Love is an extremely powerful force in human life and it has a very special place in mind management systems. Long before neuroscientists could corroborate the soothing effects of forgiveness on our bodies and in our brains, Louise L. Hay fashioned a technique centered on loving and forgiving as an avenue to healing. Before her, Buddhist meditations on love and compassion had been practiced for millennia, with the understanding that this activity is conducive both to individual and communal well-being. Neuroscientists have in recent years proven these Buddhist practices to be effective.
Last week we talked about how communities, which eventually develop cult followings, spring up around individuals who believe or claim to channel information from unconfirmed but mythologized sources. Lazaris and Abraham are disembodied entities that were never in incarnate form, Helen Schucman believed she was corresponding with Jesus, Jane Roberts spoke to Seth, a person whose consciousness survived death, while the Ballards saw and received information form an 18th century St. Germaine.
Because love and compassion place us physiologically in optimal and even sedative states that engage our ventral vagal system, they are integral to these mind management systems that seek to captivate our imaginations, elevate us and make us feel a whole lot better. An issue arises when we come to associate our state of well-being with the teachings and the teachers, without realizing that this state can be obtained through a myriad of systems and practices.
When we look at gurus and cults, even established religions, we find that they all contain ways to help us relax and feel the goodness of love, compassion and peace. These truths manage to captivate us, but things can go wrong when we think these truths are known only to and through that specific system or community or leader. Things can even become disturbing when a spiritual leader knowingly exploits their ability to make us feel good for their own self-elevation and veneration.
Perhaps one famous example among many is the story of Sathya Sai Baba whose devotees believed he was capable of materializing jewelery out of thin air and that he could “arrange” astonishing metaphysical coincidences for them. Authors Carolyn Myss and Marla Frees, for example, both write of the extraordinary spiritual and metaphysical synchronicities that happened to them in relation to him. Sadly, neither had anything to say about the allegations of sexual abuse of his devotees and testimonies that would suggest that Sai Baba was just a clever magician. Carolyn Myss goes as far as lamenting the accusations and the fact that she even entertained them, because once she did, the coincidences stopped.
The synchronicities may have very well occurred naturally, if they hadn’t been cleverly arranged by an extensive PR machine, but the mis-attribution of these syncrhonicities to the guru who is unaware of them is a common fallacy among self-hypnotized devotees. Such mis-attribution fallacies are discussed at length by other spiritual leaders in India and the occultist Alistair Crowley, whose friends claimed he had the ability of bi-locationality. Regardless of what Sai Baba’s true intent was when he touched some of his devotees’ genitals, his teachings were centered on love and they drew people to him because of the peace and ease they felt in his presence.
Love is the driving force behind a happy mental life and ironically you can use love and the truth of it to influence and control others. But while this may be true for self-serving spiritual leaders, others who claimed to have channeled teachings on love may have had no ill intent. Among such people is Helen Shucman. Shucman’s channeling case is curious. First, she was able to retain her consciousness and personality, she was not possessed by the voice, it co-existed in her mind for the duration of the dictation which lasted from 1965 to 1972.
Shucman did not seek to publish, sell or become known for A Course in Miracles (ACIM). It’s publication and popularity happened posthumously. Regardless of what or who Shucman heard inside her head and the myriad other possibilities that could be the cause of her experience (e.g. a strained relationship between her and an emotionally unavailable coworker), ACIM’s teachings on love are profound, even if they are not new. And the fact that they are not new, actually makes them interesting.
ACIM challenges traditional Christianity’s emphasis on self-sacrifice as a form of love and the deeply engrained guilt propounded by Original Sin. ACIM says that the Christian message is not one of sacrificing the self nor one of redemption from sin. Rather, redemption occurs when we see that we are all perfect beings, in every way, and in every moment. In effect, when we perceive sinfulness, that’s when we enter a state of non-thinking, a state that “The Holy Spirit” cannot perceive or communicate with. True thinking, therefore, can only begin when we disengage from our projections and stories about self and other and engage in the ever-present perfection that exists underneath our limited perspectives.
While truly extraordinary, this cosmology is not new. Like every Mind Management System I discuss in this post, this idea has its roots in an ancient Egyptian religion known as Hermeticism. A disembodied entity named Poimandres allegedly appeared to a great sage named Hermes Trismegistus (himself a historically ambiguous figure). In Hermes Trismegistus’s channeling of this encounter, Poimandres describes a cosmos in which we are perfect beings, emanating from a wholly benevolent and perfect mind, a single mind–God’s.
As you can see even the idea of channeling itself goes as far back as Hermeticism. Hermeticism also gave us the idea that the world follows mental constructs (not the other way around), so in a way, Louise L. Hay, unwittingly or unwittingly was practicing the spiritual alchemy (known as “inner work”), described in Hermeticism.
Similarly, in the I Am movement, which is directly lifted from the Hermetic tradition of beginning with “I Am,” love is the alchemical energy that allows things to go from our mental states into material reality.
Interestingly, both Abraham and Lazaris insist on undertaking spiritual alchemy in order to obtain our heart’s desires. This alchemy is always a movement (to borrow the expression popularized by Marianne Williamson) from fear to love. The impediments to getting what we want are internal psychical processes, not external, and as we move to clear these then the possibility of manifesting our desires arises.
It is not my intention in this blog to interrogate the soundness of these Hermetic claims on reality and the way that they have been reoccurring across history since the times of ancient Egypt. For, we do see them arise again in Kabbalah and Western Magick, and more recently in ACIM, the I Am movement, and others. But what is of interest here, is to follow this motif through history. It’s a motif of disembodied consciousness, coming through a human mind (the channel), to teach us about how the world actually works (mentalism), and what we’re truly capable of as the metaphysical beings we are, in it (spiritual alchemy).
If we can stay awake to the ideas in this historical trajectory, without getting swept up in the ever-changing mythologies that arise out of them, then there really is much goodness for us to obtain.