The Three Faces Of God
The Three Faces of God
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth by David Sunfellow
The Three Faces Of GodJun 07
The following post comes from NHNE’s Near-Death Experience Network. It was part of a lively discussion that was triggered by Robert Perry’s essay “Loving Personhood Or Liberation From Personhood?”. To read the entire thread, including additional comments from David Sunfellow and other people who participated in this conversation, go here.
The Three Faces of God
By David Sunfellow
May 6, 2012
…You may remember that I posted a lengthy essay entitled “The Purpose of Life, Jesus & NDEs” to the network in October of last year. That essay touched on Robert’s core point, namely, that the spiritual path advocated by NDEs is different than the spiritual path presented by Advaita Vedanta traditions…
What I can offer to the discussion is a life-long, pedal-to-the-metal search for truth, including 37 years of investigating near-death experiences. What I’ve discovered, so far, is that the spiritual teachings and traditions of ages past, especially those that come to us from the East, are stepping stones to more mature, evolved, relationship-centered paths. The spiritual path, in other words, is not static; new insights concerning the spiritual path and purpose of life are emerging all the time. And nowhere is this more apparent than in near-death experiences (and related phenomena), which I consider to be modern-day revelations from God to humankind. I do, therefore, believe, as Robert does, that there are important differences between ancient paths and those that are emerging in modern times — and that it is very important for us to know what these differences are.
Since I’ve already dealt with this subject in depth, I won’t repeat everything I wrote in my previous essay here. I do, however, want to add a few things that might clarify this topic for some folks.
Ken Wilber of integral fame says that there are three “Faces of God”. I agree with him. Here is how Corey W. deVos describes these three perspectives on Integral Life:
• God in 1st-person refers to the actual phenomenological experience of God, in the form of satori, kensho, ecstatic reverie, and other sorts of “peak experiences” of the divine.
• God in 2nd-person is traditionally defined as the “I-Thou” relationship with the divine, where Spirit is experienced as a living intelligence that we can actually interact with in our own lives.
• God in 3rd-person is often described as the “great web-of-life,” and is frequently experienced when observing objects of miraculous beauty such as the Grand Canyon, exquisite music, transcendent art, or the mind-boggling elegance of deep-space photography.
The goal, according to the integral model, is to honor and experience all three faces of God. A path that does not include all three faces, leaves out critical components that are essential for living healthy, balanced, integrated lives in today’s world. This is where the problem arises with Advaita Vedanta paths that focus exclusively on the 1st-person face of God.
The evidence is overwhelming that while non-dual perspectives are vital, essential, and foundational — and that they need to be incorporated into our spiritual path and philosophy if we are going to be truly healthy — they are also limited — and primitive. Moreover, there is a very real danger of people having 1st-person God experiences and getting into serious trouble. The trouble they can get into is that after experiencing themselves to be God, they dismiss all need to develop their personalities, work on shadow issues, or cultivate healthy relationships in the world. They do this because they focus on only one aspect of their nature and misunderstand the purpose of life. They see clearly that the created universe is a dream, but mistakenly believe there is no reason for them to stay engaged here. What’s actually happening is that we’ve dreamed the world into existence for a purpose. That purpose, which is described in different ways by different sources, usually revolves around God becoming incarnate in the created universe through us. Or, said another way, you and I being called to manifest heaven on earth.
What I find really interesting about all of this, is that ALL THREE FACES of God are abundantly represented in near-death experiences, while classic Advaita Vedanta experiences focus primarily on the 1st-person face of God. That’s the rub. In order to be healthy (living lives that are aligned with the intentions of life and the universe), we need all three. This is one reason why I believe that near-death experiences are more current, inspired, full-blown representatives of where humankind is headed than older, more foundational, and less evolved classic enlightenment experiences.
Why is all of this so important?
Aside from the danger that arises when people experience themselves to be God without developing the human side of their natures, there is a very serious problem with people encountering Ground of Being states of love and light and deciding that’s where they want to stay, or return. The dream world seems beneath Their exalted status and/or does not appeal to them as much as the higher realms do. Bottom-line: they don’t want to be in this world anymore. To drill this point home, some NDE researchers suggest that as many as 21 percent of those who experience near-death experiences attempt suicide within 15 years of their initial experience. In my mind, that’s a serious problem! If people understood more clearly why we are in this world, they wouldn’t be so anxious to leave. They would realize the reason we all keep getting sent back, is because this is where the action is; this is where our souls want to be; this is where the currents of life (which love and celebrate us) are carrying us for our own good. That’s what I currently think anyway.
While I don’t fully understand this topic, I can smell the smoke and feel the heat. I hope you can too. It is clear to me that something new — and delightfully beautiful — is unfolding in the world today that previous generations knew very little about. I will include a few quotes that have contributed to my understanding of this vital topic. Perhaps they will do the same for you.
To add one important clarification: I think is perfectly fine if someone, or some group, only feels called to focus on one or two of God’s faces. They may even have a developmental need to do this (we may need to focus on one face, before adding another one, and on two before adding the third). Something like that. What’s problematic is thinking (and teaching others) that we’ve got our hands on the whole elephant when we only have our hands on his legs. It is also important to know that incorporating less than all three faces of God into our lives means, by definition, that we are going to lack the gifts, strengths, and deeper integration of whichever face or faces we omit.
The Other Side Is Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be
“God gave everything to us, everything is here — this is where it’s at. And what we are into now is God’s exploration of God through us. People are so busy trying to become God that they ought to realize that we are already God and God is becoming us. That’s what it is really about. When I realized this, I was finished with The Void, and wanted to return to this creation…”
“The other side is not all it is cracked up to be. There’s a lot you can’t do on the other side. There’s a perfect combination though. A body without spirit is a wasteland and a spirit without a body is a wasteland. And we are the perfect matrix of body and spirit. With body and spirit, you can have it all.”
— NDEr Mellen-Thomas Benedict
Return To The Oneness With A Greater Light And A Greater Understanding
“The separation from God began a journey of love. The individuating consciousness seeks, through the experience of human reality, to know itself fully and completely so that it can return to the Oneness with a greater light and a greater understanding. This adds to the reality of the Oneness for all things are in a state of continual expansion and creation.”
— From the psychic readings of Emmanuel as recorded in “Emmanuel’s Book”, by Pat Rodegast
We Get Perfection When Man Becomes God, Or God Becomes Man
“Perfection does not belong to God as God, nor does it belong to man as man. We get perfection when man becomes God, or God becomes man. The finite being who is conscious of the finite is short of perfection; but when he becomes conscious of being one with the Infinite, he is perfect.”
— Meher Baba, from the book, “God To Man, Man To God”
God Became Conscious As An Individual
“Some have said that the uniqueness of Christ as Jesus was that a man became conscious of God, that an individual became conscious of God. But we would now give a greater significance: GOD BECAME CONSCIOUS AS AN INDIVIDUAL! This is why you are in the earth — not to become conscious of God, for you were that before entering the earth. Not that, as many religions and people believe, but that God would become conscious AS MAN, that God would become an individual. There is a difference. One is a transformation, an amelioration, the purpose for which he entered. The other is,well, merely returning the pancake to its batter.”
— From “Creation”, a psychic reading by Ray Stanford
There Are Two Basic Approaches To Human Spirituality
“There are two basic approaches to human spirituality. The first one is to emphasize, concentrate, and focus on the divine possibility within until this possibility becomes a reality. Many movements exist that have practices, teachings, and exercises that help actively and effectively toward this end. All energies and concentration are directed toward cultivating and enhancing, manifesting and expressing, the divine reality within. However, this does not necessarily mean that the other fragmentary levels of consciousness are thereby automatically eliminated and incorporated into the divine center. It is quite possible and, indeed, a frequent occurrence that such practices genuinely bring out the real, Higher Self yet leave the underdeveloped aspects of consciousness intact.”
“Many entities have such an intense longing to realize their divine, inherent nature that they forget, while in the body, that they came to fulfill a mission in the universal plan. This mission is the purification and growth of undeveloped cosmic matter. In order to do this, the second approach must be adopted. And that is to shed the light of conscious awareness and experience on the inner distortions, the ugliness, the darkness, the evil, the suffering, as well as on the inner truth, the beauty, the love, the goodness, the joy.”
“It is necessary to attempt, again and again, to get in touch with the Higher Self, the divine consciousness that is ever-present, immutable, and immediately available within you. When this is done for the purpose of making distorted levels of soul substance conscious and in order to reorient them, so as to unify all split-off soul substance, meditation must take a different road from the kind of meditation that is used for the sole purpose of realizing the Divine Self while disregarding the dark aspects of the self. It is a current illusion and wishful thinking that this latter approach automatically deals with the dark side of human nature. This cannot be so. You cannot overcome what you have not consciously and fully experienced. This wishful hope with which you are all familiar is nourished by the fact that it is indeed possible to realize the already potentially present part of the God self. It is very important, my friends, to understand this clearly. This is why it is often true that entities once they shed the body who have led a difficult and apparently unspiritual life, do more toward the universal process of evolution than some others who have led an extremely spiritual life, who may even have been so-called ‘masters,’ but who have cultivated their beauty and disregarded their ugliness. They have thus failed to unify and so have unwittingly perpetuated the dualistic state of consciousness in which this earth finds itself.”
— From The Pathwork Guide Lectures of Eva Pierrakos, Lecture 193
The Great Wisdom Traditions, For All Their Wisdom, Have Absolutely Nothing Like This
“This chapter is about the shadow, what it is, how it got started, and how to take it back. But one thing is certain: the great wisdom traditions, for all their wisdom, have absolutely nothing like this. I know, I’ve spent thirty years checking with students and teachers, and the conclusion is unanimous: an understanding of the psychodynamic repression, as well as ways to cure it, is something contributed exclusively by modern Western psychology. Many meditation teachers claim that they offer something similar, but when you look closely at what they mean, it really isn’t this. Consequently, even advanced meditators and spiritual teachers are often haunted by psychopathology, as their shadows chase them to Enlightenment and back, leaving roadkill all along the way. The good news is that this is fairly easily remedied.”
— Ken WIlber, Integral Spirituality, Chapter Six, The Shadow And The Disowned Self
We Are Not Here For Any Purpose Of Escape
“When such a substance as LSD is taken into the system, through chemical stimulation relating to the glands, one is taken back in the activities of the evolutionary forces — the evolutionary forces of the body and soul. You may say that ‘I, some, have experienced a glimpse of God, of Christ, in this way.’ Have you? … You have experienced somewhat of an awareness related to the Universal, to God. But, as in the beginning, it draws the focus of the mind back to the deep-set history of the soul and bodily evolution, to the SUBJECTIVE state of mind rather than to the OBJECTIVE state.”
“Such experiences with these drugs hinder man toward the Christ consciousness. For while it is true that they attune him to God, they attune him as to the relationship of man with God BEFORE he was a spiritual being, rather than toward that which he is to become.”
“We are not here for any purpose of escape. Through the nature of the spirit and soul, the forces have been built in man where it is here a bit, there a bit, stone upon stone; not a jump into the infinite — even with a few hours or days or weeks of preparation… No, it is not well at these times that man return to his unresolute beginnings. It would be more important and better that a man flounder for years, striving with his own personal problems to apply what he even consciously knows of the Christ ideal of love.”
— “The Drug Dilemma”, from the psychic readings of Ray Stanford
The Great Ego Killer
“In today’s ‘new paradigm’ spiritual movements, we usually see… a complete loss of the Spirit in 2nd-person. What we find instead are extensive descriptions of Spirit in its 3rd-person mode, such as Gaia, the Web of Life, systems theory, akashic fields, chaos theory, and so on. This is coupled, to the extent there is a practice, with Spirit in 1st-person modes: meditation, contemplation, Big Mind, Big Self, Big Me. But no conceptions of a Great Thou, to whom surrender and devotion is the only response.
“This amounts to nothing less that the repression of Spirit in 2nd-person. Remember, all three 3 faces of Spirit are simply faces of your deepest, formless Self… In short, failing to acknowledge your own Spirit in 2nd-person is a repression of a dimension of your very being-in-the-world.
“In today’s America, the repression of the Great Thou often goes hand in hand with boomeritis. By emphasizing either a 3rd-person conception of Spirit as a great Web of Life, or a 1st-person conception of Spirit as Big Mind or Big Self, there is nothing before which ‘I’ must bow and surrender. The ego can actually hide out in 1st- and 3rd-person approaches…
“Spirit in 2nd-person is the great devotional leveler, the great ego killer, that before which the ego is humbled into Emptiness. Vipassana, Zen, shikan-taza, Vedanta, TM, and so on, simply do not confront my interior with something greater than me, only higher levels of me. But without higher levels of Thou as well — the quadrants go all the way up! — then one remains subtly or not so subtly fixated to variations on I-ness and 1st-person. That is why the merely 1st-person approaches often retain a deep-seated arrogance.
“It is understandable why so many individuals abandoned the mythic-amber God, usually when they reached college and switched to orange and green worldviews. Abandon the mythic God they should — but not abandon Spirit in 2nd-person! Find, instead, the turquoise God, the indigo God, all the way up to the ultraviolet God, which is the Great Thou that is the 2nd-person face of Spirit alongside the ultraviolet I-I and the Great It of Dharmadhatu (or realm of Reality). These are the 3 dimensions of your own formless primordial Spirit as it manifest in the world of Form, and repressing any of them is repressing your own deepest realities.”
— Ken Wilber, from his book “Integral Spirituality”
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth by David Sunfellow
• How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World by David Sunfellow
• The Purpose of Life, Jesus & NDEs by David Sunfellow
• The Dark Side of Buddhism
• Loving Personhood or Liberation From Personhood? by Robert Perry
• Discernment & The Spiritual Path by David Sunfellow
• Loving Our Enemies: The Core of Jesus’ Vision in the Sayings Gospel Q by Robert Perry (pdf)
• Evolutionary Enlightenment by Andrew Cohen (Book)
• Wikipedia on Sri Aurobindo
• The Future of the Body by Michael Murphy (Book)
• The Pathwork Guide Lectures of Eva Pierrakos by David Sunfellow
• Pulse on Near-Death Experiences
• Pulse on Jesus