Several months ago, as I often do, I tuned in to my local PBS station to watch their Saturday night double-feature. I came in a little late on the first feature and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the dialogue, but it was better than anything else on TV that night. I find that older black and white movies are kinder and gentler, which is often their draw for me. So I hung in, and about half way through, things took a turn. Our main character was headed to India on a quest for meaning? This, from a movie likely filmed in the 1940’s? Now that got my attention. It wasn’t till after the movie ended that I learned its name was The Razor’s Edge. The name was familiar to me, as a friend had recommended the more recent version, filmed in the 1980’s, when it first came out. I never did see that one. This whole thing piqued my curiosity, so I looked it up on the internet. Thus, this, from today on Wikipedia:
The Razor’s Edge is a book by W. Somerset Maugham published in 1944. Its epigraph reads, “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” taken from verse in the Katha-Upanishad.
The Razor’s Edge tells the story of an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The novel is supposed to be based on the life of Guy Hague, an American mining engineer.
The story begins through the eyes of Larry’s friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune. The book was twice adapted into film, first in 1946 starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney, and Herbert Marshall as Maugham, and then a 1984 adaptation starring Bill Murray, with Tibet replacing India as the place of Larry’s enlightenment (the monastery to which Larry travels in the 1984 movie adaptation is in Ladakh, an Indian-ruled region sometimes called ‘Little Tibet’).
|How very interesting…I know that this is an age-old quest, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. The surprising bit was more at seeing it portrayed on the movie screen from this time period (I doubt it would’ve been made without the inspiration of Somerset Maugham’s book). The following clip is from one of the later scenes in the movie, when our main character ended up in India…Although this Holy Man seems more like a Jewish Rabbi, or a Catholic Priest, from my perspective…Maybe so Westerners could relate to him a little better? Or perhaps it was just the constraints of movie-making, etc., at the time:|
This caused me to reflect on my own spiritual journey, a search for answers that were more satisfying than the ones I had been given. I think perhaps I always had spiritual leanings? Or maybe it was after my dad died, an event that changed me, even at my tender age of 8. We were a Catholic family, and the church was my saving grace in many respects. It anchored me. I enjoyed the community, the ritual, the quiet reflection, the music, the stories from the Bible. I liked it so much, I wanted to become a nun. I went to Catholic school and attended 7:00 a.m. mass every morning with my mom before classes. I think I was a seeker early on, and I’m glad I had this foundation of Catholicism.
Of course I didn’t KNOW I was a seeker at the time, my Path found me. I was happily Catholic, though some of the beliefs left me questioning. When I started attending college, I was fascinated with what others thought. Who knew that some people thought of Catholics in a disparaging way? Not me! I had led such a sheltered, insulated life, which, as I said, I feel was a good thing. I took classes in cultural anthropology, world religions, philosophy. I loved, loved, loved it. What stood out to me was that humans have been mulling over these ideas since the beginning, and that there was a thread running through all the major religions, even though the dogma details were different. Of course they were, different cultures, different times. But I believe there IS a common Truth to everything. The dogma and its details, come from humans, and their particular cultures. What would happen if Jesus appeared today? I imagine a lot of folks would be skeptical, to say the least. I so wished I had been alive when Jesus was. It didn’t seem fair that only one group of people at that point in time and place got to be with him in the flesh. Just like the game of telephone, I’m sure so much has gotten lost, misinterpreted, or buried, along the way…power plays and politics usually take over.
Robert Lee Haycock: “The four Gospels weren’t written until a hundred years after Jesus ministry. Can you write a gospel of MacArthur or Ho Chi Minh a hundred years after their work without recourse to electronic media that did not exist in Palestine BC 33 and vouch for its veracity? Truth is not Facts. Truth is Truth.”Soul Dipper: “Do not believe anything simply because it is spoken or rumored by many…found written in your religious books. …Do not believe in traditions just because they’ve been handed down to you…but after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~ The Buddha
I naturally was fascinated with this expansion of my world, and I couldn’t get enough. To me, what connected East and West, different places and time periods, was that all religious/spiritual traditions have within them some form of Mysticism. Mystics place their value on direct experience of God, and that God is within in all of us. From the Bible:
“The kingdom of God is within you.” ~ Luke 17:21
“Ye are the temple of the Living God.” ~ II Corinthians 6:16
That is the ultimate Truth. I believe this is why enlightened beings, sons and daughters of God, have graced this creation since its birth…to offer us inspiration and guidance. (Little is spoken of women mystics, but they do exist!) The teachings from the East actually made the most sense to me, such as the ideas of Karma and Reincarnation. Once you get past the cultural associations, possible judgements and fears you have around these notions, they actually are quite reasonable. Also included in these belief systems are the practices of Vegetarianism (you’ll be astounded by these list of famous vegetarians from throughout history, I was! Nice to know I’m in such good company :)) and Meditation. I practice a devotional form of meditation, but there are many different reasons and ways to meditate, and they ALL have benefits. Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions floating around which can make some folks shy away.
Back then my best friend was also instrumental in opening my eyes to other possibilities (the early twenties are indeed an exciting age of exploration). He was exploring a spiritual path that he learned of from a fellow classmate, in photography class. He saw her developing photos she had taken in India, and wanted to know her story. She said she followed a spiritual path, based in India, where her Spiritual Teacher lived. If you are curious about it, here are two links: Radha Soami Satsang Beas and Science of the Soul Research Centre.
She suggested several books to him that he (and I) could most relate to, given our fiercely Catholic background. Such as the book, Yoga and the Bible, by Joseph Leeming, 1963. Here is an excerpt about spiritual seeking (pages 5 & 6):
“For most people the first step is the search of which Jesus spoke, a seeking for something in which one can believe without a doubt; something that does not have to be accepted on blind faith alone; something that will not only uplift and spiritualize the heart, the mind, and the soul, but will also satisfy to the fullest the most rigorous demands of reason and intelligence.
As a consequence, there are many who can no longer find satisfaction in the tenets of the organized religions. Evidence of this fact can be found in the very great numbers of people — many thousands in all of the major nations of the world — who have been moved to search for spiritual knowledge and a way of salvation that they cannot find by conforming to the doctrines and rituals of organized religious bodies. In the world at large, the seekers are not numerous…
The seekers have realized that the material world is not the only world. They realize that the unaided intellect of man alone can never provide answers to their questions. They sense that what we see is only a fraction of what really is. Glimpsing the truth, haunted by the pettiness and emptiness of life, they are driven to search for the spiritual reality and purpose behind the seeming lack of meaning in ordinary human existence.”
Another suggestion by her was the book, Light on Saint Matthew, by Charan Singh. This excerpt (pages 64-65) is in reference to one of the most well-known Christian prayers, the Lord’s Prayer. It is now my favorite version:
“Oh Father, You are in heaven. I just want to merge in You, to live in Your Name, in Your Will. In whatever way You want to keep me in this world, I am happy. What I want is just Your love and devotion in my heart, that is all I need. Give me what You want to give me. Take from me what You do not want me to have. I have absolutely and unconditionally surrendered to You, because you have eyes and I am blind. I do not know what is best for my soul.”
My friend reluctantly shared this new and “radical” information with me, said he was interested, and that there was a local chapter of this group nearby. Intrigued and upset, I knew immediately that it was for me, but I wasn’t quite ready to change just yet, though I was winding up. My underpinnings were completely knocked out from under me, which was very disorienting. I eventually started to attend meetings with him and we slowly began making new friends, but kept it quiet with most of our other friends and family. We were lucky enough to see the head of the Society, the Spiritual Teacher, here in the States on his annual visits, numerous times. I then was able to travel to India on three separate occasions thereafter. I feel so fortunate to have realized my dream: To have the rare opportunity to see for myself, first hand, a Holy Man, to feel what it was like, and to hear what he had to say. He was like a father-figure, the best role-model you could ever imagine: Wise, loving, patient, realistic, relatable, firm, funny, jovial…the very best of what humans have to offer, never mind God :). What made my friend and I comfortable on this path is that this lineage of Teachers is, and has always been, entirely self-supporting. There was NO money asked of us at anytime, for anything. Food and gatherings with him are provided free to the masses. Selfless service is encouraged and desired. Charitable contributions are made in the occurrence natural disasters, and free healthcare is provided at their hospitals in India. There was no self or group promotion. There was no ritual, no ceremony. It was well-organized, neat, and clean. It sounds cliché, but most of all, there was definite and enveloping LIGHT and LOVE.
This form of yoga, called Surat Shabd Yoga, teaches that God is an Energy that consists of Celestial Light and Sound (also called the “Word,” or the “Holy Spirit” in the Bible.) I appreciated these associations, not only with the Bible, but with science. We have all heard, from the study of physics, about the principles of light and sound waves. Energy!! It’s everywhere, in everything. This is where spirituality and science can agree, no? Not yet, I guess, but it seems so straightforward to me.
I had found all the answers that I wanted and needed, and they made perfect sense to me. And I had experienced the first step, with my own being. This was quite a shock for me, remember, I wanted to be a Catholic nun?! “Shoot, this really complicates things!” In a worldly way, it did seem rather complicated, but on a deep level, “What a relief!! No more seeking!” (Although my Spiritual Teacher says, “We are all seekers until we make it [to the top]. Now the hard work begins…Self-realization before God-realization.”) Initially, it was hard wrapping my head around what would be perceived as crazy New-Agey stuff. It was hard enough for me, let alone most of my friends and family…just like the character in The Razor’s Edge had experienced. No wonder my friend had recommended that movie to me those many years ago. Knowledge of this Path didn’t prohibit my Catholicism, it enhanced it for me.
I feel I need to point out that even though it might not seem like it, I am NOT making this, or any post, to try to convert anyone to spirituality or religion in any way shape or form. Rather, I simply wanted to tell my story. My wish is to promote understanding, acceptance, tolerance, for the right of each individual to hold and to practice his/her beliefs, whatever they may be (unless against their will and/or destructive to others). I also wish to offer support for those who CAN relate to my experiences in any way, and who wants to hear them. That being said, just so you have an idea of the things he might say, the following quotes are some helpful advice that I’ve heard over the years from the Spiritual Teacher, paraphrased by me. They are words that any wise and enlightened Soul might speak. 🙂 Like anyone knows who has ever been to a live event of any kind, there is no substitute for being there, amidst the energy that is generated and exchanged when people gather for a shared interest and purpose. So of course, hearing the words directly from his mouth, in that sort of setting, has a special power all its own. And like anyone who’s ever been in love, that makes it all the more special. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
We are our own worst enemy.
We fight against ourselves instead of letting go.
Everything has a purpose in life, even if we don’t see it.
Relationships are not defined by words and labels, but rather by the intensity of emotion and experience.
Be a good friend, if the other is nice to you, reciprocate double.
We need more objectivity and introspection, instead of reactivity.
The further we get from nature, the more out of balance we become.
Be Natural. Be Yourself. Focus on your strengths. Everyone is different. There is so much pressure internally and externally, but don’t compare and try to be like someone else. We need to relax. We need more balance. We are intellectualizing too much.
None of us are worthy, but He loves and accepts us, so why worry about anything else?
All we need is a pair of clothing, two square meals, and a roof over our head. Everything else is extra.
Practice gratitude. Be happy, don’t worry. Just enjoy yourself. Accept yourself.
We are all links in the chain. One missing link compromises the whole chain. The person who cleans the toilets and mops the floors, is just as important as the CEO.
Experience makes the old feel young, and the young feel old.
Prayer is for inspiration and putting you in touch with the Divine. Meditation is about experience.
Practice makes Perfect.
The Giver is also the Knower, so why doubt, or have to ask?
My answer can’t be a precondition of your question. 🙂
Surrender = Freedom.
Gather Knowledge => Develop Concept => Take Action => Gain Experience => Leads to Understanding => The Strength and Confidence to Handle Anything.
Speaking of the love, I have also been in the presence of other such Holy Men (and one Woman), attended ceremonies, and visited other Holy Places revered by Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Baha’i, and Hinduism, both in the U.S. and abroad. The love, beauty and devotion I saw was the same, in all. Every place I went I was welcomed with open arms, as it should be.
“God has made different religions to suit different aspirations, times, and countries. All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God Himself. Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with wholehearted devotion”. ~ Ramakrishna
However, also recently, I wasn’t quite “feeling the love.” It was brought to my attention that some folks might not only think I’m New-Agey, but that I am engaging with the Devil?! Another eye-opener. They think this about ME?! I could see people thinking I’m crazy…but evil?! (From my own kind, no less: Catholic perspective on Energy Medicine, and how some interpret what the Bible says about Energy Healing. But, here’s a nice rebuttal by an M.D., who is also an Episcopalian minister, speaking in defense of Energy Medicine).
Just for the record, I understand that people take umbrage with the fact that a lot of practitioners of energy therapies do call themselves healers. I for one was never comfortable calling others, or myself, such a thing. I always say that I am more of a facilitator, using the gift that God gave me, not attached to ego results, asking God that my client and I be receptive to their highest healing good, direct from the Source. We are all servants of God, angels on earth. Just like in this story about the man and the flood.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and there are many. We just have to take it in, investigate, and figure out for ourselves what we will call ours. I think I’ve pretty much covered my position in this rather long-winded tale…But I’m not finished yet! 🙂 In addition to this, just the day after The Razor’s Edge was on I tuned into an ABC television episode of Primetime Nightline on modern day exorcism. The discussion amongst the interviewees led to comment that, “Entities possess all of us and we invite the Devil into our bodies with the activities we involve ourselves with.” I would agree with that, but I have a different way of viewing it and describing it. There was a Baptist preacher, who conducts deliverance exorcism as part of every service. He said that things like mediation and martial arts open the barn door to evil. Hmmm…I do all those things, so by association, I am evil? My Spiritual Teacher also says it can be treacherous to meditate without a Guide (as all the Masters were, Jesus was one), to lead and protect you. I believe that. But to make a claim, as the preacher did, that things he doesn’t understand are evil? I don’t like that. Or, maybe he understands (?), but just doesn’t agree? Either way, he has no right to make such a presumption. I think once we start making generalist claims like this, out of fear and wanting to control, it is a dangerous and slippery slope. I can see why he feels that way; it’s because we obviously have different world views, but I am a lover of God, AND Jesus, as well!
What was happening here was obviously disturbing, and had a darkness to it, but it seemed to me that the exorcisms the Priest was conducting were releasing energy patterns of trauma, from the unconscious mind. I have experienced this personally, and with my work. It is more psychology and spirituality, than religion, and it is best to have someone, who is supportive, with you when you are going through it. I don’t have judgement around what the preachers and priests do, as they feel it works for them, whatever they call it, and however they go about it. However, I do have my own insights and opinions as to what’s going on. (You saw that one coming, didn’t you? :)). My view on this is slightly different, as I feel that none of us are healers per se…But, we can heal our self, in fact that is our mission, with the help of God, the Creator, the Energy Source of Love…Along the way, we lose track of our own Divine Essence. It’s no wonder to me that it is such a crazy-making adventure to find our way back. And our Western culture doesn’t do a very good job of supporting this process, I think because it is so mysterious, and therefore scary, to most. The evils that they are wanting to expel, are all a product of our mind. I don’t think we are necessarily “possessed” by any outside entities, but rather by the constraints and traumas, the energy fields of our own poor minds. Although, I would agree that our individual energetic make-up can make us more vulnerable to certain outside entities, as with the energy fields of other people, places and things we encounter — such as a stressed-out partner, a frenetic traffic jam, a flu virus, certain foods or medications — which can destabilize and disrupt our own weakened systems in the process. So I suppose, why not other more psychic and/or spiritual entities? Regardless, I think the same would hold true, you do have to be an energetically receptive host in the first place for anything outside of yourself to take hold. That’s why you have to see things in a bigger context of your life.
We are our own worst enemies. In the end, our own internal demons are part of us, not something to be exorcised away, but understood. And forcibly removing any part of the system, without knowledge/understanding of the whole, leads to problems. Not just in this instance, but also with cases of sudden smoking cessation, extreme weight loss, cleaning up the hoarder…When someone else swoops in to solve these problems for us, out of a larger context, the problem will inevitably return, or manifest itself other ways. There is no getting around healing ourselves into authentic completeness, from the source, via a mind-body connection. By mind-body connection, I mean UNCONSCIOUS MIND-Body connection. Most people describe the mind-body connection as more of a conscious one, that we can control. Our unconscious mind and emotions, our psychology, is tied up in our bodies in more dramatic ways than we know. The pain is energetically held in cells and tissues, until it is healed from all angles, not just the conscious mind angle. It is a very necessary and important component, as it’s a beginning towards self-empowering behavior and being mindful of how acting and reacting effects our body.
Here’s what my Energy Medicine mentor, Dr. Richard Metz, had to say on the subject of exorcism:
“Exorcism is ultimately not in the best interest of the person. It is driving the dissociated traumatized and difficult aspects of the personality deeper into the unconscious. The person may feel relieved initially, but the problem will manifest in a different more pathological way that usually appears unrelated to the original problem. This manifestation could be revealed in a health problem (such as cancer), and accident, trouble at work, school, relationships. In order to see these hidden cause-and-effect associations one must have a sense of the deep connectedness of all aspects of the person and their life. The more complex the system, the further away cause-and-effect are in time and space, making it hard to see these associations. And we ARE complex systems. Traumatic experiences, and difficult aspects of the personality, don’t need to be expelled, and they really can’t be anyway, they need to be integrated and resolved, coming from a place of love and acceptance, not of judgement and fear. This acceptance does not mean denial of negativity, or the need to control it, it means holding the person accountable as the problem being a part of them. They have to realize it’s a part of them and they have a part to play in dealing with it.”
The healing process, our “Soul-work,” cannot be forced, but allowed to unfold with intention and attention. As Mae West said about growing older, this process is not for sissies. 🙂
SoulDipper: “If spiritual work does anything, it challenges and disturbs with just as much force and surprise as it illuminates and enlightens. In fact, if our spiritual work does not challenge what we know, if it does not disturb our habitual patterns of thought, perception, and action, then, it is not spiritual work at all; it is merely a form of self-medication.” ~ Robert Rabbin, contemporary mystic and founder of Radical Sage
“Healing is a spiritual experience. The word health is related to the word holy. Healing is the return to wholeness.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Each path is unique to each individual, that’s why tolerance and compassion are called for, from all of us. I didn’t appreciate the “guilt by association” and ignorance from whence the blame of fraternizing with the devil came, but it did get me thinking again about what I believe about evil and the devil. Again, I tend to agree with the Eastern version of darkness and light. There is an opposite to everything that exists, a polarity. We have higher mind, and lower mind. And it is all a part of a bigger context. Every one and every thing in the universe has its role to play.
This concept is further explained in the following link from Wikipedia:
“The lord of the lower three regions of Creation is in Hindi referred to as ‘Kal’. This is a Soul that spent a great deal of time in meditation and achieved a very high level of Spirituality, and was appointed as lord of the three lower regions of Creation [the Causal level, the Astral level and the physical plane] by God. Kal is often called the devil or Satan, but in point of fact Kal is the administrator of the Law of Karma, and the administrator of the MIND realm…of which each Soul has an aspect of that MIND as a personal MIND.
- The nature of the MIND is duality, and the Soul requires a MIND to enable it to explore and experience duality. The Soul is itself Neutral Spiritual Energy [in my opinion since this will never be proven by anyone on any plane other than the Spiritual plane] and thus, God and ones Soul are absolute energy and thus permanent, unchanging and Neutral. The MIND is ‘negative’ in that it is not actually Spiritual Energy, and thus it it ones own MIND that directs ones negative thoughts and actions for ones ultimate growth.
- The only ‘Satan’ there is, is Kal, and this is the role of Kal, not the nature of Kal.”
- Source: The Path of the Masters, by Julian P. Johnson.Read more.
Viewing the Primetime Nightline segment brought up some personal issues for me as well. With all due respect, it dawned on me that both science AND religion had failed me, in terms of my health problems. Doctors always told me they didn’t know what was wrong with me, wanted to give me pills or surgery, or that I would outgrow it. And my religious community, of progressive Catholics, just wanted to pray over me, as if enough prayerful begging would do the trick. Both mindsets were coming from their own worldviews, separate from one another, and separately could do me no good. The sad part is that both approaches were well-meaning and had my best interest at heart. As I’ve said before in this Blog, my only relief came when I became a patient of Dr. Metz, whose Fundamental Field of Life-Energy theory and therapy is founded on BOTH. In our work, we see the human body as an interface between science and spirituality, in real, practical ways. Spirit follows the fundamental forces of nature as it manifests in the creation. Nothing is separate from one another, and this is how we should view ourselves, our life, our health. That I know for sure. The path that one takes to that end is individual, and one of free-choice. In the end though, we each are our own responsibility! No one can do our work for us!
On a final note, the following quotes further illuminate that in dealing with ourselves, our world, and one-another, everything really begins and ends with us:
“The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all. Read the Gospel and the other Holy Books. You will find their fundamentals are one and the same. Therefore unity is the essential truth of religion and, when so understood, embraces all the virtues of the human world.” ~ Baha’i Faith
“If there is light in the soul, There will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, There will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, There will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, There will be peace in the world.” ~ Chinese Proverb