Growing into God

Growing into God

Author: Thomas Chavez, preface and editing by Julie Gorham

Growing into God – Practicing the Science of Spirituality

Do you truly experience and feel unity with God and others in your life? Or, do you feel disconnected and your heart knows there must be more? Christ the Healer offers ongoing education on the topic of Christian mysticism, also known as Christian contemplation. Growing into God means understanding how to become one with God. Mystics and teachers from the earliest history in Christian wisdom led the way. Now, we see the Life of Christ is the a transformative model for how we get there.

Gain or refresh new understandings and integrative practices to engage the transforming Christ path with a romp through Gabrielle’s brilliant synthesis of science, spirituality, and the best of the Bible.  with practical insights on how to achieve unity through the Christ path model. It’s a contemporary road map to unification for all people and all times. 

Early history – Roadmap to a spiritual life – Purgation, Purification & Unity

The 3rd century theologian/mystic, Origen of Alexandria, draws from three books of Jewish wisdom literature – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs which provide a metaphorical “map” of the spiritual life. Like Proverbs, with its emphasis on right living and moral conduct, Origen saw the first stage of the mystical life as involving purgation or purification of all that impedes our search for God. The second stage, corresponding to Ecclesiastes, marks the illumination that comes as we learn to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit within. Finally, the joyful eroticism of the Song of Songs represents the union with God that is the promise of the contemplative life.* 

While these primary principles identify the key components to attaining oneness with God, they do. 

The Christ path Model lays the foundation for how we can achieve an open our heart, and exchange the experiences of ‘hell on earth’ for a new condition of ‘heaven on earth within our hearts’. We are here for the kin-dom of heaven. This is not a physical place, but a condition of the heart where the virtues of love abound, for all. 

A conversation with Thomas:

Julie – Thomas, can tell me more about purgation and the sequential of the events based on the “initiations” of the Christ path?

Thomas – The original idea was purgation (purging, cleaning out, sitting empty) was that once you are clean enough, there’s a moment of enlightenment. This process of purgation leads to the 1st initiation of the Christ path. We ask the question “Is this all there is?” and “What’s wrong with my life?” Once our hearts can open, we suddenly notice we can love everybody. That’s the birth of Christ in the heart.

That experience goes on for a while, and we live with it and like it, then we come to the place we traditionally call the dark night of the senses. We are in this together – “I love my neighbors, I love my family, I love the world I live in, then I go into depression, and I come out of that”. That’s the 2nd initiation. 

We purge that through, and we have another illuminated moment which we call the transcendence, and it is in the life of Jesus – that moment when he was on the mountain with his executive team, and he lights up so bright they fall on their faces.

People who are not Jesus, in this 3rd initiation, the world experiences them and they experience the world as “lucky” “wonderful teachers”, because they shine, and our culture, if we get there, our culture tends to expect us to stay there.

And then that goes on until we come to the 4th initiation, which tracks the crucifixion of Jesus. In the crucifixion, we lose this connection to light and to God, and to everything, and we are in this place that resonates with the voice on the “My God My God, why has thou forsaken me. I’m reaching through my soul to God, and my soul has blown away and disappeared, and I don’t recognize my connection to higher.

After we plum the depths of that, we come to the place where there’s no separation between being and being, I am God, I am an expression of God, I’m not in the presence of God, I’m not looking at God, but God is looking out through my eyes, I am ascending.

We’d love to hear from you!



God’s Buddy…Satan? Job Gives Us Some Clues

God’s Buddy…Satan? Job Gives Us Some Clues

So, if the appearance of a serpent in the Garden of Eden is not the presence of Satan, where does the “Evil one,” first show up, and how does this appearance change or not change our view of Satan?

Satan, whose designation means “Stumble,” implying a block of stone tossed into someone’s path heavy enough to cause them to trip, is first introduced in the Biblical book of Job. Job is not part of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible attributed to Moses, and universally accepted among Jews and Christians as comprising the “Law.” So, right off, the figure of Satan is not a part of God’s law. So, how is Satan part of human sin? Once we have accepted this, taken a deep breath and read on in Scripture, the next thing that we find is the story in Job of God and Satan chatting together like a rancher and his foreman over beers as they survey the herd. In this scene, God is bragging that his by Job is is being a perfect human, never separates himself from God’s will, no matter what happens.

In this conversation, the character of Satan counters by saying that Job is so agreeable only because God coddles him. Stress Job enough, and he will break away and curse his maker, just like all of the other faithless humans. God answers with the equivalent of “You making a bet? Well, you’re on! Stress the guy all you want. The only limit I set is just don’t kill him. Everything else is up for grabs. We’ll just see if you’re right.”

So, with God’s blessing, everything is ripped away from Job. He is not dead, but all of his children are killed. His home is destroyed, his wealth is taken, his health is broken, and he is made miserable in every way possible. Including his embittered wife, Job’s 4+ friends hang around as Job sits on a dung heap haranguing him about his being a sinner and bringing this all on himself, and why doesn’t he just curse God and die?

Here we have to pause a moment, and ask ourselves how is this a portrait of a haughty prince of Angels who rebels against God himself, and spends eternity trying with evil intent to undermine the order of God’s good creation? Then we have to admit that this popular picture is not there, so where else do we go to find it?

When we comb over all of the books of the Bible, we find widely separated chunks that have been cobbled together to provide a foundation for this image, and then elaborated rather freely by those who have wanted to promote this picture. The largest of these chunks are found in the Book of Daniel, and in the Book of Revelation.

Others have been shamelessly clipped out of context elsewhere. Such as the oft cited “Star of Morning, how far you have fallen,” passage, which if actually read off the page including the paragraph before and the one following, can be seen as addressed not to Satan, but to Nebuchadnezzar, a very human Babylonian king with nothing Angelica bout him at all!

Two posts back we noticed that there was something disingenuous about certain popularly circulated interpretations of “Sin.” In our last blog post I noted that our human “Twist toward ‘Spiritual warfare’ is not a spiritual gift, it is merely self initiated brain development of a particular inclination.” And here we are witnessing total misapplication of quotation to bolster an impression of what the Bible is saying that is absolutely bogus! Can these three troubling observations be related? I will leave you to open up you Bibles to read them with exquisite care, and let you answer this inquiry for yourself.

Sin and Satan in Eden

Sin and Satan in Eden

Author: Thomas Chavez

Sunday School Bible stories have confused us. Most of us are sure that the first appearance of Satan in the Bible took place in Genesis, in the story of the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. We all know that Satan dressed up as a serpent, tricked Eve into picking an apple and taking a bite. Almost nobody ever argues with this description. Only a careful reading of that text says otherwise.

First off, there is no apple. There never was. We know this for two reasons: that kind of fruit does not grow in the regions described in that story, and the fruit spoken about is obviously a metaphor – being named “The knowledge of Good and Evil.” In other words, the mental capacity for, and the habit of relying upon not just discernment, but preferential judgment.

Preferential judgment translates easily enough to separation, which in our last post we identified as the common thread running through all behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes identified in the Bible as “Sin.”

When you or I notice that a Rhododendron flower is not the same as a Rose, we have made a discernment. When I declare that the Rose flower is beautiful and the Rhododendron is ugly, fit only to be stomped on, and you declare the opposite, we have each made a yes/no, want/don’t want, good/bad judgment.

My preference is for what I judge a beautiful-yes-want-good flower. While you prefer the ugly-no-don’t want-bad flower. Meaning that our choices are not just differences in taste, but in existential allegiance. You will see your own allegiance as being given to what is right-good, and mine, to what is wrong-evil. While I will know that you are allied to what is wrong-evil, and I to what is right-good. This split in allegiance automatically forces us to see each other as enemies.

Interestingly enough we have a particular part of our brain structure where this kind of right/wrong, good/evil, black/white thinking takes place: in the parietal lobe. Also interesting is the experimentally demonstrated fact that this neurological facility is so strengthened by exercise that it can, and for many humans does, take over the way that the human brain sees and assesses the whole world. For people who have built up this facility to the exclusion of all else, everything is a contest between black and white, good and evil. Thus, this twist toward “Spiritual warfare” is not a spiritual gift, it is merely self-initiated brain development of a particular inclination.

For people who have strongly exercised other facilities – the capacity to love for instance – this appearance of a good/evil contest is not there at all. These latter folk don’t see it, because their brains don’t manufacture it.

In this biologically-based light, doesn’t it seem even more significant that what Christ-as-Jesus kept harping on was to increase and elaborate our human capacity for love?

Counterwise, it seems one of the most painful ironies of our theological history that the more ardently our ancestral Christian predecessors railed against Eve, the apple, and getting kicked out of the Garden, the more virulently did they commit the very sin against which they fulminated. Blaming as they did so, not their own tendencies, but a non-physical person called Satan who was not there at all.

Some will ask, what can I mean? What about the serpent? Isn’t it obvious that this character in the tale is just Satan in disguise? Who else but the fallen Prince among Angels would have the temerity to sabotage God’s most cherished relationships?

Given where these sincere questions are coming from, they bear a serious looking-into. So let’s do that in our next post.

Sin anyone? What is it, and do we really understand it?

Sin anyone? What is it, and do we really understand it?

Author: Thomas Chavez

When I was a kid of 12 or 13, I was first introduced to the world of Classical Greek Drama. Central to many of those fascinating Tragedies was a concept that I heard explained as a hero’s “Tragic Flaw.” Later on, I heard this idea expressed as “Fatal Flaw.” But no matter how it is referred to, the import and outcome remained the same. Sometimes, that flaw was portrayed as simple ignorance, as in the story of Oedipus, and other times it was expressed as the madness of “Hubris”, as in the tale of Jason and Medea.

Well, to young minds, such as my own, Hubris seemed a bigger deal and a greater fault than mere ignorance. Aren’t we all ignorant about lots of things? Then I learned that the fault implied by Ignorance was in the word itself. When I am ignorant, I am ignoring some truth that I could have learned had I possessed the wit to want to learn it. So “Ignorance” is indeed a flaw, and it can indeed prove nastily fatal. What is more, it is woefully common.

Hubris is different. We don’t have a comparable concept packed into any one English word. So when some smarty-pants (like a younger me perhaps) wants to accuse someone of Hubris, they have to pretend to be an ancient Greek aristocrat – pointing at the accused with their right hand and holding the front of their broachless chiton closed with their left hand. Then, having pronounced the word, that accuser would have to explain that the accused fool was being ridiculously, over-the-top, prideful about their own cleverness, not to mention their understanding of how the whole of reality works. They were being so prideful that they were tempting God (or the gods if one prefers) to step in and cut them down to size, and show them what they and their understanding were really worth.  

Recently I was knocked flat to discover that the Greek word that is translated as “Fatal,” or “Tragic” flaw is hamartia. Why did I find this unremarkable thing so shocking? Every Greek word has to mean something, right? 

Simple, of the several words that all get translated and therefore conflated into the English language idea of “Sin,” hamartia is the most common. And when Biblical scholars try to explain the particular meaning of this word they say nothing of flaws, fatality, or tragedy. They speak of “Missing the mark.” As in landing an arrow to one side of a bullseye while practicing archery.

In the vernacular of my own delightfully misspent youth, this was called a “blow it.” And many is the time I blew it, and so did everyone around me. It was just a factor of life on planet Earth. I, at least, never expected myself to be consigned to eternal damnation as a result of having blown it. I would just have to pick up my bow, nock my next arrow, and try again.

Biblically thinking, there are four separate classes of things that are all called sin. The most vital of these things to most of us are synonymous with crime. Stealing, killing, bearing false witness, lusting after another man’s lands, livestock, or wife, breaking faith with the community.

Then comes “Ritual impurity.” These include things like wearing clothing made from two kinds of fiber, touching a pig or anything made from a pig’s body parts such as a football, reading a Torah scroll if you need glasses, eating a calf’s flesh if it has been boiled in its mother’s milk (which later became eating no beef if butter is served on the same plate), masturbation which was equated with abortion, having sexual relations with your in-laws, being a warrior and taking sexual advantage of your shield-bearer, or in special cases touching or even letting your shadow fall upon a dead body. These and many more are all listed as “Abominations”. 

Because “Abomination” sounds so unforgivably horrible, it is common to find its pronouncement cited as the reason why people who sin in this way should be persecuted relentlessly, or even murdered. Though of course we all know that most of these abominations are simply ignored as being senseless in modern terms, while a few, pertaining to sexuality are held up as irrevocable. There is something disingenuous in this coincidence, and this lack of honesty shows up clearly when specific sexual behaviors are looked at closely.

I cited “being a warrier and taking sexual advantage of your shield bearer,” deliberately because this is the most often cited law for persecution of homosexuals. It seems, to those who excuse their hateful behavior behind it, so clear cut and incontrovertible. If you wish you can go to the Book of Leviticus and look up verse 17 where this is written down. Then read the verses that show up before and after, pretending as you do that you are examining what is being said for the first time, with no preconceptions.

When you do this, you may be startled to notice that even though the specific act prohibited is indeed sexual in character, the prohibition is not about this, but about taking advantage of an inevitable power differential. A warrier is an armed adult. A shield bearer is an unarmed youth serving as an aid. It is theft of sexual favor by domination that is being condemned here, not homosexuality itself. This, in large part because homosexuality as we picture it today did not exist in the ancient world. The reasons why this is so would require an entire essay of its own to make clear. Perhaps I will take the trouble to go through this in a later post, but not today.

Then there are directives about social order, such as the directive that a child up to the age of 13 can be killed by his or her father for active defiance, and the prohibition against voluntary adultery distinct from rape, a practice that puts clear lines of family inheritance at risk. In this category are the laws dealing with divorce, which Jesus turned on their head by prohibiting it altogether because it unfairly destroyed the lives of women. In this category is also the constant theme of being welcoming and kind to the stranger, the outsider, the landless.

Finally we have a lack of relationship with YHWH. YWH is the symbol for the never-to-be-pronounced “Name” of God (which by the way was never anybody’s name). An observant Jew from earliest times right up to now will, if reading the Torah aloud, mark this name by intoning the substitute word, “Adoni”, which means “Lord.” “I am the lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.” This is a prime example of this category, and is the very first of the famous Ten Commandments, which is in turn the most famous summary of the 613 “Laws” found in the Torah. This is also the point of the “Shemah,” which every Jewish believer from the time of Moses onward has uttered out loud every single day. “Know o Israel, the Lord is one!”

When viewed altogether in light of the central importance of this last named category, a new pattern emerges. Suddenly we see that the Biblical idea of sin, is in all cases, some reflection of the idea of separation, division, fragmentation. This is separation from God, but also from other humans, community, and from nature as well. Creation is all one. All of creation is one because all is the result of God’s love, and when we break this oneness up in preference to our personal advantage, whether by being uncivil, grasping, hating our neighbors or even our supposed enemies, cruel to each other or animals, or by committing murder, we violate God’s love.

What distinguishes Christianity from its honored Hebrew roots, is that this is the principle that Christ, as Jesus, based all of his teachings and life actions upon. Jesus was a living, breathing, and finally dying and resurrecting billboard for this understanding of reality. Just to put the words on the record in this string of posts early, Jesus called this condition of love, “The Kingdom (or Kin-dom) of Heaven.”

Jesus’ last “Commandment” was simply, “Love one another.” Whenever we fail to do this in any measure, in any dimension of life, we “blow it.” We are committing hamartia…sin.

Not only that, but we have sinned because we have let our inevitable human need to triumph overwhelm our commitment to our spiritual connection to God’s love. We have missed the mark. Instead of condemning each other to Hell over these all too frequent infelicities (which merely doubles the width of our missing the mark), let us, each and all, pick up our figurative “Bows” and try again.

Hell What, When, Why, How, and Who

Hell What, When, Why, How, and Who

This article is based on a fascinating subject. It challenges the common notions of hell and addresses the source of associated with these terms which are the basis for misinterpretation.

We will invite a group discussion together once the final article on this subject has been published, and welcome you to the conversation.

Our mental image of Hell  is pretty clear, relatively specific, generally agreed upon, and mostly wrong. All of these attributes of Hell are because there is a vast landscape of Christian thought that is covered over with horrifying thoughts about Hell. Most of this seared over territory is not Biblical, being a mental playground, the basic boundaries of which, were delineated by two Christian/political poets, Dante in 12th century Florence who had a beef with how his city-state was being abused especially by the Pope, and Milton of 17th century England who expressed the cultural atmosphere in that country when Puritan “Roundheads” generaled by Cromwell took over that nation and beheaded King Charles the first who was supported by Catholic aristocracy.

It was this pair, more than any others, who took specific images that actually are to be found in the Bible and imaginatively expanded them into the picture that millions of people see in their minds today, when Hell is used to threaten Christian believers. Certainly these two did not do every bit of the damage by themselves. Hundreds of visual artists and preachers certainly did their parts.

Hurt, frightened, angry animals roar threats and show gleaming teeth and rending claw to threaten their enemies, and we humans do the same. Among our many peculiarities is that our physical teeth and claws are not quite so scary, even to other humans as might be a wolf, or lion’s. So, for as long as we have been language using creatures our weapons of threat have been words. For as long as there have been Christians our preferred words of threat have been culled from the Bible.

So, what are these images found in the Bible, and what do they look like when not being magnified by those historical poetic lenses mentioned above?

There are at least four, two of these being expressions of the same undesirable two-part fate as seen by Hebrew speakers, one an imaginative expansion of one of the elements involved in those first two, and one a memory of a different tradition.

In the Hebrew testament, the word pit is sometimes used as the fate of the unrighteous dead, sometimes this is translated into English as Hell. The same idea is made more explicit in the New Testament by citing the actual wadi (narrow canyon) Gehenna, which for centuries served as the city dump for Jerusalem where all the trash got burned. Twenty years gone by, I, myself walked up to the lip of that long, zigzagging crack in the Earth, and could see, and smell, smoke still rising, for its use as a dump still persisted.

Originally the Hebrew people envisioned no afterlife, God had breathed life into clay, and when life departed from the clay that was it. A person was an animated puppet, which meant no animation – no person. What was left was an empty puppet that would be honored with entombment in memory of the honorable person that was. Counterwise, the dishonorable would be thrown into a pit in memory of the disgrace (sinner) they had shown themselves to be.

Also in those days after the Northern Kingdom which we remember as Israel was wiped out, and the Southern kingdom called Judea was reestablished, the Classical Greek image of the afterlife took root among some of the people and was called in Hebrew Sheol. Sheol was pictured, just like the Greek Hades, as an eternity of blah. A forever of bare awareness beyond the living world where stuff was happening, without strength or substance. Think about it, awareness without any power to do anything, effect anything, be stimulated by any new thing? Sheol also is translated into English as Hell.

During the four hundred or so years between when the last books of the Hebrew Testament were committed to papyrus or parchment and the New Testament begins a large fragment of Jews had evolved their views to include the possibility of a resurrection at the end of days. Jesus was accused by his opponents of believing this, and some of our Biblical stories confirm this. But even for these latter day Hebrews the person was an animated puppet, and the other direction for that equation still bore true.

For Jews, no puppet – no re-animation – no resurrected person. So the original threat that your community would not bury a disgraced member, merely throw the body in a pit was elaborated into thrown into the dump and burned so that no resurrection would be possible for the sinner because there was no dead puppet to re-animate.

The last book included in our “Canonical,” which means agreed upon by all Christians, Bible, written more than a hundred years after the execution of Jesus, a new twist was emphasized. The threat of being burned was pictured by the author of Revelation,” as being thrown into a lake of fire, and the agony of being burnt “Alive” would go on forever. This of course was not the first image of fire being used in Christian scripture. We might remember mentions of wilted flowers, and vines that bear no fruit being consigned to the fire in Jesus’ parables. A perfectly common agricultural practice, but the presence of these other such references lends this particular passage weight beyond its own poetical impact.

We all know that The Book of Revelation is a hundred-ninety proof strong dose of poetry, and many is the would be scholar who has been intoxicated by crawling into its pages and forgetting to climb back out. This unfortunate condition has led to the promulgation of many otherwise unsupported proclamations and attempts at doctrine.

It was this vision of “Eternal damnation,” in agony  that gave Dante license for his nine descending circles of ever intensifying sadistic torture, along with our common cartoons of red-suited Sater figures with pitchforks overseeing forever agony among the flames of God’s unrelenting displeasure contributed to our folklore by Milton.

So yes, there are images in the Bible that get lumped together and spoken of as “Hell,” but these did not, originally mean the same thing, nor were they all actual threats of punishment for the deserving. But to have a context for these points to be understood more completely, there are a number of other often cited Biblical words that need to be explored, starting with what we call “Sin,” the Devil or “Satan,” Evil, as well as our Biblical portrait of God.

If you have any questions or concerns, please fill out the Contact Form and we will get back in touch right away.

What if ‘True’ Christianity Is More Than We Have Ever Known?

What if ‘True’ Christianity Is More Than We Have Ever Known?

By: Thomas Chavez, Heather Dennis & Julie Gorham

“We don’t want anybody telling us what to do, what to think, or what to believe!” This was the first thing out of anyone’s mouth at the inaugural gathering of what was to become Christ the Healer, United Church of Christ. This focus group had been called together by Gabrielle and I, and we got our fundamental marching orders from its participants: in twenty-four years there has never once been a preaching service at CtH, UCC. And in these twenty-four years of existence, we can honestly affirm that no two meetings of our group have been carbon copies of each other.

That is not to say that preaching has never happened among us. When new folk discover that we are a group that has practiced the art of listening to one another (Friends in Grace), many take this as their big chance. When this happens pontification, glittering generalities, and personal opinion are likely to flow over us like glop from an overheated glue pot. But, what is most valuable is to hear the visitor’s personal experience, unvarnished efforts at self-evolvement, and interactions with spirit (however achieved). We are not so interested in their conclusions, surmises, doctrines, and declarations of “You damned well should.” In this manner, through group exploration, shared and individual study, hard-won experience, and practice, we all learn. And in learning, we teach one another. Eventually everyone figures this out, or moves on.

For those who stick around, this process has been both satisfying and extraordinarily enlightening. But nobody gets the benefit who did not invest in their evolution by making the commitment to heal, and allowing the necessary time to grow. This requires being willing to lovingly face the deeper realities within, together.

Spiritual growth is not a cookie-cutter process, and the old methods often leave people feeling dissatisfied and stuck in life. This journey has demanded that we examine the long and somewhat tortured history of our Christian heritage. Here, we are sharing with you our most valuable treasures from this close examination which apply to us today. This will be more complicated than it sounds because everything about our Christian “thought world” affects everything else in that ecosystem of belief.

Christianity is like a single tapestry of understanding, every thread pulling upon every other. When we come to understand any one thing about scripture or tradition more completely, everything else that we believe naturally shifts to make room for this change in our understanding. One of the greatest challenges Christian truth-seekers face is that there are so many varied interpretations of Biblical wisdom and instruction. How do we interpret teachings of a God who appears in parts jealous, angry, and vengeful, and yet claims to be loving? How do we make sense of the iconoclastic Rabbi – Jesus Christ – we meet in the pages of the New Testament? Because there are so many seeming contradictions within scripture, it seems almost inevitable for there to be divisions, and regrettably, conflicts arising from them.

Most of us learned what we know about Christianity from Sunday school, sermons, and regular Bible studies, but there is a rich world of knowledge beyond this. The teachings we encounter through such devotions are often valuable, but may be incomplete and in need of closer examination.

If you are feeling incomplete in your understanding of Christianity, and searching for a more unified, compassionate perspective, then we hope that you find the reflections shared in our blogs riveting, delightful, and illuminating.

What if The genius exhibited by Jesus through his commandments, parables and living example, and thus the “true” Christianity that grows from that genius is way, way more than we have ever known? Come, help us find out!