Blog by Eric Allen Bell - God is Closer to You than Your Self
To the best of our knowledge, Jesus the Christ did not write a book, nor was he promoting a set of tapes, DVDs or CDs. Jesus did not give motivational weekend seminars. Jesus didn't give interviews. Jesus was never on Oprah.
So since he left no writing behind, we are left with 4 accounts of people who not only said that they knew him and were there, but also seemed to have an incredible memory when it came to memorizing long sermons.
And of course there were others who wrote gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Mary Magdalene and others), but these were not seen as being valid by the Church.
So we are left with second-hand accounts of what others said he said. Later a man named Saul changed his name to Paul and wrote letters to the Church giving them instructions. Among those instructions were that women should not speak in church ever and should keep their heads covered so that God does not see them when "he" looks down from the sky. In the Lutheran Church that I grew up in, we were told that these letters were "Divinely inspired by God" and that after the book of Revelations, God seemed to have ran out of things to say. Either that or he got writer's block. It happens to the best of us.
To question this of course was blasphemy. And God, being a very insecure and temperamental man, does not like that. So, I went through much of my childhood not questioning the "word of God."
One morning at Sunday School I raised my hand and asked my teacher a question. "My new friend who just moved in up the street from me is Jewish. Is he going to go to hell when he dies?" The teacher answered by saying that anyone who does not believe that Jesus was the only son of God, who died for our sins and then was risen from the grave will not go to heaven. And, she added, if you do not go to heaven then you go to hell. When I asked her, "But how do you know this is true?" she said that it was in the Bible.
I dreamed of my new Jewish friend, burning for all of eternity, in a lake of hell fire, and I woke up crying. I could not get the thought out of my head. I prayed and asked God and Jesus to please make an exception in his case. I prayed several times a day and night for weeks about this. Neither of them ever got back to me on this.
I have since read the Bible, nearly all of it. The Bible is not a book but rather a library of 66 books. I do not think it would be smart of me to entirely accept or entirely reject an entire library of books, especially books that are so rich in metaphor and open to interpretation.
I continued to pray compulsively as a child. I begged God and Jesus to please not let my Jewish friend burn in hell fire for all eternity. I prayed for all of the people who would die before finding out the good news about Jesus, and thus be thrown into hell. But it was no use. The pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church told me that, although God was loving, unless my Jewish friend accepted Jesus, he was fucked. Those might not have been his exact words.
I won't bore you with a long story, but when I was 14 years old I became a born again Christian. By the time I was 15 years old I was leading the Bible study behind my high school. There were a few dozen people in attendance and the numbers were steadily growing. I would say a prayer, give a short inspirational sermon and then ask everyone to spread out and preach the gospel to as many people as they could on campus, until lunch was over. My school, Fountain Valley High School, was the largest campus west of the Mississippi and every week more and more students were "giving their lives to Christ" under my leadership.
I would say in retrospect that my intentions were good. I could not bare the idea of all my fellow schoolmates burning in a lake of hell fire for all eternity, when all they had to do was to say this little prayer that was photocopied onto all these little tracts, that we were handing out. We even had copies in Spanish. My heart was sincere and my naive ignorance was real. And then one day I just sort of snapped out of it.
And this was a tragedy, because when I lost the dogmatic belief in my religion, I also lost my sense of connection to a higher power. What followed was a severe spiritual crisis which came to define the years that followed.
Some time later later, after spending time in Juvenile Hall, a mental hospital and then finding myself in a group home for troubled teenage boys, I started to have a bit of a revelation. I had come home from school having stopped on the way back to meet a few friends and smoke pot – something I did a lot of in my teenage years but is not a part of my life today. When I got back to the boy’s home I was very, very stoned. I turned on the TV set and found myself watching channel 18, on UHF. For several hours a day this station showed nothing but talks given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I remembered how, as a very young kid, I used to sit in front of the TV and watch him for long periods of time. If one of my parents found out they would make me turn him off of course since he was not preaching their brand of spirituality and I think that scared them. From the time I was still losing my baby teeth until around my early teens, I watched a lot of Maharishi, having no idea what he was talking about. I was just attracted to his essence. I felt a lightness when I listened to his words. Perhaps it was just the slowness with which he spoke, and all of those flowers on the screen, which put me in a relaxed meditative state. Or maybe he represented something that was more intuitively me.
That day, high in my bedroom of the boy’s home in 1984, I listened to the Maharishi again, but this time I had the vocabulary and the knowledge to get a sense of the meaning behind his words. And it struck me, the Maharish Mahesh Yogi was saying exactly what Jesus was trying to say:
1 – The kingdom of God is within.
2 – Seek first the kingdom of God.
It struck me then as it strikes me now writing these words. The message is so universal, so true and so self evident.
I have since put in many years of study into Vedic scriptures, Buddhism, the Tao and just about everything else I could get my hands on. There are differences and variations in point of view – but one central idea remains the same.
You are Divine. You are a manifestation of Divine Source. That which is Divine is infinite and that which is infinite cannot be divided. It is whole as you are whole. You are one with "God" always. The part is not separate from the whole. And the only thing keeping you separate is an illusion – a trick of the mind. God, or Divine Source, is all there is.
I know this and with this knowledge all things are possible. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you". Jesus is alleged to have said. I like that. I think I would like to believe that he really said it, even though Jesus possibly never existed at all.
Any perception I may have that separates me from Divine Source is unreal - a false perception. The self that believes these un-realities is unreal. And when we awaken to what is truly real, a newer and truer Self emerges. This is what some refer to as Self Realization. We leave the old self in the grave, earthbound, trapped in the world. As a new Self is born we are essentially resurrected. We are born anew, Born Again.
From this state we are able to appreciate all of the beauty within as well as all of the beauty of the material world all around us.
It has been said that God in you, as you, is you. You are one with Divine Source and you always have been. Your soul is imperishable, exists before and after this life and is at one with God always. Your intelligence alone is clear evidence that the Universe from which you came is intelligent. You are not from it, or going towards it or moving away from it - you are it. Nothing of this world can threaten your Essential Self.
What looks out through your eyes right now is Divine. And when you shift your awareness from the finite self to that Divine Source that is within, you are resurrected from the dead to live eternally with the Divine.
The religious establishment is an institutional bureaucracy between two aspects of the Self. Why not simply cut out the middle man?
Here is the truth that the church does not want you to know: I AM the resurrection. And so are you. The part is not separate from the whole.