There is but one Source of everything and we have countless names for It and a whole host of prophets, many of whom claim to be the sole authority to speak for that which cannot be named. As the Tao Te Ching puts it in its opening lines, “the name that can be named is not the eternal Name.”
With these words, I invite you to join me in exploration of that which appeared some 2500 years ago in the mind of a legendary figure in China known as Lao Tzu. Very little is known about him, even his name. However, these words open up rich realms of the mind, just as Abraham’s mind sensed the oneness of the nameless Source in a burning bush some 4000 years ago. And many others have explored the path of the singular nature–the oneness–of that Source, which I chose to call by a more traditional and conventional name that has a profoundly disturbing effect on some for reasons that I hope will become clear. For the sake of all those offended by the old and judgmental name, I feel comfortable with using “Source” for that which is truly nameless and indescribable.
As I explore my long-standing interest in our history, I see that we humans have tried for thousands of years to explain our existence. It is a fascinating story of a rich evolution in our minds. In 1990, when I came across Albert Einstein’s appreciation that every point in the universe is at the exact center of its universe, I felt a certain joyful relief at finding a way of understanding my appreciation, “G-d is Love,” with which I had been raised in a 50–50 Christian Science–Anglican family.
I should mention that in my early childhood years my Christian Scientist paternal grandmother used to read me Scripture every Sunday morning during the summer months when we lived with her, and when I was very young she read me Genesis 3, the story of our fall from grace by stealing from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, this same woman was the source of the image that “G-d is love”. As the young me was practical and literal… unable to see the symbolism of this legend, I saw that the one loving Source would never punish its children with banishment and the threat of death.
When my Anglican mother tried to get me interested in her church, I could not agree with some of its fundamental beliefs because they went counter to my perception that the Source was loving and non-judgmental. That non-dual perception has never diminished. Rather, it has been supported and reinforced through 20+ years of the active practice of general surgery with a reputation as “the doctor who listens”. An early patient asked for permission to tell me an important story about herself because she was mentally preparing herself for her pending operation. I agreed, sat down, got quiet inside, and listened peacefully as she told me about how she had been sexually assaulted in her family of origin. I don’t know how or why I was able to listen quietly and peacefully, but I could and did, and when she was done she simply thanked me for listening and added that she felt ready for the operation. She was… she sailed through it.
I had a persistent non-dual concern challenging me since childhood… how can good and evil coexist in the Source? Unable to find any meaningful answer to the question, I let it float in my consciousness until about twenty-five years ago when a very good friend who was working hard to bring both our technical and college prep high schools together into one combined high school told me about dying of a heart attack and going out of body through a total darkness to a space of incredible beauty and perfect love. There he sensed that he was to go back and bring his goal to fruition. He returned to his body and recovered from the heart attack. He created our local Combined High School and was a member of its executive for several years before having a second heart attack that ended this life.
I listened to his wondrous and wonderful story with an open mind, but I was not able to incorporate it into my own way of seeing things until a few years later when I read Doctor Raymond Moody’s 1988 book about out-of-body, near-death experiences, Life after Life. Almost coincidentally, that led me to Kenneth Ring’s 1986 book, Heading toward Omega, that expanded my experience with Moody’s work.
Coincidentally, my life had set the ground on which I convened the first H.O.P.E. Group meeting in February, 1987. In those meetings, which commonly involved people experiencing serious challenges from cancer, several participants told us about their own NDE’s. This led me to read Betty Eadie’s 1992 book, Embraced by the Light , followed fairly shortly by Dannion Brinkley’s 1994 book, Saved by the Light. Both contained virtually identical stories to the one told me by my educator friend who had come back from the other side and integrated the two high schools.
It was during these years that I read Einstein’s perception of the nature of the universe. I also heard Joseph Campbell tell Bill Moyers that the 12th century French theologian, Alain de Lille, said, “G-d is an intelligible sphere (a sphere known to the mind [Campbell]) whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” Campbell said that de Lille accredited the third century Corpus Hermeticum with the source for his perception of “G-d”. As I listened to Campbell, I felt a deep-seated sense of comfort and release because I have always sensed that there was but one Source of everything, and it was, to me, the center of the entire universe… it was, indeed, the entire Universe… nameless in its incredible beauty and love.
I did nothing with this remarkable story about that which can not be named until I met the Reverend Peter Panagore who told me about his experience of dying of hypothermia in a winter mountain climb when he was twenty. He went into the darkness where he performed a complete life review before going all the way through the darkness, and finding a sense of being present to the complete, beautiful, and loving Universe. He felt that he had returned to his true Home. Here, he “heard” a voice that he called “G-d” tell him he was dead. He knew that he was, and “G-d” asked him if there was anything he needed to go back for. He sensed that he had to go back and spare his mother the devastating experience of losing a second child. (An older sister had abandoned the family when she was in her teens; nearly destroying their mother). He found himself back in his physical body with the resources to be able to finish his descent with his climbing partner, who would also have died had Peter not come back.
When I read Nanci L Danison’s 2007 book, Backwards: Turning to the Source for Answers, I was delighted to find one human’s direct contemporary experience of the singularity that goes by thousands of names and has informed a host of enlightened human beings we call prophets. Nanci, a successful lawyer in a large Midwestern law firm, was to have a biopsy procedure in the local hospital and had been pre-medicated so that she could be comfortable during the operation. Suddenly she found herself sweeping out of her body and expanding into the room, expanding into the hospital, expanding, expanding, expanding, and then crossing over into a darkness that was totally beautiful and filled with love. There, she performed a critical life review and passed on into color and light that were indescribable, and a presence of love so powerful and deep as to be almost unbelievable. She realized that she had become a “Light Being”. She saw that she was in the presence of countless groups of other Light Beings, all seemingly involved in working on what she called “projects”. She came to appreciate that “Light Being” was synonymous with “Soul”, and that one’s soul incarnated in a “human animal” body for a meaningful journey in the physical realm of the Source.
She saw this entire experience as having a spiritual vibration that kept increasing in frequency, the highest of which was Source, Itself. She realized that she and Source were one, and that Source was not only the source of everything, It was everything. She realized that she wasn’t intended to die. She formed a thought that said in essence, “I have to go back and tell others what I have learned.” At that point she found herself reincarnating in her human animal body in the hospital. Danison’s direct experience of reality says that all of the lethal arguments that have developed out of the teachings of the prophets are illusions; for there is only one non-dual, creative, life-focused Source for all of the prophets and their teachings.
Everything, she says, is the product of the “Divine Imagination”. When I read those words in her book, I was delighted to have heard them first from John O’Donohue, the famed Irish priest, poet, and author, who gained his fame from his delightful and rich 1998 book, Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom. I had read it in the year after its publication, enjoying it immensely. When he recorded a series of three lectures called Wisdom of the Celtic World for Sounds True Recordings, Boulder, CO (www.soundstrue.com) I bought the delightful set, the second one of which was The Divine Imagination (!) Its Sounds True description reads well, and it has its own place in this blog:
“Too often we remain distanced from what is truly sacred—the world around us and the divine imagination that created it. Here John O’Donohue immerses us in the greatest miracle of Celtic spirituality, namely its tradition of experiencing the divine as a lyrical, tender, creative force not visible, but always present in all things.”
When Peter Panagore died and went through the process of going into the light and the beauty, he called that “Heaven”. Over the last 40 years he has gone through a deep personal struggle with wanting to go “Home” that he describes in his 2015 Hampton Roads book, Heaven is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me That Death Is Just the Beginning. Peter and Nanci and many others who have had this experience of going beyond a veil of illusion to reality realized that they could not tell their stories because others would not and could not believe them. I have read Nanci’s book, and I know Peter and five others personally, all of whom have had these virtually identical experiences of the way that cannot be named.
Having said all this, I encourage all who read this blog to explore how it all can be the product of a single infinite and eternal divine imagination. I now challenge all of humanity to stop our violent quarreling over what we call “religion”; acknowledge and respect their great mutual values; and come together in peace to help that which is nameless be, as the Tao Te Ching says, “eternally real”.