A man dies and feels his soul break free from his body. It floats up into the air, hovers for a moment, shoots off into what seems like a dark and endless tunnel.
The tunnel narrows; the darkness thickens; the man's soul whizzes along at an ever increasing speed. Then, just as the man grows afraid, a light appears in the distance. It draws nearer, swells in size, looms before him. He smiles, thinking how clichéd it all is: death, a bright light and now...a shining angel.
The angel appears out of nowhere, as if materialized from a dozen thick strands of light. It hovers in front the man: aglow, translucent - almost invisible against the dazzling backdrop. The man studies it, limbs trembling, hands outstretched to shade his burning eyes.
The angel remains quiet, so the man shuffles his feet and lowers his head. To look the angel in the eye would be to acknowledge its existence - and that he doesn't want to do. Better to think it is all just a dream; better to believe he isn't really dead.
The angel waits patiently for the man to look up again then tells him that he really is dead: "Dead as a doornail. Kaput. Get what I'm saying? No point pretending otherwise."
The man frowns, eyes adjusting to the light. Now that the angel has spoken he suddenly feels more irritated than afraid. "And what are you then? My guardian angel?"
"Which would mean that God exists, hey?"
The angel thinks about this. "I suppose you could say that's true - from a certain point of view. Is that what you summoned me for? To discuss theology?"
"I didn't summon you. And to be honest, I'd prefer you weren't here. I have the feeling you're about to start judging me for all of my misdeeds."
"Misdeeds?" The angel chuckles. "Nope; that's not my job. Judgment is always left to the individual. My purpose right now is different. I'm here to help you clarify parts of your life."
"And where do we begin?"
"With God, naturally. The Big Donut. Wasn't He the one thing you couldn't leave alone?"
The man snorts, happy to disagree. "Got the wrong man there. I was an atheist. All my life. Don't believe in things on faith. Never have. If God had knocked on my door and told me to get off my butt then I might have taken notice. Since he kept mum, though, can't say I paid much attention. So he's only got himself to blame on that score. I mean, if you want to sell, you have to advertise. It's simple. Give us miracles, slap us on the face, shout us some fish. But don't hidey in some castle in the sky if you want us to join the Church."
"So you insist on doubting the existence of God? Funny that. Notes here tell me you were quite a seeker. Real devotee."
"So there's a mistake. As I said, you've got the wrong man."
"And if I could prove otherwise?"
"By asking you a question. By asking you what it was that you really wanted in life."
The man puts a hand on his jaw. He rubs it. He inhales, all of a sudden pensive. His initial irritation released, he considers the question. "I guess what I really wanted was to fill up a lack within me. It sounds schmaltzy, I know, but it was as if something were missing in my life. Not always, mind you. I mean, I had moments of intense happiness. Ecstasy, even. But generally the energy was down and I suppose I just scoured the horizon for something better. Not God, however; but people. Situations in which I really felt alive. I was looking for what you might call 'intensity of experience'."
"And did you have many 'intense experiences'? Can you give me some concrete examples?"
"Sure. Like when I was in love. You know: when you are with a girl at the start of a romance and you just hold her hand. There is a rush, an energetic connection. You have everything you need right there. You're inside this sort of bliss bubble just hoping it won't be popped."
"And you had other similar experiences? Ones that weren't romantic?"
"Sure. Hiking in the mountains, that's a good example. Got the feeling almost every time I camped out on some slope. If I got up early I could see the sun rise up over the misty fields, and it would slice through the fog, this enormous orange ball, and a few moments later the leaves on the trees would glow like embers. Then the whole countryside would flow from one colour to the next - orange, yellow, silver - and before I knew it I'd be all light. It sounds kind of sentimental, I know; but at times it was almost as if I could just lift up in the air and shoot off to the horizon. Out beyond the countryside around me; beyond the sky; out into space.
"It was this kind of experience that I lived for, I guess. The possibility of recapturing the golden moments that enabled me to put up with the tedium and hassles of everyday life."
"And aren't those moments exactly the ones where there is communion with God? The moments where you become God and God you?"
The man crosses his arms. He huffs.
"I don't see where God enters the equation. They're just moments where I feel good, that's all. God is someone who is meant to speak to you, help or punish you. There is a personal touch to what he does. You pray to him and he reacts like a loving father. At least that's what I was taught."
"Which is correct - as far as it goes; but it's also misleading. I think it's closer to the truth to call God an energetic vibration. A vibration that pulsates through every strata of the universe. A vibration that surrounds and inhabits every person, thing, animal or spirit that exists. The more a person can tune into God's frequency, to his vibration, the happier he or she is."
"Exactly. But the tricky part is that we, too, are an energetic vibration. We emit our own frequency, and similar frequencies attract one another like magnets. Negative thoughts attract negative situations, just as positive ones attract positive ones. God doesn't actively enter into this part of the equation."
"So if we sent out a godlike vibration we would attract God Himself?"
"Uh-huh. That's what it's all about: merging with God or, to be precise, the energetic vibration that He is."
"So it's easy? Just like that, hey? To find God you simply have to vibrate on the same level as Him. Wonder why I never achieved it?"
The angel obviously doesn't get the sarcasm, for it smiles as if happy the man has almost understood.
"Actually you don't have to become like God," it says, "because the very core of you is already the same as God. That's what the scriptures mean when they talk of being 'created in his image'. You just have to be who you really are."
"I don't follow."
"Think of it like this: imagine God's vibration being like that of the note a tuning fork gives off when struck. Now imagine the essence of man also being the same note, only the note covered, muffled and distorted by an orchestra playing fortissimo with woefully out-of-tune instruments. The orchestra is so loud you don't even realize there is a divine note being struck underneath the cacophony. A part of you always detects this note of course, but if the orchestra blares away for too long you start to forget, and then doubt, its existence. Fortunately, however, the divine note keeps playing no matter what sort of music it has to compete with - forever."
"And you think my life was lived in an attempt to hear this divine note within me?"
"Exactly. Being cut off from this note gave you the feeling that you lacked something, that you were incomplete. It was what you really looked for when you chased after girls, money, fame and mystical-mountain-moments."
"So how should I have lived my life then?"
"You should have lived with an awareness of the divine at the heart of things. You should have fostered it, cultivated it, given it the freedom to flourish."
"And how does one do that?"
"By emptying the self. There are several ways this can be done. The most common two are by finding inner silence and by finding love. Both eradicate the selfish, desirous part inside of us. As such, when the orchestra of the self or ego quietens down, when we let ourselves flow rather than trying to grasp things, then God's note within us rings forth, expanding until we are it, and it alone."
"Again you make it sound like a simple matter to empty the self and find God. But when you have to make a living, when you're run off your feet, it's pretty hard to have the sort of 'Zen' inner silence you seem to be advocating."
"That's a matter of some debate. If you reserve a period of time where you don't try to solve any issues, when you stop clinging to desires, then it is not so hard. And even if it were, then there would still be love - which is really what you wanted to talk about all along, isn't it? Because even the most miserable person can find love - and with it, the note of God. And the same goes for big businessmen, presidents, atheists - everyone. And you don't even need to work for it; you can even resist it; but sometimes, despite all, you simply find yourself in love. And in love you find completeness."
"Maybe; but I've been in love quite a few times, and I've always found that before long the magic disappears. My relationships have all run dry and become more like a business association. I can be happy enough with my lady, but I'm certainly not complete. Somewhere the ringing of God's note gets lost. And, you know, I don't think that I am unique here. It happens to everyone."
The angel nods as if it understands. "Love is like a gift from God. A period of grace where completeness simply falls into our lap. A period of time where everything within us itches to empty ourselves of the ego, where we crave nothing but God's vibrations. And letting go of all else, God's omnipresent voice becomes audible. It is as if we have lost our freewill and are forced to let the God-nature within us shine forth."
"Unfortunately it doesn't last long. Soon we are back in control of our lives and start to screw up again. Instead of forgetting the desires of the self and giving spontaneously without any thought of returns, we get embroiled in a relationship of mutual expectations. You keep giving to your loved one, sure, but deep down you expect him or her to acknowledge your generosity and respond accordingly; and if this doesn't happen you grow resentful and bitter. You feel that you are wasting your kindness. Thus you cease to truly love the other and feel your God-nature dry up. Which is ironic, isn't it? Because it happens in the face of everything you really desire. Your love is the greatest thing you have ever experienced and yet you fight it, resist it, and ultimately kill it. It's tragic, and yet it's a phenomenon that actually occurs almost all of the time, whether we are in a relationship or not. After all, if what we truly want is to love, then why don't we simply love everyone and everything? Why do we build up hulking walls to keep our love imprisoned?"
"Because the desire to love obviously isn't as strong as you believe! Where's the evidence that humans do desire to love indiscriminately? I can't see any. If what you are saying really were the case then there wouldn't be wars, murderers, or the great majority of problems we have in society today."
"Hang on; remember I said that we stifle our love."
"Fine. But you haven't given me any evidence to suggest that we do desire to love universally."
"I'm getting to that. Be patient. Sit tight for a moment and listen. What do little kids spend much of their time doing?"
"No. Playing. With dolls and teddy bears."
"And this isn't because they expect their Barbie to come to life and repay their kindness. It's simply because they enjoy the state of being that love for a doll or teddy bear gives. And it's not much different with pets. People of all ages love to dote over an animal. They invest it with incredible amounts of love, even if it's just a tiny goldfish. But for some perverse reason people shy away from loving people just for the delight of it. Even though love for another, be it a drunk on the corner, a footy fan or your wife, gives you a tremendous rush; it fixates you in the moment: a moment that bristles with intensity and energy; a moment where your Godlike vibrations burst out through space like a nuclear blast. And that is exactly the type of experience that humans yearn for; they will work for days and nights on end in a job they hate, just because they believe that at the end of their toil there will be a reward: the possibility of a God-moment. They sacrifice so much of their life to a dubious future when what they really crave is already at hand ready to explode into action; when they are capable of loving right now, without waiting for their 'soul mate' to saunter into their life; without waiting for that unique individual whom they singularly permit themselves to love."
"Make love not war; flower power; that sort of thing."
"Except that the love," the angel says missing the sarcasm, "isn't necessarily erotic in nature. In fact, it seldom is."
The man goes to make another jibe then catches himself. He waves a hand through the air as if to say it isn't worth it. When the angel remains silent, he eventually speaks.
"You do realize that if one could love universally then there would be no need to have a partner or wife. Everyone could just give you the same sort of rush your girlfriend could: man, woman or child. Which would also mean that the rush, in your opinion, has nothing to do with the chemistry of your rapport."
The angel considers this. "It is possible that there is a special sort of chemistry between man and woman, but I don't think it's the significant element of the energetic rush we have been talking about. After all, haven't you had particularly vivid dreams in which the rush is present, but the girl is obviously just a figment of your imagination? This would tend to indicate that the important factor is opening the self up to the God-note within us, not the girl. Being in love with her just makes this easier. Which, I guess, is why we misunderstand what's really going on. We believe that this divine state of being is the result of interacting with the most 'perfect-girl-in-the-world', and not one that arises when we drop the orchestral ballast - our ego - that holds our God-nature down - something which, once achieved, would conduce to the same state, with or without the girl."
"So we're barking up the wrong tree when we chase after girls. We ought simply to go to the heart of the matter - a selfless state - and stop confusing ourselves as to the real cause of the 'divine-moment'. Is that what you're saying?"
"Not necessarily. Love for your girlfriend or boyfriend, as I said before, is a divine gift. It overwhelms egoistic concerns and propels the individual towards a selfless state. It descends upon one, eliminating all inner conflict; it is a gift of grace - a moment of karmic respite - where all of one's sins are washed away. So there is no reason to shy away from it. In fact, we should learn from the dynamics of being in love. If we can grasp the essential elements of this state of love then we might be able to reproduce them in wider areas of life. This state of being can be a sort of model, or point of reference, for our behaviour as a whole. We see how we open ourselves up to another, we see how we let the petty concerns of the ego flow away, and we then learn to replicate this state-of-love with all people."
The man pulls a face as if he doesn't quite believe this.
"If that's the case," he says, "wouldn't it then it be ideal to start a new romance each time the 'period of grace' ends? You know, when the magic of a relationship dissolves. In that way you would get a lot of experience of the proper way to love - or be - and should then be able to more easily carry this experience into the wider sphere of life. So give me one girl after the next, I say. Give me a harem; give me an infinite stream of beautiful women."
The angel chuckles as if it actually gets the humour of the point. Its wings flutter slightly.
"In theory that sounds quite appealing, I agree. It would appear that lessons of love could really be hammered home that way until the individual knew them off by heart, until they became something of a reflex action. In practice, however, it's not so easy. I'm not going to go into the emotional difficulties of breaking off a relationship; you've had plenty of experience at that; virtually no one ever manages to get away unscathed. Maybe more important than that, however, is the fact that people find it so easy to mistake the other person as the source of their happiness rather than understanding that their happiness derives from an inner state of being: a merging with the God-note within the self. The other person only facilitates this.
"You see, what tends to happen in practice is that people hop on a merry-go-round, jumping from one person to the next, each time believing that the last person lacked that 'special ingredient' that the new one has; that's to say, the very thing that will make all the difference; the very thing that will help keep the magic or, if not that, then a more subtle form of completeness.
"I admit that after a few goes people believe that the bubbling stages of a romance don't last forever, that they transform into something less sensational but more stable; but as soon as that happens they begin to look for the 'divine note' elsewhere - whether or not they try to talk up the situation by saying that there is now more 'trust' or whatnot than before, that the situation is different, but not worse. This search may take place at work, on the hobby field, or in any brightly-fangled scheme the mind works up; but the basic truth of the situation is that their life now lacks something it didn't in the heady days of romantic completeness. And in most cases people sooner or later either leave their lover for another, or abjectly fantasize about doing so."
"So what is the solution then?"
"The solution is to recognize that happiness comes from within, not from any external source. Once you understand this, then you stop making excuses for yourself and try to cultivate a state of being that conduces to happiness or, as we have been saying, the divine-note within us. You stop looking elsewhere and work with what you already have."
"But this all sounds to me as if it makes no difference who your girlfriend or wife is. I mean, if happiness comes from within, does it really make a difference?"
"Of course it does. Not every girl you meet gives you the energy to stay up all night, walk through the rain, fast and still have a smile in the morning. So in that sense, you really must show some caution before choosing to settle down with someone. All I'm saying is once you've found the person, accept the gift of grace, but don't get greedy. If the magic starts to fade after a period of time, don't look elsewhere. Empty yourself of egoistic desires and give give give - without expecting anything in return. Open yourself up to your loved one without fear and watch the energy return. Because I assure you, it never disappears irrevocably. It might lie hidden for a period of time - even years - but it is just around the corner. So go and summon it. Let is consume you; sacrifice yourself to it. If you do that, your life will lack nothing."
"You make it sound as if a single relationship is all you need in the world, as if it is enough to give you complete happiness."
"In a way that's true. But that is the same with anything done in the proper spirit. If you can merge with the God-note, it doesn't matter what you are doing; you will always feel complete. And in any case, you need to remember that you will be in a lot of different situations during your life. You won't always be with your loved one. Therefore, unless you simply want these to be moments which you sacrifice to some future point of wellbeing, then you'll need to learn to find the divine energetic vibration in a great variety of situations."
"Which, if I remember correctly, means using your relationship as a sort of model."
"Correct. It can be the base or foundation from which you build the rest of your life. And that makes sense, too, because it is perhaps the only thing in life which, at least for a brief period of time, most people can be 100% pleased with.
"So you've just got to learn to act with the gay abandon in life as you do in love. Give without thought of return; open yourself wholeheartedly up to others and empty the self. Then you can properly say that you are living love, which is synonymous with saying that you have become one and the same energetic vibration as God. Then you will lack nothing."
The angel makes this last point with a flourish of the hand and a bow - as if to suggest that the lecture is now over. A moment later it starts to glow then fade into the light behind it. Before totally disappearing, however, it lifts a finger in warning: "Don't try to rationally understand everything I've said. If you do, you will only grow confused and skeptical. Just experiment. See if what I said is true and, if it is, use it. That way you will finally find what you've been looking for: God."
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