“Wherever you turn, there is the face of God.” ~The Quran
Every religion, at its core, is based on the idea that our world is a magical and mystical place, that each of us is on a spiritual journey, that all life is sacred, and that our entire Universe is a mystical creation.
Modern science, while often professing skepticism, is now coming around to provide further support for these ancient teachings. At the atomic level, each of us is composed of nothing but energy, timeless swirling patterns of light. Every atom in your body is billions of years old, clustering in molecules and cells held together by solar energy pouring down from the heavens.
Our very consciousness rides upon this energy, the fields of solar light pulsing within every living being. The very meaning of ‘spirit’ comes originally from the idea of an animating principle within living creatures. We now know that this life force truly exists, its local physical source the sun, its original source, a metaphysical mystery.
It’s usually hard for us to think this way. We are so caught up in our social and cultural identities, in our shared perceptions, desires and fears, that it’s difficult for us to see ourselves and others as primarily cosmic and spiritual beings. And yet, for centuries, that is what many of the world’s greatest prophets, sages, poets, writers, artists and visionaries have been trying to help us to do.
Here below is a summary of some of the “perennial” wisdom common to most of the world’s mystical schools and spiritual traditions. Mystical teachings are at the core of all the great religions. They provide an alternative to hate and fear, to our illusions of separateness, reminding us instead of the beauty, interdependence and sacredness of all life.
~*Core Ideas of the World’s Spiritual Traditions*~
UNITY, CARING AND CONNECTEDNESS~ The concept of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, unity and compassion. We are all related to one another, learning how to love and respect each other here on this planet, and work together harmoniously. Human life is like a school, where we are given the opportunity to practice forgiveness, charity, cooperation and compassion in this world.
“The kingdom of heaven is inside you and it is outside you. God’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.” ~The Gospel of Thomas
DIVINITY IN THE WORLD~ The concept of divine purpose, guidance and grace. This is based on faith in an unseen mystery and spiritual wisdom in the universe. There is a spiritual presence that resides within us, and surrounds us, that can guide us when we believe in it, pray to it and learn to listen to it’s subtle messages to us. Not only that, but since this divine power resides in all beings, it often speaks to us from the mouths of others, and through events in our world.
“God is not some person outside ourselves or away from the Universe. He pervades everything… He abides in our hearts and is nearer to us than the nails on our fingers.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
THE UNIVERSAL SELF~ A central idea of mysticism is that there is only One Spiritual Being at the core of everything. This Universal Self is our fundamental identity. We are all ideas in the imagination of God, fingers on the hands of the Universe, or leaves on the Universal Tree of Life. At the center of each person is this same Divine Self.
“When we see God in each other we will be able to live in peace.” ~Mother Teresa
THE SOUL~ This universal spiritual Self is what most religious traditions call the soul. We are not the social roles society tells us we are. Our fundamental identity resides in our sacred and eternal core, whose origins lie in the spiritual realm and who’s experiences and feelings here on this earth are providing the most important learning experiences of our lives.
“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.” ~Thomas Merton
SPIRITUAL GROWTH~ As conscious souls we are constantly learning and growing, becoming more and more aware of our spiritual potential and our sacred relationship to everything else in the Universe. Life is a spiritual journey, where we learn to let go of our limited human ideas and beliefs, putting our faith in the wisdom of the mysterious creative power that gave birth to our Universe, and dances in our lives.
“Growth comes with an increasing awareness of and respect for Great Mystery in all people and things, with an awareness that this force of mystery is at work in all events. Growth comes through tolerance for the infinite variety of ways in which Great Spirit, the Infinite,may express itself in this Universe.” ~Ed McGaa (American Indian)
RECOGNIZING THE PURPOSE OF SACRIFICE AND PAIN~The journey of souls in this world is not easy. As long as we are motivated by anger, desire, pride or fear we will be challenged by life, and find ourselves experiencing struggles, anger, loss and pain. This is part of growth, a necessary condition for our spiritual development and learning. Fortunately, all pain and sacrifice are temporary.
“Pride comes before ruin, Arrogance before failure.” ~Jewish Proverb
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” ~Nelson Mandela
ETERNAL SAFETY~ Since we are divine eternal beings there is nothing for us to fear, not even death. Everything that happens to us is a learning experience and even the most terrible things can be transformed into expressions of divine grace. Death is a natural part of this experience, and should not be feared.
“Know the Atman [Spirit], Unborn, undying, Never ceasing, Never beginning, Deathless, birthless, Unchanging forever, How can it die the death of the body?” ~Bhagavad Gita
ALL LIFE IS SACRED~ While we may be eternal beings, to harm or kill another from malice, anger or indifference is to ignore their sacred nature and intrinsic value as sentient living creatures. Even when animals are killed we have the responsibility to do so compassionately and consciously, with respect for their lives and gratitude for their sacrifice. For the spirit that gave birth to us all lives in each and every one of us, each and every creation. All of us, no matter how foolish, insignificant or evil we may seem, are cosmic works of art, molded and inhabited by the divine light of God.
“You have heard that it was said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” ~Jesus
THE FUTILITY OF HATE~ Since we are all brothers and sisters to one another, all our hate, anger and fear are futile. Hate is based on the feeling that someone is trying to hurt you. But we are divine beings, who can never really be hurt in the end. Therefore, those we struggle with are actually teachers for us. They are challenging us to let go of our fears and illusions and open to love.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two… The duty of a human being is to diminish hatred and to promote love.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
THE REALITY OF LOVE~ Love is the way Spirit touches us, as souls here in this world. Love is the underlying reality and essence of the Universe. It is the force that holds all things together. Love is always there, although we may not always feel it or see it. Love takes care of everyone, forsakes no one. This is the great teaching common to all saints, prophets and spiritual traditions. We are all children of God, children of Love. No one should be ignored or pushed away.
“Love courses through everything. No, love is everything. How can you say, there is no love, when nothing but love exists? All that you see has appeared because of love. All shines from love, All pulses from love, All flows from love– No, once again, All is love!” ~Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi
SHARING AND SERVICE~ Out of our understanding of the reality of love comes the motivation to commit ourselves to be of service to others. Selfishness arises out of a belief in the scarcity of resources, so that each is compelled to grab whatever one can to insure one’s survival. Cooperation, compassion and service are the actions that arise when we feel no lack, for they have the potential to fill our hearts with peace, gratitude and love.
“What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.” ~Mohammed
THE RECONCILIATION OF GOOD AND EVIL~ The idea that some people are all good and others are all bad is one of the illusions spun by fear-based human reasoning. It is the central idea that gives birth to all wars and violence between people. From the perspective of higher consciousness everything and everybody in the Universe is a part of God. All good things have some “bad” within them, and all bad things have some “good.” To recognize the negative qualities of ourselves and the goodness within our enemies allows us to understand how we are all similar to one another.
“In this world, hate never dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.” ~The Buddha
THE DANGER OF PASSING JUDGMENTS~ Related to this idea of good and evil is the human tendency to judge people, to call some things right and others wrong. While it is essential to make judgments about human behavior, this process of judging people frequently puts others out of our hearts, and since everyone is a part of God, it separates us from a part of our spiritual selves. We then start to create mental judgments, expectations and opinions of others (and ourselves) in our minds that are illusions, that do not recognize each soul’s fundamental spiritual wholeness, innocence, interconnectedness, beauty and potential.
Jesus said, “… If one is [whole], one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.” ~The Gospel of Thomas
THE IMPORTANCE OF ATONEMENT~ As individuals and as nations, human beings often do things that hurt others, that cause death, suffering or pain. The great spiritual traditions all emphasis the need for atonement, for recognizing how we have hurt others and taking action to change our ways. Guilt plays a role in helping us to recognize the negative effects of our behavior. Healing occurs as we take responsibility for our “sins” and seek reconciliation with those whom have hurt us, and whom we have harmed. Cycles of pain are ended as we forgive others and recognize our own mistakes.
“Not to mend one’s ways when one has erred is to err indeed.” ~Confucius
DESIRE AND FEAR ARE THE ROOTS OF SUFFERING~ Our human pride, negative emotions and desires are like hooks that keep us trapped in the webs of material reality. The world’s great spiritual paths provide techniques for transcending our desires, releasing anger and conquering our fears. Until we are able to do so, we can never be truly free.
“There is no fire like greed, no crime like hatred, no sorrow like separation, no sickness like hunger of the heart, and no joy like the joy of freedom. Health, contentment and trust are your greatest possessions, and freedom your greatest joy. Look within, be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of living in the way.” ~The Buddha
THE HEALING POWER OF FAITH AND PRAYER~ There is a healing power that faith and prayer seem to have. Whether it works through unseen spiritual forces, an attitude shift or a boost to the immune system we are becoming aware that what we think, hope and believe has the power to influence the way surrounding events unfold in our lives, and how stress and fear impact upon our bodies and minds. Spiritual faith cultivates a serenity and joy that transforms our hearts, peacefully impacting on the varied spheres of our lives.
“Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure, you were created for JOY. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy, you have not yet begun to live.” ~Thomas Merton
THE CULTIVATION OF MORAL ETHICS, SELF-DISCIPLINE AND INTEGRITY~ As spiritual beings there are certain codes of behavior and self discipline that help to keep harmony on the earth and in our relations with one another. In order to live in peace we must learn to treat other people with respect and caring, to be truthful and honest, reliable and self-disciplined. We take responsibility for our actions, forgive ourselves (and others) for our mistakes, and seek to develop our selves (both morally and spiritually) as we learn.
“To master ourselves is to arrive home- at the Center of Being- the Universal Mandala. What we seek we already are.” ~Lama Surya Das
THE CONTINUOUS NATURE OF CREATIVITY~ The Universe is a creative event, always changing and in progress. Chaos comes out of order, and order out of chaos. Nothing every stays the same because everything keeps growing and developing further. Violence and death are a part of this endless creative dance, the Unbroken Chain of Being. This is the way God or Spirit expresses itself in our Universe. The world was not created in seven days, it is continuously being recreated every day, and as children of God we have the opportunity to celebrate and participate in that creative process.
“An epiphany enables you to sense creation not as something completed, but as constantly becoming, evolving, ascending. This transports you from a place where there is nothing new to a place where there is nothing old, where everything renews itself, where heaven and earth rejoice as at the moment of creation.” ~Abraham Isaac Kook (Jewish Mystic)
THE PRESENT MOMENT IS SACRED AND ETERNAL~ While most of our human experiences are focused on limited tasks, the past or the future, on problems or expectations, the present moment is where Spirit dances and touches our lives. This is why the Sabbath is considered holy, and so much emphasis is placed in most traditions on seeking God in our present lives and surroundings. The past and future do not exist, actually. We live only in the present moment, the Universal “Now.” Time is in some sense an illusion, the way we perceive the ever-changing physical expressions of Eternity, the movement, evolution and unfoldment of the Sacred in our world.
“As a child, I understood how to give. I have forgotten that grace since I became civilized. I lived the natural life, whereas I now live the artificial. Any pretty pebble was valuable to me then, every growing tree an object of reverence.” ~Ohiyesa (American Indian)
THE PREVALENCE OF BEAUTY~ Although violence and chaos exists, our Universe is fundamentally an extremely well organized and harmonious place, especially when creative forces are in balance with one another. Human recognition of this dynamic and continuously changing harmony is experienced as a recognition of beauty. When one looks at the world from the perspective of the Divine Soul one is overwhelmed by the intense beauty of everyone and all things. Our greatest musicians, artists and poets have captured something of this dynamic harmony that surrounds us at all moments, the spiritual and mystical beauty present in cloud patterns, in children’s smiling faces, flowers, animals, friends and what we commonly call “reality.”
“The beauty which the knower knows and the lover appreciates, the mystic worships. His God is Reality. To every question that arises in the heart of the mystic, he finds the answer in the life before him.” ~Hazarat Inayat Khan (Sufi mystic)
SPIRITUAL REALIZATION AND WORLD PEACE ARE IMMINENT~ If the great masters and teachers of humanity are right, that life is a spiritual journey being undertaken by spiritual beings, then peace and harmony on our planet is our unavoidable destiny. We can fight and fear all we like, but sooner or later humans are all going to wake up to remember who we really are at our core, all of us. Our destination is unavoidable because of who we really are. Eventually, a world of peace will be created by each of us, one at a time, in a wave of love and caring that will encircle the entire planet. It happens in our lives as soon as we release ourselves from anger and fear, and cultivate love in our world. It is in fact, already happening.
“True love is boundless like the ocean and, swelling within one, spreads itself out and, crossing all boundaries and frontiers, envelops the whole world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as One.” ~John Lennon
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” ~Albert Einstein
“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’ ” ~The Talmud
“See simplicity in the complicated, seek greatness in small things. In the Universe, the difficult things are done ss if they were easy.” ~Lao Tsu
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” ~Victor Hugo
May peace prevail,
(Written in September, 2001; about a week after the tragic attacks.)