I begin this blog today, Easter Sunday, 2009. It seems appropriate after over 66 years of life on this planet to begin on this day.
Four days ago, while talking with Darlene, a seasoned Pathwork Helper friend in our Sevenoaks Pathwork Helper community, she mentioned the Pathwork Lecture study class she has been conducting over the phone. She has been using the early lectures: 3, 5, 7, and 9, the ones that lay out the early foundation of Pathowork. She says people have responded well. I record lectures, and I noticed that I have recorded three of these lectures but had not yet recorded #9, so of course I added #9 to the list of lectures to be recorded next.
The title of lecture 9 is Prayer and Meditation – the Lord’s Prayer. I notice a tightness in my stomach at the thought of the Lord’s Prayer. I have flashbacks to my 55 years of Lutheran Church life that I walked away from in 1999. Feelings of guilt arise from the tightness. All so familiar! But I breathe and relax a bit. From nine years of engagement with the Pathwork lectures I know that they contain gentle but profound truth for me. Time after time their words have gotten through my defenses and healed my soul. So I prepare to engage Lecture 9, even with the challenging title: The Lord’s Prayer.
In scanning this lecture, my eyes stopped on paragraph 12: Pray for help [on your laborious spiritual path] … Very specifically, Christ will help you. Whoever turns to him will receive help, for he has promised it to you. The words could have come from any Christian material of course, but while most Christian writings trigger negative reactions in me, the Pathwork lectures find their way in. So I sat with these words.
The truth arose. I can see that these words point to a core issue for me and take me to my until recently unconscious negative intention: I intend to be separate from God and from Jesus Christ so that I can be free and safe. This negative intention, based on my deeply rooted God-images, means I would never admit to needing spiritual help, even from, or especially from, Jesus Christ.
I do not want to race through what follows, like reporting the news, but know that these words are contained in a bowl of emotions within my soul. With this negative intention in me I am brought to a clear picture of my atheism. Not even agnosticism, for that would allow the possibility for God.
I need to say more, for atheism is far from the image I have held for myself most of my life. I taught bible classes at church, at work, and elsewhere for 30 years. I read the bible every day. I listened to the entire bible on tape more than once. I bathed myself in fundamentalist sermons for years, especially after my parents were killed in 1972 just before my 30th birthday. And my fundamentalist Christianity brought me great peace in facing life’s problems, including my parents’ untimely death.
So why do I now say I was a closet atheist in the Lutheran church? I say this because while my Christian beliefs gave my mind a framework from which to understand the world, my heart was not buying in. I had separated my feeling self from my cognitive self. My cognitive self was safe, but underneath there was no felt sense of peace in my heart and soul. The Christian message that had sustained me, that Jesus had died for my sins so that by faith in him I could go to heaven when I died, had not been bought into by my feeling heart.
And, I noticed, it was not bought into by my strongly intuitive Knowing either. In a way I had allowed the church to inoculate me from these reliable Knowing centers in my being. The church had warned me of my sinful heart, insisting that there is nothing good from there, nor from my deceitful mind, Satan’s playground. The only reliable truth was from the outside, that truth proclaimed by Church authorities and their particular interpretation of the only reliable source of Truth, the Bible.
So entrenched was this rigid dogmatic framework in me that I would not take the normal path of individuating from my parents’ religion until I was in my fifties. But for me my fiftieth year was just the perfect time to start my journey of individuation. Now, at 66, I am over my rebellious phase, and have great gratitude for the role the church has played in my spiritual development. Without the pains of childbirth experienced in my individuation I could not have survived what has come these 16 years since.
So this is my longwinded version of why I consider myself as having been a closet atheist, holding on to rigid dogmas about God and Jesus Christ in my mind all the while my inner deep Knowing was yelling NO!
Back to my current experience. In a way I feel good about this Truth arising so clearly, this knowing that I have been an atheist much of my life. With atheism I have a clean slate on which to write about God from a place of inner Knowing. From this desert and blank slate of my atheism can I consider the possibility that God exists, that God is benign rather than punishing, and that possibly God would help me in my desert? And that possibly Jesus Christ, too, is personal (stated thusly in several Pathwork lectures, including 9 and 258), available today, and eager to help me if I ask?
So can I truly adopt a positive intention as my own, namely: I intend to surrender to God and to ask God and Jesus Christ for the help I need to be free, safe, and fulfilled?
This process of cleaning the slate and beginning anew with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ seems quite germane to the workshop Jenny Zia and I are giving in June. Can we help others come to see whatever is true for them in their relationship with God, including, perhaps, their atheism where that is relevant?
But what is it like to have a blank slate? I have so many images of what a relationship with Jesus Christ might look like. After I erase these images, I realize that I have no idea how Jesus Christ shows up or what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ could feel like or mean. That is a lot of erasing. And it seems important because how I have been assuming Jesus Christ would show up would take me back to childish magic consciousness, to childish images — the pre-rational vs. moving forward to the trans-rational (Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy). I want to be open for Truth arising from my heart and intuitive Knowing. I want the beginner’s mind of the child, being childlike, but not childish.
As I sat with all this in meditation it came upon me that Jesus Christ is in me. That is how he shows up! Jesus Christ has been flowing out of me, from my Divine essence, all the time, but I have either denied it, been blind to it, or my ego has hooked onto it with its ME, ME, ME claims to “greatness” while insisting on its separateness from God. As Lecture 212 says, this notion that my greatness is God, Jesus Christ, flowing out of me is not good news for the ego! My ego wants all the credit to itself, showing how victory can come from my separation from God, not my oneness with God.
Next the familiar words of Psalm 46:10 came to me: Be still and KNOW that I am God. This KNOWING coming out of the silence is experiential, a felt sense, intuitive. It is not cognitive or intellectual knowing.
So this is what happened in my mini desert days leading up to Easter. Do we want to offer a desert experience at our workshop in June, to really erase all images? I shared these arisings with my life-partner Pat and she suggested that not everyone needs a desert experience into raw atheism. Perhaps this is unique to me. Well of course it is. But there could be merit for each participant to go into what is True for him or her.
Next I shared all this with two friends. The three of us have been meeting and sharing our lives in monthly 2-hour coffee chats for over ten years. As I shared I noticed how frightened I was and shared how hard this was for me to share. I felt so vulnerable putting this all out there to them both. One of my friends said, “Of course! You are going to the very foundation of your being, spiritual and otherwise. No wonder you are scared.” The other could hear my words implying vulnerability but could not feel my affect, only my words. I noticed how in such vulnerability I detach from my fear and report where I am like giving a weather report. The first person related to that as well. A common defense from our own vulnerability.
Yesterday in our morning coffee-time together Pat asked me, “What does the Guide (source of the Pathwork Lectures) say about Jesus Christ?” I laughed. “It’s like asking what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. Full of paradox.” I went on, “What I wrestle with is the Guide’s notion of and insistence on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship stuff is so hard for me even with other human beings, even with you as you know, so I have no idea, really, of the meaning of ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ.'”
Our conversation went on in other directions and then came back to how we work with our faults, the patterns that block us from Life and God. At one point I said that our role in our purification (a word I only recently allowed myself to be comfortable with), is three-fold: To see our faults and patterns, to accept them as a natural part of our humanness, and finally to surrender them to God for transformation, for the transformation being beyond our (Ego’s) capacity to accomplish. Pat responded, “Maybe that is where the personal relationship with Jesus Christ comes in.” This possibility is something to pause at and take in.
Pat went on, “So, Gary, what is your prayer to Jesus Christ?” After a long pause, I responded, “Jesus Christ, I pray for the courage to be in your presence, to engage you, to trust you, and to ask for and receive your help.”
Pat responded with, “For me it is, ‘May I soften and open to receive your light and grace.'”