"It's not a spectator sport!"

Adding the dimension of time to the mystic experience

This is the best time ever to be alive! And not just because now is the now, and it is always most beautiful to be living in the now, but because we as human beings are poised on a radical shift in context. This increased context is going to bring a new unity and beauty to our spiritual experience, both as individuals and as a species. As spiritual practitioners we each have the option of embracing this context right now, and turning our lives into vehicles of participation.

Raising our context is mainly a matter of embracing our place in the universe. As human beings we all have in innate attraction towards things that feel good, and revulsion towards things that feel bad. This instinct can have a great impact on our interactions with the world if we carry a negative worldview. Put simply, if we see our human family, and the world in general, as a big fat mess, we will tend to recoil from the world. I've done this myself. As a spiritual practitioner through the turbulent sixties, on through the materialistic later decades of the 20th century and into the new millennium, I have had a tendency towards seclusion to find my peace. And I'm not alone. In fact, I seem to have lots of good company!

When we live in a me-centered context, we tend to look at our point in time as somewhat finished product. And, believe-you-me! If we look at today's world as a finished product it is terrible. More than terrible, it's a disaster! It's a nightmare! The worst possible scenario for humanity! Just thinking about it for five minutes is enough to make me want to crawl back into my hermit's hole and pray.

Step back for a bit, however, and use the eagle eye of science, evolution, archeology and time to give a bigger context to our experience, and we are suddenly living in a most miraculous time and place. What I'm talking about is the perfect blend of PBS and spiritual practice. Spiritual practice opens our hearts to accept new information as it is available, and PBS dishes it out in spades!

Did you know that we aren't suddenly experiencing a population explosion? This explosion has been going on for fifty thousand years and started with a group of about 20 people in Africa. One person in that little group was born with a brain abnormality that increased short-term memory enough to be able to notice cause and effect. That's all it took for the population explosion to begin. It is only in our lifetimes that we've been able to notice it.

It is no wonder, with a population explosion like that going on, that there have been clashes of cultures. Little groups traveled around the world and got lost in hidden pockets where they developed their own cultures and beliefs. It's not a surprise that when they met back up with each other it wasn't meeting as lost brothers and sisters, but as dangerous strangers.

Imagine, if you will, the first people who realized that death was inevitable. That must have been harsh. Look at how much trouble it took to put together agricultural systems, and all the property rights issues that have to go along with that.

Throughout all this history our spiritual avatars have been the ones to step forward and give us the necessary leaps in consciousness for each era. Zarathustra was one of the first ones to begin grasping the unity of the spiritual world. Then the Vedas were written, and the Jewish tribes had their revelations of spirit. Buddha came along and moved the east another step forward out of superstition. Jesus not only united the heavens and the earth with the idea of one God for the gentiles, but he also united the Greek and Aramiac/Hebrew cultures. Mohammed did the same for the tribes of the Middle East.

We all basically know this already. The change to our lives comes from putting it in perspective. Today, we can look back over fifty thousand years of growth and expansion, and see that it was only in 1950, of our present era, that innovative countries started struggling over civil rights and the rights of women!

That's huge. Not only is our population growing exponentially, but our consciousness seems to be growing at the same rate.  When we look at humanity as a big huge "Us" that includes every human being at the forefront of a giant growth spurt into maturity, then the world seems to be a wonderful well-evolved place.

One small instance of this in my life is the dramatic change in my point of view towards Christianity. I used to experience a lot of ambivalence towards the religion of my birth because I was focused on all the mistakes that had been made along the way. From this new perspective I see that it doesn't matter if every word of Jesus was interpreted correctly. What matters is that there was something so powerful about the teachings of Jesus two thousand years ago that inspired his followers into radical change.

Christianity didn't invent the idea of sin, or the feeling of unworthiness. It just gave us a particular solution. It is a miraculous thing, as human beings, to be able to accept redemption for our mistakes. We can take it all in little pieces. Instead of tackling the whole idea of ego, or the nafs, as one huge problem, this spiritual practice allows us to break it down into small increments that are easier to deal with. We can conquer ourselves bit by bit through a struggle with jealousy, greed, avarice, and all the many faces of lower emotion and actions.

Christianity works because there is a big difference between our beliefs about being a good person, and the experience of our every day actions. If spiritual gain were as easy as having a belief against greed, then we would already be living in a human paradise. As it is, though, when greed overcomes us it is usually in a head-long rush towards something that is unwholesome, but perceived as wholesome. It usually comes in a full motion package with fear, lust and any number of things which blind us to the results of our actions. It is the same with all the other sins with which we can become afflicted. We are often capable of seeing them in clarity only after the evil deed is done.

This, along with many other tenets of Christianity, allowed western society to move along in its very interesting evolution of science and awareness that has given us so many of the tools we will be needing in our present job of bringing the whole of humanity up out of poverty, slavery and war. It has brought us many negative things as well, but we should rejoice in our good fortune that so much positive work has been done already!

Just the other day I saw a placard on a Methodist church that said: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle." That is a statement that crosses all cultural, political and religious boundaries. Each of us, in our own way, is still struggling with the implications of the first leap in consciousness, fifty thousand years ago, that made us aware of cause and effect. It is a species-wide battle with our forgetfulness of the divine. We are helping each other to rise towards remembrance through our own practices of rememberance.

Because we live in an evolving universe, and are participating in an evolving human consciousness, the Christian faith was not the end-all solution for all spirituality. The same holds true for all our spiritual traditions, and even for the hodge-podge of faith that many of us have developed here in the 21st century. We can only hope that a hundred years from now the new modern people will be smiling with fondness at our silliness, and blessing us in appreciation for our courage in taking step after step into the unknown.

Meanwhile, we have a lot of work to do. Stepping into this larger context gives us the infinite blessings of honoring all our ancestors, feeling at one with the whole world, and losing the fear that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. With it also comes an enormous responsibility. I live in a world that is not limited by a feeling of me as an isolated face amongst a sea of humanity. Instead I live in a giant, moving and evolving "Us." That makes me personally responsible for "our" evolution. If I allow any sort of fear, laziness, or lack of focus to diminish the fire of my daily remembrance of the divine, then I am holding back all of humanity at this critical time.

This gives me a poignant reason for being kind to others as they fight their own battle with the nefs, and in doing my part to uplift and inform others. It is also a call to truth, and not backing down in any situation that calls for clarity and action. It's a big job. Whose up for it with me?