I had a wonderful prayer yesterday morning. It was one of those prayers where you just kind of receive knowledge and comfort and assurance all at the same time. They don’t happen often, but it’s really nice when they do. At the center of this prayer – kind of the anchor on which hung all of the knowledge gained before and after – was a vision or impression. I don’t want to make a big deal out of me having a “vision”. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “vision” – but there’s a picture in my mind and the picture represents knowledge and understanding. Call it what you want; it remains a memory, with accompanying knowledge and understanding that I hope to relate to you.
This “vision” was very simple. I saw myself standing between Christ and another person. The other person wasn’t anyone in particular. It clearly represented “my neighbor” – all mankind. I was reaching out to both with my arms, but I was still separated from Christ, and I stood between Christ and my neighbor, indicating that my neighbor was even more separated from Christ than I was. The implication was that I was somehow more holy, or more advanced, or kinder, or whatever – I was somehow closer to Christ. As I took in this situation, though, I was realized that the situation, the relationship, as I viewed it is wholly unacceptable to Christ. I guess one could say it was “anti-Christ”.
What I understood during this prayer was that if I view myself, in any way, as being superior to another person, I am merely perpetuating the separation, not only between me and the other person, but also between me and Christ. In other words, I cannot be one with Christ if I am not one with my neighbor. I hope you’ll pause now and let that sink in before I proceed and attempt to relate the gravity of this concept.
Before I proceed much further, I need to clarify my understanding and usage of the term “The Separation” or simply “separation”. The terms “The Fall” and “The Separation” are, in my theology and understanding, synonymous. When Adam and Eve chose knowledge over oneness, they were separated from the presence of and a oneness with god and from each other. Then, like all of us, they experienced the pain of the separation, and found themselves faced with the challenge of overcoming that separation that they had chosen. They were not only faced with the challenge of redemption for themselves, however, but I speculate that, because their choice resulted in the separation for all their children – because they “fell” together and all their posterity were born into a fallen state – they must somehow be healed of that separation, together. In other words, it is conceivable, at least to me, that Adam and Eve are responsible for bringing their children – all of them – home. I don’t mean to imply that this was all a bad thing. I really don’t understand all the Eden drama, and that is not the point of this post.
This separation from God is perpetuated and re-affirmed by our every thought, every decision, every choice, every action, every belief that is not in harmony with the nature of God. And what is the nature of God? God’s nature is love. I recently discovered a beautiful definition of “sin” in a book called, “A Course In Miracles”. This definition is very simple: Sin is to act in the absence of love. Therefore, if I do not love – if I act in the absence of love – I sin, because I have acted in opposition to the nature of God. We all know that God cannot not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. That sin, then, keeps me from being with God – from being “one” with Him.
I should probably also attempt to define salvation, at least for the purposes of this essay. It seems to me that there are two definitions of salvation at play in the doctrines of Christianity as understood by most of us:
- The first is salvation from Hell – from eternal damnation.
- The second definition of salvation is to be permitted to return to God’s presence – to again be one with Him – to no longer be separated from Him.
My observation is that most who profess Christianity throw this term salvation around without really understanding what it means – far too often without even questioning it – and that they also confuse the two definitions. Ironically, since I believe Hell, or eternal damnation, is nothing more than separation from God, the two definitions are really the same, and not different at all. Since Hell is the failure to return to a oneness with Him – to abide in Him and Him in me – my not being one with Him is indeed Hell or eternal damnation. This failure, to the extent that it is within my control, is nothing more than rebellion. The way is prepared for me to return – I just have to follow it.
Consider the parable of the prodigal son. He chose to separate from his father, but then he chose to come home. He came home and received back, by the grace and love of his father, his greatest inheritance (perhaps not the money he squandered). Nothing real (love) was withheld upon His return. The father’s love was unconditional, despite the temporary rebellion of the son. As long as the son remained separated from his father, they were not one, but as soon as the son chose to return, the oneness was given freely. The son had returned! Kill the fatted calf! Most importantly, we must take notice that there was no judgment in the father’s love.
I maintain, then, that salvation is ultimately to be one again with God. As long as I continue to openly rebel by acting in ways that contradict His nature, which is love, I cannot be one with Him. It is my choice. Another result of this choice, if made wrongly, is that I continue to reject Christ. He died in His innocence and perfect love that I might return to God’s presence, but I cannot continue to sin. I cannot continue to willfully and knowingly act in the absence of love. This sin, then, prevents me from being saved, because, despite all that Christ did for me, that I might be saved, if I continue to sin, or act in the absence of love – the very nature of the Christ, I cannot be reconciled to Him or to the Father.
That is not to say that I can do this – become one with God – on my own. The most I can do, actually, is to be willing – to seek, ask, knock – and stay out of the way.
CONTINUING TO SIN
So, what is this, that I continue to sin and willfully rebel? Might it not be said that I keep the commandments in that I do not steal, or kill, or lie, or commit adultery, or covet, or worship other gods? Might I not even say that I keep the commandments in that I am kind, and loving, and gentle? Might I not even feel like I obey the commandments because I tithe regularly and am honest in my business dealings?
Recall my definition of sin – to act in the absence of love. The obvious sins that are detailed in our current canon of scripture, and have become part of our western culture – mostly the “thou shalt nots”- certainly fall within this definition. Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It should be noted that there are many levels of commandments – culminating, similar to the integrated hierarchy of performance measures in a business organization, in the two greatest commandments:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
All “commandments”, however you view them, are, in my mind, subordinate to these two commandments, and none of them can be contradictory to these. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. If I act in the absence of love, love of God and love of my neighbor, then I sin. If I continue to sin, I must remain separated from God, in a state of damnation. I must at least sincerely desire and strive to fulfill these commandments. Might I suggest that, although I keep the letter of the law or the letter of commandments, primarily some of the subordinate commandments, if I don’t do this in the spirit of charity; if I cannot learn to love unconditionally, I cannot be one with Him, because, as I said, I am acting contrary to His nature. I must remain to some degree in a state of separation or damnation (are there really degrees of separation or damnation?).
ONE WITH GOD AND CHRIST
I have mentioned multiple times so far the importance of being one; of overcoming the separation. Why is this so important? We need only turn to the Gospel of John to find the answer to this. I will begin with John 17:3, which says, simply,
“…and this is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”.
This short scripture has become the mantra of my own life – that I might know God and Christ. I’ve become kind of a broken record on this. As I have continued to pursue this goal, as they have continued to teach me what this really means and what I must do to accomplish this, it has become very apparent that “to know” someone in this sense is synonymous with “becoming one” with them. I cannot know someone in an eternal sense while remaining separate from them.
It should be noted here that this and the following scriptures from John 17 are taken from the great intercessory prayer offered by Christ after the Last Supper and before the experience in Gethsemane. Aside from the prayers uttered in the Garden and on the cross, I am not aware of any other prayers from Christ to the Father in the Bible. From this very important prayer, then, come the following utterances:
Speaking of the apostles, Christ says in verse 11,
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Verse 14 says, still speaking of the apostles:
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Then, verses 20-23:
To be one, the separation can no longer exist. Just before Christ goes to perform the great atonement – the agony in Gethsemane, followed by that on the cross, Christ prays “…for them also which shall believe on me through their word…all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…”. One could certainly deduce from this that at a significant goal of the at-one-ment was that all might be one; that the separation might be healed and overcome.
HEALING THE SEPARATION – BECOMING ONE WITH CHRIST AND WITH EACH OTHER
In my vision, I was not one with Christ. Why? It’s simply because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I continue to openly rebel against His nature. I reject the oneness that He offers. Oh, He waits. He even watches, that He might see me “…from afar off” as did the father of the prodigal son, watching for signs of willingness. My journey back into His presence has certainly begun, and in great earnest, but as long as I continue to work to maintain separation from Him and from my neighbor, I cannot know HIM! I cannot be ONE WITH HIM. I cannot be saved.
In my vision, I was not only “not one” with Christ, I was also not one with my neighbor. Why? Once again, it’s because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I viewed myself as superior to my neighbor because I was closer to Christ than he was. Now here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Little did I know that by perceiving that I was closer to Christ than my neighbor – that I was somehow superior (or inferior, for that matter), and thus separate, I was in open rebellion against the nature of Christ. I can never be one with Christ unless I can adopt His nature as my own. Again what is His nature? His nature is love. Unconditional love. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! I must learn to have unconditional love for all – for my neighbor, for myself, and for HIM!
The faithful son in the parable of the prodigal son was no closer to oneness with the father than was the prodigal son, even though he was, on the surface, the obedient one. As a matter of fact, in this sense they were both prodigal. The “faithful” son’s love for the father was no more unconditional than was that of the prodigal. Actually, once the prodigal son returned, his love for the father was indeed unconditional, because he wanted only to return as the least in the household, while the eldest son became angry and withdrew his love when the conditions of that love were violated. So, if we place conditions on Christ, such as “If I keep the commandments, I can be saved”, even our love of Christ, or His love for us, is not unconditional.
In order to become one with Christ, I must become one with my neighbor. This is the only way the separation can be healed, the only way I can be saved.
How can I learn to love unconditionally, as Christ does? The answer is simple, but executing it is not easy. I must not judge. It is that simple. It is also that not easy!
The world will tell us that it’s ok to judge, as long as we’re right. Even Christ says in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteously”. I declare here and now that it is this judgment that perpetuates the separation; that prevents us from being one with our neighbor, and thus with Christ. It is this judgment that prevents us from loving our neighbor, ourselves, and Christ unconditionally, and stands in the way of our full reconciliation with the Father. It is this idea that we can judge righteously that will damn us. News flash! We are incapable of judging righteously. We just don’t have the knowledge required to judge perfectly. Furthermore, the necessary knowledge is blocked because we judge – because we choose to carry around this poisonous burden of judgment; a poison that we cannot tolerate spiritually, and a burden that weighs us down and prevents us from ascending. We cannot love unconditionally as long as we continue putting conditions on our love in the form of judgment. Wow! What a web we weave!
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve continued to learn. Unconditional love cannot be learned. It is just in us. It is a gift of our creator – the essence of Him given to us as we are created by Him. However, we CAN learn to reject the characteristics of the natural man which prevent us from manifesting that perfect love. Fear, guilt, and judgment not only prevent us from receiving unconditional love from Father and Christ, but they also prevent us from feeling and manifesting it toward others. This morning, I was praying for someone, and I realized that I just glossed over the prayer, like it was almost mechanical. I stopped and recognized an almost empathetic feeling for this person’s suffering, but I found that I feared to go there. I felt like my prayer was a substitute for true empathy, for true charity. I am right now in the process of trying to learn how I can jettison the fear and see if it will allow me to experience this person’s suffering just as Christ experienced our suffering in the garden.
In my vision, I viewed a separation between me and my neighbor. I saw something in my neighbor that I perceived as being less than me. Perhaps it was less knowledge. Perhaps it was less compassion. Perhaps its was less self-discipline (hard to believe). Perhaps it was less love for his neighbor. Nevertheless, I judged, and because I judged, I did not love unconditionally. I was not one with either Christ or my neighbor. Somehow, I was allowing fear, judgment, or guilt to prevent me from a perfect connection with my neighbor.
Now, my neighbor may well choose not to reciprocate my offer of unconditional love. Once I have offered, I can do little more than continue to love and be patient, without judgment. That is the position Christ finds Himself in. I cannot judge my neighbor because he is unprepared to receive my unconditional love any more than Christ judges us because we are unprepared to receive His unconditional love. The love is unconditional. That means there are no conditions placed upon it. Does Christ withdraw His love, or attach conditions to His love because we choose to put our faith in temporal things, or in culture, or all manner of false gods, or in rituals, ordinances, or scriptures instead of Him? Does He attach conditions because we wrap ourselves in thoughts motivated by jealousy, fear, and guilt? No, he waits patiently, watching for us to approach from afar off. He waits, loving unconditionally, for us to recognize that His love is perfect, and even that we, the creations of the Father, are perfect.
DID YOU SAY “PERFECT”?
What a masterful, perfect lie has been perpetuated throughout the history of God’s relationship with Man. Countless hours and thoughts have been dedicated by Christians and their ministers to attempt to reconcile this lie. Only one perfect being? Hogwash! How can Christ say, as the culmination of His great Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect…” if being perfect is impossible for us – the target of His sermon? How can we be one with a perfect being if we ourselves are not perfect? Are we not to believe Christ? Are we to pick and choose which of His teachings we are to adopt into our lives, obeying some while ignoring this one? Yet as long as we continue to indulge ourselves in judgment of ourselves and others; as long as we continue to entertain thoughts of fear, jealousy, and guilt, and project those feelings onto others – heck, even to project those feelings onto Christ Himself – we separate ourselves from Him and from our neighbor’s perfect self. As long as we are separated, we are not perfect, and we cannot be one with Him. If we are to believe Christ; if we are to keep His commandments (love God, love your neighbor, be ye therefore perfect), we must seek healing of this separation. We must surrender our reliance on the ego, or the natural man, with its lies and illusions, and look to the Holy Spirit for truth. We must recognize that, in eternity (in the absence of time – for time is appointed only unto man), we are already perfect – as God created us – as one with Him. Our creation is not separate from Him. He created us as part of Him – perfect and one in that perfection. Once we can realize this, it is much easier to view ourselves and our neighbor as His perfect creations who, as a result of our essential quest for knowledge, are temporarily experiencing a probationary, illusory existence which we must overcome in order to return to our naturally created state – that of perfect oneness with God and all creation.
As a side note, but not completely, I’d like to talk briefly (well, maybe not so briefly) about what we exercise faith in. My faith is in the message that Christ teaches – by His words and by His example. This message is that love – unconditional love, without judgment – that quality which we call charity – is the essence of the universe. It is the purpose behind all commandments. It is the purpose of our existence. All ordinances, all rituals, all scriptures point to this, and that is their purpose. They have no purpose or even value in and of themselves – only in that they point to Christ’s message of charity. Any man (or woman, of course) who does not teach this does not represent Christ, and listening to their teaching may well cause you to miss the whole point of your existence.
I have observed so many who put their faith in these symbols without even understanding their purpose. This purpose – this message – is so radically contrary to our experience on this earth that few are willing to truly receive it. As a result, we receive the law; we receive the scriptures; we receive the ordinances, hoping that somehow receiving and honoring these things will save us. We seek the magic, believing that somehow Christ will elevate us into oneness with Him. I no longer have faith in these things. I don’t even have faith in the person of Christ. Oh, I believe in Him. I even believe Him. I believe His promises. I trust Him – although I must admit I do so imperfectly. But it is His truth, His message – this message of hope and goodness and righteousness, even of perfection in our creation, that I have faith in. All else is idolatry. It is this message that I am choosing to pattern my life after – as massively difficult as I am finding it to be. This message, by the way, is also the message of Zion. It is the only way Zion will be – on the basis of unconditional love without judgment, of ourselves and of others, absent guilt, fear, and jealousy. We can baptize and sacrament ourselves to death. We can revise and fine-tune, even write new scriptures from now into the eternities – all of which is good – but if we do not develop this attribute of charity, we will never realize this great promise, the fulfillment of which is to the greatest glory of Christ and the Father.
I admit that I’ve rambled a bit. This vision, and the knowledge that came with it…well, it was at once a distillation of things I’ve been learning all my life – especially the last couple of years, along with some new understanding of what it all means that distilled upon me suddenly. I will attempt to summarize the point of this essay:
- Hell, or damnation, is separation from God. Salvation is being one with God, with Christ, and with each other. Christ is the prototype of the saved man because His is no longer separated from God.
- We are born into separation. The ego or the natural man is all about self-preservation. He seeks to validate his existence by creating separation. In order to heal this separation, we must learn to subordinate this ego – not eliminate it – to the Holy Spirit. This is done by recognizing the power that guilt, fear, and jealousy hold over us. These are tools that the ego uses to validate itself, to maintain its separation, and they can have no place in our oneness with Christ. They are not part of His nature, and can, therefore, not be part of us.
- As long as we continue to entertain the purpose of the ego, or the natural man, we sin. Such is counter to the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and therefore is done in open rebellion to their nature. Thus, this sin – this acting in the absence of love – perpetuates the separation.
- Unconditional love – love without judgment – charity – is the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and extending it to ourselves, our neighbor, and to Christ Himself, is the requirement for healing the separation, which in turn results in salvation.
- Perfection is our natural state. Everything else is a lie – an illusion. Our task here on this earth is to recognize that and, in doing so, to honor and glorify God and Christ. The flowering of this perfection must be enabled by casting out guilt, fear, and jealousy. The flower exists, it just hasn’t, within the context of time, bloomed yet. However, in the context of eternity, it already exists, and it is the essence of who we are.
- Faith in anything other than Christ’s message – the message of truth, light, hope, charity, and perfection – is idolatry. Faith in ordinances, scriptures, even doctrine is useless without understanding what they all point to – which is the message, the truth. This is the message of Zion. It is the message that is Christ’s glory. It is the message that is, ultimately, our salvation. There may be many steps leading to this – steps that represent a degree of glory, a stop by the wayside, but only charity, only unconditional love without judgment, can bring about our ultimate salvation and the fulfillment of the purpose of our existence. This salvation, by the way, is incomplete – Christ’s mission is incomplete – until all are saved – one with Him and with each other. In other words, even damnation is a temporary state – a stop by the wayside. Christ will leave no man (or woman, of course) behind, not matter how long it takes.
I believe it is essential that we understand these principles – that we apply ourselves to healing the separation between Christ, ourselves, and each other. This has become so clear to me, and it is the purpose of my life, even my existence.
A quote – in the words of Christ – from the book “A Course in Miracles”
I who am host to God am worthy of Him.
He Who established His dwelling place in me created it as He would have it be.
It is not needful that I make it ready for Him, but only that I do not interfere with His plan to restore to me my own awareness of my readiness, which is eternal.
I need add nothing to His plan.
But to receive it, I must be willing not to substitute my own in place of it.
And from me: Individual ascension can only be accomplished if one focuses on enabling the ascension of others.
When I apply these principles not only to myself, but to others, it is much easier to comprehend ourselves having unconditional love for everyone. I pray that the Lord will teach me – teach us – how I can lay aside those thoughts and beliefs that interfere
.with His plan for me. I pray that He will prepare us to become one with Him, and thus to glorify Him.