Inner Light Meditation (an adaptation of Self-Light Exercise)

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Note: As with all exercises and meditations,  it is important to proceed with a clear sense of your own inner knowing and grounding. Feel free to adapt imagery and open to the experience you are being inwardly drawn to. If, at any time, you feel uncomfortable, stop and reassess. Perhaps try again at a later time or, if it doesn’t feel right, do not continue at all. As David says, exercises and meditations are made for us, not the other way around.

This Inner Light Meditation is adapted from David Spangler’s Expanded Self-Light Exercise.

Take a moment to center yourself: breathe deeply and allow the details of the day, hour, moment to fade into the background. Settle into yourself.

Call to mind an image of God/Source/Spirit…when you imagine Divinity,  what do you see? A motherly presence? A great-grandfather with white beard and kindly face? An angelic being? Do you see a great burst of light and energy, spanning across eons, timeless and spacious? Or the eternal tree of life with its roots stretching downward to infinity and its limbs branching upwards into myriad worlds? Do you see an infant, quiet and humble? However God comes, attune to this Presence. Honor this Presence.

Now call to mind an image of yourself when you have felt the most yourself– full, vibrant, fulfilled, sparkling. Where were you? What were you doing? Were you a child in a school play? On a road trip the summer after graduation with your closest friends? The day you married your best friend? Every day you wake up to teach children, your life’s dream?  Swimming in the ocean? Quilting? Running? Learning to play the guitar in the corner of your bedroom? Singing karaoke for the first time at 34? Or do you feel the most yourself when you care for others? Allow yourself to feel into these moments in your life, whatever they happen to be. Allow them to echo within you…remind you of the essence of life, which is love.

Yes, you are the result of such love! You are alive! You are bright and full of self-hood! You have consciousness! You have a body!  You are present! You are here, now!

Focus upon the sense of fullness and brightness generated by knowing that you are alive. Imagine yourself surrounded by brightness, by light.

Sense the light surrounding you flowing from within your Self. It is not borrowed light. It is the light gifted to you, a gift of love, because you are alive. You are courageous, a pioneering spirit.

Yet even the best planned lives sometimes go awry. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we hoped. Sometimes we love and we lose. Sometimes we love and we win, and yet other precious things get lost in the exchange. Sometimes we disappoint ourselves and others. Or others disappoint us. Sometimes we change. Even when we know better, we sometimes make foolish choices…. Allow yourself to feel the fullness of what it means to be alive–the pain, the frustration, the craziness. At the same time cradle this darkness in the light of life, the light of Your Life. These dark, painful moments do not dim our inner lights.

You see, it takes incredible courage to be born. To take on a body. To choose parents, a culture and point in history to be born into. To risk this dream called life. Why are you alive now and not a hundred years ago? What uniqueness lies within you that has come so far to express itself? Recognize and honor your bravery and the inner light inherited by saying yes to this life dream.

Self light is the light within you because you are alive.  Allow this light to spread through you, surrounding your physical body. Re-member this light in memories of yourself. It is present within you in your greatest moments. It is present in spite of your greatest disappointments. It is the light within all of you. It holds everything.

Return to your image of God, surrounded by Divine Light. From this inner place full of self light, again honor this Divine Presence. Then, gently, allow this God-image to fade away, realizing that the light within you remains. Your self-light is an echo of Divine Light combined with the Light generated by being born on Earth. It is the Presence of the Sacred within–as well as the sacred intent of your own Soul which you are an expression of.

When you are ready, gently bring this meditation to a close. Return to your day and your life knowing that you are a child of Sacredness, a being of light in your own right.

The Story of Light

David Spangler’s childhood vision “on the road to Damascus” introduced him to the Source of Light and laid the foundation for his eventual understanding of the process of incarnation. Ten years later a second vision changed the course of David’s life and shaped the structure of what ultimately came to be known as Incarnational Spirituality.

David writes in Apprenticed to Spirit: The Education of a Soul:

There were no bells or whistles. There was no out-of-body flight or any sensations of entering an altered state of consciousness. There was nothing as dramatic as what had happened when I was seven. I only saw a human figure in front of me.

This was not a specific person but a generic individual, almost like a department store mannequin. It was not a being of Light as I was used to seeing, but seemed sculpted from light that glowed from within itself. It definitely appeared solid and physical, even though radiant with light.

It seemed bursting with meaning; so much so that if information were heat and light, it would seem that this individual was standing in front of a furnace. I felt overwhelmed by the insights this figure contained, and could not grasp them all. Almost fifty years later, I am still unpacking the information it had to offer.

But one thing stood out. This figure represented an incarnate person in physical embodiment. It was neither a spiritual nor a non-physical being. It was not an image of what a person might become if he or she left the physical plane or became some kind of ascended master. It was an image of the spiritual Light contained within and radiating from the act of individuation and personhood. It was the light of being a person.

As I watched, the figure changed into a chalice and then became a figure again. It did this three times altogether, as if emphasizing that this person also represented a quality of holding. Afterward, I thought of this figure as “the person who is also a chalice.”

At the same time this vision unfolded in front of me, I sensed the presence of a group of inner beings in the background, one of whom came to stand behind me. He said quite distinctly, “There is a new spirituality emerging, a spirituality of personhood and incarnation. It will represent a new way of being in the world.” And then he said, “Your work is to help this emergence.”

Then the vision faded.

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My main purpose in sharing these visions is to establish this most basic framework, without which any study of Incarnational Spirituality may be largely incomplete or impeded; from the perspective of this emerging spirituality, the origin of the human being is an Order of Light.

Having said that, I don’t think that the old stories of creation need to be forgotten, ignored or even directly challenged. They are part of our cultural inheritances, our ways of coming to terms with living in the world, and need to be honored as such.

Yet I fully admit that it may take a great deal of courage for some of us to believe that human beings can be inherently more than weak, frail, fragile and sinful.  Or that our egos deserve the same place of distinction that our souls possess.

But at the beginning of my own personal exploration of Incarnational Spirituality, I felt this story of light needed to be shared.  Like the woman at the airport suggested, it’s part of a larger understanding of spirituality that could change everything!

Inner Light, Beginning Light: David Spangler’s “Awakening on the Road to Casablanca”

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There’s a Catholic hymn I remember singing as a child during Mass, entitled “We Are The Light Of The World.” The song was essentially the Beatitudes set to music, but the refrain in particular stands out in my memory:

“We are the light of the world
May our light shine before all
That they may come to worship with us
And give glory to God.”

Light, such an empowering spiritual image. And there it is, buried in the middle of a song about being meek, humble, persecuted, poor in spirit.

“We are the light of the world.”

(Yet another reflection of “the inner light of sacred remembrance” that lies behind our stories of creation and also, paradoxically, redemption?)

Well, as a child I didn’t particularly feel full of light. If anything the complexities of duality were already swinging my existence from heights to depths. My personal path to an understanding of inner light took me down a rather long and somewhat strange road, all things considered.

This was not true for David Spangler. Not that his life wasn’t full of its own particular challenges, but even as a small child, David had already unlocked an inheritance of open-hearted sight into and clear engagement with the world that lies beyond this one. One of these engagements served as David’s awakening to the light within himself as an incarnated being.

In the following passage from David’s memoir Apprenticed To Spirit: The Education of a Soul, David shares this life-altering experience:

It was 1952, when I was seven, about a year after we had moved to Morocco. In the spring of that year, we moved to what became our permanent residence in a house on the Strategic Air Command air base of Nouasseur, about eighteen miles south of Casablanca. . .

One morning we were driving into Casablanca. I was in the tiny backseat of our car watching the scenery go by. Passing a tiny stream that flowed alongside the road in what was little more than a deep ditch at the foot of a small bluff, we saw a group of Arab women standing in the water, washing their clothes the way they had done since the days of Abraham by beating them against the rocks. As I watched them, I noticed a large billboard set into the bluff overhead and looked out the back window to see what it said. Is showed a glamorous blond woman’s smiling face next to a large bottle of Nehi, a popular orange soda.

For reasons I no longer remember, I had been thinking about the riddles of existence. Why was I here? Where did I come from? Who was I? As I looked up at the Nehi sign with the Arab women working below, I remember asking myself, “Who was I before I was David Spangler? Who am I who is looking at this sign?”

As if this question had been a key, I suddenly felt something open inside me. I felt myself swelling, as if I were a balloon and someone were pumping air into me. And I found myself floating like a balloon above our family car, looking down. Through the roof of the car I could see my parents in the front seat and my own body sitting in the back.

Then I was immersed in light, as if I had entered an illuminated cloud. I seemed to expand, taking more and more of this light into myself. I moved through layers that alternated between sensation and light. I would have moments of seeing: sometimes landscapes, sometimes just patterns of color or energy, to reenter a region of only light, which in turn gave way to different perspectives. As I went through these layers, I had an experience of expanding awareness and knowledge.

At one point I came out of the light to a place in which I was surrounded by a circle of figures, all of which were familiar to me as parts of myself. I had the impression I was seeing past and future lives. At that moment, I knew who I was as a soul and consciousness that existed before my life as David. I was filled with a sense of awakening and remembrance. I remember thinking, This is what an amnesiac experiences when he remembers who he is. This was accompanied by an intense feeling of relief and joy.

The movement returned to a layer of pure light. It felt as if I were rushing outward into an ever-larger space until the light parted, and I found myself looking out on the universe with a great spiral galaxy directly before me, pulsing with a gold light and vibrating with life and power. I felt I was not looking at stars but at a living organism, a cosmic body–a body of which I was a part. At that moment my sense of being a separate, human individual faded to a feeling of union with universal Presence.

The light closed in around me again, and I was aware of a reverse movement, of contracting and consolidating. I felt myself going through stages of becoming a particular individual again. I felt something calling me but not from somewhere outside of myself. It was coming from within me as a will and a desire that was focused upon the earth.

Again I burst out of the light and found myself looking down upon the earth from space as if from near orbit. It looked exactly as it does in pictures the astronauts have taken, all blue and white and exquisitely beautiful. I felt an outpouring of love for this planet and a sense of joy that I could become part of it. I felt a strong desire to dive into the world, as if being part of it was the most wonderful and exciting thing imaginable.

I heard someone call my name. “David Spangler!” I was filled with a will to be this unique, specific person, and in a burst of joy I leaped toward the world and found myself back in my body, looking out the rear window of our car at the billboard of the blond woman selling Nehi orange drink. In my body’s time, I had been “gone” for only a few seconds.

In some ways this was a classical mystical experience of unity with a larger state of being and an awakening to one’s eternal Self, the “I” that is within each of us. I felt I had returned to a place I had come from and then traced the process by which I came to be who I am as a physical individuality. Years later, the memory and details of this experience became the starting point from which I shaped my understanding of the process of Incarnation, an understanding that is at the heart of much of my current work.

David’s “awakening on the road to Casablanca” was the first of two significant visions that helped lay the foundation for the story of inner light that imbues Incarnational Spirituality.

Sacred Remembrance

Last night while chatting with my friend Terri, her face suddenly flushed. Quickly, she pulled her hair up, revealing beads of sweat across the back of her neck.

Hot flash.

“Wow,” I said. “Not looking forward to that. Wonder what God was thinking….”

Reaching for a water bottle, she shrugged. “Well, you know Eve.”

*

It’s funny how hard wired it is, the story of Original Sin. Adam, Eve, the Serpent–and banishment from God’s pristine Garden. Of course there are other Creations myths that hold considerable influence in our human societies (and it’s interesting how many of these vastly different tales overlap in key areas!), but especially in the United States, no matter our cultural backgrounds, it often feels like all our personal histories start with The Fall.

But is this not also true of Incarnational Spirituality? Well, from my perspective, all of the Creation myths hold value as they, alongside science and technology and other advances in human civilization, record the history of our physical and psychological evolution, spiritual advancement and potentiality in general. But, really, in the context of IS, the story that frames the entire backdrop of the work is the one behind Eden and the paradise we seem to have lost. It’s the story of Creation itself, as viewed through the lens of a single human life.

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But where does this story behind Eden originate? Though I will write about the history of Incarnational Spirituality in greater depth in upcoming weeks, for now I’d like to reference the inner research and spiritual teachings of David Spangler as being very influential in the grounding of this story. At the same time I’d like to clarify that Lorian Association was founded not on the instruction of David as much as the field of resonance those teachings generated in others with similar understanding.

And this distinction makes sense given the one trait that immediately distinguishes Incarnational Spirituality from many other spiritual systems: the belief that an innate spiritual authority is automatically granted to each and every human being at birth. No matter how chaotic and messed up our lives, years and decades later, may seem, there is an inner light that speaks to this sacred remembrance.

The Holy Book Called the Human Being

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If mankind has the power to draw additional spiritual scriptures out of the depth of itself, why do we have to wait for a tyrant to burn our Bibles before we let ourselves create further expressions of the spirit? If it is indeed true that each human soul contains a Bible within itself, may it not be that each person contains the possibility of new spiritual events and awarenesses taking place in his and her own experience? –Ira Progoff

Does God still speak?

In some Christian churches there is considerable debate as to whether or not the prophetic nature of God even still exists. Actually, some fundamentalist  communities believe that God does not speak apart from the Holy Scriptures at all, that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was God’s final message.

But Ira Progoff raises an interesting hypothesis: is it “indeed true that each human soul contains a Bible within itself?”

I know some people who, if the world were in danger of losing all of its Bibles, would devote themselves to preserving these texts in memory, as many of the great stories of our civilization were once carried within us.  This would be a sacred and most necessary task. Yet if each human life is, in and of itself, a holy scripture, then wouldn’t attuning to that inherent sacredness be another sacred task?

Incarnational Spirituality roots itself at this particular point of sacredness. God does speak within us. In our sinews and tissues. In our blood. In our birth. And while this may seem contrary to people from more conservative religious backgrounds, I recall hearing in church a number of times the phrase, “Sometimes you are the only Bible a person will ever read!” The implication, of course, was that the way we lived spoke to those around us of our relationship with Christ. But, in retrospect, there was an Incarnational grain buried in this perspective.

An Incarnational Impulse

The next several blog posts will explore historical, psychological, philosophical and experiential responses to the question, Why Incarnational Spirituality? Also, in the process I will explain who I am and why this blog, my personal exploration and interpretation of Incarnational Spirituality, matters to me.

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Why then does this world need yet another belief system? Why Incarnational Spirituality, still another updated take on this ancient theme? Don’t the bibles and spiritual texts already written cover everything we need to know? Doesn’t that creation myth alluded to above contain more truth than anything I could ever find in a watered down, re-imagined version?

Interestingly, my initial response is to quote a passage not from David Spangler, spiritual teacher and one of the founders of Lorian Association, but Jungian psychologist Ira Progoff. In the 1960s, Ira began developing a journaling process to help people begin to reach more deeply into their individual lives and bring forth self-actualization and fulfillment.

The introductory chapter of the book Intensive Journal Workshop (entitled “The Scope of Personal Renewal”), helps me lay a foundation for my answer because it responds to the need for spiritual understanding grounded in the personal as much as the transpersonal.

When I returned to civilian life after my army service in World War II, I often lost myself in unhappy contemplation of the destructive elements of recent history. In one decade from 1935 to 1945, civilization had come precariously close to destroying itself. I found myself especially reflecting on the massive burning of books that had taken place during the Hitler era. Again and again I asked myself what would have happened to civilization if the ritual Nazi burnings of the books had been continued until all the recorded wisdom of humankind had been destroyed.

I answered that question in two parts. The sciences, I concluded, would be retained in the technology of the engineers. Science would be preserved, although in a stunted form, if only because science is necessary for making weapons of war and for producing commodities to sell. But what of the sacred scriptures, I asked. Suppose all the Bibles of the world, were burned, the Old and the New Testaments, the Tao The Ching, the Upanishads, the Koran, and all the others. If that happened, what would befall civilization?

…Finally one night the answer came to me. It came as a simple practical statement spoken in everyday tones. We would, the voice said, simply draw new spiritual scriptures from the same great source out of which the old ones came.

In that moment I became aware of how vast and self-replenishing are the resources of the human spirit. The fires of Hitler could burn the sacred books, but they could not destroy the abiding depths out of which those scriptures had emerged. I heard also the words of the Polish rabbi chanting as he was being buried alive: “Green grass lives longer than Nebuchadnezar.” God’s smallest creations will outlast the power of tyrants. And this is because, as Walt Whitman knew, the simple leaves of grass come from the same infinite, re-creative source as the depths of the human spirit, from which the wisdom and the strength of civilization also come.

That understanding opened a new range of hope for me.  Humankind would not be destroyed. No matter what foolish, destructive acts people would perpetrate on the physical level, new fountains of life would continue to rise from reservoirs deep within. Recognizing that there are indeed infinite dimensions to our universe, the immortality of life began to be a fact for me.

Soon another realization arose in me. If mankind has the power to draw additional spiritual scriptures out of the depth of itself, why do we have to wait for a tyrant to burn our Bibles before we let ourselves create further expressions of the spirit? If it is indeed true that each human soul contains a Bible within itself, may it not be that each person contains the possibility of new spiritual events and awarenesses taking place in his and her own experience? Perhaps there are new Bibles, many new Bibles, to be created as the sign of spiritual unfoldment among many persons in the modern era. It may indeed be that the creation of multiple spiritual scriptures, and especially the extension of old scriptures, is an event that needs to happen in our time as part of the further qualitative evolution of our species.

Though there is no direct link between Ira Progoff’s work and Incarnational Spirituality, I do feel that Ira’s Intensive Journal Workshop, a tool for people to interact with and affirm the grand design within their ordinary lives, is a response to an Incarnational impulse in the world seeking expression. But Ira’s life’s work in general–his personal response to this inner call–upholds the inherent capacity of the self seeking attunement to the Divine (as well as mirrors back to Divinity it’s  art of creation.)

In his own way, Ira affirms that every aspect of life experience–even a blade of grass, an ordinary human life–is holy. To my mind, study of Incarnational Spirituality also begins with this understanding.

Why Incarnational Spirituality?

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During a layover at the Atlanta International Airport earlier this year, a conversation with a stranger about our lives led to the inevitable question: “What is Incarnational Spirituality?”

When this woman asked about my background, it seemed natural to tell her about Lorian Association and my study of Incarnational Spirituality. But as she responded with the inevitable question, for a moment I struggled to answer.

There’s no cultural context in the world we live in for the one we’re envisioning. So I started my explanation with the mythos of the world as it is.

“Well, many of us believe that life on earth is a punishment because Adam and Eve ate an apple and got ousted from Eden. Or we spend lifetimes trying to get off the karmic wheel and reach some divine state where we’re free of attachment, of illusion and the trappings of earth. But what if we collectively told ourselves a different story about our lives? What if Earth isn’t the penal colony of the Cosmos where people get sent because we’re screw-ups and need to work our way back to the grace of God? What if, like Jesus, we all came here because we were called, and that calling was seen as a gift and not an obligation for payment of sin? How might that change our relationships with each other and with the Earth itself?”

“It would change things quite a bit,” she responded.

The more I reflect upon that conversation, the more I realize that the question at the heart of the one people ask has nothing to do with what Incarnational Spirituality is. There are so many different pathways to God that it’s hard to track them all.

Why then does this world need yet another belief system? Still another updated take on this ancient theme? Don’t the bibles and spiritual texts already written cover everything we need to know? Doesn’t that creation myth alluded to above contain more truth than anything I could ever find in a watered down, re-imagined version?

Why Incarnational Spirituality?