An Antidote For Discouragement

Sopranos At Dinner. An antidote for discouragementI believe the ancient Israelite psalmist Asaph did the world a great favor by confessing his unhappiness and bewilderment with the prosperity of the wicked in his day. It wasn’t merely that he envied their prosperity, but something much worse. He was discouraged from being good and doing good by the success of the arrogant. He was troubled that God would permit such a discouragement to take place. In Psalm 73, Asaph wrote:

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply. (Psalm 73:13-16, New International Version)

An antidote for discouragement

When I read about the seven deadly sins, I discovered that there were two varieties of the sin of sloth. One variety of sloth is the laziness or indolence commonly associated with sloth. Another variety is the sloth of discouragement, the unwillingness to do good because of the belief that justice cannot or will not triumph.

I am pleased to share an antidote for discouragement from the New Message from God. This antidote is found in Step 245 of Steps to Knowledge. Step 245 teaches “When others fail, I am reminded of the need for Knowledge.”

I consider the word “fail” in this context to mean “fail to do the right thing, fail to demonstrate good character, fail to act consistently with one’s true self.” In this context, Knowledge is used to signify the great mystery of a person’s life, the greater aspect of mind that we have brought with us from our Ancient Home.

The very first sentence of the step seems to say to me “and by ‘the need for Knowledge,’ we mean ‘your need for Knowledge.'” As I pondered this step further, the step seemed to say to me “and by ‘your need for Knowledge,’ we mean ‘your need to practice, your need to follow the practices (stillness, inner listening, mental investigation, etc.) of Steps to Knowledge.'” It is as if this step is discouraging from looking at those who fail and saying “There for the grace of God go I.” It is as if this step is encouraging me to look at those who fail and say “There for the lack of my practice go I.” An antidote for discouragement over those who fail is to be found in the practice studio, in making the effort to become a better person.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

Sir, We Would Like To See Jesus

we-would-see-jesus-tissot Sir, we would like to see JesusMost of the people in my world are in agreement with the Old Testament prohibition against image-making and image-worshipping (Exodus 20:4-5). One doesn’t have to be particularly clever to notice that using an image to portray God makes God much smaller than God really is. One doesn’t have to be clever to notice that making God smaller than God really is, is telling a lie.

Sir, we would like to see Jesus

As I ponder the Christmas season, I recall the Greeks in attendance at the Passover festival in John 12. They told Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” It is unclear whether these Greeks were “Jews of the dispersion,” Jews living in Greece, or “proselytes of the gate,” Greeks who wished to participate in Jewish worship. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me. What I admire is their proactive attitude in their desire to meet Jesus. I admire their unwillingness to settle for someone else’s belief or testimony. I consider their attitude worthy of emulation.

The New Message from God has some significant issues with historical Christianity, and one of the big ones is the nature of Jesus. The revelation The Meaning of Christmas teaches:

“Though Jesus has been idealized, though his life has been made to be unique and un-matched by any other life, though he has been placed on a pedestal above and beyond every other person, in truth, his life represents the emergence of Knowledge within the individual.”

To idealize someone is to portray them as perfect or better than in reality. In my mind, to idealize someone is an untruth, just as image-making and image-worshipping is an untruth.

I realize that this is challenging to the beliefs and worldviews of many people. However, I’m not asking anyone to accept anything that isn’t confirmed in their own experience. Therefore, it is my hope, it is my wish, it is my prayer, that everyone who names the name of Jesus pray this prayer:

“Dear God, I would like to see Jesus. I would like to see Jesus as he is. I am unwilling to let anyone else’s belief or testimony overrule my own experience. I declare my willingness to do my part for this to happen. Amen.”

It is my hope, it is my wish, it is my prayer that you will follow the noble example of the Greeks who said “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

An Antidote For Envy

envy. An antidote for envyThe New Message from God is certainly not the first spiritual movement to recognize that there are attitudes which enable damaging actions. The Old Testament book of Proverbs considered “a proud look,” “a heart that devises wicked plans” and “a person sowing discord among brothers” to be precursors, as it were, of hurtful errors. Pope Gregory in 590 declared that lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy and pride were seven deadly sins, attitudes which, left uncorrected, would result in lying, thievery, adultery and murder.

An antidote for envy

I consider it important for any spiritual teaching to have an answer for the enabling attitudes, the precursors of errors. I am pleased to report that the New Message from God has an antidote for envy, one of the deadly sins. This antidote appears in Step 244 of Steps to Knowledge “I am honored when others are strong.” I consider the word “strong” to mean “successful in a good endeavor.”

Whenever I have accomplished anything, there was at least one person, possibly many people, involved in the accomplishment. So one doesn’t have to be a great scholar of spirituality to recognize that there are others who are honored when I am strong. But where is the “others” line to be drawn? At the people who directly contributed? The people who prayed for me? The people who gave their good wishes and encouragement? I consider Step 244 to draw the “others” line to include everyone. I consider Step 244 to mean “I am honored when anyone else is strong.”

I am fully aware that there are people reading this and wondering, “Why should I be honored when someone else, someone to whom I made no contribution, is strong?” The answer is that your life is more than your individual life. When someone is strong, when anyone is strong, it means that giving took place. It means that a group effort succeeded. It means that human identification with individuality was weakened. It means that identification with relationships and participation was strengthened. We’re all in this together. Therefore be honored when someone is strong. Be honored when anyone is strong. Receive an antidote for envy

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

“I Try To Help People Up The Mountain”

leadership-mountain-climbing I try to help people up the mountainFrom time to time, I have mentioned one of my children, going under the name “Child”. Child and I have had a running joke for some time now:

Me: Is there anything you would like me to ask Marshall Vian Summers on your behalf when I go to the 2014 Encampment?
Child: How was your day?
Me: Well, even Messengers need someone to ask them how their day was.

I try to help people up the mountain

It has taken a while, but Child came up with what I consider to be an excellent question. This conversation took place not too long before the 2014 Encampment.

Me: I’ll be at Encampment soon. Is there anything you would like me to ask Marshall on your behalf?
Child: Does Marshall consider himself responsible for the happiness of his students, the students of his teachings?
Me: Would you like me to offer an opinion as to what he might say, or just let the question sit until then?
Child: I’m willing to hear your opinion.
Me: I believe he would say “No.” I believe he would consider students of the New Message to be responsible for their own happiness.
Child: Well, he seems to suggest that happiness isn’t an end in itself.
Me: I agree. I would say he focuses more on purpose than on happiness.
Child: Well, then, does Marshall consider himself responsible for the success of his students?
Me: You mean their success by worldly standards, or their success as students of the New Message?
Child: As students of the New Message.
Me: Again, I believe he would say “No.” I remember a webcast where Marshall said something to the effect of “I am doing something important.” It reminded me of Nehemiah, who said “I am doing a great work and cannot come down.”
Child: Oh.

Child and I have had a conversation about Step 85, “I find happiness in small things today” of Steps to Knowledge. Child seemed to be satisfied with my response. But I am sharing this to share that during the Encampment, I became less satisfied with my answers to Child’s questions. I became less satisfied because during the Encampment, Marshall displayed a certain solicitude toward the people there. On the third day, I wrote in my journal that Marshall remarked, “I try to help people up the mountain.” On the fourth day, Marshall said, “This community is precious to me. What brings it together is precious to me. What holds it together is precious to me.” I therefore wrote a note to Marshall wondering if I had really described the full picture in my answer to Child’s questions.

As people were leaving on the final day, Marshall approached me and answered my question. He said, “I don’t guarantee happiness, but I do help people find the way.” I therefore consider the full picture to be more nuanced than my answers to Child. While Marshall doesn’t feel responsible for the success of New Message respondents, he certainly isn’t indifferent.

I am here to tell you that if you are climbing the mountain of purpose, the mountain of meaning, the mountain of your mission in life, then you have a friend in Marshall Vian Summers, who said, “I try to help people up the mountain.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

In His Own Tongue

John Wycliffe In his own tongueWhile John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384) is by no means the first man to translate the Bible into his first language, he is famous for being the first man to translate the Bible into English. He is reported to have said, “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.” While this truth took a while to catch on, I am persuaded that having the Bible in the heart language of many Christians is a great advance for the worldwide Christian community.

In his own tongue

I share this to share with you that on Day 4 of the Encampment of the New Message from God, it was our great blessing to meet the individuals who are translating the New Message from God from English into the languages of the world.

As far as I know, all the translators are volunteers. Just as I had met some 2014 Encampment attendees at the 2012 Encampment, I met some of the translators at the 2012 Encampment. I had online relationships with some of the translators. I met some of the translators for the first time at the 2014 Encampment.

What languages are being translated? Swedish, Farsi, Hungarian, Spanish, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Chinese, Danish, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arabic so far. How much has been translated? It varies from language to language, but there is a version of the New Message from God website in each of those languages.

What are the challenges? Well, the New Message is rather big, nine thousand pages. It uses words in unusual contexts from time to time. Sometimes the translators aren’t the most technically skilled. One translator declared “Even if I type one finger at a time, I will translate!” Another translator shared “I need to be a dedicated student [in order to be a effective translator].”

Why are they doing this? Some of the translators encountered the New Message and thought to themselves, “This must be shared.” Some of the translators shared “I trusted my deepest inclinations,” (as instructed by Step 72 “I will trust my deepest inclinations today” of Steps to Knowledge) as they described their path into translation.

Will the New Message from God catch on in the world? I don’t know. But if it does, it may well be because of the magnanimity and effort and heart of the translators we met on that day. If it does, it may well be because a speaker of a language other than English encountered the New Message in his own tongue.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

See What Large Letters I Use

The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt. See what large letters I use

The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt

Shortly after the death of Christ, a great controversy arose among the followers of Jesus as to the essence of his message. On one side was a group of people who were first called “the circumcision party,” and later known as the “Judaizers.” These people insisted that gentile Christians should be circumcised, and live under Jewish customs. On the other side was the apostle Paul, who taught that the death of Christ rendered the observance of Jewish law and custom to be irrelevant for both Jews and gentiles. The book of Acts reports that this controversy brought Paul and his colleague Barnabas “into sharp dispute and debate with them.” (Acts 15:2, New International Version). This controversy was solved by the compromise of the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15.

See what large letters I use

Paul wrote that he had bitter enemies within the Christian community. Some of these enemies were philosophically opposed to Paul. Some of these enemies were motivated by envy and jealousy. Paul wrote to the Philippian church that some people preached the gospel during Paul’s imprisonment out of selfish ambition (Philippians 1:17, New International Version).

Some of these enemies went so far as to write letters to Christians in Paul’s name to promote their own teachings. Paul mentioned an instance of this in 2 Thessalonians 2. In signing his letter to the Galatians, he writes “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11, New International Version) Many Bible commentators have suggested that Paul was authenticating his authorship.

I share this to share something else with you. In my mind, it is a certainty that in the future, letters will be written to people in the name of Marshall Vian Summers, attempting to promote this teaching or that. What is our strategy to prevent this? Completing the publication in written form of the New Message from God, before the death of its Messenger. The currently published books of the New Message (such as Greater Community Spirituality, Steps to Knowledge, The Great Waves of Change and others) will be portions of a 6-volume set of revelation. The revelations which have not yet found their way into one of the currently published books will be portions of this 6-volume set of teachings.

It is as if the source of the New Message from God is making an effort to prevent the promulgation of false teachings in the name of its messenger. Not only that, it is as if the source of the New Message is making an effort to prevent controversy from arising after the death of its messenger. Some people complain that the books of the New Message are repetitive. The New Message seems to consider that a feature instead of a bug. It is as if the New Message was making an effort to authenticate itself. It is as if the New Message was saying “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

Will You Hear My Story?

Campfire Stories. Will you hear my story?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8, New International Version) It seemed to make a difference that Paul and his associates swapped stories and built relationships with the people in Thessalonica. I can imagine the question “Will you hear my story?” being asked and answered many times. For example, I can imagine Paul telling the story of his narrow escape from Damascus by being lowered in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Will you hear my story?

I recall Christian musician Don Francisco singing a song with this lyric in the late 1970’s:

I don’t care if your pastor’s super-powered
And your program’s always new
What you need is love and truth
And men are going to come to you

Quite a few spiritual movements have come and gone in my lifetime. Those that have gone either didn’t have enough love and/or didn’t have enough truth, in my opinion.

Stephen Borgman recently sent me an email with the subject line “25 little-known things about me.” His candor inspired me to reciprocate to him, something I have never done until now. I don’t feel a need to inflict 25 facts upon you, but perhaps one or two from each decade of life might not be so bad.

1. My adoptive father, Frank M. Bass, Jr., (1926-2006) was an academic superstar. The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) named the Frank M. Bass Dissertation Award in his honor, as he chaired the dissertations of 58 Ph.D students in the course of his career.

2. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Capps, has a hallowed place in my memory, for creating a box of projects for me to undertake. One of them was filling in the names of the states from memory on a blank map of the United States. Another one was to keep a log of my telephone conversations.

3. I traveled more as a child than most people. I spent a year in England in 1965-66, and we traveled through Europe, Israel and Turkey in that year. My father told me I sat next to Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon at the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico in 1968. I spent a summer in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1970, traveling around the world and visiting about 15 different countries during that trip.

4. While I was not on the AV Club and the Glee Club, I was on the Chess team in high school, inspired by the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky world championship match.

5. I spent part of the summer of 1979 in Algeria, as part of a service team with the North Africa Mission, visiting Algiers, Cherchell and Oran.

6. I studied A Course in Miracles from beginning to end in 1986-7

7. I was one the first students of Steps to Knowledge, receiving a hand-bound copy with the steps in Zapf Chancery font, shortly after it was received in the summer of 1989. I had no grasp of the historic nature of this book at the time.

8. I am the only person I know to have gotten married on the stage of the Texas Amphitheatre, in Glen Rose, Texas, after participating in a performance of The Promise.

9. I am one of the thousands of people with an Erdos number of 4, having published a scientific paper with I. Hal Sudborough, who published a paper with Zevi Miller, who published a paper with Frank Harary, who published a paper with Paul Erdos, the Man who Loved Only Numbers.

10. I have blogged in one form or another from 2003 to the present. Some of those blogs have been preserved at the Internet Archive, like Belief Seeking Understanding and Crossword Bebop. Some have not. That might not be a bad thing.

This feels like a good place to stop. On my weaker days, I’m like the character in the U2 song “All I Want Is You.” Bono sings “You say, you want, your story to remain untold.” On my stronger days, I realize there’s no getting around the words of the American poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story within you.” Will you hear my story?

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

I Will Not Be Afraid Of My Will

The Sermon on the Mount by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1598. I will not be afraid of my own will.In the final portion of what is now known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:21-27), Jesus says something that I didn’t expect him to say. I have read and heard this passage many times, but I’ve never heard a preacher or a commentator fully address my disquietude on the subject.

I will not be afraid of my will

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, New International Version)

The last sentence is the one that gets me. I expected Jesus to say “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘You didn’t do the will of my Father. Away from me, you evildoers!'” But instead he says “I never knew you,” as if that was the most terrible indictment he could bring against a human being.

Perhaps when the audience heard the phrase “does the will of my Father,” they imagined the miraculous demonstrations Jesus mentioned in the following sentence. Perhaps Jesus felt a need to disabuse his audience of those imaginings. I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar. I don’t believe you need to be a Bible scholar to see that one of the points of this passage is that Jesus teaches it is the will of his Father to be known by Jesus.

I am sharing this because something in Step 43 “My will is to know God” of Steps to Knowledge said something along these lines, even more succinctly:

“Your will is to know God. Do not be afraid of your will. You are created by God. God’s will is to know you. Your will is to know God. There is no other will. All motivations other than this are born merely of confusion and fear. To know God gives God power and gives you power as well.”

I cry out with the psalmist David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23, New International Version). I cry out with Jesus “Not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36, New International Version). I cry out “I will to will your will, O God.” I will not be afraid of my will.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

I Am Doing A Great Work And Cannot Come Down

I am doing a great work and cannot come downThe Old Testament book of Nehemiah describes the story of the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem some time around 445 BC. The book of Nehemiah mentions that this project faced opposition from the surrounding peoples, Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines. Chapter 6 describes a failed ploy of the opposition.

I am doing a great work and cannot come down

“Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’ But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.” (Nehemiah 6:1-4, New American Standard Bible)

The bit that is ringing and singing in my soul is the reply of Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” It is what I aspire to say about my life to anyone who wants to engage me in trivial pursuits. I don’t claim to have accomplished anything particularly important in the greater scheme of things. I claim to be a slave of the spirit of the quest for doing what is necessary, what is essential.

Step 33, “I have a mission in my life to fulfill” of Steps to Knowledge tells me I was given a mission before I came to this world, and I will review that mission when I leave. The speech I plan to give at that review is the “I was doing a great work and could not come down” speech. I plan to spend the rest of my life rehearsing that speech.

I am doing a great work and cannot come down. And even when I’m not, I want to be.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.

What Of The Wounds My Brothers Gave To Me?

What of the wounds my brothers gave to me?When the same passage appears twice in the space of three chapters in the Bible, I consider it to be a dead giveaway that that passage is something to which I’m supposed to pay particular attention. In chapter 6 of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet brought an indictment against the kingdom of Judah, a corrupt nation living on borrowed virtue and borrowed time. This indictment is repeated in chapter 8:

“From the least to the greatest,
    all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
    all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
    when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13-14, New International Version)

I share this as I think about Step 86 “I honor those who have given to me” in Steps to Knowledge. Any student who has come this far has already received an answer for the question “How shall I deal with my self-inflicted wounds, the painful consequences of my own errors?” That answer was introduced in Step 26 “My errors give birth to my Knowledge,” and developed in Step 73 “I will allow my errors to teach me.” The answer is something to the effect of “Don’t kid yourself into thinking that error doesn’t exist. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that error doesn’t hurt. Make the decision to learn from your errors so as not to repeat them, thus avoiding the pain and suffering they bring.” I found that to be a satisfactory answer, a satisfactory dressing of my self-inflicted wounds.

What of the wounds my brothers gave to me?

But there is another side of the coin that must be addressed. Many people have difficulty dealing with wounds which are inflicted by others, the painful consequences of the errors of others. Many people question the justice of God, or the character of God, or even the very existence of God when they contemplated the actions of other people. I believe Step 86 provides an empowering context into which to place the evil that men do.

The people who have wounded me put my character, strength, courage and magnanimity to the test. Sometimes I passed the test, sometimes I didn’t. But they offered me a mirror in which I could plainly see myself. Maybe that’s what Rumi meant when he said “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

As I honor those who have given to me, I offer gratitude for the contributions of some people. What of the wounds my brothers gave to me? I thank them for the test they offered me, even if I didn’t pass. I am thankful that Steps to Knowledge is addressing this subject, and not saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! We are students and advocates of the the New Message from God. We are members of a worldwide community. We seek to assist the world in successfully navigating difficult times ahead. We seek to assist the world in successfully emerging into a greater community of intelligent life. You will also find some poetry. Find out more about us here. Contact us here.