One day a popular local magician performed his act in front of a large group of people on the town square. The magician pulled all of his best tricks out of his hat to entertain the grateful audience. Everyone in attendance cheered wildly for the magician and his feats of illusion except for one young woman in the crowd who stood unimpressed with her arms folded. After he finished up his act, the magician immediately approached the woman, politely introduced himself and then asked if she enjoyed his act.
The woman replied:
“I thought your tricks were very good. Certainly, you know how to entertain an audience. However, did I hear correctly that you said you could perform magic?”
The magician took a few nervous steps backwards and then said in a defensive tone:
“I stand by what I told the audience. I am a magician; therefore, I can perform magic.”
A warm smile broke out across the woman’s face as she replied:
“I mean you absolutely no offense. In fact, in my humble judgement you are a very talented street magician. What I question is your claim that you can perform magic.”
The magician scowled and grew more defensive:
“I am afraid I have no idea what you are getting it. I am a great and revered magician.”
The smile on the woman’s face grew even warmer and more inviting. Remarkably, the magician then saw a heavenly white aura emerge around the woman. In a gentle and soothing voice, she then said:
“Can you love your neighbor as you love yourself? Can you perform the glorious act of serving the poor without seeking any praise or honor from others? Can you see within yourself all the earth’s forests, mountains, rivers, plants, animals and all the people too? Can you live in this world but not be up of it? Can you embrace death as your friend so you may live this life to the fullest? If you can accomplish all of these things, then indeed my kind magician, you can perform magic.”
The magician froze in silent reflection and then he suddenly placed his magic cap before the feet of the mysterious woman and handed her his wand. For the first time in his life, he humbled himself before another person, bowed, and then said:
“In truth, all I am is an entertainer. In my heart, I believe it is you who might be able to truly perform magic. Please, teach me your ways of wisdom. Please, teach me your magic.”
An angelic smile swept across her face as the beautiful goddess like woman waved the magician’s wand and out of thin air a radiant ball of swirling golden and purple light appeared that washed over the magician with overwhelming love. In that moment, it has been said that that the magician achieved cosmic understanding and learned how to truly practice magic for the first time.
One Sunday a kind priest was delivering his weekly sermon when suddenly a wise and gentle voice from within him spoke:
“Take them outside and down the walking trail behind the church.”
The bewildered priest paused for a long moment to silently acknowledge the voice. He then signaled an end to the sermon by waving his left hand and saying:
“My beloved brothers and sisters, please follow me outside and down the walking trail behind the church.”
The priest then led his confused but faithful flock outside the church and down the walking trial just as the mysterious voice had instructed.
The group then stepped onto the path and immediately into a lush green jungle of glorious rhododendron and mountain laurel trees. The priest then heard the strange but comforting voice again. This time it said:
“Have them eat the fruit on the sacred tree. But be sure to first bow and give thanks.”
Now twice baffled, the priest froze in his tracks and then took a few timid steps forward and stared in amazement at what was right in front of him. The most beautiful tree he had ever seen stood there in all its glory. The tree was very tall and its great limbs seemed to reach out with exquisite wonder. The priest had never felt the presence of a tree like this one before. It appeared otherworldly. He then noticed that many small fruits hung from the lower branches of this timeless being. The fruits were each about the size of a crab apple and had a pleasant aroma. The priest then turned to face his thirty-person flock and said:
“Come my faithful companions, let us eat the fruits on this tree. But be sure to bow and give thanks before eating.”
The priest then ate the first fruit to ease everyone’s discomfort in consuming an unknown food in the wild. Soon, everyone followed suit. Some ate one piece of fruit. Others ate two pieces. After the band of wanderers finished eating the sweet and delicious fruits they continued down the path through the enchanted forest. After a mile (about 1.6 kilometers) of walking, the priest heard the same voice within for the third time. This time it said:
“Stop walking for a moment and embrace the ecstatic visions of creation. The fruits of the Gods shall now speak.”
Once again, the priest quietly acknowledged the voice and then turned to face his followers once more. What he saw at that moment instantly brought tears to his eyes. An aura of dazzling white light circled his flock and the limbs on the trees surrounding him expressively extended their branches as if to say, “We are conscious and brimming with the spirit of oneness.”
For the first time in his life the priest became aware of how fully alive the earth was and how pure her essence. The priest then bent down on the ground to examine a bizarre but gorgeous red mushroom. On close inspection, he was astounded to find mysterious hieroglyphic like symbols encrypted on it. The symbols seemed to him to be a secret language that conveyed a supreme cosmic wisdom that transcended the limits of his rational mind. The priest then stared adoringly back at his followers who were now embracing one another in the same dazzling white light. The priest’s heart overfilled with such overwhelming love for his brethren that he had to lie down on the ground to center himself.
After a few moments, the priest got back to his feet only to find a majestic doe standing only a few meters from him. The two beings locked eyes in a moment of divine recognition and the priest then bowed to the beautiful animal. To his amazement, the doe bowed her head back to him. A second and third exchange of bows then followed before the priest dropped to his knees and bowed one final time. Remarkably, the doe bent down as low as she could go almost like a curt seat and bowed before running back off into the forest. Overcome with awe, tears streamed down the priest’s face as he felt certain that he had just had a direct encounter with the Creator itself.
The priest quickly got back to his feet once more and ran over to his flock and began joyously embracing each of them. In turn, everyone (who by then were experiencing the psychedelic fruit’s power to shift consciousness and reveal the spirit behind forms)began hugging one another with great love and affection. Then in a moment of telepathic communication the priest and his followers began stomping their feet and chanting the following mantra:
“Mother Earth, Great Spirit, your power is wise, your power is divine, let us serve you.”
As they chanted, the earth began to tremble beneath their feet, golden eagles began to circle overhead, a rare pack of black wolves emerged from the shadows and the bowing deer from earlier nestled in close to the band of seekers to share in the delight of Mother Nature’s mystical power to invoke a direct and true religious experience.
One day, a well-known televangelist with a bad temper and a penchant for stoking division gave a sermon to an overflowing audience of around 500 people. The preacher, who was adorned in a golden silk robe, ran a hand through his slicked-back hair and excited his fundamentalist following with one of his infamous hate-filled speeches:
“Today, we gather as a proud community of worshipers who are under attack by all the Devil’s servants. Make no mistake about it, gay people are one of our greatest enemies. Their lifestyle is an abomination and an affront to the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. We can not sit idly by and watch them threaten our way of life.”
The crowd started wildly cheering as the preacher paused for dramatic effect, and then continued in a menacing tone:
“But gay people are not our only enemy. The Muslim religion wants to destroy our God and our great nation. Mark my words, before long, we’ll make those radical Muslims stand and kneel before our flag and Bible!”
The congregation roared with approval as the multi-millionaire charlatan pounded his fist on the lectern and continued on his tirade:
“Let us be clear that all those border-hoppers, hippie degenerates and homeless vagabonds are also our great enemies, and will be swiftly dealt with in whatever manner our Father wants us to. He will see to that. As will the forces of law and order who are on our side!”
An unexpected visitor
The applause from the audience was deafening as yells of “Amen!” were heard from many in the congregation. Once more, the rabid preacher paused for dramatics.
But just as he did so, a strange man suddenly appeared in the center aisle of the megachurch and interrupted the preacher’s hate-filled sermon. The tanned-faced man was dressed in a tethered plain white robe. He wore sandals on his feet and had a long beard and hair down to his shoulders.
The audience turned towards the man and gasped, as the wicked televangelist turned red in the face with anger and exclaimed in a frightening tone:
“Who dares to interrupt my sermon?!”
The strange man’s eyes beamed with a brilliant radiance of unconditional love and humble acceptance. He smiled at the irate preacher and replied:
“My brother, allow me to apologize for my tardiness and disrespect. You see, I’ve had a very eventful morning. I began the day early and basked in the glorious love of two wonderful men who asked me to marry them. My heart was overfilled with joy to honor their request and bless their beautiful union together.
“After marrying these two devout lovers, I then spent the middle part of the morning praying with both my Muslim and Christian brethren under the same house of worship. And, let me tell you, the two traditions are really just like different paths up one mountain to the same peak of God.
“Following morning prayer, I continued my work to secure a safe passage across this country’s border for some of my Hispanic brothers and sisters who are simply fleeing the horrors of war in their homelands. I then spent the remainder of my morning picking up trash at a cleanup organized by those very ‘hippie degenerates’ you speak ill of.
“Finally, in the moments just before I arrived here, I followed a calling from the Divine to feed, clothe and wash the feet of the homeless at a local shelter, only one block from this very church. I’ve come here to share a message from our Creator that I fear you and this congregation aren’t yet grasping … the word of God is truly the spirit of unity and love, not separation and hate.”
The preacher’s face turned an even brighter shade of red, as he glared at the strange man standing before him and sarcastically said:
“Now that you’re finished speaking, allow us to show you our appreciation!”
The 8-foot stake
Within seconds, three large men from the congregation seized the man by the arms and pushed him out the door of the church, into a hidden meadow behind the parking lot. The three men then tied him to an 8-foot stake as the entire congregation gathered around them.
The preacher approached the tied-up man with one big stone in each hand, and one more on the ground between his feet. He said:
“Any words you wish to say, before I unleash God’s fire and fury upon you?”
The unknown man on the stake replied:
“Yes. There is indeed one thing I wish to say. The fire and fury you speak of doesn’t belong to my Father in Heaven. Boundless compassion and infinite wisdom are the only two qualities that can be attributed to the God you claim to speak of. My only wish for you and this entire congregation is that you learn to be and to love.”
The man on the stake then closed his eyes and fell into a trance like state, as he began repeating his last words: to be and to love. With his supporters gathered around, the violent preacher stepped within about 9 feet of the man, and threw the first of the three stones at his face.
The man cried out in excruciating pain, as blood instantly ran like a river down his cheek. The crowd cheered as the preacher devilishly grinned and hurled the second stone even harder at his victim’s head. But to everyone’s shock, including the preacher’s, the stone passed straight through his body without leaving so much as a mark. Just as incredibly, the man’s inflicted wound from the first stone miraculously healed and then vanished before everyone’s eyes.
All but two of the false preacher’s flock dropped to their knees and bowed their heads in reverence to the divine being on the stake. The two who didn’t do so charged at the preacher to prevent him from throwing the last of the three stones. But before they could get to him, he managed to throw the final stone with all his might.
What happened next became the stuff of extraordinary legend. Just a split second before the third stone was about to hit the sage’s head, it instantly transformed into seven glorious doves that took flight into the heavens above. The foolish preacher turned in horror and exclaimed:
“Impossible! It can’t possibly be you!”
He ran immediately into the hills above the church, and was never heard from again. The three men who’d tied the holy man to the stake hurried over to bow and untie him, with tears in their eyes.
All gathered and rejoiced with the God incarnate that now stood before them, wearing nothing but a look of pure forgiveness on his unblemished face. It has been said that on that day, the living spirit was reintroduced into an old and storied tradition that had just simply forgotten how to be and to love.
THE TALE OF MOUNTAIN GROVE: A restoration of democracy
There was once a great village called Mountain Grove. And in that village, people from all walks of life lived and worked together in peace. A spirit of compassion and love was at the root of the village’s century-long tradition of harmonious cohabitation. Consequently, all the villagers shared an unwavering faith in their fellow man/woman and a commitment to follow what was best for everyone in the community.
This age of tranquillity went on, until one day, a village-wide vote was called to address an unprecedented crop failure that was the result of a devastating drought. As was the custom in the community, all males and females 18 years of age or older gathered in the town square for three days and two nights to discuss, debate and deliberate what should be done to respond to the crop failure.
Due to the severity of the crisis, tensions ran high. As the deliberations evolved, it became apparent that the community had hopelessly split into two groups. The first camp adopted a more conservative approach, and put forth an immediate rationing plan to avoid depleting the community’s emergency reserve before the next year’s harvest.
Meanwhile, the second camp took a more laissez-faire approach to the crisis and opposed the rationing plan. Instead, they proposed that the village should tap the reserves and increase trade with neighboring communities to make up for the shortage.
After much passionate debate, the time finally arrived for the village to cast their votes. As was also the custom, each man and woman came forward and placed their stone into the bucket of their choosing. Consistent with tradition, each one of the five members of the revered council of elders (who themselves did not vote) monitored the integrity of the process and counted the stones to verify the result.
When the final votes were tallied, the plan to implement a rationing system passed by a thin margin of 444 in favor and 398 against… not an overwhelming majority, but a legitimate one, nonetheless.
Benjamin King fans the flames of resentment
In the days following the vote, tensions boiled over in the village, as many people on the losing side continued to peacefully vent their frustrations with the rationing plan that would soon go into effect. One man by the name of Benjamin King fanned the flames of resentment against the decision. And quickly, he became the leader of a growing post-vote rebellion.
Only two weeks before the rationing plan was to start, King started delivering a series of fiery speeches in the village square, denouncing the vote and accusing the council of elders of “fixing” it. Despite having no evidence to support his claims, this self-serving narcissist began to draw a steady following. Within one week, he’d captured the support of around 75 percent of those who’d originally voted against the plan.
At his twice-a-day rallies, Benjamin King repeated his completely unfounded claims of voting fraud, and accused the council of elders and his opposition of nefariously trying to silence him. Only five days before the implementation of the food crisis management plan (as it came to be called), the firebrand speaker’s audiences grew to overwhelm the small minority of anti-rationing voters who had come to accept the results of the vote and urged respect for the time-tested traditions of their democracy.
Meanwhile, the council of elders and others within the victorious block looked on nervously, as the revolt continued to grow in numbers. But the wise group of esteemed and compassionate elders encouraged supporters of the rationing plan to remain calm. The council of five expected that faith in the legitimacy of the vote, as well as the villagers’ deep-rooted respect for one another, would ultimately prevail in the end.
A secret plan
With each passing day, Benjamin King’s rallies grew more outlandish, and his audiences swelled to encompass nearly 90 percent of those who had voted against the plan. Finally, only three days before the rationing program was to begin, some of his most militant supporters decided it was time to act. These violent agitators organized a secret plan to kidnap the council of elders, and kill them if they refused to publicly admit to the village that they had rigged the vote.
As tensions reached a feverish pitch in the community, word began to quietly spread, among those in the ranks of the revolt, that the day of forceful action was ahead. On the day before the start of rationing, the conflict reached its climax when a contingent of about 180 of Benjamin King’s supporters converged on the village square, armed with rifles, and readied themselves to march to the house of elders.
In an absurd scene fitting of a shameless demagogue, King stood to the side of the militia, shouting incomprehensible words into a megaphone while his supporters prepared to fight his illusionary battle for him. The foolish but heavily armed militia marched, unopposed, straight through the village and toward their destination.
The village was eerily silent, as if a mass exodus had just taken place. But when the militia arrived at the humble residence of the council of elders, they were taken aback by what they saw.
Nearly 500 unarmed men, women and children stood directly in front of the entrance to the house, blocking access to the elders. Word had gotten out about the raid, and the village had joined to protect their beloved wise men and women.
The militia members surveyed the scene of their own peaceful brothers and sisters who were willing to lay their lives on the line for what was right. The angry and ignorant mob then aimed their guns, as Benjamin King excitedly yelled, “Stand down or be shot!” into his comically oversized megaphone. The defenders of tradition stood defiantly, as the militia prepared to pull their triggers.
A thick and mysterious blue mist
But in the split-second just before the first shot could be fired, a thick and mysterious blue mist suddenly enveloped the militia, and an old woman appeared in front of them. The strange mist then lifted, and the violent rebels were shocked to discover that they were no longer holding their rifles. Their arms had disappeared into thin air!
Each of the protectors of decency and all of the militia members fell instantly to their knees in homage, as the old woman took three steps forward in the direction of the only person still standing… Benjamin King. The old woman stared straight into the tyrant’s eyes and spoke:
“It’s a great affront to the wisdom of your ancestors and traditions to act in the disgraceful manner that you have. But it’s an even greater affront to the spirit of your creator that you’d be willing to harm your own brethren to fulfill your sick desire for control and power. “
The old mystic woman placed her right hand on her heart, and through an unseen but profoundly felt power, finally brought the leader of the would-be massacre to his knees. She then spoke once more:
“May your soul find the healing that it so desperately needs, and may your dark desire to inflict harm on others give way to the light of spirit, truth and righteousness.”
The old woman vanished as fast as she had first appeared. The dazzled villagers stood, with tears in their eyes, and looked off in the direction of the village farm with disbelief. The fields were bursting with fresh vegetables and grain, as far as their eyes could see! A season of crisis had miraculously transformed into a season of abundance and gratitude. Partisans on both sides rejoiced, as the village unified, even stronger together than before.
Following the day of “many miracles,” as this sequence of events became known, the entire village unanimously voted to banish Benjamin King into the forest for the duration of a year. With ample provisions provided, the divisive and egotistical leader submitted to his fate, and left for the forest to mend his heart and set his soul right.
An eagle, a lion, a wolf, a deer and a bear sat around the campfire for their weekly respite from work. This week, their conversation focused on the foils of humanity.As the embodiment of freedom and the first messenger of the Creator, the Eagle was the first to speak:
“My brothers and sisters, the humans, seem to be deluded into thinking they’re free. They seem to think that one can achieve freedom through the mind’s subjugation of nature. Why, that’s preposterous! Is it not, dear friends?”
All nodded in emphatic agreement, as the Eagle continued to speak:
“Through severing itself from the sacredness of the wild, humanity has only enslaved itself. For all beings draw their physical and spiritual sustenance from the Earth. She is our direct access point to the Creator. No being can fully connect with the Supreme Consciousness without communing with the Earth.”
The Eagle paused for a moment and continued:
“So, humans can go on exploiting and desecrating the land with their towers of hubris, talking wires and toxic chemicals, but none of it will satisfy their desperate thirst for freedom.
“Man speaks much about God, but rare is the human who knows that the Great Spirit dwells within the forests, mountains, oceans, rivers and deserts. Sadly, with the exception of their wise native brethren, it seems that humans are destined to follow down their own self-inflicted paths of suffering.”
For several moments, the group grew silent as they nodded their heads in agreement with the wise and venerable Eagle. Finally, the courageous Lion rose to speak:
“It appears to me that freedom is not the only thing that humans are misled about. Humankind is under the mistaken assumption that true courage is to conquer through might, which by way of the Universal law, isn’t morally right.
“True courage isn’t sending young people to fight for the money and power of tyrants. Nor is it courage, to commission expeditions to far-flung corners of the world in pursuit of precious resources and minerals that should never have been dug up from the ground.
“True courage is to look within to the hallowed guides of our being for divine instruction and inspiration: The sun and the moon, the cycle of the seasons, the whispering chorus of the wind, and the ebb and flow of water’s epic journey to the ONE.”
The Lion paused briefly to clear its throat, before proceeding:
“True courage is to stand behind the divine principles of creation and to be shining examples of IT’s perfect heart in form and in spirit—even in cases in which our own moral uncertainty is present.”
Once again, all in the circle grew silent, until it was the loyal Wolf’s turn to speak:
“My brothers and sisters, it’s not just freedom and courage that humans lack. They seem not to comprehend the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty has little to do with one’s peaceful assimilation to conformist rules and structures. Nor does it have anything to do with the jealous guardianship of one’s dogmatic beliefs and lifestyle choices. True loyalty has everything to do with one’s dedication to spirited self-reflection and genuine service to others.”
The Wolf paused for dramatic effect, before completing its thought:
“In our wolf packs, we’re loyal to one another through thick and thin. We’re loyal to one another for precisely this purpose: we’re all on this same journey through the wisdom of form. As far as I can see, humans have yet to learn the depths of this kind of loyalty.”
All stared adoringly at the Wolf for a few moments, until the compassionate Deer assumed the mantle of inspiration:
“Friends, it’s quite apparent to me that the two-leggeds don’t appear to have an adequate understanding of compassion, either. One can’t live freely, be courageous or extend loyalty to others if they’re unable to open their hearts.
“Why, whenever we deer are forced to bury our kin in the ground, owing to another murderous sport hunter, I cry out in vain to the Creator and ask if man has a soul. For how can one kill their earthly brethren for entertainment? “
The Deer wiped a tear from its eye and continued:
“And it’s not just the murder of its own kind! Humans plunder one another in their petty contests for power and domination. How sad and senseless, indeed! The humans fail to understand that compassion extends both inwards and outwards in all directions from the heart, and washes over all beings without exception. True compassion, then, is to see the peace within oneself reflected in all creatures.”
To a jubilant chorus of “Amen,” the majestic Deer bowed to its beloved friends in the circle before sitting back down. At last, it was the faithful Bear’s turn to speak:
“My children and fellow teachers, I have sat here in a most grateful silence and listened to all your lamentations about modern man. I must say that I think your comments are wise and accurate.
“However, I would like to add that our lost human friends are lacking a fifth quality that fully explains why their conceptions of freedom, courage, loyalty and compassion are so sorely lacking. That missing quality is faith, and without it, they can’t understand what it means to be free, courageous, loyal or compassionate. “
The Bear paused for a moment to take a puff of sacred herb from his pipe. He then passed the instrument counter-clockwise and continued:
“Faith is at the root of our being. Think of the faith that bears must have each winter! For months at a time, we go into hibernation. We have tremendous faith that the wisdom of the universe will enable us to pull through the winter and experience the bounty of another springtime in bloom.
“Though mankind may lack a similar faith in themselves, it doesn’t imply that they won’t one day find it. We must not lose faith in humans and turn a blind eye to their suffering. For, as we know all too well, the ill-fated actions of man have an impact on our own quality of life. It’s up to us, the animals, to show them how to live. We must inspire them all to look within themselves.”
At the exact moment that the Bear finished speaking, the group heard a rustling in the forest. All turned in amazement as two human teenagers walked through the woods, with big smiles on their faces.
To the joy of all those gathered, the boy and girl proceeded to sit down in the Lotus position, next to a large stone. Hidden from plain view, the animals watched in delighted silence as the humans recited a moving prayer to the Earth:
“Great Spirit. Mover of the Cosmos. Lover of Morning and Night. We offer you, Mother Earth, our blessings and pray that you enlighten our souls with your compassion, peace and wisdom.
“You’re the essence of beauty and the source of all clarity. Your life-sustaining rain washes over us with all its soulful purity. Your mountain peaks make us humble and reflect the vastness of your inner presence. And in your sacred forests, we feel the truth near and have nothing to fear.
“Earth Goddess: We pray for your protection and for the illumination of our human family. Peace. Peace. Peace.”