“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Often it is the meaning of those things with which we have the greatest familiarity that seems to elude us the most. I cannot even begin to count how many times I heard these words in the Gospel readings at the Roman Catholic church where I served as an altar boy well into my teens, and at my Grandmother’s Pentecostal church where I attended Sunday School on weekend visits as a child; and always, the focus was on an outward expression of that love.
Again and again, I was told that I was a sinner – that I was unworthy of God’s divine love, and even less so of receiving the body of his Son; and yet I was also told that as a follower of Christ it was my duty to love my neighbor as myself. If one is taught from the time he is old enough to understand such things that he is utterly worthless in God’s eyes, how can he expect his feelings to manifest in any way differently towards his neighbor?
All these years later, and due in no small part to my recent metaphysical studies, I have come to see these often-repeated words in a whole new light. Certainly Jesus’s teachings encourage us to love our neighbor. But I have also come to understand that his words mean a great deal more than simply this. The things we feel about ourselves will certainly manifest unto our fellow human beings, and by extension, the rest of the world. If we cannot first recognize the divinity inherent within ourselves, we cannot hope to recognize that same divinity in anyone or anything else, and as a result, will have no problem exploiting them for our own material gain.
This, I believe, is why we so frequently see our leaders in the Western world holding aloft the Bible with one hand, and beating the drum of war with the other, while our lands are stripped of their natural resources, and the arm of our military might grows ever longer. “When Fascism comes to America,” Sinclair Lewis tells us, “it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
The nightly news is filled with reports of atrocities fueled by religions whose persecutory dogma have broken the backs of their followers with their own supposed unworthiness almost since birth. How different this world would be if more of us had been taught that we are divine beings, created by a loving God who deems us worthy of sharing this beautiful world equally with All our Relations; and who in His infinite wisdom has placed us here as its caretakers.
Imagine for a moment if instead of separating God from the whole of creation and forcing us to buy ourselves back into His graces through Faith and good deeds, our Western religions instead taught us to embrace God as an inseparable part of all that is. How many wars would we then wage in His name? How many peoples would we attempt to convert to His “one true way” if deep in our hearts we already believed they were vessels of His light?
I have recently discovered a great deal more in Jesus’s words than I did so long ago; and I have also come to recognize a common thread in many other teachings as well.
In the inipi, or sweat lodge ceremony, for example, we pray in four rounds, the first of which consists of prayers offered for ourselves. Here we pray for strength, for guidance, and for healing. And here we also cry out for a vision. While some might consider such a practice selfish, the Elders tell us that we have every right to pray to the Creator for our own well-being, because in the Great Hoop of Creation, every living thing depends upon us.
In our lives, we are wives and husbands, adult children of aging parents, brothers, sisters, partners, parents, and caretakers of everything that exists. As such, we need to be strong and healthy, blessed with clarity of vision, that we might better serve all beings with whom we share the entirety of Creation.
We cannot hope to do this on our own, and so we ask the Creator to bless us with His wisdom, and the things we need for the greatest good of All. In this sense, we recognize that we are the touchstone of the Creator’s love. We are the place where the pebble strikes the surface of the pond, and all that stirs within us ripples outward, influencing everything it touches.
It is no coincidence that as the water splashes the red hot Grandfather stones, and the steam rises towards the roof of the lodge, our Elders tell us that “Our prayers go into the center and rise out to the Universe. They resonate forever among the Heavens and the stars, and return to bless us all.”
The teachings of the ancient shamans make clear that we must heal ourselves before healing our neighbors. Once we have healed our neighbors, we are able to begin healing our communities. After our communities have been healed, then – and only then – are we truly capable of focusing our efforts upon healing the world. Whatever we may feel about the condition of our planet, we may do nothing to effectively help Her until we have taken the necessary steps towards bringing healing and balance into our own lives. Without first accomplishing this, we can only sew anger, discord, and illness upon the very Earth we would seek by our actions to heal.
It is evident then, that the nature of the world in which we live hinges directly upon the way we treat ourselves. If we poison our bodies with Styrofoam-wrapped, chemically-enhanced garbage, why should we treat our water supplies - or our children- any differently? Understanding this, one would do wisely to consider the words accredited to Hermes Trismegistus: “Know then the greatest secret of the Universe: as above, so below – as within, so without.”
We also find this principle beautifully illustrated within the Native American Medicine Wheel. As we stand in the East, with the rising of the Sun, a vision is given to us by the Creator. That vision stirs within us in the emotions of the South, and manifests itself through us into the physical world in the West. Finally, everything in Creation receives the benefits of that vision in the North. Only if we are truly open to the will of the Creator, place our egos aside, and let that vision flow through us unimpeded by personal desires, will it enter the world for the greatest good of All. Yet if we seek to bend that vision to our own selfish desires, or lock it away and refuse to share it with those for whom its gifts are truly intended, it will die on the vine, or worse, it will fester within us and rot, leaving nothing but pain and suffering in its wake.
I was once told by a teacher of mine that a Capitalist might look at the world and say something like, “modern man is building more computers today than he ever has before,” while a shaman observing the same world might offer something to the effect of, “Computers are using mankind to manifest themselves into the physical world at a much faster rate than ever before.”
This reflects perfectly, I think, the idea that all things are a living gateway through which The Divine’s creative impulses are expressed. To put it plainly: all possibilities exist in an unmanifested state. These possibilities bubble up randomly and vibrate within every living thing. In Man’s case, he has been given the gift of free will, which allows him to decide whether or not he will act upon those impulses. One could even say that we are like transistors, deciding whether or not we will allow that energy to continue to flow through us and out into the Universe.
If an impulse is allowed to continue, it then manifests through us, and “tunes” us to a different frequency. Rippling outward, these vibrations reverberate against others around us, who then choose whether to allow themselves to resonate at that same level, or to continue to resonate at their own. As an impulse gains momentum, it may grow to influence an even larger aspect of creation. One need only look to the ideals of Nazi Germany, or the success of internet viral marketing campaigns to see this principle in action. One also observes this clearly in the phenomenon of sympathetic resonance, where, for example, if two tuning forks are placed within close proximity, and one is struck, the other will soon begin to vibrate at the same frequency.
The idea that the world at large is deeply affected by what we carry within us is also summed up succinctly by Mahatma Gandhi, who entreats us to “seek to be the change (we) want to see in the world.” With these words, Gandhi shows us that change can only come from within. As we allow ourselves to change, the world around us will begin to do so as well. If in fact, everything is vibration, as Quantum Physics, and many other religions tell us, Gandhi’s words make absolutely perfect sense.
Consider also the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto who examined frozen water crystals through an electron microscope, and photographed their perfectly symmetric structures. Next he took the same water, and placed it into beakers labeled with phrases like “I Hate You”. When he froze the water in these vessels, he found that the crystals were deformed. He and those who follow his work believe this experiment offers irrefutable proof that our emotions have scientifically measurable effects upon the world around us.
So how does this affect one’s everyday life? I would say that the implications of this understanding of Christ’s words, coupled not only with the examples expressed here, but also with countless others easily researched, are nothing short of staggering if truly taken to heart.
How can one comfortably foster violence, hatred, and bigotry in one’s own personal spiritual space, knowing that once these feelings have taken hold, they will ripple outward beyond the confines of one’s own skin and resonate throughout the entirety of creation?
If we allow concepts such as these to poison our own minds and bodies, how can we continue to lay blame for the murder, starvation, corruption, and rampant exploitation of natural resources witnessed today at the feet of any but ourselves? In recognizing this, however, we must also allow ourselves to recognize that any radical shift towards healing, peace, and forgiveness, as witnessed in the works of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Jesus Christ to name but a few, all began with one single human being allowing a divine light to shine into the Universe through the lens of his or her own person; an act of which any one of us is truly capable. . .