” Jesus and by some serious study. I also understood it would be a long road and wondered if I would ever be able to accomplish it.

        If one thinks about consciousness as an open circle, the part accessible to one’s ego is a very thin slice – maybe 10% – 20%. From early childhood on, that’s the tiny part of ourselves we choose to live within – with our experiences needing to fit within that narrow slice or be excluded. Our ego requires, as the price for its effectiveness, that each and every experience outside the scope of its chosen roles to be methodically and ruthlessly pushed back into the unconscious – sealing off wider and wilder experiences out of our consciousness.

       When we’re “born again,” we gain access to all our consciousness – all 360 degrees of it – and are able to experience full reality. We become completely “free” – open to all experience – just like when we first came into the world. This rebirth, however, doesn’t happen within an ego – it only happens after we break free from that ego and start living outside it. That’s what Zen training, for example, prepares one for – to get “outside” oneself. This, essentially, is the path Jesus took, and what he was able to demonstrate for us. 

“HERE I AM, READY OR NOT”

Men invented the ego but kept it mostly to themselves –
Women thought this quite the magic show
Generally permissible to watch.

Men created masks for dancing round a fire –
Women hummed and pounded the earth with their fists
Which resulted in many children for the community.

Men invented writing but kept it to themselves
Women said: “alright” and retreated into kitchens with daughters
Resulting in men monopolizing societal memory
Which, in turn, encompassed gods, wealth, and power –
Thereby inheriting a “male heaven on earth.”

Someday, all these “men-as-Gods” will have to stop
And take a break – in order that women can stand up without fear
And show us what we’ve all been missing.

I pray the right woman, reading this – today –
Will stand up and say: “alright – I’ll do it” –
“If the world is now willing to accept a “woman-as-God” –
“Here I am – ready or not!”

WELCOME TO THE KINGDOM!

When you’re a baby, you’re the entire universe –
And there’s nothing else that matters but you.

You’re given a beautiful mother
Who takes care of all your needs –
So you never forget her face.

Then, slowly, surely, everything starts coming into focus
Until the day you’re finally able to see yourself –
Along with all your limitations.

The surprising pain associated with becoming aware of those limitations
Leads to constructing a fantasy “self”
That you can almost believe in –
A splendid “ego” useful for dressing up your more primitive, negligible self –
Someone capable of surviving and succeeding in this world.

Eventually, you become a “real” puppet – like Pinocchio –
Who can “pass” –
Manipulating the world from behind a curtain –
While it’s only in bad dreams you realize the rest of the world
Is the same as you –

Puppets!

You exist through an unreal “person” or “persona” –
Unaware of having an alternative, even if asked.

Entire religions are built around the existence of a few chosen people
Courageous enough or insane enough to become their “true selves.”

But established religions never explain it that way –
Instead, they say such people are “gods” or “super-beings” –
And that if you’re willing to turn yourself over to them, they’ll protect you –
Most especially, after you die –
And then you’ll be able to “live forever” – whatever that means.

Gurus and other hotshot spiritual hustlers
Ask who “you” are –
Knowing you’ll have no answer –
And that you’d have to “die” to obtain one – and there’s no chance of that ever happening!

Actually, it’s quite simple –
There are no religions or spiritual “masters” available to help you –
There’s only you.

To discover your “true self” you’ll need to give up everything
You are, have, and want to be –
And be willing to be your naked self – and then look at that!
Then drop that, and keep dropping all the that’s which subsequently appear –
Until there’s nothing left
Nothing, at all –

When you discover the magic of being “born again,” as Jesus recommended –
Even then, you’ll need to be very careful not to let this new state of being
Develop into a more advanced kind of Ego.

This is why humbleness comes first –
True humility –
Someone used to being overlooked.

Then, when you finally start breathing freely again –
When you can “see” actual reality,
Including, most importantly, the reality of “yourself.”

That’s when God will suddenly appear and say:
“Good job, little one,”
“Welcome to the Kingdom!”

THE WORLD APPLAUDS HYPOCRITES

The more suitable word for ego is “hypocrite.”

In ancient Greek theatre, hypocrites were actors –
Those who “play a part” –
From which the word “hypocrite” originally derived.

I’ve often spoken of one’s “true self” as opposed to one’s ego –
Because we create egos as our “face to the world” –
And, sometimes, more than one such “face.”

The Greeks used masks in their plays –
So egos are our contemporary “masks”
Used by us to “play” the world
And manipulate society (along, of course, with our own selves).

So who are we fooling?
Is the world nothing more than a huge “theatre” – as Shakespeare intuited –
In which all of us cooperate in playing out our several parts?

What happens, though, when a person enters the world and refuses to play that expected part –
Refusing to be anyone but her “true self”?
I think she might get killed – even if not physically –
Certainly, she’ll face rejection for her refusal to “go along.”

The world insists:
“Play your part – whatever it is – and don’t try to be ‘real’” –
Because that might call everything into question!