Right. One can see that the enlightenment experience poses more questions than answers.
For example, Michael writes:
It is all up to the Divine Presence. I knew that I was absolutely HELPLESS! There was nothing I could do to help the Process, but there was also nothing I could do to hinder it. There is no way to blow it, no way to make a mistake. Everything is part of the Process. The Divine is in complete control. There are no choices, no free will, just the will of the Divine.”
Umm… This is a bit disturbing. No choices, no free will…? How can you assume responsibility for your actions then or expect others to do so?
The “thought stream” keeps right on flowing by (sometimes even through) me, but they are not “my” thoughts. They don’t bother me. Sometimes they just flow by. Sometimes they fly through my head. But they can’t stick, and I know they aren’t mine. Ah…, the Peace, the profound Silence! No matter what is happening: noise, conflict, thoughts, chaos, whatever… there is still Peace, there is always Silence in the Divine Presence.
Huh? Not your thoughts? Whose thoughts are they? Does God have chaos and conflict in His mind?
In the space between them and underlying them I simply enjoy being absorbed in the Divine Presence. When I am absorbed in the Divine Presence there is no “self”!
And to the extent that you are *not* absorbed in the Divine Presence, who are you? Notice that Michael never really answers this question of who he is.
So then, who am I? The answer to that one is really quite entertaining. As the Oneness Blessing energy slowed down my senses, I saw that what I understood to be my “self” was actually a parade of non-contiguous personalities arising and then vanishing into the Divine Presence. The only permanent thing is the Divine Presence itself. These personalities are just images, bits of memory with an emotional charge. As they lose their charge, by the Grace of God, they are really funny to watch as they arise and disappear, one after another, sometimes several at the same time. There is the craving personality, the self-conscious one, the shy one, the outgoing one, the guilty one, the confident one, the scheming one, etc. etc.
This description sounds a lot like someone who does not integrate his experiences well but may have a bit of dissociation going on. The more integrated one’s impulses, wishes, and memories, the less they will present as a “parade of non-contiguous personalities.” It's not a good thing to experience yourself as fragmented bits. I’m familiar with having energy flow through passively such as when one is in a deep witnessing state. But again, there may be a fine line (or jump?) between a peaceful, transendental state and the danger of a disturbance in the normal ways we *need* to integrate consciousness to funtion as responsible, loving creatures.
I can relate to M. referring to the disappearance of the self as “quite entertaining” and “funny." I’ve shared before at SP that I remember laughing out loud when people asked me “How are you, Shasha?” during the period after my sense of self fell away because it felt like there was no “Shasha.” It was funny initially. But now it’s not funny because I’ve learned that the work of being a real, mundane human being is not easy. People get hurt when you dissociate from your “self” which can result in an impaired ability to connect with others and maintain personal responsibility.
In terms of personal responsibility problems, there may be hints of this in Michael's story in his reports of how some of his actions are taken over by Bagavan/Amma.
I hasten to add that I am making these observations soley on Michael's website and the OM website info. I hope and pray that I am not misunderstanding his work. I certainly feel and appreciate Michael's loving intent toward mankind and his surrendered life to serve God.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
I'm curious to know what Michael now makes of his encounter with Jesus.
In 1978, I was taken up in the Spirit and met Jesus Christ face to face. He laid his hands on me and filled me with His Divine Spirit. He called me to serve Him and showed me wonderful things. I became an ordained minister, taught in a number of countries, healed the sick, experienced many miracles and gifts of the Spirit, founded churches and schools of ministry and ordained numerous ministers. Later, I became a Roman Catholic Franciscan and eventually a Free Catholic Franciscan Bishop.
Today, he seems quite enamored with Bagavan and Amma judging by the juicy details he presents on them, their exalted state, his supernatural communion with them, etc. So what happened to serving Christ? My guess is that he thinks he’s doing that in a more cosmopolitan sense. And maybe he is, but it all seems incongruent to me. I'm curious to know how he adresses the issue of the conflicting theologies.
Also disturbing and puzzling to me:
Over the years Michael has spent time with masters, adepts, shamans, healers and teachers from many traditions and has received numerous transmissions and initiations including: Tao Ahn Pai Nui Gung, Siddha Yoga Shaktipat, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Tantric Yoga, Tibetan Kagyu Buddhist, Theravada Buddhist, Transcendental Meditation, Christian Charismatic, Orthodox Catholic Holy Orders, 3rd Degree Usui Reiki, Ananda Jyotir Diksha, Oneness Deeksha, Ishayas Ascension and others.
This sounds like a cacophony of energies. That he includes “Christian Charismatic” among the list of “transmissions and initiations” is disturbing to me as it seems he regards the Holy Spirit on par with these other created energies. Maybe he doesn’t see the Holy Spirit that way, but it would seem so judging by his website info.
I think these are all good questions and observations, and I hope to take some of them up with Michael the next time we visit. My sense is that he sees no conflict between Christian faith and his involvements with other religious traditions, as I think he believes they all communicate God's grace in a manner that is not incompatible with Christian faith. Re. the Taoist disciplines, for example, we might even regard these as working with natural energies, and same with some of the Hindu energy transmissions. I know he doesn't think that oneness = sameness, nor that the experience he has signifies the collapse of ontological dualism.
That said, it's easy to slide into ecclecticism if one dabbles too much in various religious traditions, and so I strongly caution against it. Thomas Merton emphasized that one must know one's own tradition very well before investigating another, and one must know what one is doing during the process.
It seems you have a rather close friendship with Michael and want to respect his perspective and journey. Let us know if he gives you permission to share with us any of his responses to your letter and/or our questions and concerns.
I'm wondering if Michael has ever considered that his gurus could be false teachers with false teachings. If non-dual awareness is the ultimate, why the heck would we need Jesus? His death, His Rising, the Holy Spirit!?...all for naught if believe Bagavan's teachings. How can that be compatible with Christ?
I thought I should provide the precise piece of Michael's story upon which I make my observation above.
When I was giving Oneness Blessing to someone after the Process, I asked Amma and Bhagavan if it was time to remove my hands from the receiver’s head. They said “Go ahead and try to move them.” I couldn’t move them at all for the longest time. I just laughed and laughed. It was completely out of my control. Once before the Process Bhagavan dissolved me in the Divine Presence while I was stopped at a traffic light. I couldn’t find my body or the car. I said, “Bhagavan, the light is going to change soon. I need my body.” Just as the light turned green, I was back in my body and it began to drive the car quite well all by itself
Shasha, those are all good observations. My experience of God's grace is that it doesn't "possess" us in the manner that the example above describes. In all but ecstatic mystical experiences (e.g., "slain" in the Spirit), we do not lose control of our senses or our freedom. There are indeed disturbing aspects to the whole Bhagavan/oneness thing, and I will inquire more deeply about it next time I visit with Michael.
Here's another piece from Michael's story/teaching that does not seem compatible with Christianity, typical of enlightenment-speak trying to quote the Bible and claim equality with Jesus' experience and Holy Scripture:
...By sheer Grace I experienced profoundly that it is the Divine Presence in me experiencing its-Self! The Divine Presence is awakening in me, becoming aware of its-Self in me, experiencing and enjoying its-Self in me and in all Creation! God is falling in love with God in me! It’s the ultimate romance! God and Man are two ends of the same reality, two ends of the same Experience. You could actually say that there is no Experience-r or Experience-d, only the Experiencing, only Divine Awareness. At this point there was a shift in my experience of the Divine. I began to profoundly experience God as my Father. My Father and I are One. I am convinced that this is what Christ Himself experienced!
What Jesus says about the Father in the Gospel of John, at least, sounds nothing like the above. Jesus attributes qualities and actions and motivations to the Father. In particular, in regard to Jesus' prayer in John 17, the Lord says that His Oneness with the Father is for a particular purpose, and that purpose runs completely contrary to what Michael/Bagavan are teaching!
Been doing some research on Reiki as I felt
the healing type work Michael is doing might
be considered on the same order. Because the
RC Church in a neighboring town use to offer
reiki healing work. And many RC Nuns were even teaching it.
I see that last year Reiki was denounced by
some of the RC Bishops. So based on that information I don't believe that the RC Church
would be in favor of Michael's Oneness work.
Just my 2 cents.
What's interesting to me is how differently people react to non-dual experiences, depending on their character, formation and background. On the forum we could see a case of serious ego-inflation and grandiosity caused by experiences of the sort. Michael, however, seems quite humble, although the claim of the identity of his and Christ's experience of the Father from the faith perspective is baseless.
Shasha, I tend to disagree with you about the serious dangers involved in non-dual states, but it's good that you're so cautious about them
I suppose that people with strong ego and sound, integrated superego, with good intentions, can experience many poweful methapysical energies without turning to the dark side. Michael seems to be fine, though the number of traditions he was in touch with seems unbelievable to me!
Perhaps, what is of great importance to the Christians of our age is how to accept those kind of experiences, if they tend to come on their own, in a safe way.
I agree with Shasha that this is a whole new dimension of life and it is potentially dangerous. But aren't all strong experiences of life potentially damaging, evil-opening, as well as opportunities for growth?
And then there's God's grace and protection. 8 years ago I was in touch with New Age stuff for several months. I didn't do me any harm, because I wasn't interested in occultism or magic. And I my narcissism was going nuts at the time, because of all those experiences I'd had. But now I can see that probably I was protected by Him. I could've easily fallen into occultism or other dangerous things, but I didn't. Michael might be (??) under some kind of protection, because, as you said, Shasha, it's a lot of messed up energies he's been dealing with...
Hey Mt., so glad you stopped by to join us here. You make an excellent point about character and background.
Yes, I know we disagree on that point above. I'm fine with that. To clarify again, I feel the Eastern enlightenment path I was on was dangerous for *me*; it was a kind of addiction for me, a serious distraction from the true calling to grow in Christ. It could not, and I suspect never will, be integrated into my personal journey. I feel the Father has closed that door for my safety and prosperity. This doesn't mean other's can't enjoy or integrate non-dual consciousness if, as you say, it comes naturally to them. I don't really care if they do that. But most people I've seen leave Christ behind in the process as it becomes one of the "pleasures" that choke out the Word in Jesus' parable of the seed and sower.
From the mixing up of energies point of view, that's another issue. I maintain that any and all created energies not of the Holy Spirit are potentially dangerous. PERIOD. That includes ESPECIALLY the initiations/shaktipat/deeksha from folks who are bowing to deities and manipulating energies. I've got a boat-load of support for that one, including having been attacked by the SYDA yoga mantra one night shortly after I gave my life to Christ. Yes, I'm cautious. Once something like that happens to you, you would never take another chance! That's a whole nuther discussion we've had lots of times before.
Mt., I agree that Michael seems humble, and he seems like an authentic and very lovely person, indeed. I'd actually be interested in hearing more about his journey of healing and transformation, the dark night he went through. What does he know about his personal traumas and deprivation, for instance, as it may affect his hunger to merge with God and gurus?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
I agree with that, and, it's obvious that Michael's relation to God now is very much influenced by Bhagavan, who seems to have assumed an interior, guiding presence. I don't understand how that can work alongside a commitment to Christ. The whole oneness experience a la Bhagavan is different from the more impersonal nondual states of Buddhism, for example, in that it seems that one is granted a perspective from the vantage point of the divine, and so it is in the realm of theism. That this experience and state of consciousness also bears no reference to Christ, but is attributed to Bhagavan, is also problemmatic, from the standpoint of Christian spirituality, that is. Bhagavan reassures Michael (not in person, but through inward guidance, I suppose), at one point, that he's talked to Jesus about all this and it's OK. So says Bhagavan. What Jesus says clearly in the Gospels is that we have one Master, one Teacher, and that others will come along claiming to be Christs, but we are to pay no attention to them. So I'm not understanding how one can have it both ways, Bhagavan and Jesus. Same goes for other avatar-like leaders, who present themselves as transmitters of a divine energy or blessing. These energies cannot help but be colored in some manner by the consciousness of the leader, which is why we trust Christ with such influences, but are discouraged from opening ourselves to others who do not act in his name (and Bhagavan clearly does no such thing, but seems to consider himself one who can supplement what Jesus cannot provide). Of course, devotees believe their leaders are incarnations of the divine, or at least pure vessels of divine grace, and I am sure that the first is not true, and the second dubious. So, typically, things might go well for awhile, but, inevitably, it all goes into the weeds. (E.g., Adi Da, Sai Baba, Trungpa Rinpoche, Swami Muktananda, and many others.).
Let me say clearly, then, that nondual states pursued through spiritual practices like zazen are of a different character and concern than those mediated energetically by gurus. I've no problem with zen, really, and have attended zen retreats in the past with some benefit. Zen isn't competing with faith in Christ; it's not either/or; it's working more on a natural, metaphysical level to help us awaken to the true self that we are prior to any self-definition (the face you have before you are born). Nothing wrong with that, only don't neglect your Christian faith practices if you pursue zen. Same goes for other meditative practices like vipassana that are oriented toward nondual consciousness. There's nothing inherently dangerous in that, in my opinion.
When you get to TM, however, you're not only introducing a meditative method, but are, during the TM initiation, consecrating your practice to Guru Dev, who was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's teacher. You're also given mantras that invoke Hindu deities, and so there's a different kind of mediation going on. It's a short step from there to puruing enlightenment through energy transmission methods, like shaktipat from a guru. It seems that those who go this route almost always end giving primary attention to the guru and secondary attention to Christ. They place more stock in subjective experience than in faith and the sense of truth that flows from faith. In most cases, it turns out to be an attachment to consolations and spiritual experience with an implicit rejection of the kind of wisdom, peace and joy that develops through aridities, suffering, and self-emptying, which is the way of faith.
Shasha, I get your point. I abandoned as well my training to be a Zen teacher a year ago for similar reasons. I felt it potentially handicapped my relationship with Christ. But not in a way you describe, just by increasing too much the power of non-conceptual cognition.
But I couldn't get rid of kundalini that easily, and, as you know, it practically intensified when I gave up Zen, for reasons I don't fully understand. So I let it be and sometimes I rest in the energy during prayer. Sometimes, the energy is more "metaphysical", without felt presence of God or without felt reference to Christ, but very often the energy has a "taste" of being before the face of the Lord or it transmits His presence and love.
I totally agree, however, that it's different from the instances in which a human being (a guru) interferes with your energy by some kind of his own activity (even if he doesn't take responsibility, saying that he's only a channel). There can be (1) Holy Spirit's use of natural energies and elevating it to the supernatural, (2) purely natural and spontaneous energetic process, (3) energetic process manipulated or interfered with by gurus (potentially dangerous, always risky), (4) the process facilitated by the evil spirits (disastrous). It's hard to say which is which unless we have much evidence and insight (discrimination of spirits).
And apart from that spiritual perspective, there's a psychological one. And here it can look very differently.
But the more and more therapists say that people who come to therapy nowadays are mostly narcissistic, or have this aspect to them. And even if we have a slightly narcissistic character, powerful experiences of energy make our grandiose self jump up to the ceiling almost instantly. Let's see: you feel chosen, you experience yourself in a special, uncommon way, you feel you're in a group of mystics and sages, you're above ordinary religion and morality, you may have special knowledge, special powers etc. It's tempting for anyone, but for a narcissist it's disastrous - the false self gets so much fuel for it's manifestations. In the worst scenario we may have Doctor Faustus here.
Perhaps, in a more depressive culture, or in cultures with very restrictive, but integrated superego like India, China and Japan, people remain more humble. But in the Western culture we can fall into a power play very easily with no superego at all.
Or maybe, it's not only a cultural thing - after all Jesus was tempted by the Devil through typically narcissistic temptations - special powers, glory and prestige, control over the world. This wound goes for every human being. But our culture might make certain types of compensation more common and popular. For spirituality - disastrous.
Like: Who's more enlightened? Let's get rid of those nasty institutions which tell me what I should and shouldn't do. I can talk to God directly. I will find a guru who will offer me even a deeper stage of enlightenment, full mind-blowing awakening etc.
Phil, thank you for the time you've put into clarifying your thoughts here. It's helpful to me to see you, Shasha, Derek, and Mt draw clear lines between what is and is not congruent without getting too hot-headed about it.
I came across a similar statement in a book by Archimandrite Zacharias. I've just ordered another of his books from Amazon, along with the autobiography of Archimandrite Sophrony, who explored Eastern religions before returning to the Orthodox faith. Here's what Archimandrite Zacharias says:
One point that occurs to me from reading the above paragraph: a human being is not simply a container for consciousness; a human being is also a person.
Considering how very easily aspects of our consciousness can be changed by age, disease, or accident, yet we retain full value as persons, I think that's a good distinction to make.
Derek and Ariel, those are good points.
I'm wondering how you'd define "person" in the context of this discussion, especially in contra-distinction to "consciousness"?
Who is it that wants to know?
That reminds me of a terrible Ayn Rand inspired quote:
"Life is a question of mind and matter.
You don’t matter – and I don’t mind."
I was thinking of my mom after I read Derek's earlier post. She's in her early seventies, very active and spry, yet she's expressed concern about her memory. I know she worries at times about Alzheimer's. She was at my farm a few days ago, and, though her memory seems mostly good to me, there was a point where she asked me the same two questions about a particular flower half an hour apart.
Roughly, I think of a "person" as who we are as God knows us--as we are "fully known". And, while something like Alzheimer's appears so shattering and personality-stealing to us, I wonder if to Him it's just a relatively small event--a blip in the machinery of consciousness-- while He continues to fully know the person as much more than they know themselves to be.
So to me that's one clear time when I can see that we are distinct from, and greater than, our consciousness.
I think of consciousness, in part, as our awareness and perceptions from our end, our viewpoint. And with no intent to demean the value of our perceptions, still I see our consciousness as such a fragile thing, easily biochemically altered by a number of things, that it shouldn't be taken too absolutely seriously.
Conversely, then, if perhaps God knows us as persons, as greater beings than we may be conscious of ourselves in illness, in some forms of inflated enlightenment states maybe He's laughing at just how small we really are.
I could equate the most valuable and real nature of being a "person" as being fully known by God, even if we don't know, or are not physically/mentally capable of knowing (whether permanently or for a time, due to disease or accident), that we are so thoroughly known. While consciousness, at it's very best, catches a glimmer that we are known.
I wanted to add that your post about persons not being merely a container for consciousness helped me as I was thinking about my mom (and, truth be told, my old dog, who had a period of disorientation two days ago), though I've probably taking your meaning in my own direction. So, thanks. ( And thanks from my good old dog, who I spent a long time petting when she was confused.)
You're welcome. It's a whole dimension of human experience (the person, and people relating to each other) that's largely missing from monastic spirituality, whether of the East or of the West.
A quite interesting article on epistemological study of mysticism in Christianity and Hinduism
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