When I started studying Steps to Knowledge in 2010, I didn’t think I would still be engaged with it ten years later. In fact, I didn’t think about what would be happening ten years later at all. I thought I might be insufficiently amused, and move on to something else. I was afraid I might be found incompetent as a student. Other unhappy thoughts assailed me along the way. But through some beautiful combination of inspiration, determination and relationship, I have continued to mine the riches of the New Message from God.
What lies ten years further down this road?
Around the time of my birthday in August of 2020, I had a feeling. I felt I should think the past ten years of engagement with the New Message from God, and weigh it in the balance of my experience. I declare that the New Message from God and I have been good to each other over the past ten years. I am happy to have gotten through the past ten years without creating a calamity or a disaster. I believe I’m much kinder and gentler to myself than I was ten years ago. I correct my errors and manage my weaknesses, but with a greater compassion. I find things to do, and they find me. To me, that is worth the world.
https://mysteryofascension.com/the-work-is-progressing-the-people-are-working/What lies ten years further down the road? I believe I have made a little progress in the Greater Community Way of Knowledge. I seem to need this journey to assist me in attempting to become a nobler and stronger person. I would like to think I have a sporting chance of giving my gifts to a troubled, yet promising world. Some things have been accomplished. So much lies beyond me. What lies beyond seems improbable or inconceivable in my current frame of reference. But I can prepare for it. Abraham Lincoln said “I will study and prepare myself, and someday my chance will come.” I will do likewise.
Where will we be in ten years? Rejoicing over the New Message being available in the languages of the world. Rejoicing over the good soil into which the seed of revelation has been sown. Rejoicing over those upon whom the rays of initiation have been shown. Rejoicing over the miracles in the world that have come from the presence of Knowledge, the efforts that have been made to mitigate the Great Waves of Change. Will I be able to say “Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace,” like Simeon in the Gospels? I don’t know. But I’m ready to work on this impossible work. One day it will be merely difficult. One day it will be done.
This quote by Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) has been making the rounds in my world.
“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European or anything, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party of partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”
In the New Message from God, certain practices are identified as debilitating. Judgment is one of them, saying “this is good” or “that is bad.” Assumption is another one, saying “this is the case” or “this is not the case.” Yet another one is defining, saying “this is a that.” Suppose I look at something and say “this is a that.” My mind responds with “Ah, then that is likely to do the things that a that does.” But what if it doesn’t? Will I keep investigating, or surrender to the mental sloth of defining? A special case of defining is identifying, saying “I am an Indian, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or a European.”
But this isn’t where the mischief lies. Identifying is saying “This is my group. These are my people. This is my tribe.” In any group, people make efforts to be the leader of that group. People make efforts to get the largest share of the group’s resources. To identify means I want my group to be the leader over the other groups. It means I want my group to get the largest share of the world’s resources. I believe this is what Krishnamurti is getting at when he speaks of separation leading to violence.
Identity is tricky and sticky. So to be human is to be in a predicament. To be human is to use one’s capability to identify. This is going to lead to violence sooner or later. Step 290 of the 365 steps of Steps to Knowledge says the following:
“In the world you are a student—always. Every day, every hour and every minute you are learning and attempting to assimilate your learning. You are either a student of Knowledge or a student of confusion. You are either a student of certainty or a student of ambivalence. You are either a student of wholeness and integrity or you are a student of conflict and war. You can only learn from being in the world, and you can only demonstrate the result of your learning.”
While it is true there are things I identify as, I make great efforts to consider them as interim, contingent identities. The identity I feed and ratify and choose again is that of a student of Knowledge. I desire for no nation or religion to succeed at the expense of any other nation or religion. I will no harm to any other nation or religion. And when I do, I don’t want to.
Cherries are on sale at my local grocer. In my mind, cherries are connected with one of the tales in the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. I have mentioned on numerous occasions that there is a great sympathetic vibration between these dervish tales and the teachings of the New Message from God. It is occurring to me to demonstrate this by commenting on this dervish tale as it proceeds.
There is a wise perception of the present
This tale is attributed to Sufi Abdul-Hamid Khan of Qandahar, who died in 1962. He was the Master of the Afghan Mint, a man with one foot in the dervish world and the other in the world of modern technology. This tale is called “Valuable – and Worthless.” I will put my commentary in brackets.
A certain king one day called a counselor to him and said “The strength of real thinking depends upon the examination of alternatives. Tell me which alternative is better: to increase the knowledge of my people or give them more to eat. In either case they will benefit.”
The Sufi said “Majesty, there is no point in giving knowledge to those who cannot receive it, any more than there is point to giving food to those who cannot understand your motives. Therefore it is not correct to assume that ‘in either case they will benefit.’ If they cannot digest the food, or if they think you give it to them as a bribe, or that they can get more – you have failed. If they cannot see that they are being given knowledge, or whether it is knowledge or not, or even why you are giving it to them, they will not benefit. Therefore the question must be taken by degrees. The first degree is the consideration: ‘The most valuable person is worthless and the most worthless person is valuable.'”
[We have now learned that the counselor is a Sufi, a dervish. I consider the knowledge being spoken of here to be knowledge in the ordinary sense; data, information, education. But the Knowledge spoken of by the New Message from God also requires skill and desire to be attained. The deeper spiritual intelligence that God has placed in every person is indifferent to satisfying idle curiosity.]
“Demonstrate this truth to me, for I cannot understand it,” said the king.
The Sufi then called the chief dervish of Afghanistan, and he came to the court. “If you had your way, what would you have someone in Kabul do?” he asked.
[We now know this tale is set in Kabul, Afghanistan. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a royal command for a demonstration. I believe that the Sufi is responding to a sincere request to learn. As there are monastic orders, there are dervish orders. As monastic orders have leaders, dervish orders have leaders.]
“It so happens that there is a man near such-and-such a place who, if he knew it, could by giving a pound of cherries to a certain necessitous man, gain a fortune for himself and also great advancement for the whole country and progress for the Path,” said the chief dervish, who knew of the inner correspondence of things.
[I imagine the king thought to himself, “This is the very thing I was asking about in the first place, the benefit of my people!” I consider “the Path” to refer to the dervish path and its participants. I make no claim regarding the inner correspondence of things. But one of the outward manifestations of the Knowledge I seek to reclaim is wise perception in the present and in the future.]
The king was excited, for Sufis generally do not discourse upon such things. “Call him here and we will have it done!” he cried. The others silenced him with a gesture. “No,” said the first Sufi, “this cannot work unless it is done voluntarily.”
In disguise, in order not to influence the man’s choice, the three of them went straight to the Kabul bazaar. Divested of his turban and robe, the chief Sufi looked very much like any ordinary man. “I will take the part of the exciting cause,” he whispered, as the group stood looking at the fruit. He approached the greengrocer and wished him good day. Then he said “I know a poor man. Will you give him a pound of cherries, as a charity?” The greengrocer bellowed with laughter. “Well, I have heard some tricks, but this is the first time that someone who wanted cherries has stooped to ask me as if it were for charity!”
[So now we know that the man who could have given the cherries was a greengrocer, and the cherries were part of his inventory. I imagine the king being crushed on the inside as a golden opportunity was lost forever.]
“You see what I mean?” the first Sufi asked the king. “The most valuable man we have has just made the most valuable suggestion, and the event has proved that he is worthless to the man to whom he speaks.”
“But what about ‘the most worthless person’ being valuable?” asked the king.
The two dervishes beckoned him to follow them.
As they were about to cross the Kabul River, the two dervishes suddenly seized the king and threw him into the water. He could not swim.
As he felt himself about to drown, Kaka Divana, whose name means Insane Uncle – a well-known pauper and lunatic who roamed the streets, jumped in and brought him safely to the bank. Various other, more solid, citizens had seen him in the water, but none moved.
When the king was somewhat restored, the two dervishes intoned together: “The most worthless person is valuable!”
[There is a wise perception of the present. Don’t ask me how the dervishes knew that Kaka Divana would save the king. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t honor and enrich Kaka Divana for saving his life. Don’t ask me why the king didn’t have the dervishes executed. I think the answer to these things is “Elaborating on this would disrupt the arc of the story.”]
So the king went back to his old, traditional method of giving whatever he could – whether education or help of any kind – to those to whom it was decided from time to time were the most worthy recipients of such aid.
As the decade of the Teens draws to a close, I feel an inclination to write something about what life was like for me at the beginning of the decade. My third attempt at a successful career failed in 2005 when I was not granted tenure by the University of St. Thomas. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (now just autism) in 2006. The end of my marriage of 13 years was finalized in 2008. Around the same time, I was approved for Social Security Disability. Around that time, one word used to describe autism was “mind-blindness,” an inability to see how other people think and feel. I felt like the man born blind in the Gospel of John, except that I had not received assistance. I wrote a blog post about this season of life in 2014.
A grand night for Shiva
Right around this time, I discovered that a celebration of Maha Shivratri would be observed at a nearby yoga center. I recall reading that any offering of devotion to Shiva would 100 times more potent when offered on this night than on any other night of the year. I wasn’t a worshipper of Shiva at the time. I wanted to be a good Christian with all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed. But it didn’t seem to matter. I felt repudiated. I seemed forsaken. So this observance of Maha Shivatri caught my attention.
I didn’t stay up all night for this observance as a few people did. But I chanted Om Namah Shivaya, “Salutations to the auspicious one.” I bowed down to the little statue of Shiva as my part of the observances. As I left, I asked one of the proprietors of the yoga center if Shiva would cure my autism. I think that on that night, if he had said “Yes,” I might have become a servant of Shiva. But I think he gave a more honest answer, that investigating this path would expand my consciousness and frame of reference. Something like saying “Well, getting out more wouldn’t hurt.”
I cried out to be destroyed
I clearly remember walking home in the bitter midnight cold of Minnesota in February of 2010. I cried out to the God of the Bible, “Didn’t you see what I just did? Didn’t you see me bowing down to Shiva with my behind a half a mile in the air? Aren’t you utterly offended by that? Why didn’t you strike me down right then and there with a bolt of lightning?”
Yes, I admit the whole conversation was rather foolish in retrospect, but it certainly didn’t seem so at the time. My life seemed like an utterly absurd joke, where disaster and catastrophe followed me instead of goodness and mercy.
Yes, I cried out to be destroyed. But I am pleased to report that God had something better in mind than giving me what I wanted. Two months after this event, I cried out “What am I good for?” I didn’t think I was good for anything at the time. But a voice calmly answered “You’re good for finding Knowledge.” I knew what this meant because I had studied Steps to Knowledge shortly after it was received in 1989. I have studied the 365 steps of Steps to Knowledge twice since then. I would like to think this has been a good decade for me.
This poem by American poet Emily Dickinson was published in 1890, four years after her death. I am sharing it with you because it describes something of my experience of being a student of the New Message from God. I too dwell in possibility.
I dwell in Possibility
I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest – For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise –
I too dwell in possibility
I too dwell in possibility. The New Message from God speaks of a future that will not be a linear extension of the past. Some people now can envision the difficulties of a less predictable climate. Others can now envision the consequences of environmental degradation. But the New Message from God is predicting some things that no one I know of is envisioning.
It’s not all bad news
The New Message from God warns humanity to prepare for a stressful future. This is from the revelation “The Great Warning.”
“God has sent the New Message to the world at a great turning point for the human family—a turning point for which you are unprepared and unaware, a turning point that is so great that it will alter the course of life for everyone here today, and the future of everyone to come in this world.”
Many people say that knowing something is the experience of something being self-evident. On the other hand, many people have experiences of things being self-evident, but are unmoved to take action. I consider this to be to be unworthy of the word “knowing.” Chinese philosopher Wang-yang-ming (1472-1529) wrote “There is no knowledge which does not lead to action. If one knows but does not act, then one does not really know.”
What is worthy of my life and fortune?
Say what you will about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. They mutually pledged to the support of the Declaration “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.” History records that they acted on that pledge, and lived with the consequences. I say that for all his flaws, Thomas Jefferson knew something. Thomas Jefferson knew “All men are created equal.”
Why should it need all the love I can give?
“Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was written in 1959 by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It appeared at the end of the first act of the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music.” The musical is based on the real-life story of Maria von Trapp. The song is sung by the Mother Abbess of a convent, to Maria, who is conflicted between her spiritual aspirations and her feelings for Captain Georg von Trapp. Here are some of the lyrics:
Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, ‘Til you find your dream!
A dream that will need All the love you can give Every day of your life For as long as you live!
I have offered a description of knowing as “an experience of something being self-evident which inspires consistent action.” I have suggested that knowing might be “to hold something to be self-evident, and to contribute to the support of that something one’s life, one’s fortune, and one’s sacred honor.” I now write words I have never written before. I consider that to know something means “to experience something as self-evident, and needing all the love I can give.”
How can such a thing even be? If something is self-evident, how can it possibly need all the love I can give? And yet, I say it was Thomas Jefferson’s experience that even though the idea “All men are created equal” was self-evident to him, it needed all the love he could give. Things that are self-evident to me might be gobbledygook to others.
Someone is reading this and asking “Well, Douglas, by the description you have provided, what do you know?” Do I dare to say I know anything? There might be a couple of things. Autistic people can be contributors to humanity. There is a New Message from God in the world.
I don’t know when Laura Hershey (1962-2010) wrote this poem. I didn’t know Laura Hershey at all until March of this year. I believe this poem is her song, her anthem, the story of her life. I believe she is someone who did what she wrote about in this poem. I believe she got proud by practicing.
Power comes in many fine forms
Julia Bascom shared this poem by Laura Hershey on the 2019 Disability Day of Mourning. While it was a somber occasion, this poem was an exclamation point of the day’s observances. For me, this poem captures some of the feeling of practicing the great practices of the New Message (inner listening, stillness, looking without judgment, learning how to direct your mind at will, always knowing where your mind is going, objectively questioning your assumptions and beliefs, stepping back from who you think you are or what you think life is.) For me, this poem captures some of the feeling of reaping the benefits of my practice.
You Get Proud by Practicing
If you are not proud For who you are, for what you say, for how you look; If every time you stop To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself. You can get proud.
You do not need A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D. To be proud. You do not need A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car. You do not need To be able to walk, or see, or hear, Or use big, complicated words, Or do any of those things that you just can’t do To be proud. A caseworker Cannot make you proud, Or a doctor. You only need more practice. You get proud by practicing.
There are many many ways to get proud. You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg, Or playing guitar, And do well or not so well, And be glad you tried Either way. You can show Something you’ve made To someone you respect And be happy with it no matter What they say. You can say What you think, though you know Other people do not think the same way, and you can keep saying it, even if they tell you You are crazy.
You can add your voice All night to the voices Of a hundred and fifty others In a circle Around a jailhouse Where your brothers and sisters are being held For blocking buses with no lifts, Or you can be one of the ones Inside the jailhouse, Knowing of the circle outside. You can speak your love To a friend Without fear. You can find someone who will listen to you Without judging you or doubting you or being Afraid of you And let you hear yourself perhaps For the very first time. These are all ways Of getting proud. None of them Are easy, but all of them Are possible. You can do all of these things, Or just one of them again and again. You get proud By practicing.
Power makes you proud, and power Comes in many fine forms Supple and rich as butterfly wings. It is music when you practice opening your mouth And liking what you hear Because it is the sound of your own True voice.
It is sunlight When you practice seeing Strength and beauty in everyone, Including yourself. It is dance when you practice knowing That what you do And the way you do it Is the right way for you And cannot be called wrong. All these hold More power than weapons or money Or lies. All these practices bring power, and power Makes you proud. You get proud By practicing.
Remember, you weren’t the one Who made you ashamed, But you are the one Who can make you proud. Just practice, Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud, Keep practicing so you won’t forget. You get proud By practicing.
The poetry world is celebrating the life and mourning the loss of Mary Oliver, who died on Thursday, January 17 at the age of 83. Detailed obituaries have appeared in many places, including the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
A new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
Minnesota poet Robert Bly introduced me to Mary Oliver sometime in the 00’s. He included some of her poems in the anthology “The Soul Is Here For Its Own Joy.” “Maybe” is one of those poems. I have shared other poems by her in this space. Enjoying her appreciation, her astonishment of nature is for me like drinking clean spring water. Even when she was unhappy, as in the poem “Extending the Airport Runway,” there wasn’t a trace of bitterness or smartassery.
A person who took the journey.
Steps to Knowledge is the book of spiritual practice of the New Message from God. A fellow student of Steps to Knowledge shared the following Mary Oliver poem with me as a description of the Steps to Knowledge experience. This poem is called “The Journey.“
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice– though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do– determined to save the only life you could save
She wrote of the journey. She took the journey.
“The Journey” is one of the relatively few Mary Oliver poems where audio of her reciting the poem is available.
Did she accomplish her mission?
I don’t know. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than loving the world. But I’m glad she loved the world. Maybe she had an entirely different mission than being married to amazement. But I say it was a fruitful marriage. She wrote of a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own. I say she heard that voice.
How will humanity successfully navigate an increasingly difficult world? A world of declining resources, affected climate, environmental degradation and extraterrestrial intervention? It seems to be important to look upon changing events without fear. However, that doesn’t seem to be sufficient. One hindrance to effective action seems to be ignoble motives.
Sometimes I forget completely what companionship is. Unconscious and insane, I spill sad energy everywhere. My story gets told in various ways: a romance, a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.
Will the angels weigh my zeal?
Please tell us all of your vibrations. I heard this story about Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), Scottish preacher and hymnwriter, many years ago. I recently found it written in a 1919 book.
“Dr. Horatius Bonar once had a dream, it is said, in which the angels took his religious zeal and weighed it in the balance. It was full weight, plump one hundred. He was very much pleased. But when they began to analyze it in various ways, they found that fourteen parts [percent] of it were selfishness; fifteen parts sectarianism; twenty-two parts ambition; and that only three parts of it were pure love to man and only four parts of it pure love to God.”
Let us examine ourselves
I am following a path sometimes called the Greater Community Way of Knowledge. This path frequently directs me to take an inventory of my thoughts and feelings on a particular subject. If I would effectively respond to an increasingly difficult world, I must identify and starve my less noble motivations. If I would be fit to engage with the purpose for which I came into the world, I must engage in some self-examination. I wonder if the angels will weigh my zeal, and in my mind’s ear, I hear, “Please tell us all of your vibrations.”
“This question of honesty would seem to be hopelessly complex and difficult if it were not for the presence of Knowledge within you, for Knowledge is always honest, regardless of what it encounters. Knowledge is unafraid of anything. There is nothing in the world that can harm Knowledge. Therefore, the more you are allied with Knowledge, the more fearless you will become, the more secure you will become, the greater the sense of self and identity you will have, and the greater the sense of direction and relationship you will possess. This gives you the foundation upon which to expand your range of honesty and to receive its rewards in new and unexpected ways.”
Approaching Knowledge requires effort
There is a part of me that knows no fear. But fear is a part of the human experience. It takes some work to approach this fearless Knowledge. In the 365 steps of the book Steps to Knowledge, there are 11 steps at various intervals that address the subject of fear.
Step 41 – I am not afraid of the power of God. Step 51 – Let me recognize my fears so that I may see the truth beyond them. Step 87 – I will not be afraid of what I know. Step 128 – My Teachers are with me. I need not fear. Step 151 – I will not use fear to support my judgments. Step 152 – I will not follow fear within the world. Step 156 – I will not be concerned about myself today. Step 162 – I will not be afraid today. Step 226 – Knowledge is with me. I will not be afraid. Step 301 – I will not lose myself in anxiety today. Step 304 – I will not be a student of fear today.
How shall we respond?
I can imagine people reading this and thinking “Why don’t the students of this teaching become scientists and engineers? They could analyze and mitigate the effects of the changes they believe are coming.” Who knows, such a thing may happen in the future. I believe we are becoming more literate regarding various solutions. But it’s hard to think clearly and productively if one is consumed with fear. There is a part of me that knows no fear. I hope and work to follow that part of me.