Illumination

There are many who believe that Jesus was perfect and they believe they understand this, but they hold this belief without knowing the truth about perfection. First, they believe that his perfection existed in an imperfect world. How would one who is imperfect in an imperfect world know perfection? That idea of perfection would have made Jesus unapproachable as a person. Who can stand in the presence of the kind of perfection they imagine? The Jesus they imagine is so limited in their thought that if he were manifest, he would be like a fragile, ceramic figure—easily cracked and broken—a figure always the same under every condition. Every word, perfectly spoken and containing perfection, would be perfectly understood by those who heard it, yet we know that those who heard Jesus speak often understood his words differently. If Jesus was perfect, if Jesus was fully the person of God manifest, then what difficulty would God have in overcoming the imperfections and temptations of the world? How could an imperfect human believe that Jesus as God had revealed the way unless the human being had the same power and resources to overcome the world?

Though Jesus was not God, he embodied perfection in the same way every human being has the potential to embody perfection. Perfection exists within a process of becoming that is continuous. Within this process there is change and the dynamic realization of potential. We understand according to our ability to observe, to look without projecting a limited understanding of the potential found in human beings out into the world. This process of knowing is sensitive to consciousness and the focus of consciousness, that is, observation. The power of perfect consciousness and awareness is such that there is a manifestation of the multiplicity, the diversity, and potential of energy as it manifests across all dimensions. Our perceptions at the material level are like snapshots of a continuous process and as such cannot reveal or embody the fullness found within the process and within the eternal moment of God’s total being.

The perfection of the world is a consequence of the perfect order established by God in God’s creative process. This order is accomplished through multiple dimensions. The material eye and the material mind are not capable of observing or understanding the design of God from limited perspectives within the wholeness of God. Others have described the relationship of human beings to God in terms of images, shadows, and reflections of a true, perfect being. These attempts to describe the reality of God and existence are functionally limited.

God, reality, and perfection are dynamic and changing. This dynamic process results in malleability and flexibility along with multiplicity and oneness. God holds the paradoxes found in our limited understanding in such a way that our consciousness gradually moves and unfolds toward perfection, in part due to the tension that exists between what we believe to be true and what is actually true.

This tension, including the movement toward perfection, is activated in meditation. There is a four-step process involved. It is helpful for us examine what Jesus said to the disciples:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:8-14)

Jesus is speaking to Thomas and the disciples from a state of illumination, a final stage of consciousness that is realized through spiritual practice and the intention that he brought to his spiritual practice. Many people would like to know how to get to that state of illumination, but they are not aware of the obstacles that exist and they are also unaware of the milestones that can be experienced along the way.

The first step is to realize that we have the ability to reach this same state of illumination. If we persist in seeing Jesus as God, as an exception to every other human being, we are not able to understand what Jesus is showing us. We can easily get caught in an understanding of Jesus as divine and Jesus as doing all the work for us. In this condition we are passive and have no understanding of our free will and self- determination. Jesus tells the disciples what they can do, “greater works than these,” when referring to his own spiritual abilities. So, first, we must realize our essential abilities and how to access them.

Second, we enter into meditation, prayer, and other aspects of our spiritual practice with an ideal that is perfection. At the beginning of our developmental process we are unable to see this understanding of perfection without attaching to it our desires, our fears, our cultural context, and a multitude of other things. Remember when Jesus casts out the demons from a man in the synagogue? The man recognizes Jesus for who he is. When Jesus asks his name, he says, “Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). Perfection is hidden in the many within our being. But discipline, practice, and development of the will can help us move to Stage Three. How? It is through our ability to say no, to assert our own preference, to feel the flow of energy and power of our own thoughts and understanding. We are sufficient and complete where we are, we do not need anything else in the moment, and the exercise of free will confirms this for us.

The third stage is the loosening of the attachments, the cultural context, the dissipation of our fears, and the overcoming of our desires. Once this multitude has been shaken loose we can see perfection within ourselves as well as outside of ourselves. We might be tempted to linger in this stage because of the beauty of what we see. We might see the perfection of the world and become so fascinated that we remain stuck, and the temptation is great because what we see—without all the attachments—is very beautiful. But like other things that arise in our practice, our spiritual work is to notice them, acknowledge them, but then move on.

When we move on from this stage we initially have uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty. This is where our will and our intention become important. Our intention can be understood like momentum. When something is set in motion by our will, it is like starting the rolling of a ball down a hill, where the natural order of reality is like the slope of the hill. The slope lets the ball keep moving toward its final destination. We move toward our final destination and we are absorbed into the consciousness of God. This is such a startling movement that our ego rebels and tries to hold on, grasping at everything in our consciousness, because the ego thinks we are dying or on the verge of annihilation. However, the final stage of letting go is where we lose self-consciousness and we are absorbed into the consciousness and embodiment of love and truth. We become one with the perfection that our mind improperly objectified in the earlier stages of consciousness.

This stage of illumination is like a paradox to our material conscious mind. We have given up power, but at the moment we surrender, we become power. The words of Jesus begin to make sense to us in this context. His words are no longer a puzzle. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me . . . I do not speak on my own . . . it is the Father who dwells within me that does his work.” Thomas and the disciples are struggling within the context of the world in which they are living, the expectations of the Messiah, their fears, and their attachments to the world they believe they know and understand.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling- places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7)

Many times this wisdom has been spoken to human beings: one’s personal transformation benefits all of humankind. This is the greatest gift one can give to other human beings because this gift precedes all other gifts given in relationship. Though God is always present and always aware, every being must learn to acknowledge the greater aspects of existence, awareness, and consciousness. Through expression of our inner being, through our openness and willingness to receive and in turn give, we can express God’s compassion and truth. The highest expression, the most valuable expression, of this inner condition is made unselfishly and fully attributes to God all that belongs to God. Jesus, when speaking here of the many dwelling places of God, has become the way through the realization of God in his being and in his consciousness. Jesus embodies truth because the power of love and truth is revealed in his being, in his thoughts, and in his actions. Everything around Jesus, everything within his awareness, finds its origin in the spiritual condition of creation. This spiritual condition unfolds and Jesus expresses in his consciousness and awareness an unbroken connection with the origin of everything found in God.

Jesus speaks to Thomas in a way frequently misunderstood by others. His words are better understood within the moment presented to Thomas: here I am now, here you are now, can you look in this moment to God, look to me and know that I am here to reveal God to you? In this moment you do not need to look anywhere else. Misunderstanding arises when what has been expressed in a private moment is later expressed publicly. This is a moment that can be shared, but it is also the moment reached very close to the culmination of the journey to God. There are many dwelling places in God, each of us will find our dwelling place in God, and the ones who have gone before us, through the work associated with their purpose, prepare the way for us. They show us the path through the authentic manner in which they live. True authenticity comes when our work originates in God, our full being is aligned and one with our origin, and we allow it to unfold naturally, unforced, without an attempt to impose a limited understanding on events or experiences. When we try too hard to produce the results in another being, we are failing to allow the process to unfold in the other being, and by doing this we take away their freedom, we take away their opportunity to experience the growth in awareness that comes from their own internal process.

Jesus does not tell Thomas what to do. He asks Thomas to look and see in the moment and he reminds Thomas of all that Thomas has seen. In effect Jesus is saying: you have seen me, you have seen God revealed in me, what is here and now is not an illusion, you have experienced me, you have experienced God. Thomas must trust in his own ability to understand and must use his free will to make the choices necessary for his own transformation.

Jesus also tells Thomas what will happen when Thomas has opened himself to the present moment: Jesus is there to walk with him through the process, he will come to him, Jesus will help bring Thomas to the same place. There is no physical movement necessary for Thomas to take from where he sits or stands because he knows the way, the way exists within him and Jesus reminds him of this, just as he reminds the other disciples throughout this conversation with them.