By Doug Marman

Artwork by Diana Stanley

(This article is an excerpt from The Silent Questions, pages 129-131. It describes an inner experience I had many years ago.)

Bare outlines of a wooded scene filtered into view. My attention locked on and I found myself projecting into a most beautiful world. Trees of bright green, with leaves that flashed in the sun, lined a rushing river. The river filled me with energy and lightheartedness. It flowed with water of blue-green, the lightest hue, like none I had ever seen before. I wondered where it came from.

Then, looking up, I saw the white majestic walls of cliffs and mountains soaring high into the clouds. The rock face fell straight and smooth at least 1,000 feet. I instantly thought of the Hindu-Kush Mountains in Northern Tibet.

I flew upstream searching for some falls where the cold, fresh glacier water crashed from above. I seemed to remember where this might be. But I suddenly swerved right, traveling at a tremendous speed and only half catching images of the changing terrain.

Off in the distance, I saw a yellowy glow reflecting off the trees. As I approached, a campfire revealed itself. Yet, this was no ordinary fire. Its flames filled me with an expansive feeling, as if it could awaken all the secrets throughout the worlds. It was a mysterious light that drew me to it, and I knew exactly why the moth will fly into a scorching flame. I felt this same desire within me.

Like a magnet, it drew me on, and as I approached I noticed that no warmth came from this fire. It spread out only a feeling as vast as space itself. My vision became crystal clear from this energy and I knew that all things grew in harmony with this light. Its glow washed through me and eased all my tensions. There seemed to be a soft sound coming from the light, like a babbling brook, which brought relaxation and an increase in understanding. I reached out to touch it.

My hand felt something solid. I jumped back, startled, for the figure of a man stood now where the fire had been.

Bowing at the waist, he introduced himself. “Prajapati, at your service,” he said with a smile. A merry look that sparkled in his eyes set me laughing at his gesture.

Here was Prajapati, the great Master who guides animals. Watching him before me was like finding the answer to some great mystery I had always longed to know. He walked softly to a stone, placing his hand on the smooth surface as if in some communication. Then he took a seat, pulling his knees up within his arms. He looked off into the distance saying nothing.

After a long period of silence, he turned to me and spoke in a voice that was clear and soft.

“Freedom is the law of nature!

“Nature exists on the breeze, circulating and touching all atoms. It is the call of freedom and the world is soothed by its song. Such shame that man lives and dies for civilization. If he put his faith in nature, I would show him his true kingdom.

“Man is heir to the throne, but his world is paced too fast. Whirlwinds of energy, like invisible tornadoes, dizzy the minds of billions. Where do they all hurry to? I have no idea.

“Yet I marvel at Man. Look what he has done! Man brought the smile to Dolphin. He brought softness to Cat. Loyalty to Dog. He has the gift of God!

“In days of old I walked openly with Man. Do you remember when we met in that glorious empire of Mu? That was the soft rolling land where all things grew without seed, for Life awoke spontaneously in the water and air. Cat was invited into Man’s temples there.

“I stood by the side of fishermen in Atlantis when they built that great bond with Dolphin. Then, in the Northern land of Europe, shepherds led Dog out of the woods to tend their flocks. Look, time has whisked by since then, but what has changed?

“Everything in your world is your kingdom. It is yours to uncover and awaken, for you can see its True Form. No others can see it for you. Forget not even the smallest one by your side, and even Rock and Stone will await your shadow when day’s work is done. Perception is your gift of creation!

“If you give freedom to all things, then you have the secret of nature. I can give you no more. Look to the Inner Master for all else!”

Prajapati stood up again and looked far away toward the horizon. His form gradually faded into a golden light, which grew and grew until there was no saying where it ended. This was truly his world!

The Key to Mental Relaxation

Photo by James Kunley.

By Doug Marman

Hundreds of years ago, people worked from dawn to dusk raising crops, milking cows, and taking care of their children. They were often exhausted, at day’s end, from the sheer physical work.

Today, we suffer from a different kind of stress. More and more we complain about our minds driving us like task masters. We can’t stop the racing of our thoughts. We worry about the chaos in our lives, as if the only way we can survive is by plotting the right path through an obstacle course. The mind isn’t easy to control. A night of peaceful sleep can be like trying to tame wild horses.

The easiest path to mental relaxation is not passivity, as many people think. We don’t need to turn off our thoughts. Instead, we need to work for Life, rather than looking for ways to make Life work for us.

It is refreshing and rejuvenating to be involved in doing something we love, especially when we see it reaching out and touching others. If we are absorbed in our work, knowing it is for a larger purpose, we forget about ourselves.

Spirit then flows out through us, relaxing us. It is deeply satisfying to our mind, because our efforts are aimed toward something—or someone—we care about. This turns it into something meaningful. Therefore, our actions become more spontaneous and natural, when we love what we do.

On the other hand, if we work only for our own gains, to earn money, or for recognition, then our focus turns in on ourselves. This reverses the flow of our attention and undermines our inspiration to do what we love. As a result, the mind becomes divided, and this is where stress begins.

Thinking too much about trying to get what we want robs us of our graceful connection with life. We stop flowing and moving with the world around us, and instead start fighting the forces of the world, as if they were all waged against us. We claw our way to survival. It becomes a perpetual battle that never ends.

Wouldn’t you rather be living a life with purpose—a purpose so compelling that it lights you up from inside? Following your heart means finding something you love. Not for your own benefit, but for others, to create something larger.

How do we learn what it is that truly warms us within? I don’t know. I can’t tell you how to do it, because there is no way of laying traps for love. You find it the same way it finds you. I don’t know how else to put it.

It is often unexpected, like a gift waiting for us one morning, from our lover. It can be so subtle that we miss the opportunity, if we aren’t looking for it. And that’s why searching is so important. It prepares us.

When I search for deep and satisfying love, I find myself considering unexpected paths. I’ll look anywhere. Then, when I least expect it, it finds me. It can seem small at first. But, if I care for it and follow where it takes me, it opens up like a flower.

To relax your mind, learn from the river. Every molecule reaches out to touch others, grasping gently, while churning and spinning and tumbling forward. The flow of water is an amazing dance. All the atoms are so enamored with what they are creating together that they forget about where they are going and what might happen next. Time disappears for them, in the moment.

Let your experience with life carry you along, in the same way. Become an atom in the river that flows out, touching the whole of life itself.

Nothing is insignificant to a lover. Every move and shape has meaning. Every whisper is a song. We can see it in even the smallest things around us. This is what makes life meaningful and relaxes the mind.

The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion

Meteora Monastery - photo by Dragan Sasic

Meteora Monastery in Greece (upper left). Photo by Dragan Sasic.

By Doug Marman

There is only one way to see the difference between spirituality and religion: Through experience. Only by walking the two paths can we see how different they really are.

They start off similarly. A person finds a connection to something larger than themselves. It might come from a book they read, a person they meet, or they could discover it by just being in a certain place. Whatever form it takes, it inspires the person and uplifts their view of life to a new perspective.

At first, it is just a glimmer, but the sensation grows that life is more meaningful than they realized. They find themselves involved in a new reality, at a higher level than ordinary life. This isn’t yet an idea, a pattern, or a teaching. In the beginning, it is simply an experience.

This is where the path forks. Actually, the difference is so subtle that it is easy to miss, because everyone takes the same next step. If we want to experience inspiration, we naturally return to the book, person, or place where we first found it, to feel that spark again.

The similarities diverge here. For religious followers, the form that uplifts them becomes the object of their worship. It becomes holy and sacred to them. They see it as the source of their experience.

On the other hand, for those who walk the spiritual path, whether they realize it or not, it is the experience, itself, that draws them on. Something comes through the words, or the personality of a leader, or the atmosphere of a location that inspires them. This flow of what we might call Spirit is what they are after.

The difference is subtle. In fact, religion begins with spiritual experiences. Therefore, it is almost impossible to distinguish a religious follower from a seeker of spirituality, based on the first steps of their journey. It is the tests of time that prove out which path they are on.

The most significant parting of the ways takes place when a person stops feeling inspired by the form that once awakened them. What do they do now?

Religious followers often question themselves, first. Was there something they did wrong, to lose the feeling of grace they once felt? Most religious teachers encourage this. There is actually a valid reason for this, since the experience of Spirit requires a delicate state of receptiveness; a willingness to align with a new perspective. The flow of spirituality is most dramatic when we willingly let go of our moorings to move with Spirit. This is so subtle we often don’t even realize what we are doing.

If we learn to grow into the new way of life that Spirit shows us, the spiritual experience changes us. It is as if we found a new state of being. This is the promise of inspiration: It alters us and the way we see life. However, once we’ve learned to see with new eyes, the books, teachers, or sacred grounds that moved us, may not uplift us as they once did. In fact, sooner or later the form can hold us back.

This is when we make a choice: Will we place our loyalty to the form above all else, or will we follow Spirit, itself? It isn’t easy choosing, especially if we realize how valuable the gift is that we received. We grew into a new life through the grace of that form. However, there is no middle ground on this decision. We must take one path or the other.

It is this crossroad where questioning one’s self produces different results. The religious follower concludes that the problem is with themselves. They are not worthy. They must have sinned in some way, to bring about this dark night of Soul, as it is called. This is the only conclusion they can come to, because they see the form as sacred, and this holiness exists outside of themselves. Therefore, they are dependent on that form.

Seekers of spirituality take a different course. The experience of Spirit has changed them in such a deeply personal way that it has become a part of them. It exists within them – not as if it took root – but more as if they remembered it was always a part of their being. Therefore, it is no longer something external. It is this experience of Spirit that matters, and nothing but this experience.

This is when they discover an amazing truth that changes their lives forever. They learn that when one door closes, another always opens up. Spirit shows itself through another form, leading us on, to change us again and again, until we can’t see any separation between who we are and Spirit.

When followers of spirituality question themselves, it is to see how they might be holding themselves back, or standing in their own way. What new change do they need to make? What new lesson is life trying to teach them?

The challenges of Soul’s dark nights are no easier. In fact, they can become more difficult as one grows spiritually…until the day comes when we realize that when we feel absolutely alone, with no purpose, this is Soul emptying itself of old meanings. After we’ve experienced this emptiness over and over again, we eventually realize that darkness comes before a dawn. A new beginning. A whole new life is ahead.

The difference between these two paths begins as something too subtle to recognize. Over time, they diverge in dramatic ways. Is it the form that is sacred, or the experience of spirituality, itself? There is only one way to learn the answer: Through experience.

The Masks of God

Masks of GodBy Doug Marman

(This article is quoted from The Silent Questions, pages 234-238)

If the people are Hindu, It has appeared as Krishna, Buddha, or Vishnu, so they would know him. It is Zeus to the Greeks; Jupiter to the Romans; Ishtar to the Babylonians; Varuna to the Aryans; Jesus to the Christians; and Allah to the Mohammedans. It has appeared to all in every age of this world since its creation. As the vehicle for God It has come in the form to which the people are most accustomed and by the name familiar to them.

These are the masks of God. The one timeless power guides and protects whoever may contact It in every age, yet we know no more of It than our own limited understanding. To see Its true form, to personally experience It in Its unlimited reality, we must remove the masks of God to look beneath.

No outer path, no holy book, no metaphysical formula can show It in Its full force. We must find for ourselves what is the truth behind all life. It is a personal journey.

“I have been asked what I mean by ‘The Beloved,’” Krishnamurti, a spiritual teacher who spoke out against the need for organized religion, told an audience in 1927. “To me it is all—it is Sri Krishna, it is the Master Kuthumi, it is the Lord Maitreya, it is the Buddha, and yet it is beyond all these forms. What does it matter what name you give?”

Krishnamurti freed himself of the religious images that hide reality. He had pierced this veil. Yet, fifty years later, he admitted honestly that he still had not solved the mystery.

“Some element is watching over. . . ” he said. “Something is protecting. . . It would be speculating to say what. (What we know) is too concrete, is not subtle enough. But I can’t look behind the curtain. I can’t do it. I tried with Pupul Jayakar and various Indian scholars who pressed me. . . Is this something which we cannot discover, mustn’t touch, is not penetrable? I am wondering. I have often felt it is not my business; that we will never find out. . . We are trying with our minds to touch THAT.”

Our minds cannot fathom God in its true form, for Mind creates mirrors and masks that hide the true reality. Like a computer searching for the source of its own intelligence, Mind can only generate more and more theories that reflect upon itself. Soul Travel is the solution to this impasse. Meeting the God force on the inner planes leaves no doubt in the mind of the seeker, for it is a direct experience of Soul. Unless we free ourselves of the human state, we have not gotten beyond our small range of personal reality. We have not yet touched the universal.

“(The) figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight,” Carl Jung, the psychologist, recorded in his autobiography, “that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, ‘If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made these people, or that you were responsible for them.’”

Jung reached beyond the conscious mind to understand the law of the unconscious – a greater world than our personal opinions and narrow theories can imagine. There, thoughts and feelings exist of themselves and we are the visitors that experience them. How did Jung come to this discovery?

“Shortly before this experience,” Jung explains, “I had written down a fantasy of my soul having flown away from me.”

According to Jung, this was a significant event, because Soul is our connecting link to the inner worlds. Therefore, if one has the experience of Soul leaving, said Jung, this means that it has withdrawn into the inner worlds where it gives life and visible form to an ageless reality.

With Soul Travel as his key, Jung explored further, opening the way from within, but could never quite open the final door. He had many experiences, but where did his insights come from? Who was Philemon? What was this force that was leading him? Jung continued to search for the Reality behind the mask.

“Psychologically,” Jung continued, “Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and  to me he was what the Indians call a guru. . . In my darkness I could have wished for nothing better than a real, live guru, someone possessing superior knowledge and ability, who could have disentangled for me the involuntary creations of my imagination.”

Why are we, like Jung, so unwilling to accept our experiences for what they are? Why do we only go so far in our understanding of God, and then stop?

At times it seems too hard to shake free of our beliefs. We cannot forget the opinions of the world. Everything rises up in our imaginations to keep us from using the keys that we have. We are afraid that our fictions of reality will crumble, leaving us with nothing, yet this crumbling, this falling apart of everything we’ve been taught is the threshold to truth. This struggle, this dark night in our lives is the shadow before the inner gift arrives.

It can be the presence of the God power, an unexpected spiritual experience, a sudden new awareness. It might be simply a feeling of love, or protection. It is different for each, but it is as if we have crossed some invisible line and found our lives are changed. We find an inner guidance leading our steps, yet here too we must see beneath the masks of God.

“While I sat in the cathedral this morning,” wrote a young boy in his diary, Easter Sunday, 1886, (and later published anonymously as The Boy Who Saw True,) “I was wondering about a lot of things to do with God, even though mama would say it was very wicked, because she is always telling us it’s wrong to question what we are told. Then suddenly I saw Jesus, and he said, ‘It is never a sin to think, my son, but it is not always wise to tell one’s thoughts to others.’ And he smiled that lovely smile of his, and was gone. So now I’ve been thinking all the more, because if Jesus says it isn’t wicked to think, I don’t mind what anybody else says.”

The next day a similar experience came to encourage this young boy to see behind the masks of God. Once again Jesus appeared, and said:

“Be not troubled, my son, for that which the multitudes believe to be true is only the faintest shadow of Truth, and much of it is not the Truth at all.”

This boy had no preconceptions about what he saw. He had that wonderful quality of youth to accept and recognize the love of God that poured through this being he called Jesus. Yet, he was soon to learn the truth about this, as well. On   November 25, of the same year, he wrote the following:

“Wonders never cease! Fancy, I’ve been wrong about Jesus all this time, and I found it out yesterday. But I don’t care. Whoever he is I love him just as much, and if he asked me to crawl on my hands and knees to London town, I’d try and do it to please him, though I know he’ll never ask me to do anything so silly. Anyhow this is what I heard him say yesterday, ‘My son, be not sad if I tell you that I am not Jesus, but another one whose name is of no consequence, but who has been your teacher through many lives. . . Bear this in mind, my son: it is not what ye believe but what ye are that weighs with the Exalted Ones, for They look into the heart and not into the head to find the shining jewel.’”

Behind all things flows the river of life. Out of the heart of God it comes to bathe the world and soothe it. Thus the Godman appears in every age to find those who are ready. He can take any shape. He could appear to one or many in contemplation. He can appear as a thousand or even a million different forms to a million different people at the same time. Yet, he is always the one that links up Soul with the path to God.

Each know him by a different name, yet often he walks amongst us, unrecognized. We can try to glimpse him beneath ancient images, but we will only find him in his true form on the inner planes through the direct experience of Soul. Then, through his words, we hear the sound of God. Within his eyes we find the light. We then can travel with him as Soul into the higher worlds of reality.

Only Soul, our higher self, knows when it is time. Only Soul can recognize the call. And when the moment arrives, only Soul of itself can remove the masks of God.

The Oracle Balloons

By Doug Marman

Last month, I became a grandfather. My son and his wife gave birth to twins. A boy and a girl. There’s an interesting story behind this.

About four months ago, a bundle of balloons were bought to our house for a baby shower. As you might expect, most of the balloons lost their lift in a few days. However, two of the balloons kept floating. They were made of Mylar, so the helium leaked out much slower. How long they could they last? We kept them around to see.

After a month, I had the crazy thought that they might last long enough to see the birth of the babies. That would mean staying afloat for about three months, which seemed unlikely.

Then, about two weeks later, I was looking at the balloons with Stephanie, my daughter-in-law, when the inner image hit me: I saw the balloons dropping down off the ceiling when the babies were born! Could something like that happen?

So, after that, everyone was watching the balloons. We would check them regularly. They became a symbol for how the babies were doing. Levan, my son, named them the Oracle Balloons.

Oracle BalloonsThe balloons didn’t budge until February 2. Then, we saw the balloon with the blue streamer come down off the ceiling, briefly, for a few seconds, before bouncing back up. See photo on the left.

Let me explain about the streamers: By the time of the baby shower, we knew there would be twins, a boy and a girl. Most of the family had guessed this even before the doctors confirmed it. Karen, my wife, had a dream where she saw a boy and a girl being born. Stephanie just knew it, inwardly, and a number of us had seen the boy earlier during a Soul Travel exercise.

So, for the baby shower, one of the Mylar balloons was made with a pink streamer, and the other with blue.

The babies’ names were also chosen by early January. The boy’s name is Everett, and the girl is Lena.

Stephanie began guessing, in early Jan, on which day they would be born and how much they would weigh. She tried to get her friends and family to guess. Most everyone had guessed birth dates before the end of Jan, since that was near the due date.

In other words, by Feb. 2, the balloons were already more accurate than most of the guesses.

On Feb 2, we found the blue balloon had somehow dropped down over night to a lower level. But the pink balloon was still firmly on the ceilinEverett's Oracle Balloong.

The next day, we woke up and couldn’t find Everett’s balloon anywhere, until we found that he had wandered into the “living room” and was looking out the window. See the photo on the right. Everett was clearly ready. But Lena’s balloon was still sticking to the ceiling. She was happy in the warm oven, and wasn’t ready to leave.

Nothing changed until Feb 6, when Everett’s water broke, around 10 pm. Before we left for the hospital, I noticed that Lena’s balloon was briefly coming down from the ceiling for the first time.

What we didn’t realize was that when the babies’ water broke, it was only Everett’s birth sac. When fraternal twins are born, they are almost always in two separate sacs. We found out afterthe birth that the babies were in two separate sacs, but their sacs were joined by a common side. It was like a single sac with a divider, keeping the babies separate, yet connected. The nurse told us that this was rare, but was the best option for twins.

Oracle Balloons After the Twins are BornEverett was born first. The doctors broke Lena’s water a minute or two before she was born. They were born around 11 am on Feb 7, within 11 minutes of each other.

So, when we got back home, after the birth, I wrapped the two streamers from the balloons around each other, since the babies had been separate, but attached. When connected like this, both balloons were all the way down to eye level, in the living room, with their tails dragging on the ground. Photo on left.

That’s the story of the oracle balloons. They were never changed in any way. Everything happened naturally, including the births.

It still amazes us that the balloons would remain on the ceiling for 3 months, and would both come down around the time of birth. Everett’s came down first, as if he was ready, waiting on Lena, who needed more time. But they were connected, so Everett had to wait.Lena and Everett

The birth went full term, which is not usual for twins. The balloons were more accurate than anyone’s guess, and gave us a perfect depiction of what was happening. It was like an insider’s view. You couldn’t ask more from an oracle.

Things like this happen all the time, around us. We often miss the subtle messages. Who would think to watch balloons? We are fortunate when we catch a glimpse of the way life speaks.

Cultivating Our Spiritual Purpose

By Doug Marman

Recently, I was invited to be opening speaker at an Eckankar retreat for Washington State. The following is from my talk:

Rumi's Tomb

Rumi’s Tomb in Konya, Turkey, with Mevlevi Dancers

The theme of tonight’s program is inspiring: Consciously Walking Your Own Path. As I was preparing for this talk, I wondered, “Who are the best examples of people who consciously walk their own path?” I immediately thought of spiritual teachers down through time. So, I thought it might be interesting to hear what Shams-i-Tabriz and Jalal al-Din Rumi had to say about God Consciousness.

Rumi says in his discourses:

“There is one thing in this world that must never be forgotten. If you were to forget all else, but did not forget that, then you would have no reason to worry. But if you performed and remembered everything else, yet forgot that one thing, then you would have done nothing whatsoever.

“It is just as if a king sent you to the country to carry out a specific task. If you go and accomplish a hundred other tasks, but do not perform that one task, then it is as though you performed nothing at all. So, everyone comes into this world for a particular task, and that is their purpose. If they do not perform it, then they will have done nothing.” 1

Rumi is talking about our spiritual purpose and the importance of carrying it in our life. However, the way Rumi and Shams explain it, it really isn’t “our” purpose, as if it was something that belonged to us. It is more as if it owns us. So, this raises the question: How do we gain God Consciousness and a spiritual purpose?

Shams said this:

“Beyond these outward spiritual leaders who are famous among the people and mentioned from the pulpits and in assemblies, there are the hidden saints, more complete than the famous ones. And beyond them, there is the sought one that some of the hidden saints find. Maulana (Rumi) thinks that I am he, but that’s not how I see it.” 2

The “sought one” is of course a term that Shams used for the people of his time. Every religion has its own name. However, it is clear that what he is referring to is what ECKists call the Mahanta. But, does this paragraph mean that Shams is saying he was not the Mahanta? No, that’s not what he meant, and Rumi understood this.

What Shams is saying is that from the state of God Consciousness he cannot look up to himself as a Master. Attaining mastership means surrendered to the God state. In other words, it doesn’t come from him, but only through him.

That’s why Shams later said this:

“Which arrow is it that strikes you? These words.
“Which quiver do these arrows come from? From the world of the Real.
“Whose bow do they fly from? God’s…
“These arrows will take you to the world of the Real. They are in the quiver there, but I can’t shoot them. The arrows I shoot all go back into the quiver from where they come.”


A painting of Shams-i-Tabriz, circa 1503

Once again Shams’ words are a bit obscure, but contain valuable insights: Why can’t he shoot the arrows? Why does he mean by this?

He is saying that the arrows that fly from the Master, and the arrows that strike us and pierce our hearts, do not come from him. God shoots those arrows. All that Shams does is shoot arrows back to God.

This is fascinating, because it means that our spiritual purpose comes completely from God and belongs wholly to God. We can’t take credit for what comes through us. All that we can really do is shoot arrows that fly back to God, for the sake of all reality.

This is another way of saying that the role of the Masters is to return those who are ready, back to Soul’s original home. The arrows they shoot show us the way, because they fly straight to the heart of God.

Shams makes another interesting comment: Everything in all the books we’ve ever heard about describes the path for seekers. This is not the path of the God Conscious – it is the path of seeking. Nothing has ever been written about the path of God Consciousness.

“The story of the sought one cannot be found in any book, nor in the explanations of religion, nor in the sacred treatises – all those are explanations for the path of the seeker. We’ve only heard about the sought ones – nothing more has been said.”
“In the whole world, words belong only to the seeker.”
“The sought one has no mark in this world. Every mark is the mark of the seeker.”

Why has nothing been given out about the path that the God Conscious follow? Shams gives us a hint, once again in is cryptic way:

“Some of God’s servants are ‘active,’ some are ‘speaking.’ You need an active leader more than you need a speaking leader.”

What Shams means by “active” is the inner action and work they do. In other words, what he is saying here is that true Masters work both outwardly, with spoken words and teaching, as well as inwardly. And it is their inner action that is most important.

Rumi tells a story that explains this further. He uses the example of a spiritual leader widely known to the people of his time:

“When Uthman became caliph, he stepped up into the pulpit. The people waited to see what he would say. He was silent and said nothing. He looked steadily at the people, and a state of ecstasy descended upon them so that they were unable to move and could not tell where they were. Not by a hundred preachings and sermons could he have shown them such an excellent state. Precious lessons were imparted and secrets revealed. Until the very end, he only looked at them like this, not saying a word. Then, just before leaving the pulpit, he said, ‘It is better for you to have a working Imam than a speaking Imam.'”

Anyone who has had this experience knows exactly what Rumi means. Inner experience is more valuable than a thousand books. It is the inner Master and direct spiritual experience that reveal precious secrets of the path. However, this is all still for the sake of the seeker.

What about this inner action? How do we learn the path of action, which means finding our spiritual purpose? A student of Rumi’s asked him this same question. Here was his answer:

“I am looking all over the world for students of action so I can teach action. I am looking all over the world for anyone who knows action, but I find no students of action–only of words. So, I occupy myself with words. What do you know of action? Action is only known through action. There is not one traveler upon this road–it is empty–so how will anyone see if they are on the true path of action?”

In other words, God Consciousness is not about seeking; it is only action. Not the outer acts that people think of as deeds, but pure inner action. This means being a co-worker with God. Only a small fraction of pure action is ever visible in this world, because such arrows all fly back to the original source. If we are fortunate, we catch glimpses of those hidden arrows.

Now it becomes clear why no one can describe the path of God Consciousness; because it is something you live. There are no followers of inner action because there is no way to follow. It is only something you do. It is not something you can follow.

If we step back and look across history, we see that western religious teachings generally tell us that illumination comes like a bolt from the heavens, similar to what St. Paul experienced on the road to Damascus. The lesson is to surrender and be humble, to prepare ourselves for the light of God. Eastern religions, on the other hand, generally teach that we need to reject the outer world and give up our outer desires to withdraw within, where we will find the treasure.

When it comes to God Consciousness, however, Shams and Rumi say that neither is the path. While we cannot possibly attain such a state by our own power alone, we must be bold enough and trust in God enough to take that step. We must give up everything we know and risk everything, to begin acting as a co-worker with God. It is the most humbling of experiences.

How could we ever be worthy? We can’t. Of course, we’re not worthy! But we must be able to surrender all concerns, including our unworthiness, in order to work from a state of consciousness greater than Soul, Itself. Of course it is beyond us, which is why we must leave behind doubts and fears to work from the God state. This means giving up seeking for our own personal spiritual growth and taking up growth for the sake of all Life. The needs of all Life become our needs.

Rumi tells a story showing the difficulty of taking such a step. The story is about a lion that became famous around the world, in his day. He says this lion had a special quality: Those who approached him boldly, and rubbed their hands upon him with love, were never harmed. But if they were afraid or approached timidly, the lion would be enraged against them. Sometimes he even attacked, as if to say, “Why do you have such a bad opinion of me?”

Rumi tells the rest:

“A certain person, marveling at the rumor, traveled from far away to see the lion. For a year this person endured the rigors of the road, travelling from town to town. After finally arriving at the thicket and spying the lion from afar, this lion-seeker stood still and could advance no closer.

“People said to this person, ‘You set forth on a long road out of love for this lion. For this creature you have struggled on for a year. Now that you have come so close, why do you stand still? Advance one more step!’

“But none of them had the courage to take a further step. They all said, ‘The steps we took up to here were all easy. Yet this one step is beyond us.'”

Paul Twitchell told his story about pulling the Tiger’s Fang in his book of the same name, which was also about the step of God Consciousness. It is easy to talk about God Consciousness, but something altogether different to take that step. That is something rare, indeed. That’s why Paul said only the bold and courageous would succeed. We must step beyond anything we know. It takes far more than faith, says Rumi, it takes a knowingness that nothing can shake.

I used the word “cultivate” in the title – Cultivating Our Spiritual Purpose – because from everything I’ve seen, God Consciousness is not something we can find, and it is not something that just comes to us from out of the blue. It is something that grows. It is a living reality.

We need to care for the seeds of love for truth that come our way and water them with our attention. They are living gifts planted in our hearts by God. Then, like a garden we need to weed and pull out negative emotions. We need to dig out the roots of all such thoughts of unworthiness and doubt. But we can never take credit for what a garden produces, since it is all an expression of life.

There is one big difference between tending a garden and cultivating our spiritual purpose: Watering and caring for living things outside ourselves is nothing like our own being becoming transformed into something beyond anything we know. Our Self is no longer our own. Actions that spring through us suddenly come from a Universal reality.

Rumi describes what this change means is in the following discourse, where he talks about hidden Masters who work directly for God:

“There are certain lovers of God, who, because of their great majesty and fervor for God, do not show themselves openly, but they cause disciples to attain important goals and bestow gifts upon them. Such mighty spiritual saints are rare and precious.

“Someone asked Rumi: ‘Do the great ones come before you?’

Rumi answered: “There is no ‘before’ left to me. It has been a long time since I have had any ‘before.’ If they come, they come before an image they believe to be me. Some people said to Jesus, ‘We will come to your house.’ Jesus replied, ‘Where is my house in this world, and how could I have a house?'”

In other words, God Consciousness means gambling away Soul, Itself, for the sake of God. This step means nothing to this world. It is an inner step made alone. There are no followers. It is a step of pure action. But as strange as it might seem, it can also be often found in the smallest of things.

One of Rumi’s students was prince of the local area. He came to Rumi’s classes, and was berating himself for not spending enough time on a high spiritual purpose, being so occupied with worldly matters. Rumi said to him:

“Those works, too, are work done for God, since they are the means for providing peace and security for your country. You sacrifice yourself, your possessions, and your time so the hearts of others will be lifted to peacefully obeying God’s will. This, too, is good work. God has inclined you towards such noble labor, and your great love for what you do is proof of God’s blessing. However, if your love of work were to weaken, this would be a sign of grace denied, for God leads only those who are worthy into the right attitudes that earn spiritual rewards.

“Take the case of a hot bath. Its heat comes from the fuel that is burned, such as dry hay, firewood, dung and the like. In the same way, God uses what to outward appearance looks evil and nasty, yet in reality is the means to cleanliness. Like a bath, men and women fired by the efforts of work become purified and a benefit to all people.”

In other words, don’t underestimate even the smallest of things done well. Love for the work we do transforms even the lowliest things into pure action. Love for our work is one of the signs that Spirit is filling our life with true action.

Whether raising a family, working for a business, or helping teach about the path, enthusiasm for what we do, and doing it with care, shows us that currents are flowing from the spiritual hierarchy through our work and giving it life.

Our spiritual purpose cannot be found, it finds us. But we must care for it as a living gift. If we can give up our whole life to it, then it turns everything it touches into gold.


1All quotes of Rumi are from: It Is What It Is: The Personal Discourses of Rumi, translation and commentary by Doug Marman.

2All quotes of Shams are modified quotes from: Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi, translated by William C. Chittick, Fons Vitae, Kentucky, 2004

The Revolution of Spirituality

By Doug Marman

Independence Hall, PA

From the stairway of Independence Hall

When spirituality turns its gaze beyond this physical world, it becomes revolutionary. This is something that can’t be avoided, whether it is intended or not, which is why spirituality has brought about more changes to civilization, down through history, than any other force.

This thought struck me as I was walking through Independence Hall in Philadelphia, last week. I took the picture on the right while standing on the stairway of Independence Hall, as I thought about the amazing times of the American Revolution.

The US Declaration of Independence was first signed and read out publicly here, and it was in this building that the US Constitution was created after months of work behind closed doors and shuttered windows. These are changes that shook the world.

Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution show signs of the extraordinary spiritual spark that transformed the revolt into something more than just a struggle against oppression and unfair taxes. This spiritual upheaval began a hundred years earlier, when The Age of Enlightenment started emerging and openly examining the principles of religion and government. Then, in the early 1700’s, the Great Awakening of the American colonies sprang to life from such leaders as Jonathan Edwards. Thomas Paine and dozens of others followed later, writing that religion must not be controlled or contained. The human spirit needs to be free to pursue all of life. Religious belief is only meaningful when it comes from within us.

These principles were written into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Never before had the inalienable right for spiritual self-discovery been incorporated into the founding documents of a government.

Yet, for some reason, this aspect of the revolution is often forgotten. The modern day image of religion now seems to be all about tradition. Religion, these days, seems to be perpetually trying to catch up with our changing world. It doesn’t seem to be leading, but following and even holding us back. When we hear about religious revolts, they are usually fundamentalists desperately trying to hang onto past times and ages.

There has always been a polarity between spirituality and religion, because organized religion focuses on the world and its place in the world, while spirituality is an individual experience. Therefore, the two have often been at odds. History books are filled with examples of Christian mystics in perpetual battles with the church. Yet those same mystics would later be canonized as saints. We can find just as many Sufis who were hounded by Muslim fundamentalists and sometimes martyred, yet their teachings have become the heart of Islamic belief today.

We find this in every religion: Spiritual revolution starting a new religion that then tries to stop the world from changing. It is strange. Every major religion sprang from leaders who were revolutionary in their vision and lives. Jesus Christ, for example, challenged Jewish practices as he pushed his people to follow a higher law. Buddha turned away from his world to find the true meaning of life and how to live. Mohammed moved Arabs from tribal feudalism that ruled the mid-east in his day, to a belief in one reality behind all realities.

In Karen Armstrong’s book, The Great Transformation, she shows that all of the major religious traditions were founded on dramatic new visions of life. They came from leaders who were focused on something beyond the world. They were moved by a spiritual purpose. They raised the sights of people beyond politics and power struggles.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell (photo by Doug Marman)

Yet, today, people see religion as useless. We’ve lost interest in spiritual revolution because life seems to have no ultimate meaning. Therefore, those who are moved by a reality beyond this world are indeed the outsiders of modern life.

Our secular age came from a thousand years of spiritual revolution, working to create a culture where each person would be treated as an individual and that their own beliefs would be seen as sacred. Charles Taylor shows this clearly in his recent book, A Secular Age. It was continuous spiritual striving and experimentation that led us to freedom of religion. But the modern view now says that all of this was created to shed religion and leave it behind, like a vestige of the past.

It is perhaps the strangest reversal of all times.

We are taught today to not believe. Religious beliefs are tolerated, but only fanatics adopt them. This world is all there is, and our physical life here is who we are and the only thing we have. Anyone who believes in more than this is a fool.

Science and experimentation began as a spiritual search for truth to better understand the incredible creation of life, but now is used to prove that we don’t need religion. The industrial revolution was seen as creating a new world where people could have leisure time to pursue spiritual goals. The leisure time arrived, but materialism has grown even faster.

A strange shallowness has spread across the masses. However, real individualism doesn’t come from stylish clothing or cool sunglasses. It comes from following the beat of our own inner drum, not what is popular. This is what transforms us. It must be something that grows out of our own understanding and only comes through individual spiritual search. It takes courage to step away from the path of popular belief to decide for ourselves what we know, and to understand what we don’t know, but this is where we find a true sense of purpose and meaning.

Those who live this way are true individuals. They are the ones who bring real changes to the world, because they are moved by forces from deep within. Their inspirations vitalize our culture.

Whether they realize it or not, they are revolutionaries.

Giving Up the Taste of Blood

By Doug Marman

Photo by Stephen J. Sullivan

Vampire myths have swept across the U.S. again. We seem to be visited by vampires at least once a generation. This time, the new Twilight series of books and movies, by Stephenie Meyer, are sparking the imagination.

The first book came to Stephenie from a dream. She woke one morning, having just seen an incredibly handsome, sparkly vampire falling in love with a girl, while the desire to drink her blood raged within him. He was torn between love and the instinctive drives of his body.

Her books stir up interesting spiritual discussions, especially for teenagers, whose bodies are going through their own transformations. Will this new animal nature coursing through their blood take over? Will they lose who they are?

Or can they overcome what is now changing their bodies? Will they rise above the urges for sex and the hunger for power over others? Can they sacrifice their own desires for the sake of love?

In other words, these stories deal with the age-old issues of living honestly, being who we are, and caring for all of life, not just ourselves. It just happens that these questions are important to teenagers because of their own transitions, where the power of their bodies and the emergence of new instincts are forcing them to make choices. They know that their lives are being shaped by the desires they choose to follow.

Every teenager has seen friends who rush after the new sensations of their bodies without once asking what they are losing in the process. Some are pulled down by these forces, like swimmers caught in the undertow of an ocean. They are changed by the taste for these new powers, the taste of blood you might say, and desires rule their lives.

Meyer’s books and vampire myths use the imagination to explore the greater potential for what we are. Most in society are just followers, unaware of what is possible. It takes self-confidence to break from the pack and to take a stand. It takes an inner strength to not allow ourselves to be limited or trapped by the subconscious desires of our own bodies.

We face similar dilemmas throughout our lives. It’s not just teenagers. For example, will we adopt the taste for competition in business, and what is it we are looking for when we do this? Will we be sucked in by the drive for success, fame, and power? Will the love for money and wealth change us? Will we become consumed by addictions? Will anger rage through us and take us over?

How do we give up the taste of blood once bitten? Once we have taken on a physical body, how do we overcome such powerful urges? We are all in the same situation. Our lives tell the same story.

It’s not easy for young people to talk about spiritual issues these days, even though these are some of the most important choices of their lives. So, even if vampires can’t be seen in mirrors, they become great mirrors for teenagers to see their own lives in.

A thousand years ago, a different kind of story spread across Europe and the Middle East. At first, it doesn’t seem similar at all to vampires, but the parallels are fascinating. In those days, tales of Chivalry suddenly became popular, especially amongst the youth. Tales were told by traveling troubadours, who sang and read poetry about sacrificing for love, and fighting for what was true and honorable. These were not just bed time stories. They changed the world.

This was when marriage for the sake of love established itself as the standard in our culture. Before then, people married by the choices of their families. People discovered a deeper happiness and sense of purpose with love, even if it meant the loss of wealth and power.

The practice of Chivalry lifted people’s imagination to live for noble purposes. People were willing to die for the sake of honor and doing what was right. This took place at a time when wars touched everyone, and there were real dangers in acts of Chivalry. It won so many people over that it became recognized as the supreme act of bravery. Those who practiced it discovered a power to overcome their fears and give them a taste of something immortal. This evolved into the search for the holy grail, the immortality gained by living the spiritual life.

Those are clearly religious images. Very different from the secular age we live in today, where open discussion about spiritually is taboo, especially amongst teenagers. Therefore, religious icons of sainthood are out, which means vampires fit right in. So, it is natural that vampires would become the modern day valiant knights fighting for nobility and love. They are the new spiritual icons.

No matter what cover you put over it, the story is the same. In every age, we just change the names. Will we let social pressures or our physical bodies control our imagination? We have all tasted blood, because it runs through our veins. Yet, we are something more than this.

The scope of our spirit has no limits, except the limits we put upon ourselves. Edward, the vampire, chose to overcome the taste of blood for the sake of love and discovered something even more powerful than immortality: Freedom of spirit and the power of a noble life.

We do indeed find saints in the strangest places.

The Lost Secret of Endings

By Doug Marman

New Year’s Day Snow Storm (photo by Doug Marman)

With new years, it is a custom to think back over the last twelve months and to set down new goals for the future. Time for reflection and resolutions. However, there is another opportunity that is often overlooked.

Look closely at the transitions of time and you can see that with every start there is an ending. Yet, we tend to miss the end of things in our modern age, and in the process we overlook something more important than we realize.

Our whole culture seems to be focused on youth, the outflow of life, and the birth of new creations in the world. We avoid death. We don’t like final moments. This comes from a common misunderstanding about the flow of life. We think it is continuous, but it is not. Gaze deeply and you will see that each moment is separated from the next by an instant.

Hidden in the flow of life are continuous endings, beginnings, and instantaneous rest points between them.

Most people are not conscious of the space between moments, yet this is where we can change life. This is where the little choices we make become far more powerful than the big plans we try to accomplish.

Understanding how to end things is the key to giving us what we need to move forward. If we cannot close the loop, we cannot let go, and all of our energies become tied up in things that no longer exist.

Some of the strangest ideas of our modern world revolve around the end of life. If you were an alien visiting this planet, you would find it bizarre. We hide almost all signs of death from public eyes. We become obsessed about safety. We restrain ourselves and others from living fully, to push off death.

Therefore, when dying hits us, the experience of it is generally shocking and disturbing. The idea that it could be the end, with nothing beyond, truly frightens people to their core.

In previous eras, we cared for the sick and dying in our homes. We raised and killed the animals we needed for food. We faced death every day and understood the meaning of it better than we do today.

Most primitive cultures treated the killing of animals as a sacred act. Food was accepted with thanks, knowing that another creature gave up their life for them to live. They were involved in such sacrifices every day and it gave them a meaning to life that we have forgotten.

In our modern world, we put off thinking about our death for as long as we can. The unknown is scary. Our imaginations run away with us and we picture the worst. We are like juvenile delinquents when it comes to preparing for our death. We don’t want to plan for that. We don’t want to even think about it.

I think this is why we spend our lives focusing on what we have and hope to have, and we ignore our endings.

It is interesting to see the changes in people who have had near death experiences. There are thousands of such cases reported every year. We hear a consistent statement from most of them: They lose their fear of death.

It is as if they dramatically experienced that space between moments and it changes everything for them.

They come back saying how valuable life is. They are far more capable of living every second because they know that death is an incredibly beautiful ending and transition into another world.

In other words, experiencing the instant of death awakens them to a deeper relationship with life. What is it that empowers them? It is the freeing up of the energies they had left behind. They were able to fully withdraw, let go and seal up their past. This brings the full freshness of life into the moment.

It is interesting to see how Christianity displays the image of Jesus on the cross. It has come to represent a symbol of how he suffered and died for our sins to offer us protection. This is almost the complete opposite to how early Christians saw it. In the first few centuries, this image became a powerful symbol showing Jesus’ fearlessness towards death. This was the higher reality he lived by that let him accept the end of this worldly life in order to begin a greater one.

His fearlessness unleashed the Christian movement, and it grew so large it eventually threatened the Roman Empire. The only power that Rome had over others was the threat of death. But once thousands of people were willing to die for a higher reality, the greatest government in the world was helpless against them. This is how early Christians discovered how to make their death a gift for the sake of life. This was what the icon of the cross stands for. It took them out from under the rule of physical forces and put them into the hands of a greater existence.

This same power comes when we give up our moments to life.

Therefore, we should not just think ahead about the new things we want to accomplish as we begin a new year. We should also think about all the endings we are leaving behind. We can give them up and let them go as if they are gifts we are giving away. We can willingly release them as our sacrifice. This honors them and gives thanks for what they gave, offering them a beautiful passing.

If we practice this each year and learn to treat each moment this way, eventually we will outgrow our juvenile behavior and even one day prepare for our own death. We can picture our own dying as a gift to life. It is after all the greatest thing we can give up. Why not spend some thoughts toward making it a great and beautiful ending, so that we have prepared for it, when the time comes?

Sound like a strange idea?

I believe that time only belongs to those who give it away. It rules everyone else, which is why they never find enough time to live.

The Burden of Consciousness

By Doug Marman

“Door in the Shadow” by Utku Yasavul

How often do we see people running away from awareness? They don’t want to know.

Many take up drinking for this reason, or drugs. Some get lost in religious fanaticism, become groupies of movie stars, or addicted to TV and entertainment. These are ways of escaping.

When people turn to religion, they often want God to take care of them, or they want to believe in something absolutely true, so that they won’t have to think about the questions of life.

One of the most unfortunate things that can happen with a spiritual search is when it deteriorates into asceticism — when seekers believe that suffering is needed to be saved. It is a desperate attempt at freeing themselves from the bondage of materialism, but they are going about it the wrong way. It is just another form of running away from awareness.

People who have had bad relationships will often avoid getting close to others. Love seems too difficult and painful. They can’t face another heart crushing experience, so they shun intimacy.

Lots of people think they are pursuing freedom, when they are really running away from the responsibility of consciousness. Aren’t these all forms of the death wish? The desire to fall asleep?

I sometimes call this “The Burden of Consciousness.”

After all, we didn’t choose to be conscious, did we? It is as if people want to give this gift back to God and say, “I don’t want this.”

Life says, “Trust me. It grows on you.”

If we think in terms of symbols, most people are like downward facing triangles, focusing on all the issues and problems of the material world. They agonize over how others see them, whether they are succeeding or failing in the eyes of the world. They worry about all the forces of life that seem to be flooding in upon them. They feel trapped and helpless against the pressures of energies flowing down on them that are too powerful to control.

Not understanding their true innate nature, that Soul of itself is free and can be happy under any conditions, they suffer and run away from their own awareness. Not seeing how the troubles of life all bring gifts, and not realizing how to move with the flow of life to learn from it, their lives become filled with stress. If only they could turn that triangle face up.

In other words, there is a lesson in the desire to escape. Dying can help us let go and move on. We can’t escape our creations, but we can give up our attachment to them. Should our happiness rise and fall based on how the world accepts our creations? Isn’t the whole point of this death wish an inner desire to give up all our worries and to turn our triangle face up?

I think the true underlying need within us is the desire to become more aware and this is why it is important to listen, to understand these messages. Our subconscious raises such dire images of disaster and suffering because it wants our attention. This is how the Shadow often works in our lives. It does things to upset us, like a child does, to get attention. This is just its way of saying that it needs our consideration and love.

Some parents set aside time for their children, where they encourage them to put on shows and plays. It is time for them to watch and give their children care and attention. We can do the same thing with our Shadow, which is our subconscious.

Facing our shadow

For example, if the death wish arises, we can take time to ask our Shadow to show and display its best death scenario. How would it go? Would there be weeping and crying afterwards? Would the Shadow like to be there to see its own funeral? Is this the kind of attention it is looking for? Is this the only way it knows if it is really loved — by seeing the sadness of others after it has left this world? But once we escape all the troubles of love and life, what happens next?

Go through this with your Shadow — feel what it feels because you care about it — and you will transform it. It will move from the darkness into light and it will change from something that tries to embarrass you into something that guides and helps you. Once we truly start listening to our subconscious, to the feelings that lurk below our own awareness, we find that it possesses wisdom beyond our expectations. It is not asking us to face the burden of consciousness because of our failures, but to surrender to life because we trust it, and to find once again our natural lightness of being.

Only we can transform the Shadow. Only we can move it into the daylight and make it our friend. It can be a traumatic experience going through this at first, because it means learning to love the very things we have shunned and criticized. But in the end, we realize how much more important truth is for us. We need truth to thrive.

The story of the Shadow is like the old Gothic novels where an unwanted child has been locked away in a dungeon, until it breaks out one day. We too, lock away the Shadow, which is a part of ourselves that we don’t want others to see.

Sooner or later we need to accept this child as our own, to love it as a part of ourselves. Then we discover that even the ugliest and most disfigured children can return more love than we ever imagined. This shows us how wrong we were about what is truly important. And before our eyes our inner child becomes beautiful.

This is how the Shadow changes us, through the gift it gives us. It brings a fulfillment and completeness that makes all burdens worthwhile.