The Arc of Being

comments 36
Course Ideas / Reflections

The other morning on the ride to work, I heard a story on Maine Public Radio about the various preachers that would be offering a prayer at the upcoming Presidential Inauguration. The report made it clear that several of the individuals were known for teaching the “Prosperity Gospel,” which apparently is the idea that earthly success may be interpreted as a symbol, or perhaps even an outcome, of divine favor.

This idea is so pernicious I wanted to take it up briefly. But I also wanted to spend a brief time on the idea because it could be seen as the extremist form of a more moderate idea–more readily accepted perhaps–that there is some sort of relationship between our worthiness as people, and the events of our lives. While I do believe there is a relationship, or dialogue of sorts, between the events of our lives, our most profound inner needs, and the divine, it has little to do with this notion of earthly treasure or accomplishment. At the same time, I do not see our relationship to the divine as divorced from our earthly journeys, so this merits some thought. What do I mean?

To begin, this idea of Prosperity Gospel is abhorred to me because it says, most simply, we’ve each gotten what we deserve. If we were favored, we’d have these things we desire, or if we made ourselves good enough, holy enough, pure enough–undoubtedly in ways that defy human understanding–we’d be able to change our stations in life. This is utterly false in my opinion, and is based on a profound misunderstanding of what true value is. Worst of all, it is a doctrine that could be used to spiritually underwrite the status quo and suggest that the widespread suffering we see today of those who are poor, sick, or alone in one way or another, is just how it is. The people who find themselves in conditions of despair should just pray harder. This is absurd.

And yet… I do believe each of us exists in relationship to what I will call, similar to terms used in my previous post, a grace-filled arc of being. This arc of being is the journey we each make along a path from ignorance–our basic ensnarement in the thought forms of separateness, specialness and conflict–to freedom. I believe we are each supported along this arc in ways that are profound, subtle, and gentle; in ways that do, often, defy human understanding. I believe each of us is called, or chosen if you will, to make this journey, and that while the tools and systems-of-thought in which we may take solace and direction will be unique to each of us, they are nonetheless rooted in a common and ubiquitous grace.

The value that I see on offer is the fullness of our heart’s expression, and our freedom from fear and suffering. We are free, in other words, from the abiding sensation that we are vulnerable to forces acting against us, and we are able, in the fullness of our hearts, to give the world that which is uniquely ours to give. The results of this in some cases may well entail a public renown, a benign notoriety or an audience of receivers to our giving, but I think this is quite secondary to the task at hand. Our fulfillment derives from the freedom from trepidation that we achieve, from the sense of unity with one another that inherently arises when the obstacles to our awareness of such have been removed, and from the glory of simply being the fullest version of ourselves we are able to muster in any given moment.

I do believe we are supported in this arc of being throughout our lives, and perhaps beyond, but I think most importantly is the notion that we are supported equally in this regard. Equal in our society has a tendency to imply a mediocrity, a bureaucracy, a legislated norm, and it is this that I think we must overcome. For in our failure to conceive of equality in an ecstatic, dimensionless sense of the word, we bind ourselves to the mediocrity we have created in the past. We insist on external systems to do the work for us, and of putting our trust in institutions.

I consider Jesus as a teacher and a friend. I consider Rumi in this light. The Buddha, and countless others. I see in them a call to transcend our ideas of material success and institutionalized equality, and to embrace the timeless equality of being. We are each called to something uniquely our own, yet integral to the whole–to revelation of our innermost sensations of existence, which naturally give rise to our collective provision, to our collective health and well-being, and to our freedom from hidden agendas, favors owed, and the inflicting of leverage upon each other.

If the favor we seek comes at the cost to another on this earth, it is a false favor, and will be granted only upon the prying of earthly laws one against the next. Yet I am certain that somewhere along that arc of being to which we are each and everyone called, lies freedom from these impositions, these false laws created and ordained by humans, that have no basis in universal phenomena or decree. This arc of being is hard to walk. It can be arduous, but only because it asks us to let go of every false value we have ever chosen, and to recognize even in our most trying moments, that their arising has been a gift of proportions we so often fail to consider or comprehend.

There is a Prosperity Gospel, and it is the truth of our interdependence, of our interbeing–the abundance we discover in lifting ourselves and one another. It is the trump card of timeless grace, against which all failures of circumstance and perception fail. We are all travelers on this arc of being, whether we accept as much or not, and in this, we are truly equal.

36 Comments

  1. Thanks for your unique reflections on freedom and equality Michael. I like your expression “arc of being”. I had the realization of how much I hold back from feeling love, joy and the grace of being due to externals and my judgments of them. For example, I need a certain place to be happy, a certain result to feel happy, my judgments about people- some add to the joy and some subtract. But in reality, the only thing keeping me from joy is my inner choice and judgment, my mind.

    Liked by 7 people

    • It is a startling discovery, isn’t it, Brad!? We breathe the same air today as yesterday and our feelings to the contrary revolve around our interpretations of circumstance, and in some case our reactions to actual circumstances. But in truth, the choice for peace is never distant from us. I have to remind myself of this often. I was thinking the other day about unintended consequences, and how our suffering is by and large an unintended consequence of our separatism. No one in their right mind chooses to be unhappy, but very often we value the things which occlude our sight of genuine joy. Making this journey within is the most direct shot to fulfillment I think…

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

      • I love your idea of unintended consequences. There is no doubt that we cause most of our own suffering by how we interpret and respond to circumstances. I’m working on the direct route more myself. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had not heard of Prosperity Gospel before, and I thank you Michael for sharing it here. It sounds quite dreadful, judgmental and divisive.
    What comes to my mind, to add to the conversation, is that equality is an expression of separate people being seen on a level footing. I believe I am with you, in seeing real freedom beyond equality at the end of the arc of being. (I do love that expression!)
    When we embrace Non Duality the external dissolves along with fear. Connectivity and love becomes the operating system.
    At the end of the arc of being is simply love.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Hi Val,

      So it’s not a pot of gold at the arc’s end, but real freedom. I’ll take it! Ha!

      I’m not quite sure what you were trying to say about equality being an expression of separate people being seen on a level footing. There’s an idea that we should be “fair” sometimes. It can take on this connotation of overcoming what is, which never quite works out. For instance, it’s not fair that Usain Bolt is as fast as he is, and I am as slow as I am. We could try to level the playing field, but this would just demean Usain’s gifts. And it never quite works to try and assert that something which clearly is so, is not.

      So… now I think I see and agree with your statement. Usain and I are separate–we each have our various givens–but where we are equal is in our ability to express who we truly are. And in this, yes, we are equal. That is exactly what I was hoping to convey… I think… Because in this equality we discover an underlying unity. So that what we’re each expressing, although in our own ways, is of the same fundamental “thing”. Call it unity, call it the ground of all being, whatever… When we’re our most genuine, we reveal what is true in all of us.

      To the love that is the arc, ends the arc and begins the arc!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I had been listening to the Whistling Gospels here with my friends, the Ravens and the Bob Cats among the tall caramel pines, and you came in with your Prosperity Gospel post, Michael, and snapped me out of my dreamlike states into this world. πŸ™‚ I have to say, I had not heard that term before, but then again, kings and queens had been claiming their God-given powers for many centuries. . . Some souls were allotted 3/5 of a vote, and some others – none. Some souls were named ‘the untouchables’. We used Gospels and Laws to justify that.

    I feel like this was a good extension to your previous post. “This arc of being is hard to walk. It can be arduous, but only because it asks us to let go of every false value we have ever chosen” ❀ Like Emily Dickinson says, in this one, we are going, all along:

    Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church –
    I keep it, staying at Home –
    With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
    And an Orchard, for a Dome –
    Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
    I just wear my Wings –
    And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
    Our little Sexton – sings.
    God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
    And the sermon is never long,
    So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
    I’m going, all along.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      I was thinking when I wrote this it had all the trappings of the old “divine right of kings.” These ideas are recycled apparently… But there’s also the idea that we’ll be rewarded for choosing the right road, and this too is pernicious. Like Ms. Dickinson so appropriately instructs, it’s best if we’re going, all along. If we’re opening our hearts all along the way, and discovering the glories that abide there–not for their reward, of for the station they will bring us, but for their own sake.

      I think, crazily enough, that people gravitate naturally to this way of being. But when our thought factories produce an image of how things are that we do not know how to undo, and when that mass produced image entraps us, then we start all the games. We start to be transactional in our daily undertaking. We start to let the ends be our justifications. And when our ends are the justifications, the means get out of hand! If we’re going, all along, the ends and the means are joined.

      And we are in heaven.

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I too had not heard of that term before, and I am quite in agreement with your summation here on it and it pleases me the way you spelled it out, not in a nasty way of course, but I find so many like to take words and box them, slap a label on it and get the mainstream of people to follow like sheep, when we look within and raise ourselves up by raising others up, the trueness of what life is about is then a shower of blessings upon us, to keep neutral thinking and not dying to make a buck but in relishing that what we have is truly enough, and even if meager we share with others, the payback is not monetary by any means, but fills the heart even larger to be able to share even more. Kind of like the grinch heart, I like to not give things names if I can help it and see the larger universal picture and then I feel I truly fit in and see the way things should be. Not sure if this makes any sense…in a bit of a hurry today, but love your post and thanks for the lessons, you are the best teacher my friend ❀

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Kim!

      I love what you said about not naming things, and how in not naming them, we can see how perfectly we each fit in. I think this is beautiful instruction. The ability to lift a heart is an amazing gift, and yet one we are each capable of giving. The Grinch Heart is quite instructive in the bounty we each are to one another in this regard! Without each other, this giving could not proceed. So it takes a village to grow a heart! Ha!

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again, you have struck a chord, Michael! I agree with you, that material abundance has nothing to do with our God-given innate value. In this respect we are all equal in essence. It has taken me most of my 68 years to uncover this truth and I don’t pretend to have mastered it — I forget it constantly but I have at least understood that fact with my mind. Love, Alia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alia,

      Well you are a fast learner I would say!

      The irony of all this is that I think we imagine being free from needs altogether sometimes, I think. Not saying you do this, but I think sometimes the retort to the vulnerability of our physical needs is to try and transcend them altogether. To make our material needs a non-issue, knowing that it is our vulnerability and our suffering that drive us to the sorts of extremes we see today. I think what we miss in this is the necessity and virtue of our relatedness. The fact of the matter is that we find it hard in the present mental climate in which we live, in that collectively invented atmosphere, to trust implicitly in our relatedness to one another. To me this has the feel of that sweet spot, and I struggle with this to a great extent–to know we are at home in one another. But when I imagine it, it has that sensation of being natural, and free, and whole–as Love itself is.

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ahh — “to know we are home in one another” — how sweet the sound. We have been so conditioned to the illusion of our separateness that it is quite the challenge to think and then follow through with actions that reclaim our unity — with our selves, our God and one another. Tomas and I are finding great help in the practice of Non-Violent Communication, one of the fundamental practices here in our community. We are learning to be vulnerable and much kinder in our thinking and speaking. Blessings, alia

        Liked by 1 person

        • It sounds wonderful, Alia, and challenging, too. It is always an interesting study to see how we so often mold, restrain and cajole our very selves in even the simplest communications with one another. Truly free dialogue, where we are able to share what is true in our hearts, and yet where we also choose not to let our grievances go unexamined, can foster much that is good I think. My experience is that sometimes the outcomes of such communications are surprising to everyone!

          Blessings to you as well,
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I think my response resonates very similarly to Val’s. Moreover, I found your line

    “I do believe we are supported in this arc of being throughout our lives, and perhaps beyond, but I think most importantly is the notion that we are supported equally in this regard.” to be particularly meaningful and powerful to me. This line, transposed wit We insist on external systems to do the work for us, and of putting our trust in institutions.” Really does some on up for this.

    There’s more thinking for me to do this…and perhaps the world would be a better place if we were all to look closer at what we consider our spiritual inventory.

    Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Harlon,

      I’m glad this spoke to you, and I love your idea of considering our spiritual inventory. It does seem a very worthwhile taking of stock for us to consider. The thing about externalizing the meeting of our needs through institutions is an interesting one, isn’t it? I’m not saying collective organization is bad at all, only that sometimes we create things to replace what we’ve already been given, but do not have because of what we have done with it… I guess that’s probably a murky statement, but to the idea that came to me while writing to Alia, about our deep relatedness, the institution is like a stop gap until we have this remembering of what we already are to one another.

      In Memory of our Relatedness,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Wow, how blatantly obvious – the worship of material wealth. I love that you changed it up into something beautiful. I can just hear Gandhi saying that if God really loved us, we would be living high on the hog! Haha.

    I especially love this paragraph, “We are free, in other words, from the abiding sensation that we are vulnerable to forces acting against us, and we are able, in the fullness of our hearts, to give the world that which is uniquely ours to give. The results of this in some cases may well entail a public renown, a benign notoriety or an audience of receivers to our giving, but I think this is quite secondary to the task at hand. Our fulfillment derives from the freedom from trepidation that we achieve, from the sense of unity with one another that inherently arises when the obstacles to our awareness of such have been removed, and from the glory of simply being the fullest version of ourselves we are able to muster in any given moment.” And I love “the trump card of timeless grace.”

    I love the whole thought process on this, Michael. It would be easy to hear it and turn to bitterness, but you always shine light in the dark places. Thank you.

    Peace and Love
    Mary

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Mary. I was glad NPR ran the story as it set me to thinking, and it was kind of fascinating to see the recycling of these old ideas like “divine right” and “the chosen few” and all that. These old ideas really seem to stay with us, and seem to be almost baked into the fabric of our worldviews. What a challenge it can be to overcome them! And at the same time, what a joy it is and will be to occupy this most natural condition of presence and relatedness.

      And I suppose I’d rather steer clear of the bitterness where I can. I actually think it is quite a serious thing–the way we have an inclination to respond at times with bitterness. A Course of Love says none of us have not felt this deep bitterness, and that it rivals the ego in it’s persistence. The transmutation of this seems the holiest of work and while I write what arises for me, I also truly hope it is helpful.

      Peace, and Sweetness
      Michael

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  8. Thank you for sharing so fully, as you do, Michael! I shall have to look up β€œProsperity Gospel,” because I have never heard of it before. One thing that I do believe is that we are all beautiful, lovely, and lovable! Materialism is probably not what it seems. Each of us see it differently. I’m sure most of us are struggling in some way on the Earth Plane. Aloha ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had not heard of it in quite those terms before either, Ka! But I agree with your offerings here completely! We are each beautiful, lovely and lovable. If we but knew this… Placing value in the transient is definitely not what it seems, though at times it can seem to offer so much… To the ability to see with a pure heart in the moments that find us…

      Peace!
      Michael

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  9. In response I’m feeling an urge to simply suggest we all just do our very best to be harmless, Michael. If there exists a relationship between ourselves as individuals and ourselves as part of a collective with all life (forms) β€” and clearly in some metaphysical sense there is β€” then our own peace must depend upon others’ harmlessness towards ourselves. I have never met anyone who practises harmlessness β€” better to say embodies harmlessness β€” who does not reap a reward as a result. Living guilt-free, blamelessly and harmlessly, sets us on the path to true contentedness; I feel certain of it. This doesn’t mean we should be passive at all times, or not object to wrongdoings, or not speak our mind, or not reprimand others’ for their transgressions against us or others β€” all of those things can be done with a mind full of amity and harmlessness. Whatever our worldly station, we can actualise these ideals and be rewarded in accord. None of this is my own thinking, far from it, although it is my lived experience, and know it to hold good. It’s not so complicated; there’s no abstraction to it, and everyone is equal in being able to exercise the same if in possession of neurotypical mental faculties. Maybe I’m being too simplistic? Much love to you, good man.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Hariod,

      I’m not sure why you would deem this too simplistic, for it does seem a very worthy practice to undertake, and I do not think things need be complicated to be true. The challenge I do see in all of this–whether framed as movement to the pure expression of an inner light, or the seeking to be harmless–is that the embodiment of these principles defies understanding and interpretation somehow. We know it when we see it, and yet when we find ourselves run amok in analysis of what “harmlessness” means, or what “pure expression” means, we lose our way in complexity. This is why I think this embodiment is both simple and profound at once.

      And I think that although our language may differ, there is no difference in what would be embodied in their various forms of fulfillment. The rewards, if we are to call them such, seem to be implicit in the embodiment itself, so that we cannot reasonably expect to attain a particular reward our outcome in exchange for a particular approach to being. I think the embodiment of these timeless principles in fact involves a wiping clean of our attachments to such particulars, and though the particulars that do arise may end up being noted as good, desirable even in the eyes of others perhaps, they are so without conscious control or the seeking to pry from circumstance what is desired.

      Much love to you as well, my friend.
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  10. so wonderful having this well written
    commentary on the gospel of greed, Michael!
    there’s no hiding their intention on taking
    more than they deserve or need, with or without
    the veil of assistance from religion.
    i’ve personally heard so-called men of God
    evangelizing & proselytizing
    like corporate MBA’s on the stairway of heaven.
    they really took my grandmother to the cleaners.
    i’m glad that Jesus was
    not a banker or MBA, but one
    who offered great riches, i belief the earth
    itself, to those who are humble and meek πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi David,

      I missed some comments here! Thank you for this lovely comment. It is like discovering some of those great riches, coming home to this comment here. Jesus said in A Course of Love he wished that those who were powerless could know their true power. It’s not the ones who took your grandmother to the cleaners. It’s the ones who embody the wealth of quiet knowing that bestows peace on all who greet it.

      Slowly we peel ourselves back to that. Just that.

      Peace, David!
      Michael

      Like

  11. Love this post and the comments too, Michael. I love learning new things and I can always count on you to add to my lesson plan! I have never heard of the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ but have to say the name alone has a connotation that leaves a little distaste. There is so much going on in the world right now that worries my heart, and yet I know that this kind of fear displaces the love energy that will override the prejudice and hatred and greed that seems to be rampant. I particularly liked Hariod’s comment, and while it IS SIMPLE, meaning that the idea is simple to carry out in theory, it could change the world!
    Sending lots of light and love β™‘

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lorrie!

      Thank you for sharing these lovely sentiments. I agree there is a need to keep our center these days. What this means is unique to each of us though. We are all responding beautifully I think! So much seems to be happening at once, it is hard to realize it truly is so simple. Wishing you blessings on this lovely evening. Thank you for sharing this moment here with me. This little slice of world-changing thoughts, shared from one to the next…

      Peace and Love!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Such valuable insights here, thank you Michael. I am with you entirely on “the timeless equality of being.” Yes, I do believe in an abundant Universe and that, though acts of grace, we are all offered all the support we could ever desire. But I feel that some of us are better at opening up to receive than others. And that although this has nothing to do with our actual worthiness – standing as equals that would be rather a contradiction – it has a lot to do with our notion of our own worthiness, and also our willingness to open our hearts and minds to that which is beyond the parameters of the seen. I wish to know myself in all my unlimitedness and abundance and worthy of embodying both.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s difficult, especially in this culture of accumulation, to separate worthiness from wealth. But it all comes down to what you need to feel abundance. At least, that’s how I feel now. The thought of being super rich actually seems like a punishment. Thanks, ad always, for sharing your eloquent thoughts, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re quite welcome and nice to know it spoke to you. I was really quite taken aback by some of the ideas out there, and had to paint a picture for myself of goodness at work in all of us and in the world. I’m glad it was helpful. You are most kind, Meg.

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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