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God, or Spirit or whatever one may call the Creator of this universe, is mostly beyond human comprehension. Yet if God is infinite, then God is all. Being infinite, God is one, because there can be no other outside of God that would limit its infinitude. Infinite God has no limits and thus is in all, aware of all, has power over all, and transcends all.
This physical universe apparently exploded in an eruption of energy and matter forming itself in time and space, each of which is limited and can be measured. Yet we as human beings are proof that awareness exists in this universe. The reality we experience as human beings is based on our conscious awareness. Only what we experience is real. We experience the physical world by means of sensory perception, which implies not only what is perceived but a perceiver as well. This subject or conscious being is, in my opinion, directly connected to Spirit in its individualized form as the soul. At the center and the source of our being is this Spirit, which enables us to be aware, not only through sense perception but also by means of memory, imagination, emotions, thoughts, and intuition. Although we are currently experiencing the physical universe of energy-matter in space-time, I believe that our ultimate reality is this spiritual soul that transcends the physical universe and is immortal and eternal. Others may disagree with this opinion because of the limits on our memories and awareness, which they may try to confine to the body and its brain. I believe that we are creative beings and are free to choose how to use our brains and bodies, which are extraordinary instruments designed by conscious choices over a long period of evolution. I believe that as spiritual beings we transcend our bodies, which eventually break down and are abandoned by the soul at death as no longer habitable. Then the human body becomes useless as a whole entity without an inhabiting soul. Yet Spirit lives in many forms, and smaller organisms take over as the body decomposes.
Who and what are we? How can we know ourselves as spiritual beings? Our conscious awareness is limited; there is much that we do not know; and we often make mistakes. Although one may live gently without believing in this spiritual philosophy, I believe that spiritual awareness is helpful for mastering our mortal nature in order to establish and use a higher communication with our spiritual source to develop love and wisdom. The conscious part of our being can draw upon the inspirational connection to the spiritual realms. The spiritual self is our soul, which has the potential to know anything and can guide us with wisdom. Other more conscious or "higher" beings, in the sense that they have developed more wisdom by experience, may also be guides or guardian angels for us. If we realize that we are this spiritual being that leaves the body at death, then we can have a transcendent perspective on physical things that do not last. By creating a spiritual life inside ourselves we gain the experience that stays with us and develops wisdom. We do learn much from physical experiences, but it is the spiritual awareness of how our actions may be most loving and beneficial for all that enables us to apply those lessons in other situations.
I believe that love for all is the divine way of goodness and that this is essentially the art of gentle living that leads to happiness, not only for ourselves but for others as well. In the spiritual reality of the one God we realize that we are one with everyone and that the well being of others is intimately connected to our own well being. Spiritual awareness is what enables us to experience this oneness, which can be ecstatic and the most fulfilling passion of all. The spiritual joy we experience in sharing love with others is much more lasting and deep than any physical pleasure.
This is a practical book about how to experience love and happiness by living gently in harmony with others and at peace with ourselves. I write from personal experience of what works for me, and I fully respect the autonomy of each person to decide what is right for you. I have endeavored to learn from the teachings of the greatest sages such as Lao-zi, Confucius, Buddha, Pythagoras, Socrates, Jesus, Francesco of Assisi, Rumi, Nanak, Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, Jung, Aurobindo, Dorothy Day, Assagioli, and many others. Most of all, I rely on the divine connection within for guidance through prayer and meditation, and I urge others to follow their own inner guidance. I have found that the wisest people are the most loving, because they realize that we are one spiritually and that our happiness and the well-being of all depends on how well we treat others.
In the 21st century we are blessed with many technological advantages that the human spirit has developed to make our living easier. Yet as the African saying that "no river is without its noise" implies, every part of life has its disadvantages. Finding peace, happiness, and harmony with others in the modern age is probably more of a challenge than it has ever been, especially since we now have the capacity to destroy the entire human race. In the past, learning how to live gently was a benefit to those who practiced it and to those around them. Now it has become necessary for the survival of our species. If we continue to be misled by those who use violence and wars to promote selfish advantages for themselves and their wealthy friends, then we may blunder into a nuclear war that could contaminate the Earth with radiation that could make vast regions, if not the entire planet, uninhabitable for many centuries.
I believe that at the center of our consciousness is a divine being that may be called the soul, which is an eternal reality and the source of all awareness. If you think about it, as did Socrates, Plato, Shankara, al-Ghazali, Descartes, Berkeley, and Kant, you will realize that our basic reality is not our physical body but our consciousness, which enables us to perceive our body. The eternal spiritual paradigm is analogous to the Copernican theory of the solar system in that the soul (Sun) is the center and source of consciousness (energy), not the body (Earth). I believe that souls are free and that we create our own experience by the choices we make before we are born, during life, and after death of the body. Being eternal, the consequences of all our actions will eventually come back to us because we have to live with them forever. I call this the law of infinity. Thus karma, or the spiritual law of cause and effect, is our own process of being responsible for what we create. On the street this is known as "what goes around comes around." This spiritual principle, or golden rule of loving others as you would want them to love you, is found in all the major religions and philosophies. I have written other books describing those histories. This book gives my own suggestions on how we can help ourselves and all humanity by being loving and aware of the consequences of our actions so that they may benefit others and ourselves.
In the great complexity of our being we can contact the spiritual reality that is above our conscious awareness. Some may refer to this lofty self as a guardian angel or an ascended master. The spiritual self is always higher or greater than our conscious awareness so that as we evolve in our intelligence and consciousness we may be guided by masters and angels. These transcendent spirits serve God and the good of all life. They may inspire us to reach higher and deeper in our consciousness and to accomplish altruistic purposes that benefit many. Thus divine guidance comes to us and may protect us. Conscience is this awareness that enables us to make wise decisions that in the long run will be better for us and others. Sometimes by denying a physical desire or more earthly goal we may accomplish a higher purpose. The spiritual self helps us to realize these greater values.
Our conscious mind is only able to be aware of a few things at a time, but we can consciously direct our attention into the spiritual realms by prayer and meditation. By calming our conscious thoughts we can open ourselves to the subtlety of the Spirit. Many techniques of prayer, meditation, yoga, or spiritual exercises may be used, but most important is what works for you. If it becomes so habitual that it is mechanical, is that conducive to increased enlightenment? Does a religious ritual help to center and connect us to Spirit, or does it become a substitute or a distraction from authentic spiritual experience? The answers to these questions are not simple, and they vary according to person and circumstances. What is our purpose? The sincerity of our intention enables us to communicate directly with God, who may give us some tests to see how sincere we actually are. Jesus and others have taught that a humble prayer is more likely to be answered than a self-righteous one. By confessing or admitting our shortcomings we can begin to work on them to improve ourselves. By examining our weaknesses we can learn how to diagnose and treat the causes of our problems. Everything that happens to us is what we have created, chosen, or allowed to occur. To avoid repeating an unpleasant experience we can learn how to change our life so as not to create that again.
Breathing is essential to living. The Greeks used the same word (pneuma) to mean breath and spirit. One of the most basic methods of meditation is to concentrate on one's breath. As we breathe in, we can imagine the Holy Spirit flowing into us through the top of our head. As we breathe out, we can emanate love and visualize Light going out in all directions. This spiritual breathing of bringing in the Spirit and sending out love is a spiritual exercise. Meditation is centering our consciousness on the divine soul that we are. Prayer is calling upon God and aligning ourselves with the divine will. Henry David Thoreau said that one with God is a majority.
We can practice this attunement or spiritual breathing at any time in any place. The Spirit we are calling upon is infinite and perfect, instantaneously available, inexhaustible, is everywhere all the time, and useful in every situation; it always does what is best; you can never wear it out; and it is absolutely free. Send this Light to all your friends; it is the greatest gift of all. Send it to everyone in the world, and always remember it is to be used for the highest good of all concerned. In our limited consciousness we do not know everything; but when we trust in God, that omniscient awareness arranges all for what is best.
Prayer is asking for that divine energy, and meditation is attuning ourselves to the Spirit so that we may understand the answers that are for us. Not all prayers can be granted, because only what is best for all can occur. Epicurus once noted that if all human prayers were granted, the world would soon be depopulated because some people pray to destroy others. Conflicting prayers may not be fulfilled. We are blessed with spiritual freedom as the essence of God, and not even God will interfere with our choices. Yet our power is limited by divine wisdom, and how much one can interfere with the liberty of others is limited by circumstances that hold one to account for one's actions. To attempt to control others is practicing black magic, which recoils upon oneself. Thus true prayer is never an order nor a demand but always a request or a humble petition that may be granted if it is best for all and does not harm others. We also can apply this humble respect for others by not insisting on our way but always letting others freely decide. Thus the gentle way may ask others but does not demand, respecting their freedom and autonomy as divine beings. Because we are one with all, it is best to consider others as equally important as ourselves.
You may also pray for personal objectives; but if you do not qualify your request by asking for the highest good, you may not be happy with what you get. Thus the wise always ask for guidance toward what is best for all. If everything were given to us without a struggle, life would have no challenges. We learn by the process of our experience, and those lessons, not the objects we gain, are what stay with us forever. We may give thanks for the blessings we have already received, for God is guiding our every breath. This attitude of gratitude is the humility that keeps us in contact with the higher power. I have found that attitude is the strongest determining factor in human happiness. Joy bubbles up from within like a warm spring, and no one can take it away. Those who find happiness in the physical things of this world will eventually lose all of them. Then where will their happiness be?
We may expand our auras to include everyone present and than ask Spirit to be with us all. The aura is a subtle electro-magnetic field in and around our bodies that can be seen as colors by clairvoyants. Practice breathing in the Spirit and emanating love to every person. When you make personal contact with people, let the love flow from your eyes into theirs. Young children are especially responsive to this gentle love. Yet everyone thrives on this wonder of the universe.
Meditation is attuning ourselves to the guidance of Spirit. Meditation calms the mind and gives it a rest without falling asleep. Do not be concerned if you fall asleep. Most adults spend between a quarter and a third of their time asleep. Rest is essential to the health of the body and the mind. The Buddha once advised one of his disciples to sleep if he is tired and then meditate. Getting enough rest is essential to peace of mind and gentle living. When we are lacking sleep, we get dark circles under our eyes. Tired people tend to be anxious and irritable. Replenish your spirit, not only with adequate sleep, but with meditation as well. Sleep is analogous to death, because the soul can leave the body and experience other realms in the dream consciousness, which may or may not be remembered. Relax and rest the body. Close the eyelids and go within yourself. If you notice a sound or a thought, come back to the awareness of your breathing. If the thought is worth examining, observe where it goes. Do not be afraid to learn more about yourself. Contemplate your life and its meaning, what you have done, what you are doing, and what you may do next. Ask yourself, "How can I improve on that? What can I learn from that experience I am remembering? How could I handle a situation like that better the next time?" If you find yourself awake at night when usually you sleep, maybe this self-examination is needed.
Meditation is a preparation for death because in this experience the body is not important. This is learning how to live as a non-physical being. Socrates and Plato advised us to practice dying, as dying is the separation of the soul from the body. When our body dies and we leave here, we only take with us our experience. Thousands of near-death experiences, which have been studied recently, indicate that part of the transition of dying is experiencing a review of one's life. A significant aspect of these reports is that people experience not only what they did but also how it affected others. This again is the essential oneness of karma and our responsibility. If we harmed someone else, who is really like our self and thus in ultimate reality us, then we need to understand how we did that.
The key to unlocking the secret treasures inside ourselves is love. To love others we need to love ourselves first; we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. By taking care of ourselves first we are better able to take care of others too. We are in charge of our own life, and we must make our own decisions. No one can make us do anything we do not choose to do. Thus, our first responsibility is to handle our self well. Understanding our own personal idiosyncrasies can help us do this. Although our souls are essentially the same, we all have different experiences. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Our glorious freedom enables us to choose what we want to experience. Ultimately the only thing we must do in this life is to die and leave the body; everything else is a free choice. Take time to get to know yourself. The Greeks inscribed the words "Know yourself" on their most sacred temple at Delphi. Pythagoras recommended reviewing your day at night and again the next morning. Socrates said that for a human the unexamined life is not livable.
During sleep we dream what we most need to experience in order to keep our psyche (soul) healthy. Everything in the dream is created by our own consciousness. Only rarely is some physical impression incorporated into a dream so that we may not yet awaken. When you first begin to wake up is the time to retrieve your dreams before they are forgotten. Dreams are like movies in which we are the writer, director, actors, scene artist, costume designer, and audience; all the characters and events come from what is inside of us. Often our subconscious mind uses clever symbols to disguise the meaning from our conscious awareness. Dreams release subconscious karma and help us to resolve the psychological tensions we have experienced. We can become conscious in a lucid dream, and that indicates we are gaining self-awareness. Our consciousness is not limited by our physical circumstances, and thus we can relate to anyone in the world or to those who have passed beyond this world. Some dreams that indigenous peoples call "big dreams" may actually be communications with other souls on higher planes of awareness. The more we are able to center our consciousness in the soul and find peace of mind the more easily are we able to have these transcendent experiences. Some may want to keep a dream journal; others are content to recall dreams and carry them in their memory.
Our life and awareness have many dimensions beyond what is conscious in our minds. What psychologists call the subconscious and unconscious minds contain many subtle levels of awareness that affect and provide resources for our conscious self. This chapter discusses the spiritual side of those realms that might also be called the superconscious. The next chapter will relate to the parts of the unconscious that are closer to the physical body in what I call the natural self. The spiritual self has been called the higher self, conscience, soul, spirit, angels, God, avatar, Buddha, Messiah, or Christ. George Washington wrote, "Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience." In human experience the conscious self is responsible for making conscious decisions and thus tends to mediate between the divine principles of the more abstract spiritual realms and the more basic or lower needs, instincts, drives, and desires of the physical body and the emotions that have developed from the conditioning of experience.
I have conceptualized twenty-seven ideals or divine principles, which I believe are attributes of God and can be used to guide our consciousness to what is best for all. They are goodness, truth, beauty, reality, awareness, joy, will, freedom, responsibility, love, wisdom, power, courage, faith, patience, law, justice, peace, life, growth, fruition, creativity, balance, harmony, life, growth, fruition, creativity, balance, harmony, wholeness, health, and perfection. In the created worlds of form every positive principle has its opposite contrary or lack. In this philosophy the negative expressions are like temporary shadows that will pass away eventually, while the divine principles, in addition to their relative meaning, also have the absolute reality of God. Because God is the only infinite being, in the creation the negative expressions of misguided souls are only temporal and will not last forever. In this world we make errors or pursue limited objectives that bring about suffering for ourselves and others. From the spiritual perspective these experiences teach us how to be responsible creators. If we are wise, we hold to the divine principles as best we can so that our experiences will be of the quality of these principles, which I believe are all interrelated and mutually affirming.
God is good, the most general concept of value. Choosing what we believe is good while rejecting what we think is bad is how conscious intention works and is the basis of ethics. As spiritual beings everyone naturally chooses what one thinks is good, although others may disagree. We direct our consciousness intentionally with purpose by what we think is good. From experience of the consequences of decisions people learn that what one thought was good may not turn out as one expected. Thus we are continually learning what is good and thus approach closer to God realization. Many people only consider what is good for oneself, and they may often find themselves in conflict with other selfish people. Some even argue that this is how people are, and they denounce idealism or altruism as unrealistic. However, I am suggesting that considering what is good for all will in the long run yield better results. This does not have to be unrealistic. We can be aware that others often act selfishly and take that into consideration. If we are more considerate, we may seem to have more difficulties immediately; but these experiences give us lessons about life. If we remain true to our ideals, some will realize that we are a "good person" in that we take others into consideration. Such a person tends to gain cooperation and friends. The Chinese philosopher Mencius believed that humans are innately good. I believe that these divine principles offer the best guidance as to what is truly good.
God is also the truth, what is. Spiritual awareness seeks to know what is true just as action aims to do good. Truth is found in the absolute divine principles and in the relative facts of experience. Being conscious of something is dualistic, and our mental concepts may be true or false. False concepts are temporary delusions that can be cleared up by the light of truth. Holding to the truth is important, because when we diverge from it, we find ourselves separated from reality. Honesty is fundamental to any relationship of trust. The person who attempts to gain some advantage by deceiving others is only fooling oneself, because ultimately the truth cannot be denied. As Jesus said, truth frees us. Ultimately we all will realize, as Jesus did, that we are the truth, life, and the way. Understanding the truth helps us live a better life. Those who deviate from truth make things more complicated, tricky, and difficult, while those who are truthful find life simpler and do not have to try to remember a web of lies in order not to lose credibility. Surely everyone would rather have a relationship with an honest person rather than a liar.
In some circumstances being truthful may be difficult, but that is usually because there are behaviors or forces at work in that situation which need to be improved. Often people refrain from telling the truth because they do not want to hurt someone's feelings. Yet there are ways to handle these situations without giving a false impression. One can say nothing or be sensitive and diplomatic. (See the chapter on compassionate communication.) Or a close enough trust in ourselves and each other can develop so that we can face the truth. I would much rather people be honestly critical of me rather than not mention what is bothering them so that I can have opportunity to learn and make adjustments if necessary. Gandhi and others have said, "There is no god higher than the truth."
Beauty is perceiving with a positive judgment, seeing or hearing a wonderful pattern in life. As the aesthetic superlative, beauty is often associated with the arts; but beauty can also be experienced as a deep appreciation of life and nature when we are able to perceive their glorious qualities. Beauty is also a goal we seek in our manner of doing things well so that they have a pleasing effect. Beauty awakens and attracts love, which creates more beauty to perpetuate love. Beauty motivates procreation and thus selects positive characteristics for reproduction. Like all values, beauty is ultimately subjective, and its perception comes from within as well as from objective criteria. Those seeking beauty in life are looking for harmony and balance, and they have the gift of appreciation, which can motivate oneself and others to do better. The art of gentle living includes creating beautifully for the benefit of all.
Reality implies what truly is, being, or what cannot be denied because its presence is obvious. Spiritual being is reality because it is always present and never changes in its ultimate essence, whereas the created worlds are becoming and always changing. To be real means being authentic and facing up to what is. In this spiritual philosophy the divine ideals or principles that are the essence of God are most real, because they are the qualities that are best and remain forever. God is the eternal reality in all things. Being real means being true to yourself as a person rather than trying to present yourself as something you are not.
As already indicated, awareness is our experience of life. Without awareness, there is nothing. Awareness is what enables us to understand the universe and interact with it in intelligent ways. Thus intelligence is one of the most important attributes or ways of defining the divine and human experience. By endeavoring to increase our awareness, we expand our consciousness and ability to do good, perceive beauty, and know the truth. Awareness is a continual process of having an open mind and learning from every experience. Awareness of what we do not like and unpleasant realities is also important as it enables us to respond to those circumstances.
Joy comes from within spontaneously when we are in intimate contact with Spirit. We are exalted by the divine presence. Joy is one of the rewards of living by divine principles, and we share it with others in our enthusiasm for divine attributes. Joy, happiness, or bliss have been described by Aristotle and others as the ultimate goal in life. Everything else is a means to happiness, which is sought only for itself. Being blessed by God fills us with a sense of well being and gratitude. Joy usually results from living by divine principles and is evidence that we are doing so. Although physical pleasures can also be joyous, spiritual joy tends to be more lasting and is not limited by negative consequences. Like all the divine principles, joy is free and immediately available to us from within ourselves. Being true to ourselves brings inner contentment. As Spirit flows through us, we radiate well being.
Will is the conscious ability to direct intention and is a divine attribute shared by humans. Will implies conscious purpose and is freely chosen. Divine will is guided by the other divine principles, but human will may deviate and cause consequences that lead to various learning experiences. Spiritual progress is made by learning how to align one's human will with the divine will by acting in ways that are good for all. Being willing to serve this greater good puts one on a spiritual path. We are exercising the divine will when we consciously choose to do what is best from a spiritual perspective rather than submitting to other motivations. Human will comes from God, and no one can take it away.
Freedom has been given to every being by God and is the ability to express oneself however one chooses. We learn and develop our wisdom by exercising our freedom in various circumstances. Spiritual awareness is inner directed. Those who let others control them have surrendered their freedom, but they can always regain it by asserting their independence. Freedom allows us to make mistakes, and that is often how we learn. To practice this divine principle one must learn how to respect the freedom of others. Those who try to restrict the freedom of others will eventually learn that others will then try to limit them also. We are only as free ourselves as we allow others to be. Greater spiritual awareness gives more choices and thus greater freedom, while violating divine principles brings about troubles that limit our freedom.
Responsibility is a modern word for the ancient law of karma that measures action. We reap what we sow; we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. As eternal beings, all our actions must eventually return to their source. Thus the spiritual unity of God assures that all beings are responsible for their actions. Whatever we do to others we do to ourselves. By consciously taking responsibility for what we create we manifest a greater integrity that keeps us free of unresolved problems and their bondage. Ethics is about being responsible. Each individual is responsible for oneself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In the greater spiritual oneness we are also responsible for and to each other. If we are a part of a group, we are responsible for our participation in that group.
God is love. I agree with Jesus and Paul that love is the greatest divine principle. Love is the action of goodness and what naturally moves every spiritual being. We do what we love, seek love, and go where love directs us. People are motivated by love, but we can love many different things. The quality of our experience is determined by what we love. Our love may be confined by selfish desires, or it may be expanded by caring for others. Love attracts us to each other for mutual cooperation and procreation. Ultimately we learn to expand our love to be more like God. This spiritual philosophy proposes that loving the divine qualities is the best, but often people love physical or personal things more. The limited consequences of these then help one to learn from the experiences how to love more wisely. The Old and New Testaments advise us to love God all and our neighbors as ourselves. By loving Spirit and the spirit in others we are loving the one infinite Being. Loving our neighbors as ourselves implies that we love ourselves; for how can we love anyone else if we do not begin by loving ourselves? Without loving the spiritual qualities within we would have no love to give to anyone else. Spiritual love is unconditional and continues no matter what happens, forgiving errors and always having a fresh attitude of openness. Love gives, shares, accepts, understands, allows, adjusts, supports, nurtures, cares, pleases, enjoys, guides, vitalizes, soothes, responds, and does many more wonderful things. Divine love does all these in the way that is best for all.
Wisdom is an attribute of infinite God and can be developed in humans by learning from experience. Wisdom implies spiritual understanding as well as knowledge, and it includes good judgment that takes into consideration spiritual values. Wisdom is important in ethics. Science endeavors to gain knowledge, but wisdom is needed to apply that knowledge well in life. Wisdom is holistic and considers what is best for all. We often learn from suffering, but the wise also learn from others and thus can avoid much suffering. Wisdom implies action as well as knowledge. The wise not only know what is best they also do it. Humans have surpassed all other creatures on land by our ability to apply intelligence, but it still remains an open question whether we will learn how to maintain life in a sustainable way. We all can learn from the collective wisdom of humanity as well as from our inner guidance. Wisdom is usually found in a mature spirit who has synthesized many lessons from life. Although in the flow of Spirit wisdom can even come from a young child, usually one develops wisdom in an area of life after much careful and conscientious experience that refines many lessons into subtle awareness.
Spiritual power is expressed in humans as virtue, which does what is good. God has extended power into individual souls, which must learn how to respect each other. Power is the ability to accomplish. Potential is within everyone, but abilities usually take much practice to develop. Power also implies taking action to exert one's influence. Power is not always positive in that it can be abused; the negative side is not the divine aspect. Being able is good, but this ability or power must be used wisely for the good of all to be a divine expression. They say, "The abuse of greatness is the abuse of the power," and politicians have been warned that "power corrupts." Power to be good must be used responsibly without harming anyone. Yet power is an important attribute of God, and many believe that as the infinite being God is omnipotent. Yet the power of God is omnipresent love that mysteriously is able to respect the freedom of all beings. The divine principles work together, and to concentrate on any one alone is incomplete. Thus power to be used well must be combined with goodness, love, wisdom, justice, responsibility, etc.
Courage comes from the word for heart and gives us strength to do what is right. We gain courage by being true to our deepest ideals. Courage comes from within and motivates us to do what is best despite difficulties and dangers. The truly courageous are guided by wisdom. In my opinion the bravery that harms or kills others out of some misguided loyalty is not a divine principle. Yet the courageous are often willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. We need courage to face reality. Spiritually courage can be examining ourselves without illusions or excuses. Courage enables us to act boldly and help bring about the divine plan.
Faith in an infinite God also enables us to be willing to sacrifice ourselves if necessary for the greater good. Trusting in God is being confident that the universe is just, that if we are honest and good, everything will work out all right. Trusting human beings is a positive quality, but we can be careful about not trusting blindly. Trust will often bring out the best in people; but if it does not, we can adjust accordingly. Faith in God helps one to adhere to spiritual values and apply divine principles, knowing that in the long run these will bring about the best results.
Patience is another divine attribute that enables us to transcend space and time by trusting in the infinite Spirit that is always here now. Patience is the ability to forgive and to maintain an open and friendly attitude no matter how many difficulties may occur. Being patient allows Spirit to work its will. God is infinitely patient with our errors and shortcomings and offers us an example to apply to ourselves and others. Divine patience allows us to learn in our own way and time. Patience enables us to endure or transcend temporary pains and sorrows. If we are eternal beings, then we can afford to be patient with all the temporal conditions that will eventually pass away.
Laws are principles that maintain order and shape how things operate in the universe. Spiritual laws are immutable and are always good because they are designed by a wise and good Creator. Scientists study the natural laws that preserve the order and stability of the physical universe and make it comprehensible. Human laws are devised by societies to guide and regulate conduct. They can be violated, but sanctions may be applied for doing so. Because humans are fallible, some political laws or governmental policies may be unjust. In such cases civil disobedience may be adhering to higher spiritual principles in order to bring about needed reform. Respect for spiritual and physical laws is essential, and human laws are important as social mechanisms for deciding on the limits of human behavior. The spiritual and natural laws cannot be changed, though our understanding of them varies. Human laws are changed as society learns how best to govern itself with collective decision-making that respects the rights of all.
Justice is an important divine principle and human virtue. Justice is the higher principle which should guide how human laws are applied. Justice maintains fair and harmonious relations between souls, who are equally divine and should be treated so. Justice makes sure that no one is above or below the law that applies equally to all. Justice is what is right for everyone, and it is best applied by someone who is neutral, objective, unbiased, and detached from irrelevant considerations while being devoted to treating all equally and according to the facts. Justice in society implies distributing the opportunities and benefits of the world to all. We usually recognize what each has earned and deserved as just. Justice resolves conflicts in ways that are fair for all.
Peace has been called the fruit of justice. Like patience, peace is a transcendental quality that has risen above the fray. Our soul at the center of our being is always calm and at peace, and this can be experienced in meditation. When we are in harmony with God and the universe, we naturally feel peaceful. Peace allows love to flow, and it emanates well being. God is imperturbable, and a peaceful person has the ability to handle conflict, turmoil, upset, anger, and other violent emotions and actions without losing one's poise and calm center. In peace one can meditate, contemplate, and act wisely. Martin Luther King said, "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." In an unjust situation the truly peaceful person may be working very hard to bring about justice.
Spirit is life eternal and gives life to all creatures. Life is a miracle and is abundant on this planet. Living organisms are unified individuals with extraordinary abilities of adaptation that enable them to survive and have diverse experiences that include reproducing. That life has evolved on Earth over billions of years into diverse species, including extremely sophisticated mammals, is a testimony to the intelligent design of the Creator. Evolution by natural selection implies a consciousness in the organisms that does the selecting even though the long development has been through trial and error. The miracle of life is that awareness has been integrated into physical forms that spiritual beings can use to gain experience by interacting with each other and physical things. For spiritual beings in living forms life is obviously an essential value, and killing is a violation of that principle. Thus it is important that we respect life and act in ways that preserve life and enhance the opportunities for positive experiences. The bodies of living organisms are able to take in nourishment, metabolize substances, release waste, and use energy for various abilities without the organism consciously directing every process. Thus living organisms have developed much unconscious intelligence, and the more complex ones offer great experience to those spiritual beings that inhabit them for as long as the organism can function. Death is not the opposite of life but of birth, and both are transitions of the soul in or out of the body. The soul is eternal and the essence of life.
Growth is a natural process of life. We grow in many ways without always consciously endeavoring to do so. Jesus described the miracle of Spirit or the sovereignty of God as like a mustard seed. Although it is one of the smallest seeds, the mustard seed grows quickly into a large plant. Spirit has used the long process of evolution to form organisms that are programmed by the results of their experiences and natural selection to adapt naturally. Growth is not merely quantitative but qualitative as well and includes improved organization. Beings also grow in consciousness by having experiences. No one can lose experience because every experience is a gain. This continuous growing process not only evolves organisms but spiritual beings as well.
Fruition is the production of life. As creative beings we have the ability to produce things, and success in doing so is a divine principle. By inhabiting organisms descended from ancestors that have successfully survived, souls can gain experience within a system that has natural success mechanisms already programmed into the organism by heredity. Humans have the ability to produce many things that can improve our way of life, and each success enables us to progress a step farther in our creative development. Producing good things is a spiritual quality, and Jesus advised us that people are known by the fruits of their deeds. Thus good work leads to beneficial results.
As souls we are one with the Creator and thus are creative also. We are learning how to be responsible creators by having experiences in the limited worlds of creation. Humans are by far the most creative species, transforming our environment and inventing ever more sophisticated tools and technology for manipulating things. These skills enable individuals to be creative in the arts, education, health sciences, technology, business, politics, recreation, etc. Creativity comes from the spiritual dimensions within us and manifests in diverse ways. All souls are co-creators with God.
Balance is maintained in the universe for stability. That is why all actions have equal reactions. Balance also reflects the principle of equality, that all individuals are ultimately equal as divine beings. Every interaction between souls is balanced eventually according to equality and justice. Balance implies proportional fairness. As spiritual beings we have a sense of balance that keeps us upright so that we do not tip over one way or another. When we veer off the spiritual path, we will be warned by difficult experiences. If we do not treat others as equals, we may lose our social or political balance; unfairness is likely to provoke resentment. Spiritual and natural laws make sure that the balance of all creation is maintained by adjustments and corrections.
Harmony is the spiritual principle that values good relationships. Harmony implies concord and helpful togetherness among individuals who may differ in various ways. This divine principle can guide us how to fit our actions into a larger whole so that everyone benefits. We harmonize ourselves with others by taking them into consideration in ways that respect them and ourselves. We do not have to do the same thing, but we can maintain harmonious relationships through mutual cooperation. Some may like discordant notes, but they can also be indicators for possible adjustments. Harmony implies an appreciation of our differences by understanding a deeper unity. By harmonizing with the whole we may experience joy, beauty, and other divine principles. Harmony includes a sense of rhythm and proportion in time and space, feeling tones, logical relationships of the mind, and spiritual values.
Wholeness is the principle that reflects the unity of God and the totality of all. God is one and pervades the entire universe as the Holy Spirit. Consciousness often understands by analyzing things into parts, but from the spiritual perspective we need to remember the overall unity. Also every individual as a soul is a whole and holy being, and it is not fair to judge or limit one because of single actions or characteristics. As eternal beings, we each share the holy essence of the divine and have opportunities to make right whatever wrong we may have done. Wholeness also reminds us to take into consideration all the divine principles and warns us against becoming fanatical about some partial aspect of the universe. Holistic philosophy understands everything in relation to everything else. By identifying with the whole, instead of a part, we spiritualize our consciousness.
Health is the natural and best condition of a living organism. Health is not only physical but also emotional, mental, and spiritual. Spirit is the ultimate healer of all. Benjamin Franklin said, "God heals, and the doctor collects the fee." Health care workers naturally have important functions in assisting the healing process. The soul and the extraordinary physiological systems designed by evolution are able to repair damaged bodies countless times before the entire system eventually fails and dies as the soul departs. Physical bodies are not designed to last forever but to provide for a natural process of change through generations. Thus everyone must face death of the body, and maintaining health is a continual challenge. Health enables us to participate fully in life, and so maintaining our own health enhances the quality of our life. Spirit will guide us to what is healthy if we pay attention to helpful indicators.
God is perfect, as is every soul. Perfection implies completion
and the final goal. God is not only the Creator of all but also
the destination of all. Souls are always perfect, but humans in
the created worlds can only strive toward this perfection. The
divine principle of perfection is applied by always working to
improve any situation. Spiritual progress is a constant movement
toward greater wisdom, love, justice, and so on. Ultimately perfection
is only found in the soul within as we let go of and transcend
all the lower worlds.
This chapter has been published in the book The Art of Gentle Living. For ordering information, please click here.