We have removed our shoes. And by now, as we have been backing and forthing during this discussion over the past few chapters, the dust will have come up between our toes, and possibly we have even been shuffling and kicking around enough in the dirt below that our feet are nicely soiled, such that it may be difficult to tell anymore just where the soles end and the ground begins. That’s good, because, as we have said, it is just those kinds of limitations, boundaries, and labels that we hope at first to fuzz up a bit and eventually to erase altogether. Especially the idea that God and His Things are somehow limited either by their nature or by some sense of propriety and blasphemy to specially selected, anointed, and created times or places. Or people.
Everything we do or say or think or dream of doing; everything we believe about ourselves and everyone else; whatever we consider to be the nature of God and our relationship to Him (and atheists are not excused here, for to deny the existence of a thing is to acknowledge the thought about it, and as we have seen, it is at least at this point our thoughts that count); however we perceive and react to what we think is the reality within and around us - all this determines who we are, and we are doing some of that all the time.
So, wherever and whenever we are, at any moment, we are creating our reality. We are determining by all the choices (and remember, the choice not to choose is a choice) we make about everything the kinds of lives we will lead and, more importantly, whether we will lead them or be led by them. When God said to Moses, in effect, wherever you are, I am, He meant that to mean not just physically - where we may be situated or located in space - but mentally, philosophically, and psychologically as well. This is very much the same principle, and let’s not be surprised at this, as is found in the question, Who do you say I am? or in the statement, I am who you say I am. There may be more to all of them than just this idea, but reaching for an understanding of this aspect will lead us toward the rest, for this is one of the ways to get there.
Our every thought, word, or deed creates. And it is not true that we can reserve our creative energies for so-called creative moments. We are always creating. Our reality is in a constant state of dynamic readiness and flux, looking directly to and at us for its shape and direction. We create it whether we like that fact or not, whether we are aware of it or not, even whether or not we would just as soon leave it to others. (Perhaps another aspect of God’s remark about our standing on holy ground relates to this principle, that wherever we are we are creating, and there is surely no holier act than that.) For the one choice we cannot make seems to be this: in a plutonic universe, our choices determine our reality, but we do not, it would seem, have the choice not to make the choice, even though we may think we are doing so by abdication or in ignorance. We cannot change that fact because we did not create the universe; God did. And thank God for that, for while it is a universe which seems to permit us to be wrong about it, and thus to manufacture for ourselves an ever-worsening, unpleasant reality, so is it a universe which responds just as quickly, effectively, and evidently to our efforts to see and be right about it.
Make your choices, and the rest will follow. And if ever you forget or are in doubt about what choices you have made, look around you, and ask yourself what it is you see. The answer to that question is your choice.
Once again, every choice we make determines our reality. Every choice. This point cannot be overemphasized, nor can it be said too often. If the repetition bores or angers you it is likely because you have still not really taken off your shoes, still not fully acknowledged that there is no time and nowhere to which this principle does not apply.
There is an old joke about a fellow who, suffering from terrible headaches, goes from doctor to doctor in search of a cure, but of all the potions and remedies prescribed and tried, none works, and the incessant pain continues unabated. One day, in need of a new pair of shoes, he ventures into a shoe store and asks the salesman for a model in a particular size. The salesman, having measured the fellow’s feet as a matter of course when he first sat down, responds that he would be glad to bring out the model requested, but recommends to the customer a half size larger. “But I’ve always worn this size,” our friend insists. “Suit yourself,” the salesman replies, “but, mark my words, they’ll give you terrible headaches.”
Take off your shoes, for where you stand right now is where it all begins from now on. And this is true of every moment; our every choice determines our every thing. It is an awareness of this principle which we want to nourish and foster within us so thoroughly that each time, just before we speak, or think, or act, we will be reminded that we are about to make a choice. An automatic warning device that buzzes and clangs if necessary to get our attention, and to focus our consciousness on the question: Are we aware that whatever we may think is going on, we are about to make a choice. That internal, self-activating alarm is the Judas within us, and he may be our best ally in our determination to see.
We are all, I expect, familiar with the Judas story. Even those who have not read the New Testament know of it, for his role in the account has become part of our language and culture. As I see it, however, few elements in the Gospels may have been as misunderstood or so thoroughly maligned, to our loss. It was Judas, you will remember, who turned in the teacher to the authorities. That is generally about as far as we go with it, concluding therefrom that Judas was a traitor. But look at it instead this way for a moment: it was Judas who forced the issue. His action demanded of the teacher that he take a stand - the final, ultimate stand for or against what he himself believed and had taught so effectively.
Because of what Judas did, the moment of truth was at hand. The teacher was fully aware of this, as his magnificent soliloquy in the garden makes abundantly clear. Would he run, fight, or negotiate with his accusers? All of these options, and perhaps others, were open to him. Struggling over which way to turn, as should we with each choice we make, the teacher chose none of those this-world solutions because he knew that each of them would keep him tied to this world. If he feared for his mortal life and acted accordingly, it could only be because he still believed in it, believed he was it, and that its loss was his loss - (although he did waver for just an instant in what may be one of the most comforting and reassuring gifts of compassion to the rest of us struggling seekers stumbling along behind him!). Seeing the situation clearly and entirely for what it was - an opportunity to opt again for the erroneous reality based upon a misunderstanding of the image in the prism, or to reach unreservedly for the Light - he made his decision for the latter. As the seeker he was, he chose Life knowing that it would, that it must by definition, cost him his life. And it was Judas who brought that moment upon him.
To the rest of us left behind, of course, Judas is the betrayer precisely because it was he who cost the teacher what we still value most, life (in the lower case). Still believing the teacher to have been a man as we think ourselves to be, even though he repeatedly tried to tell us that he was not and that neither are we, we condemn Judas for bringing to the teacher’s awareness what we do not seem to want brought to our own. Take off your shoes, Judas tells us, for we are, right this instant, every instant, about to make another choice; and every choice is the choice. Let us at least be aware of that, and not curse the alarm that awakens us! Even though we may choose to ignore it over and over again, let us urge it, nay pray for it, to do what it must do.
Time and again with repeated frequency and increasing clarity, as we labor along the path to vision will we hear the Judas within us alerting us to what we more and more know to be true. Still, we will from time to time be deaf to the call, or, if hearing it, we will ignore it. Not this time, we will say, or not as regards this matter. We have been a long time, and covered much ground, in getting to just where we are now; the pressures and influences to carry on as before will be intense, and so will the apparent benefits to giving in seem real. We are, most of us, like the proverbial old dog in this act, and we learn slowly and often only begrudgingly, even though at base we know where our best interests lie, ahead. None knew this better than the teacher, for he too had been where we are now. Repeatedly, he warned us of the risk and danger of backsliding. And in doing so, he never intended to impose guilt, only to impart awareness. The teacher knew that a sense of guilt, like error, shades the eyes, and it was clarity of vision that he was after. Hate not yourself, he would tell us, but rather the errors you have generated and adopted about yourself.
Before the cock crows (perhaps everywhere a symbol for dawn, itself a time-honored representation of the new awakening), the teacher observed, we will deny the Truth three times, which we here can understand to mean often. This was no threat, neither was it a curse. Rather, it was simply the advice of a loving teacher to a struggling student. Like the disciple to whom that remark was offered, we will loudly and proudly protest the certainty and constancy of our determination, and then, again like him, we will falter. Still not fully disengaged from the value structure of our youth, having not yet completely released the ties to the old paradigms, we will choose to run, fight, or negotiate.
But the end will come. In a moment which we can imagine and describe only from error erroneously, we will reject the illusion we have created from the image in the prism, and become again what we have always been. What exactly that is, and how it happens, we cannot know, because the we who would know is the we to whom it must happen. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, just as we fell, we rise again. Having made the choice, and acted on it, to rid ourselves of all the shades, blinders, and lenses which befog, confuse, and distort our vision, and from which we have created an illusion out of Truth, we do so, and it is done. The error, finally, ultimately, and clearly seen for what it is and always has been, strung up before us as and in ourselves, the ourselves we thought ourselves to be, is erased and seen never to have been there at all. What never really was, at least not as we thought it was, is finally again seen as not being. Seen by what? Again, we cannot know because we are ourselves as we now think of ourselves part of the problem, and therefore whatever words we use now must fall short of the mark, serving at best as a signpost which points in the direction we should look but beyond which none of our logic or labels work. And how does a we which cannot go there get there? Recognizing that any answer we develop to address that question must perforce be in this-world terms and thus hopelessly inadequate (not to mention wrong), we deny any possibility of understanding how or why, and simply rest assured that somehow it is done. By the Grace of God.
Now, we must not confuse this final prism-smashing instant with physical death, even though in the New Testament the two seem to be the same event. On various occasions the teacher made quite clear the point that we need not die in the physical sense to see the Light, and indeed we should see physical death itself, being decidedly this-worldly, as simply another manifestation of our confused and mistaken interpretation of life and Life. Whatever else physical death may be or we may say about it, it seems clear enough that it is an activity that takes place on this side of the prism, and thus I suspect that it is not a ready way out of the cosmic bind we have gotten ourselves into. One way or the other, we are still left with the personal responsibility of having to recognize and to release the attachment we have permitted ourselves to develop to the false and erroneous view (which includes physical death) of Life.
Perhaps we have identified the act, or better, but equally hollow, the phenomenon by which the individual, separate and separative personality is subsumed by and re-united with the One, as death because we are ourselves, as we understand ourselves, so identified with that personality that we cannot imagine anything worse that its demise. Death seems to us the end of ourselves in the physical sense - the only sense the old paradigms acknowledge - and so we equate it with the end of ourselves in the parable or symbolic sense as well. We say the teacher died on the cross because that is what we saw happen, but in fact he “died” when he ceased to exist as a separate and separative personality, which he did when he withdrew his allegiance to and identification with his self as described and defined in this world terms. Does that mean he was erased or annihilated somehow, wiped clean off the slate without a trace? We cannot know, of course, but more likely it is simply that from here he stepped, or was lifted, beyond the bounds of our definitions and categories. What “happened”, then, is precisely what we seek for ourselves; but still, unable to get a grasp on it, we fear it. Thus the instant of our best possible good - the final and full reawakening to who and what we truly are - we have equated with the worst possible alternative as we see it now, physical death, precisely because we have forgotten or are wrong about what was going on at Calvary. As the teacher himself said, we did not then know what we were doing or, he might have added, what we were seeing. And too often we still do not. But now, on the mountain ourselves, our shoes off, feet in the mud and head in the clouds, we may be beginning to get a feel for it, as we allow that in its parable form, the death on the cross may have been intended to represent the body and all that we have let and encouraged it to become and mean for us, on display to be clearly seen for what it is, and what it isn’t.
We said at the outset of this book that this would be a discussion between us, that there was, in effect, no point in my simply talking at you and your rendering “yea” or “nay” verdicts to ideas or thoughts as they arose in print. From an exercise of that kind nothing would be gained by either of us.
The teacher said that when two or more of us are gathered together in his name, he too would be there. Surely one of the intended lessons in that promise is the concept that when we gather together to seek an awareness of our true nature, and thus of Truth, Truth will come to us. From our struggling earnestly to see it, it manifests within us, and we see it, if only a little at a time. Accordingly, as we seek to know our own nature, as we join in that effort, it seems to happen.
Why “two or more”? Perhaps because the instant two or more of us agree together on the possibility, however hesitantly or hypothetically at first, that the true nature of life may be that what seems to be two or more is actually somehow one, that where one of us ends and the other begins may be a line less easily drawn than once we thought, then already the truth of the matter is in our midst. Thus, our perception of the refraction in the prism has convinced us of our separate and separative personalities (“I am me, and you aren’t”). The willingness to question that is a willingness to see beyond the refraction to the Source Light Itself. That invites Truth into our lives. It was the nature of the teacher to wrestle with these kinds of questions, in order to expose the Truth. By our joining together to wrestle with these questions as he did, as it was his nature to do, we become of his nature. We may still be bound by the past, of course, but now, aware of those binds, we are ready to release them (just as it was we who tied them) if the search leads us to that.
The man and his lessons are his nature, are our nature, and they cannot be divorced from each other. He was not just a man who taught Truth because what he taught he was. He was the voice of Truth speaking Truth, and in that sense whenever we too seek to do the same, he is among us. Not the man Jesus (as we now think of men), although we can see it that way if it helps, but the nature of the man, the Truth that he was, the Truth that he wanted us to understand that we are, the Truth of the Universe.
So, the teacher was a man and his name was Jesus. What he saw, what he taught, what he was and is, is Truth, and we call that Christ. Jesus Christ then is the nature of the universe: man as he truly is, aware of, and living it. Man as Truth, man-realized-Truth; the creature seeing and being as the Creator sees and is. And that, it seems to me, is the lesson.
He said that we will do as he did, and I believe we will, for I also believe that those words, like so many others of his, were a prediction and promise, and more, they were an affirmation, a statement of fact, perhaps the affirmation, about the nature of reality and of the universe.
Look inward. There is no more to any of this, to anyone’s musings or teachings about the nature of reality than that. As Moses was assured, wherever he goes, God goes with him, and His voice is heard in the silence within. None of the world’s teachers, not Jesus nor any of the others, has said other than this, for there is nothing else to be said. And, as all of these great teachers have themselves taught, everything they might say or do is intended only to drive home that truth.
Look inward. Gather what you can of your own thoughts and experiences and those of others, including these teachers, and take it home, within. There, seek to understand and to apply what you learn. There is no other way. You cannot walk where another has gone unless you take the steps yourself, unless you take them. From within.
To be sure, you will need teachers and guides. And they will be there, in various forms and guises, whenever you need them. Be alert to the need, and you will recognize their presence. But never confused their role with yours; they cannot do for you what you must do for yourself. They can and will point, push, and protect; but don’t ask or expect of them more than is in the nature of the universe. Like your Creator, you are a creator. Accept that inescapable function with enthusiasm and humility, and you will never want for direction.
Life is a magnificent and awesome enterprise. It was intended to be joy-full, and it is. Our failure to see that and thus to live it is simply a failure to see. It is a failure we can correct. Seek earnestly to do so, seek to see, and the rest will follow.
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