The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti – A Contemporary Guide to Yoga’s Ancient Wisdom by Radhanath Swami
In this long-awaited follow-up to The Journey Home, The Journey Within, now in an affordable paperback edition, guides readers through the essential teachings of bhakti yoga. World-renowned spiritual leader Radhanath Swami draws from his personal experiences to demystify the ancient devotional path of bhakti, capturing its essence and explaining its simple principles for balancing our lives.
His down-to-earth writing simplifies spiritual concepts and answers timeless questions in a narrative that connects sacred philosophy to modern life. What is love? What is the soul? Who is God? How can we live in the physical world without losing touch with the spiritual?
In concise and approachable language, Radhanath Swami sheds light on how to answer these vital questions and offers solutions to many of life’s challenges. The Journey Within invites readers to reach beyond the material world and delve into their hearts to discover not only the beauty of the true self, but also the simple truths that unite us all.
“Radhanath Swami is a towering spiritual figure of our time.”
—Dr. Cornel West, philosopher, academic, activist, author
About the Author
Radhanath Swami was born in Chicago in 1950. At age nineteen, he traveled overland from London to India, where he lived in Himalayan caves, learned yoga from revered masters, and eventually became a world-renowned spiritual leader in his own right. His acclaimed memoir, The Journey Home, has been translated into over twenty languages and published in over forty countries worldwide.
Radhanath Swami presently travels throughout Asia, Europe, and America teaching devotional wisdom, but can often be found in Mumbai, where he works tirelessly to help develop communities, food distribution initiatives, missionary hospitals, schools, ashrams, emergency relief programs, and eco-friendly farms.
“If you’re looking for an introduction to bhakti yoga and the meditative life, then this is a great read. I haven’t read the predecessor, so I am new to the author. I am also not an expert in bhakti yoga, so I can’t speak to the veracity of his ideas. To clarify for a newbie, bhakti yoga is a way of thinking and living, not a form of exercise. The book is an engrossing read with plenty of food for thought. The author intersperses discussion and explanation of original texts such as the Bhagavad Gita with modern-day experiences and stories. The balance between the two makes the book easy to follow and engaging. It also makes me want to go back and read/reread the original texts such as Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Much time is spent in the early chapters asserting that religious divisions are false, that each religion essentially centers on the same god/God with its own cultural context and interpretation.”
“Radhanath Swami has conveyed the Divine Light through his writing with the gentle and seductive effortlessness that he does in person. This book is a joyful way to move closer to the truth within you.”
—Russell Brand, comedian, actor, author, activist
“Drawing from personal anecdotes and on religious insights derived from the Vedic traditions and folkloric wisdom, The Journey Within imparts inspiring devotional teachings for today’s spiritual seekers.”
—Edwin Bryant, PhD, professor of Hinduism, Rutgers University; author, The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali
“The Journey Within combines the powerful wisdom of the East and the West, and I recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel authentic, lasting happiness.”
—Marci Shimoff, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Happy for No Reason
The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti
Mandala Publishing | Publication date: October 3, 2017 6” x 9” | 320 pages | Category: Spirituality/Self-Help Paperback | $18.00 | ISBN: 978-1-68383-190-7
Transcend the material world and develop your inner self, your interpersonal relationships, and your capabilities as a leader with these 62 wisdom cards from New York Times best-selling author Radhanath Swami.
In day-to-day life it’s easy to get lost in the material rush of money, jobs, possessions, and entertainment. But is that existence fulfilling? Does the happiness achieved from having the nicest car or the latest gadget last beyond a few moments?
In this uplifting card deck, Radhanath Swami, New York Times best-selling author and world-renowned spiritual leader, provides practical tips on how to integrate a spiritual mindset into everyday life. Whether you’re a CEO looking for guidance on how to balance integrity with making money, someone looking to build deeper, more meaningful connections with other people, or a seeker looking to unlock the miracle of transcendent love within yourself, these down-to-earth non-denominational cards will show you how to live spiritually in today’s material world.
by Serge Mazerand
As a pianist and a composer, I admit being somewhat biased towards music. Yet, when we really come to think of it, we are all musicians by nature. We hum, whistle, sing and swing. Our vocabulary is impregnated with musical terms: we resonate with people and things, we set the tone, do things in concert and feel upbeat or downbeat. Our hearts are the soundboard that beats the rhythm of our emotions.
I have become fascinated by the many analogies with music when it comes to life. That realization led me to write a book called 7 keys to Serenity–– Creating harmony Within.
How can we play a harmonious life symphony and not slide into a cacophony? How can we avoid the many dissonances, subtle and not so subtle that–– when left lingering–– contribute to cause mental illness and disease?
Novalis, a German poet, wrote that disease is a musical problem and its cure a musical solution––hardly an exaggeration, I would argue. Music must be understood as sound, vibration, frequencies, amplitudes and rhythms. This is indeed the stuff of life. This is how our cells function. They orchestrate their own symphony, their song, their dance, through the many receptors and effectors their membrane is studded with. These cells are the musicians––some 35 trillion of them––who play the sacred music of our lives. Quite an ensemble, wouldn’t you say?
They orchestrate a subtle symphony called homeostasis. This is the music that keeps us alive and in good health. When some of these musicians begin to play out of tune, they create dissonance. When enough of them get entrained into playing out of sync, the body feels ill at ease. The result is disease. The key is to create and maintain harmony.
Harmony in musical terms is defined as a balanced combination of notes or pitches that create a sound that is pleasing to the ear. While this is by far not a complete description, the essential element is balanced combination. It is not about just one isolated note, but overtones and chords that are assembled and played in unity, alignment and consonance. It is about interconnection. The occasional dissonance is allowed, yet, when not resolving into consonance, it degenerates into a cacophony––far from pleasing the ears.
On the score of life, harmony could be defined as a balanced combination as well: a combination of mental notes––thoughts––but also of words and actions, that are pleasing to the body, mind, heart and soul. To play life in harmony we must therefore endeavour to create alignment and unity between these three components. Sadly, however, this is not what most of us do in our day-to-day lives. We think one thing, we say something else altogether and, even worse, often act in total contradiction. This creates conflict. Thoughts and words are vibrations that create waves. In Physics, we are taught that when waves align, they create what is called “constructive interference”. When, to the contrary they are misaligned, they create “destructive interference”. They can even cancel each other out altogether. This is how white noise is created. As we keep creating these contradictions and misalignments, we produce subtle energy conflicts and blockages that are detrimental to the “chi”, the life energy that keeps us well and healthy.
So, how can we ensure that we create and maintain this harmony in our life symphony?
In my book, I identified seven keys–– in line with the seven notes that create music: ABCDEF and G. The most important key is A and it stands for Awareness. It plays out in all other keys. Awareness has many other names: vigilance, paying attention, consciousness and the much-touted mindfulness. Yet, it is not just a thing of the mind. It has also to do with the heart. It is intuition. More than a state of mind, it is state of being. I compare it to an embedded antenna that helps us scan our inner and outer environment effortlessly. To stay in our musical metaphor, it is the art of listening––the way a conductor listens to his orchestra and detects shortcomings in tone, volume and rhythm.
As we stand on this “podium” of awareness, we come to notice the subtle music that plays within us. We reconnect with our selves, with our breath, with our emotions.
– Key of B. We realize which attitudes and beliefs empower us and which ones limit our potential
– Key of C: We learn to create our reality by creating thoughts, choices and change.
– Key of D: We incorporate awareness and discipline into a strategy of self-care in the four essential sections of our orchestra: the physical, the mental, the emotional and spiritual.
– Key of E: We become multi-sensory beings, learning to see and feel beyond the visible and the tangible. We notice synchronicity. We become aware of the Human Energy Field and its interconnection with all other fields surrounding us.
– Key of F: We create Flow in our lives through forgiveness and authentic freedom from distractions.
-Key of G: We become aware of guidance, available 24/7 as long as we are connected to the divine energy that permeates the Universe––the matrix of all matter as Max Planck called it.
There are, of course, more variations available in these seven keys, combinations, chords, octaves, sharps and flats–– key variations such as gratitude, attraction, acceptance and many more. When we play them in synergy, they combine to create harmony. Then and then only, do we become the composers and conductors of a beautiful life symphony.
Serge Mazerand is an improvisational pianist and composer of healing music. He records and writes under the private label and brand Keys to Serenity®. He is the author of 7 Keys to Serenity: Creating Harmony Within
Born in France, Serge established very early in his life a profound kinship with nature and music. Yet he chose to study business and pursued a corporate career, marketing luxury fragrances throughout the world. Mid-life spurred him to embrace a radical lifestyle change and he immigrated to Canada to build and operate a floating salmon-fishing resort on the North Coast of British Columbia.
The man of action transformed into a man of reflection when he settled on the banks of an enchanted river. The river became his mentor. After some twenty years of introspection and meditation, Serge was inspired to crystallize his thoughts into written notes. 7 keys to Serenity is his first book.
Coming full circle and combining the power of music, of the spoken and written word, Serge has made it his late-in-life mission to contribute to healing nature and people.
As an inspirational speaker of words and player of notes, Serge is available to set the tone at conferences and events that focus on health and wellness, spirituality, self-empowerment and environmental issues. He also stages his own events along with healing benefit concerts.
by Ziv Porat
Is there a difference between love and knowledge? At first glance this appears to be a rather silly question, since it seems to compare apples to oranges. The personal experience of loving, on the one hand and of knowing on the other, are so very different, how could they be the same, or even similar? One might assume that the more reasonable question should be – is there any thing in common between the two? This might be so if we are satisfied with a superficial understanding of these two facets of the human mind. Yet, if we search a bit deeper into their origin, motives and aim a broader comprehension may emerge.
Essentially, the desire for love arises from the spiritual impulse to come back to our True Nature, which is Oneness and Wholeness. This truth is so very beautifully expressed by the 15th century Sufi mystic, Jami, who wrote, “Love becomes perfect only when it transcends itself – Becoming One with its object, producing Unity of Being”1. These statements may become clearer by reflecting on the desire for love and its fulfillment. When one loves another, one actually expresses a desire to become one with them. The more intense is the sentiment of love, the stronger is the wish for unity.
When a lover longs for his beloved, he wishes to be so very close, never to be apart from to her; any hour that the lover spends apart from his beloved seems to him, as if lasting an eternity. So many love songs were written about the agony of separation from the beloved. When a mother loves her child, she feels no distinction from the child; the child’s joy is her happiness and the child’s pain is her suffering. Love is such an intense motive force in the human mind that it often overrides the impulse for self preservation; this is called selflessness, or altruism. In altruistic sentiments and actions the love for a fellow human causes the person to completely identify (unite) with the other, considering the other’s well being as one’s own. At times this leads to acts of self sacrifice, in which individual well being is subsumed in the care for the other.
The desire for knowledge arises from the same deep source in the human psyche as love does, i.e. the desire to realize the essential Oneness of one’s being with the universe. For what is knowledge? At its core, the desire to know is the desire to have intimate access to the object of knowledge. As one becomes interested in knowing anything or any subject, the process of learning about it brings more and more information, clarity, focus, details and a familiarity with it. This process of knowing saturates the mind until it becomes close and connected to the object of its study.
A physicist investigates the physical universe, because she wants to gain intimate access (knowledge of) to the subject of her research. What was once far away and obscure to her mind becomes in the course of her research and discovery process, clear and intimately known to her. A yogi meditates on the object of his interest; as his meditation deepens, the distinction between the observer and the object of his observation diminishes. The yogi becomes one with the object of meditation. This process is described in the classical text of Raja yoga, The Patanjali Yoga Sutras, and it is the ultimate way of gaining knowledge. This kind of knowledge does not require any intermediary agents, meaning the senses and the intellect. It is a direct knowledge, which cannot be explained in words, but it can be experienced by those who are interested and practice meditation.
Upon further observation, it may become clear that these seemingly disparate aspects of our mind are actually intertwined. The lover is very interested in his beloved; he wants to know everything about her: what flowers does she like, what restaurants does she prefer, what are her interests and so on. In short, he wishes to gain knowledge about the object of his affection; his desire for intimacy naturally includes a desire for knowledge. On the other hand, it is common to hear scientists talk with great joy and affection about the subject of their study. A scientist’s interest in the object of her investigation may become so profound that she will get as consumed by it, as the lover would in his beloved. The scientific interest turns into fascination, which becomes a burning desire to gain knowledge, to be filled with and united with the understanding of the object of knowledge.
If so, then what is the distinction between love and knowledge? Why do they appear to us as so very different and unrelated? The answer to this lies in the difference between the aspects of mind that are employed in search for Oneness; in the case of love it is the human heart and in the case of knowledge it is the head (intellect). When a particular facet of mind is utilized, it would yield a specific result. One’s experience of fire is heat when it is sensed by the skin and light when it is seen by the eye. A search dog on a rescue mission will most likely find that which it was trained to seek, human survivors and not a stash of gold. In the same manner, the tool that is utilized to seek for our spiritual essence will yield results that are conditioned and limited by that specific tool’s scope and ability. In the case of the intellect it will yield results that are confined to reason and knowledge; when it comes to feeling the search will yield results defined by the abilities of the heart, e.g. care, compassion and love.
As the true motive behind all human desires, whether of the heart or of the head, is found a deeper understanding emerges. This understanding is that all the aspirations of mind are but desires to ‘experience’ our True Essence. Because the mind is conditioned to think and feel in limited terms, it finds only a relative and limited scope of knowledge and a small measure of love. Only when the mind is sufficiently refined by spiritual practices, it becomes a clear mirror reflecting our essence. Both the head and the heart need to be developed and refined, and eventually transcended by the intuitive realization that is beyond the function of both.
Therefore, there is no actual distinction between the desire to know and to love. They are but manifestation of our insatiable spiritual hunger to return to who we truly are, our original Being. The yogis call that being, our True Self or Atman. In the realization of our True Self the search for anything and everything comes to its fruition. The search does not yield any new results of knowledge or love, but rather it allows us to realize that we are at all times a Wholeness that was never lost. That Wholeness is simultaneously absolute Being, Knowledge and Love.
1 Fitzgerald, Astrid (2001). Being Consciousness Bliss: A Seeker’s Guide. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books, Page 115
About the author:
Ziv Porat has been studying and practicing yoga as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline since he completed his yoga teacher’s training at the Sivananda center in Tel Aviv in 1983. He taught ongoing hatha yoga classes and at teacher training courses, while living at various Sivananda centers and ashram.
He has educated students on the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga throughout California, in Israel, and in Spain. He teaches weekly yoga and health classes at retirement communities in the SF Bay Area, coaches individuals, conducts workshops and writes about spiritual development. Ziv strives to make the great teachings of Yoga and Vedanta accessible, interesting and inviting.
By Bill Neenan
You might have noticed more frequent reports in the news about astronomers finding planets with conditions similar to Earth. The emerging scientific consensus, based on observation and statistical analysis, is that numerous stars have planetary systems. Scientists also believe it likely that many of these planets have liquid water, even oxygen, and could spawn life. The discovery of primitive life elsewhere in the universe could lay bare a realm of strange realities. The most meaningful discovery of all would be that some extraterrestrials are not only technically advanced and widespread, but are far more evolved than humans in intellect and morality, as reflected in their values, social organization, and the ethical norms of individuals.
The late astronomer Carl Sagan was well-known for speaking about the “billions and billions” of stars in the universe, and the probable 10,000 technical civilizations calculated to exist in our galaxy alone. Professor Sagan was also famous for saying, “life is made of star-stuff.” This idea, at times repeated facetiously by some, does have a profound meaning because it refers to a profound fact: the synthesis of “star-stuff” (exploded-star remnants) into beings able to understand what star-stuff is.
Think about that for a moment: throughout the universe the remains of exploded stars eventually become new stars; planets form around them, and out of the mix of elements, molecules and light, life evolves. And we humans having arrived at the apex of evolution on planet Earth, end up understanding cosmology and our genesis; we structure materials and the environment; we imagine things like the gods, or the God.
This reality of energy transforming itself via its evolution into self-conscious, technical beings, gives rise to a monumental question: does this transformation strongly imply that the nature of what we term “energy” is actually a “spiritual” reality? In other words, does the way in which energy (the universe), organizes itself, presumably in countless instances of life elsewhere in the universe, indicate that its nature is purposeful and its meaning, somehow transcendent?
Is having a purpose the ultimate truth about our human nature, and about other such beings in the universe, or is all such existence only the result of material interactions, ultimately without meaning and, in the final analysis, the result of random events?
By way of exploration, another question arises: is there something all of us have in common that moves the process of universal transformation forward, and renders as intuitive, perhaps obvious, the actuality and necessity of advanced life having purpose and transcendent meaning (e.g., our consciousness continues somehow with purpose after death)? The answer to this question is the primary focus of this essay.
Professor Sagan and his successor, Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson make it a point to demonstrate how insignificant we, and our planet, are. We see in the production, “Cosmos,” the image of earth positioned in a spiral galaxy, becoming smaller and smaller, until we are miniscule and finally, too small to be seen.
The reality we call “the universe” is, of course, possibly just a “material machine.” We are certainly not, as Deepak Chopra has said, “spirits having a human experience.” But assuming we believe ourselves to be spiritual beings, or not, either belief ultimately remains a matter of faith, meaning neither belief can be proved to be true or false. I do think, though, that materialism and its creeds (e.g., atheism, agnosticism) are rendered less plausible, less probable, and less attractive alternatives, when it is assumed that highly evolved life in the universe is common.
Absolute certainty or not, I want to understand the meaning of our existence. I want to know if my life has purpose. I want a meaningful answer to the questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is my consciousness nothing more than a temporary construct, like my dog’s? Just what is it that makes the (universal) transformation of matter/energy into my consciousness possible?
This is the pivotal question that leads us to the matter of our spiritual purpose. I suggest we begin to address it with consideration of a fundamental, persistent element active in biological and civil evolution: hierarchical, or pyramidal, social order.
Imagine us having god-like vision, and we see and understand the essence of each advanced life form in the universe. From what we know about social organization on earth, it seems reasonable to assume that our grand vision would reveal a vast array of civilizations that constitute a graded series, or a hierarchy. This would be a hierarchical, or pyramidal, order of technical, behavioral and, most important for our inquiry, numerous levels of evolved ethical status.
So wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that the hierarchical order itself is significant because it engenders the progression of knowledge and skills acquisition needed to attain advanced technical status at the minimum (e.g., bronze-age weapons to machine guns)? But what about the things that make such progress possible, the non-technical requirements that enable individuals to act and work cooperatively, like trust, honesty, and fairness? These are among the crucial elements that constitute ethical behavior, and lead individuals and societies to act for the common good.
I’m intrigued by, and view as fundamental, the relationship between social hierarchy and the evolution of ethical behavior. That’s because at the root of evolving ethical behavior lies competition, the primordial, ongoing force in human evolution that seeks advantage and survival within the context of family, tribe, environment, etc. Competition (and its lifeblood, conflict) is, firstly, a powerful cause of hierarchical social order (at-peak superior power achieved); competition is also the consequence of this social order (superior power defended/expanded); finally, (but by no means last) competition in the world of natural selection is the primary catalyst for the evolution of ethical rules, principles and behavior. Accordingly, in response to the jungle of competitive forces within and between social groupings, ethical norms have evolved because humans prefer peace to war, stability and safety to stress and fear.
The competitive struggles for influence, sex and love, possession and dominance have produced throughout millennia the myriad pyramidal social orders. These struggles, the aggressive and gentle, daily and sustained patterns of dominance and submission, in all their variety, have evolved throughout the eons—and they have fostered the most essential element that enables life on planets to exist and to survive. That element is plausibly a common thread existing in all civilizations throughout the universe—Why should this be true?
Because this element would be a thread that, more than anything else, enables in the first place the creation and nurturing of life, and facilitates the crucial evolution of beings capable of trust and cooperative behavior. How could we, or any advanced life-form, exist without that as the minimum? We are looking to identify a common thread that transcends in importance any level of technical advancement.
That common thread is “love,” defined here simply as the force of attraction between beings, as distinct from fear-induced repulsion (or paralysis). This elementary and universal force of attraction engenders, in the first place, reproduction; it enables nurturing behavior, cooperation and the formation of cohesive societies, as well as things that guide us to evolve technically. But far more important than technical advancement, our ability to survive in the long run (like our alien visitors) depends upon the evolution of that vital phenomenon, already stressed, as integral to love in its most fundamental, attractive sense: ethical behavior.
* * *
Long before there were stable, encoded, ethical adaptations to aggression, warfare, and daily cooperative endeavors, human consciousness likely had evolved to the point where imagination began to fulfill its transformative purpose in moving the evolutionary process forward. Imagination did this by causing a phenomenon that molded the consciousness, the values, of individuals and civilizations throughout history: belief systems. The evolution of belief systems (primarily “religious”) played a role in late human evolution no less important than the earlier evolution of upright posture, the opposable thumb, language, etc.
This momentous, unique human faculty of imagination enabled us to believe in unseen personalities and forces far greater than ourselves. These imagined external forces became objects of belief, or “faith,” and belief in them played a major, unifying role in affecting the decisions and actions of individuals and tribes, thus creating the routes to becoming highly evolved societies. Here on earth, these forces were given names we still recognize, names like “Yahweh,” “Zeus,” or “Venus.”
Underlying the influence of any religious or mythical belief system, the combination of three abilities, memory, imagination and belief, comprise the biological matrix that facilitates the evolution of creatures into higher forms of consciousness (in concert with upright posture, language, etc.). This evolving consciousness, in the interest of reproduction and survival, also furthers development of the trust, strategies and cooperation required for humans and extraterrestrials to live not only enjoyable lives, but to save themselves from rendering their planets inhospitable through greed, for example.
To summarize, competition, the struggle for survival, advantage and domination, results in hierarchical social order, here, and likely throughout the universe. The forces of attraction and repulsion operating throughout all social pyramids may be viewed as the primordial emotions out of which beliefs are born, and thus the meaning of our perceptions created. This moment to moment creation of meaning through beliefs is what enables individuals and societies to maintain emotional, as well as physical, balance and health; or, to borrow a concept from the science of physiology, “homeostasis.” In this context, the term, “psychological homeostasis” could apply.
So, in our effort to understand the significance of the common thread that likely exists in technical, intelligent societies throughout the universe, and to assess whether or not this thread has an ultimate, spiritual meaning and purpose, it will be useful to discuss in greater detail the role belief systems have played in creating the meaning of our perceptions.
Imagination and belief have always been the “mortar” that held civilizations together (e.g., belief in Pharaoh as god on earth; the European divine right of kings). Imagination is the means through which belief systems in the form of “religion,” or “faith,” are created. For example, we imagine, then believe, “God loves us.” Past and future merge into the present if one: remembers something, then imagines/hopes for, an outcome, such as, “Dear God, I’ve been a good boy all week, so please help me get on the foot ball team!”; or, “O great Zeus, I am thy humble servant and beg for success in defeating the Persians.”
* * *
In order for us to survive in the long run, the heart of the matter appears to be: how do we ensure that earth’s social organization and values are determined more by love than fear, and the belief in people being “winners and losers,” becomes the trait of ancient leaders at the pyramid’s summit fighting to have and hold power over others, instead of with others (a distinction noted by Gandhi).
The issue of our human society based more on love than fear points to something that is, I believe, actually a universal principle: ethical progress, or the moral nature of societies, varies directly with the power of fear to diminish or destroy love; or, simply, the power of fear to create evil. Central to our quest for a biological, ethical, sustainable way forward, then, is the ancient, bed-rock, debated-to-death question of “good” vs. “evil.”
I believe that evil is essentially fear-based greed and all of its self-serving forms, because it diminishes, divides, or destroys the unity of love and its crucial offspring, trust. But evil is, fortunately, something we own and have the opportunity to be responsible for. Unfortunately, for ethical progress and social harmony, there are powerful forces throughout the world invested in the idea (sincerely and not) that evil is fathered by a supernatural being, one who thrives on turning human souls over to the “dark (disobedient?) side.” Hence, we have widespread belief in the cosmic war between good and evil, providing the justification for hatred, wars and blame galore.
Throughout the cosmic balancing act between the forces of fear and love, the force of attraction brings us children, most of whom grow up certain that they are loved by their parents and others. When these children have problems and experience pain, they place their trust in those who, they believe, love them.
But there’s a matter of deep significance concerning the origin and nature of evil behavior. Unlike the more fortunate children, those placing their trust in others whose feelings are conflicted, may be making a fearful choice. I’m thinking, for example, of the children who are judged to be “dull”, “ugly,” “brilliant but alienated”? For these individuals fear and its offspring, mistrust, are likely to play a greater role in determining choices and behavior. Such individuals, prompted by fear, are more likely to choose secret, deceptive or otherwise harmful means for protection. Our social scientists are certainly engaged in questions about the origin of harmful behavior in those who experienced little or no love in their young lives.
So how might highly evolved extraterrestrials evaluate us? 1) social structure pyramidal with privileged distribution of resources 2) the forces of lateral networking in progress to adjust same, but 3) powerful interests heavily invested in maintaining top-down control, outcome uncertain; the familiar list of problems: environmental degradation, climate change, wars, extreme poverty, etc. The probability of human survival beyond the next 100 earth-years, 50% at best?
In view of a thorough analysis of us by these beings, what are they likely to conclude is the main obstacle to humanity progressing quickly enough to save ourselves from failure? At this point in history, the answer ought to be obvious: the obstacle to humanity finally taking on the greatest collective effort to save itself is whatever obstructs our ability to love one another! This is an incredibly obvious statement, to say the least; but it is, nonetheless, an extraordinarily essential guiding principle. It is the spiritual message of Christ and, arguably, all spiritual masters.
The common thread is the irrepressible force and predominance of love comprising the foundation of highly evolved social organization manifesting throughout the universe. The key idea—the “spiritual” idea—is this: the purpose of highly evolved life in the universe is for its individuals and societies to evolve in their capacity to experience love in all of its forms.
Powerful attraction to each other is the mode of being that leads us, and others in the universe, to the sustainable path of planetary survival well into the future. This means the rise and fall of empires must now yield to species-wisdom, and the idea of planet-as-viable-home needs to be a priority in the extreme. We are warned: beings dominated by the offspring of fear (greed, jealousy, deceitfulness, the lust for power) create poor conditions for advanced life to thrive, or even survive, beyond a certain point (the environment of mistrust, subterfuge, corruption and violence).
The capacity to love ourselves, our alien friends would surely emphasize, and many of us already know, resides in the moment to moment quality of the lives we live. It’s no secret that the unhappiness and misery of the many, here and elsewhere, diminishes the happiness of everyone (as it should)—including the fortunate few who would deny they are brought down even a notch by this dangerous situation. (“I’m happy, and I take pride in my armed fortress!”).
* * *
Concerning the matter of our unity, we are at a critical moment in our history and it appears that now is the time to reject the widespread objectification of evil in that greatly imagined person of Satan, who provides the place (Hell) and rationale (sin) for some to condemn others as deserving of damnation and suffering. Thus, we have it: the objectification of “good” and “bad” people, those who deserve Heaven, others Hell, happiness versus suffering. Question: aren’t people more likely to have racist attitudes when they believe certain people deserve eternal damnation?
Pyramidal social order has been with us for millennia. It began with the shaman, the original arbiters of good and bad, right and wrong, in service to their confidants, one’s tribe; and onward through the world’s first civilization, Sumer, with its priests as masters of writing and the keeping of temple records, the cycles of war and peace and the economies of fortune and misfortune these civilizations created.
Our attitudes, habits and behaviors, our social structure itself, all derive from that history—from those gods, from those demons, upon the stony foundations of fear (and love) they helped to create. What can be done to create unity of purpose in such a complicated, fear-entrenched world? A nuclear war with hundreds of millions dead might bring us together, for a while at least. How about the appearance of nasty ETs? That ought to bring us together (and the good ones tear us apart?).
The ugly head of cynicism rises up…Solutions will require the approval and actions of powerful people, some of whom benefit from keeping things exactly as they are, because they feed well at the trough of innocence, ignorance, addiction of every sort.
But, “The Times, They are A-changing” (and “approvals” are growing irrelevant).
Ideally we are joined to the vast realm of highly evolved extraterrestrial life by the common thread of love experienced and destined to ascend in scope and power, beyond the grip of fear and all its challenging limitations. But, and this is probably why the planets are so far apart, we have to find our own way.
Concerning our widespread divisions, and the matter of “what can be done?” doesn’t the path to unity begin with the education of our children? Shouldn’t we teach them that true evil—our greatest divider—is something people do, and not are, and thereby create “hell” for themselves and others? The widespread belief in Satan’s power is an extremely divisive scapegoat that deserves a tomb marked, “Obsolete, But Remains a Danger to Humanity.”
A much more empowering, sustainable belief is needed if we are to overcome our divisions, experience a new dawn for humanity, and survive the long run, like our hypothetical alien visitors. We need to gently, if only for short while, let rest our competing beliefs and concur on the one belief that’s capable of uniting all of us as members of the human family: we are all in essence spiritual beings; we belong to a transcendent reality and upon death we go on somehow…but no one knows how; history shows the arguments to be endless, self-serving and often destructive…better to let them lie still.
For those who reject the idea of our spiritual nature, yet still find themselves in a fog of uncertainty, maybe unsettling, that uncertainty will be eased when the stark idea of our lives as having no ultimate purpose, no continuity whatsoever, is finally faced, clarified, embraced as such, and the ways of living well, and humanely, go on as no less viable.
This brings me to a concluding thought. The dictionary defines the common practice of “worship” as “the reverent love and allegiance accorded a deity, idol, or sacred object.” But why shouldn’t we intend our reverent love and allegiance at least as much for each other? Wouldn’t it be greatly relevant and, we dare to think, not offensive, to gaze into the “windows of our souls,” instead of into the heavens? I believe it benefits us, wherever we look, to embrace, and to herald, the common thread of love that links us all to its sublime purpose.
A suggestion: recall how you felt at a moment of your greatest joy, the birth of your first child, or a wonderful achievement of some sort, where the first thing you wanted to do, and did, was to share the moment with others. Now recall that feeling of sharing, the joy of unity, and multiply its intensity by the trillions, or however far you are able to imagine. That is a rough indication, perhaps, of the love, the spiritual, unified reality of consciousness we are all evolving within, which some may choose to call, “God,” or others, the greatest skeptics among us, the “Singularity.”
About the author:
Bill Neenan is a native New Yorker, currently living in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Queens College, The City University of New York, where he majored in philosophy and psychology. Bill is also a graduate of New York University, where he earned a degree in physical therapy, and works as a therapist in New Jersey. He is married and the proud father of a twenty-two year-old son. Bill is an avid guitar soloist specializing in improvisation, and plays in art galleries in New York City. Besides his interest in writing about his belief in the spiritual nature of reality, and related matters, he’s writing a novel; the hero a mathematical/encryption savant committed to do whatever it takes to stop the launch of weapons into space in the near future.