Cover image for Authentic spirituality : the direct path to consciousness
Authentic spirituality : the direct path to consciousness
Potter, Richard N., 1945-
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First edition.
Publication Information:
St. Paul, Minn. : Llewellyn, [2004]

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xxi, 238 pages ; 23 cm
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BL624 .P668 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this groundbreaking book, Richard Potter, an academic and a mystic, sets forth a revolutionary thesis: to evolve personally, spiritually, and globally, we need a new concept of spirituality that is not tied to culturally specific beliefs and practices.

The idea that any one religion has a monopoly on the divine is a concept that has led to bigotry, bloodshed, and war throughout both the ancient and modern world. Recent global events have increased our awareness of the violence that can be unleashed by extremist followers of religions who claim to promote peace while waging war.

The time has come for a spirituality of consciousness. By focusing on consciousness instead of dogma, it becomes possible to realize the core truths of world religions without being bound to outdated beliefs and customs that no longer serve humanity.

Learn core consciousness-expanding practices including meditation, breathwork, sound work, and retreats. Explore ways to open your heart, achieve self mastery, evaluate spiritual teachers, and attain spiritual freedom, all steps on the path to greater contentment, clarity, compassion, and a profound sense of inner peace. Take a spiritual adventure beyond the bounds of time and place with one of today's most original spiritual thinkers.


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PART ONE Transforming Old Habits WE MUST FACE head-on the lack of a central myth in today's postmodern world.What can we look to when meaning is drained from our world? It is time to look closely at the mythology, cosmology, and morality that try to make sense of the great mystery that is life and ask ourselves some very basic questions. Can our present religious and scientific perspectives make sense of our world and bring meaning to our lives, or are rationality and meaning mutually exclusive? A new world cannot be born until the old world has been put to rest. The time is ripe to re-evaluate our too literal and too limited perspectives on the nature of reality. ONE Stories and Myths ALONG WITH LANGUAGE, myths, and stories are the bones of culture. Myths and stories tell us who we are, why we live the way we do, and how to handle life's difficulties.Today we do not have a central myth, except possibly for science, and without a commonly accepted mythological foundation,Western technological culture flounders in a sea of competing ideologies and moralities. Stories, too, have lost much of their ability to inform us about how to meet life's challenges and crises, because the prevailing worldview sees them as stories, nothing more. If myths and stories are the bones upon which the fullness of a culture is built, then trouble with those bones will show up in all aspects of a culture. Just as the physical body provides a vehicle in which human mind, emotion, personality, and consciousness can function in this world, culture provides a body in which groups of individuals can function. Human beings create their cultures but do so in slow, mostly unconscious ways over long periods of time. Cultures are all-pervasive and provide the basic template as well as the material for all interaction, understanding, motivation, and meaning in the lives of their members. Cultures persist by being constantly reinforced in everyday life. For example, if the myth of a people tells them that they are God's chosen people, all community events are interpreted in the light of that belief, reinforcing the belief, and it will be obvious to everyone in the community that they are God's chosen ones. Culture is like the air we breathe, and often it is just as invisible. Language is also at the heart of culture. Language determines what can and cannot be said-even what can and cannot be thought. Language reinforces cultural realities when it provides many choices of words, phrases, and idioms in relationship to experiences that are central to the culture. By providing few or no words for those experiences that are outside of the cultural perspective, language discourages our considering alternative realities. Those who speak several languages know that some languages are better for expressing emotions such as love, while others are better for conducting business. Language shapes us but is also shaped by us, in one of life's many circles. Language is also inextricably tied to the stories of a culture. Stories are the way in which cultural ideals have always been transmitted. Language is the medium not only of story but also of much of the communication that serves the function of socializing people into their cultures. Just as it limits people's perspectives to the prevailing cultural perspective, language limits what can happen in stories. Stories are greatly influenced by the richness of their language in describing particular situations, emotions, and subtle worlds. Cultures that are closely related to nature have a lot of interest in the natural world and have many words about natural phenomena. These cultures often produce far more rich and complex stories using animals, places, and weather than do societies where most people are somewhat distanced from nature. Societies that stress human actors and minimize the natural world generally have languages that are much more attuned to complicated family and emotional interactions and are less descriptive of nature. Some groups, such as many North American First Nations, have developed languages that are rich in words related both to nature and to human relationships. Even though the stories of some types of culture tend to focus on more limited topics most suited to their interest and language, their stories still need to meet the needs of individuals going about their daily lives. Basic human questions like "Why do I exist?""What happens when I die?" and "Why do humans suffer?" will still need to be addressed, but each language and culture will vary the answer based upon its available strengths and unique perspectives. Few individuals go very far beyond the boundaries of their cultures. Some hardy persons do venture out beyond the limitations of their societies' geographical boundaries and cultural perspectives and succeed in developing uniquely broad and deep personalities. Occasionally individuals who explore the regions beyond the cultural perimeters without adequate guidance may become psychologically unstable. Some mystics and sages have the ego strength to go beyond cultural limitations and later return to their societies to widen perspectives of others, but this is even rare among the wise. The fascinating challenge of today's global culture is that cultures are losing their hold on more and more individuals, which creates the potential for both psychopathology and enlightenment.We no longer need to be global adventurers or seekers of spiritual truths in order to find ourselves ripped out of our cultural encapsulation; it can happen through a multitude of ways. Even though culture is powerful and holds most of us in a vice-like grip, breaking the cultural trance requires inner motivation combined with experiences like extensive travel, emersion in scientific or social scientific education, disillusionment, or other forms of social marginalization. And then what? Once outside of the boundaries how are we to function? I have known several returned Peace Corps volunteers who, upon returning to their own cultures, have experienced difficulties building meaningful lives in their former social contexts. I have also known people who experienced great loss when their conservative religious views crumbled during the process of postgraduate education. Some of the social activists of the 1960s became so disillusioned that they found ways to "drop out" and exist outside of the mainstream culture. There are, however, important positives associated with emerging from the cocoon of one's culture. Many of the returned Peace Corps volunteers who experienced some degree of alienation from their own cultures went on to become dynamic and creative individuals, sought after by business and governmental groups. Some of the disillusioned 1960s activists returned to work within organizations to create positive change. Some of those who lost their conservative religious convictions went on to develop rich spiritual lives. How did these people manage to overcome their alienation? Stepping outside of our cultures can prepare us to approach Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, as an empty vessel waiting to receive the nectar of illumination. Creativity often requires some degree of alienation in order to give the creative person perspective. It all depends upon our readiness for the experience. In other words, it depends upon the degree to which our consciousness has been developed. There is a Sufi story that addresses this question. David Less, a spiritual mentor and friend, tells this story best, and it has always been one of my favorites.This is my version. A Tavern Story There is a tavern that is occupied by everyone you know and everyone I know (it is a pretty big tavern). Like most taverns, it is dark, smoky, and full of a lot of activity. Most of the activity occurs near the bar where the bartender, a rather magnetic fellow, serves the various drinks to the patrons. For one person, he pours from a bottle with the word "depression" written on it; for another, he finds a bottle with the label "hate." There are many bottles, and he pours from them such exotic concoctions as greed, pettiness, gluttony-well, you get the picture. Imagine that you take your particular drink (related to your current propensity) and settle in at your table at the back of the tavern. After a while you become restless,maybe feeling as the old song goes,"Is this all there is?"You begin to explore the more remote recesses of this large tavern. Suddenly you notice light filtering in from a window with curtains drawn, and, fascinated, you walk over to the window.You pull the curtain back and are blinded by the light.You quickly turn away and return to the bar for another drink. A little later your curiosity draws you back to the window. This time you are prepared for the shock of the light so you turn your head a bit and allow yourself to get used to the light, so you eventually are able to look out of the tavern window.You are amazed by what you see! There is another world out there in the bright light, a world whose existence you had never imagined.There are flowers and trees and grass and an incredible sun overhead.You stand mesmerized for what seems like an eternity.Then you decide that, whatever the cost, you must find a way to get out of the tavern and into this strange and beautiful new land you are seeing. You look around the room, but cannot find a door.You become mighty thirsty.You feel a compulsion to return to the bar for another drink, but your fascination with finding a way out keeps you occupied enough to tolerate your thirst.Now you devise a plan.You figure that if you circumambulate the perimeter wall of the tavern you should be able to find an opening to the outside. Slowly you make your way around the tavern wall until you discover a door frame and door knob. You open the door slowly and again are blinded by dazzling light. You step outside and stand there for a while until you are able to see. Even before your eyes are completely accustomed to the sunlight you feel warmed by the sun. Sweet fragrances drift in on a light breeze and lift your spirits.You look around and see flowers, trees, plants and animals, all living in natural splendor. It vaguely reminds you of another time and another place that you just can't quite remember.You feel happier and more contented than you are capable of comprehending, and you just wander in this scene for a while. Suddenly you feel the presence of another being.You feel a tap on your shoulder.You turn around to behold a person who appears kind and gentle, and who says that you must make a choice. It is not possible to remain outside of the tavern and live.You are welcome to remain in this land, but in order to do so you must cease to exist. If you wish to remain alive, you must return to the tavern.The kind person suggests that there are those in the tavern that need you and are depending on you.Your heart sinks! Never before have you known such beauty, clarity, and freedom. Never before have you been sober and free of the weight of your stupor.You realize that what you had thought was life was really a sort of sleepwalking brought about by imbibing the various intoxicants served to you in the tavern.The messenger smiles, nods, and says, "The gift that you take back with you is to remember." So you take a deep breath of the fragrant air of freedom and return to the tavern armed with the "gift of remembering." Once inside you realize how thirsty you are.You remember that no one can remain within the tavern and not drink, so you return to the bar and ask for a drink. The bartender starts to pour you a glass of "anger," and you say,"No, thank you." Everything becomes hushed; it's not normal to refuse what the bartender offers. He reaches for a bottle marked "depression" and you say, "No, thank you." Now things are getting a bit tense-everyone is looking to see what will happen next. The bartender is getting upset and growls back at you, "So what do you want?" You peer over the top of the bar and see some old, dusty bottles on the bottom shelf."What's in those?" you ask. He picks one up, blows off some dust and replies,"Hmmm, I haven't seen this one in a long time-it's kindness.""Yes, I'll have some of that," you say. A soft sense of well-being fills your chest, and you realize that you did it -you remembered! From this day forward, you will remember. Every time you approach the bar you will remember that world outside, and that will give you the freedom to choose what you wish to drink in this tavern of life. This story shows us that a spiritual discipline bestows upon the brave soul who chooses to step outside of his or her culture two gifts: the knowledge that one cannot live as a human being without participation in a culture, and the freedom to choose how to participate.Without knowledge, self-discipline, and love (all key elements in the story), the choices are grim. Without these qualities, people can become depressed, angry, or cynical and withdraw from society or even worse. Some may experience emotional and mental disorders that are the result of losing a sense of order and meaning in life.With the requisite knowledge, self-discipline, and love, the wise can participate in the game of life, while remembering that every thought,word, and deed is a choice. It is possible to make these choices out of love for the dear ones that populate this earth.This perspective is similar to the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, the one who has achieved Union with the One Mind, and yet chooses to continue incarnating to serve others. As we leave behind our cultural blinders,we have to choose the stories and myths that will provide the patterns that guide our lives.When the central myth of a culture can no longer bring meaning and purpose to our daily life pursuits, how might we find the stories that could help us? We are fortunate in this global community to have access to stories from around the world. Some of these stories can help us to understand and even to recreate the cultural stories that were changed, suppressed, and lost as the dominant Judeo-Christian myth rose to prominence. As the Christian story spread across Europe and the Americas, its missionaries were quick to merge local stories into Christian stories. Many of the birth and miracle stories in the New Testament are borrowed from religions such as Mithraism extant in the Roman Empire at the time. These stories follow the archetypal patterns set up for "heroes,""sacrificial kings," and "sons of the sun" in Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, and ancient European cultures. One would think that the consolidation of these myths in a dominant new package would be useful, but the Christian story had one devastating flaw that still haunts us today.That flaw has led not only to the loss of many stories but also to the loss of whole cultures. Christians said that Jesus was the only Son of God. This twist to a familiar story negated all other myths and stories for all other people. It required all people who wanted salvation or redemption to believe in only the Christian story.This tragic flaw opened the door for the murder of millions of people and the wholesale destruction of countless cultures-in the name of the Christian story. Most Christians today are appalled by what has been done in their name and have moved far from this narrow, ethnocentric view of their religion, but unfortunately, the growing wave of fundamentalist Christians has not seen the need for change. Stories that could not be incorporated into those approved by the church in Christian Europe were branded either "pagan" or heresy, and those who told or valued the stories were persecuted.The Inquisition and the witch burnings from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries in Europe are chilling examples of the suppression of stories and the beliefs that they represented. If we sometimes feel cut off from our roots, unaware of the true nature of our tribal origins, whether they be in Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas, it may be this suppression of early stories and myths that is at the core of the problem. All of our ancestors, no matter where we are from,were members of tribes or clans. If you scratch our surface, you will quickly discover, underneath the thin veneer of "civilization," a tribal person. In the history of the evolution of the human species, the present rational, industrialized, urban, cosmopolitan, and often monotheistic culture that we now inhabit is a brief episode. Our longer and psychologically more powerful inheritance is of living in close, intimate, extended family groupings. These groups bonded cooperatively with other groups in tribes or other social units that shared their oral traditions, histories, stories, and myths, often around the fire at night. Because of this history, which is lost to many of us,we still respond deeply to stories, poetry, and other oral traditions. We feel most alienated and alone when our stories are lost or cannot relate to the lives we are living. Fortunately, the human storytelling urge is unstoppable. People like Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm collected European fairy tales, and one can now find collections of stories and fairy tales from every part of the world in our neighborhood bookstores.With movies and television we are constantly retelling old tales, embellishing the best of the timeless stories, and perhaps even creating a new mythology (at least the outward symbols) for the times. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we now have more access to a full range of myths, sagas, fairy tales, and stories than ever before.This is due to the omnipresence of television and movies as well as the written word and traditional storytelling.These media reflect motifs from around the world, in addition to our own national or cultural myths.Trying to stay parochial is getting harder and harder. Marie-Louise von Franz writes in her classic Interpretation of Fairy Tales: "In myths or legends, or any other more elaborate mythological material, we get at the basic patterns of the human psyche through an overlay of cultural material. But in fairy tales there is much less specific conscious material and therefore they mirror the basic patterns of the psyche more clearly"(von Franz, 1982:1). If we heed the implications of this distinction we may find a clue to salvaging the heart of our mythological inheritance while leaving behind some of the cultural baggage.We can look at myths and stories as bringers of common messages but under different circumstances.We may be able to find in fairy tales the distilled versions of larger cultural myths and recreate their deeper meaning without having to buy into the ancient worldview that they carry. As they rise to the level of fairy tale, stories have often been purged, through their repetitive telling, of the religion, politics, morality, and economics of the time.They speak directly to the unfolding of consciousness through the human self. Myths are linked to a people. When we think of the myths surrounding the Trojan War, we think of the Greeks; when we think of White Buffalo Calf Woman we think of the Lakota Sioux.These myths may make less sense for other cultures, as each speaks to the unique history and nature of a single culture. Still, the myths contain archetypal motifs that speak to the development of the human self, a self that is situated in a time and place. Along with the psychological-spiritual components, myths often carry historical information and in some cases involve actual historical people. The stories in the Old Testament reflect the embellished and ethnocentric stories of the Hebrew people but certainly contain some useful historical information for those capable of disentangling it. While many have doubted the historical authenticity of the Trojan War, there is now a developing body of knowledge to suggest it did indeed occur.We need to recognize the cultural usefulness of history that has become mythologized, but we also need to be able to tell the difference between historic material and content whose purpose is the promotion of the growth of consciousness. Edward Edinger, discussing Jung's "new myth," is very much in step with the idea of the development of a postmodern Western consciousness- based mythology when he says: The new myth postulates that the created universe and its most exquisite flower, man, make up a vast enterprise for the creation of consciousness, that each individual is a unique experiment in that process; and that the sum total of consciousness created by each individual in his lifetime is deposited as a permanent addition in the collective treasury of the archetypal psyche (Edinger, 1984:23). While myths are paradigmatic and give meaning and direction to the existence of large groups of people during a particular historical epic, stories contain the wisdom of our ancestors concerning living one's life. Stories give insight into the trials and tribulations of growing into maturity, the tasks required at various key points in one's life, initiations that need to understood and endured, the meaning of our feelings, the bad things that happen to good people, the good things that happen to bad people, and the individual pathless path to awakening. In short, stories instruct us about the meaning of life events and the qualities and attitudes required to live a good life. Creating New Stories We don't need to look far to discover new stories that can touch the depths and instruct our new generations.There are stories being written constantly that convey the wisdom of the psyche. Many of these stories, which are available to each new generation, are almost (but not quite) as free of cultural bias as a fairy tale, because they are emerging out of a multicultural, postmodern, and intellectually free society.They do, however, often carry the biases of modernity, rationalism, and individualism. Many of the writers of the stories and directors of the films made from them have searched outside of the cultural boxes for fresh ways to package these timeless teaching stories. Film is an exceptionally powerful way to impress important stories upon people.There is nothing entirely new about this. Our ancestors from Greece to Elizabethan England have used stage plays to share the cultural stories.This type of medium allows individuals to give themselves over to the story, lose themselves in it, and find lost pieces of their psyches in the characters of the play. Film, especially with the incredible special effects now available, can capture and immerse the mind in a manner unparalleled in our history. My wife Jan and I sometimes teach a course that we call "Our Stories, Our Lives." It is all about seeing and understanding symbolism in stories.The students read stories and fairy tales, watch films, and write autobiographies using myth and symbol, rather than straight prose.The last time we taught the course, the power of some of these stories was impressed upon me again.This is an intensive three-week course, taught in three-hour blocks each day. On the third day, after seeing some of Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth videos, talking a lot about the sequence of the "hero's journey," discussing the meaning behind a couple of stories I told, and watching The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson's beautiful little myth) the students were about ready to revolt."Who cares about all this stuff anyway!" was a pretty common sentiment. "Why not just get a good job and have a nice life?"was one student's comment, and who can argue with that? The next day I showed the movie The Matrix. They changed from a rebellious street gang to a group of innocents with seeking hearts.We talked about why Neo (the lead character) would give up his normal life in search of something more. They shared moments from their own lives when they had glimpsed something greater, using Robert Johnson's term "grail castle experience" (Johnson, 1974:49).We talked about the names in the story: "Neo," meaning new, and Trinity (the anima/soul figure in the movie), referring to Knower, Known, and Knowing, or Love, Lover and Beloved, the full trinity of life. Could this mean that when the two of them unite we have a new life, a new world, new consciousness? The students really got into it. It was the turning point in the class. This is the power that myth continues to exert. Each generation needs stories to which they can relate, and when they find them, they will respond to them.There are many other films out there that are carrying important stories; I will share a couple of my favorite scenes. I am always captivated by a scene late in the film Return of the Jedi. Han Solo, and Princess Leia, symbolically represents for me the questing heart and the soul respectively, are fighting below on the forest planet, and Luke, representing the individual spirit or higher will, is confronting the emperor and his father, above, on the Death Star.This "as above, so below" sequence powerfully portrays the qualities of courage and daring (below) and mastery (above) that are needed to overcome one's own hidden barriers to growth. Recently Jan and I went to see The Fellowship of the Ring, the 2001 version of Tolkien's story about hobbits, a ring of power, and a dark time. A scene that struck me as beautiful was that when Boromir, who had been the protector of Gondor, but never its king, was dying, and Aragorn, the rightful king, was comforting him. Many in the theater were sniffling or sobbing, but my eyes were mostly dry, although they had not always been dry during that movie. I was moved not by loss, but by the mythic image of the lower self that had been carrying the burden in the absence of the king, now turning over the task to the one destined to accomplish it, the king, or higher self. It was an awe-inspiring and powerful image. There are many other little myths out there that I love and that have affected my life greatly. I especially like Joe Versus the Volcano, Ladyhawke, The Emerald Forest, and Excalibur. Sometimes these stories have come along just at the time when I needed something that they had to teach, or when I was down and needed a shot of the "hero's journey" or "alchemical marriage" to boost my resolve or give me courage.We don't always need to seek out spiritual guides or wise mentors; sometimes the stories around us can teach us all we need to know, once we have learned to speak the language of myth. Myths We Can Do Without I am often very concerned about two types of stories that I feel have outlived their usefulness and may be more a hindrance to growth than a help.These two motifs are the "tragic love story" and the "sacrificial king story." Both story types are incredibly interwoven into Western culture.They reflect a development of consciousness and a paradigm that has become outgrown. I think the damage that they can cause far outweighs their possible benefit.There are other ways to promote the growth to which the stories point. Tragic Love From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, to the movie City of Angels, tragic love stories promote the idea that "true love" cannot last in this world of the flesh. Maybe it is thought that love as profound as this can only be hinted at on earth and must be waited for until we go to another world beyond this one. It might be that "true love" is seen as a metaphor for our relationship with God, and therefore can never be consummated between mortals. Possibly, from a psychological perspective," true love" is an externalization of the conjunctio oppositorium within (the marriage of the inner feminine and masculine) and needs to be owned rather than projected.Whatever the reasons for the continuation of the tragic love motif, I believe it is a grave mistake. Love is one of the greatest, most sublime, most transforming, and most useful of human emotions-why should it be doomed to failures? Yes, we certainly have difficulty in maintaining our loving relationships, but this could be partially a result of faulty mythology, not its cause. Following the lead of the Sufis, the medieval troubadours sang of a love that could not be fulfilled in life but rather became an ideal for which to live. The romantic love of the troubadours had a civilizing effect on a brutish European culture, but it has changed greatly since that time. Today, at least in the West, love is the foundation for marriage and long-term commitment.Today, love is one of the few counterforces to a faceless, soulless machine-like existence. Love is an affirmation of commitment and a rejection of transience. Love rescues us from the isolation of individuality and challenges us to be "in relationship." Love requires us to go beyond our adolescent preoccupation with ourselves and consider at least one other person. Love is also a crucible that refines our personalities and opens our hearts. Love serves us in all of these ways, and instead of supporting the powerful functions of love, our culture continues to propagate the story of tragic love. Could it be that love is too radical an activity to be easily accepted by monolithic states and religions? Love might require us to work fewer hours, to dedicate ourselves to our beloved and our families rather than the workplace. If we loved we might not be as willing to dismiss this life as inferior to spiritual realities. Love might keep us home during times of war, rather than leaving our loved ones to fight for the state. Love is a very radical political activity. Love not only transforms individuals but is also capable of transforming the world. Love is dangerous to the status quo. I am not hinting at a conspiracy here, only saying that old ways die hard, especially when they have a way of preserving things as they are. What if we began telling more stories where "true love" was triumphant? Would that have a "snowball effect" and create more support for people seeking guidance in their own process of loving? Would the psychological effect of learning to love more completely have an impact on the inner process of uniting the masculine and feminine sides of the individual? Would more outer and inner harmony between lovers, between anima (the inner feminine) and animus (the inner masculine) begin to heal the cultural divide between men and women? I believe it is time for us to try. The Sacrificial King In a darshan (an in-depth spiritual interview) some years ago, a spiritual guide told me that I was "too impressed with sacrifice." I know that this is true. I know that I resonate very deeply with the archetypes of the sacrificial king and sacred warrior. If you would bore to the center of my being and divest me of all other qualities and identity, you would find the sacred king archetype.After much soul-searching, I believe we need to develop a new view of this ancient construct. The sacrificial king is more difficult to discuss than tragic love. It is far more ancient, and it has a more crucial spiritual component.The idea that the chief, king, pharaoh, or emperor somehow embodies the spirit of the people and that his (and it is a "he") life is a reflection of this relationship, carries a power and inner truth that cannot be ignored. If the ancient insight that "woman is life, and man is its protector" can be taken as indicative of a certain understanding of inner reality, then the "king" of our psyche, the ego, must be periodically sacrificed in order for soul to grow into the fullness of its life. The ego must go through a death and rebirth when it is too small to support the next step of the feminine side of our life, what we sometimes call the soul. There are outer manifestations of this process, when the ego of the culture, often reflected in the leader or leadership, has too limited a perspective to lead the culture into its next great stage, and must be changed. The reality behind the stories of sacrificial kings, from Mithras to Jesus to Arthur, is profound and necessary and needs to have its place in our cultural stories. My concern is with the extent to which we have replaced "living" with "sacrifice." I think it is better to live for my country than to die for it. I think it is better to live for my family than to die for it.The sacrifice of lower desire for the benefit of the community or the growth of the individual has become, in the hands of nation-states and religions, a horrible weapon.The affirmation of life, which is what the inner meaning of sacrifice is all about, needs to be placed back in the forefront of the myth of sacrifice. Martyrdom for state or religion can no longer be seen as affirming of life, but instead as a bringer of death at the behest of a bureaucracy.There will most likely still be times when individuals must sacrifice their lives for higher ideals, but I would like to suggest we also need a mythology and stories that provide us with multiple pathways to live for our ideals and propose sacrifice only when the more life-affirming paths prove ineffective. Life is by no means always rosy-as a matter of fact it seldom is-but we almost ensure failure to make life better when we continually impress upon the psyche that the only way to make life better is through death. Sometimes, especially when it is metaphor, death brings about a rebirth, but all too often death is simply death. It may be that the most radical idea that I will continually return to in this book is that of the affirmation of life. Life lives and death dies. If the hidden treasure that is the divine is to be found anywhere, it is in the sweet, vibrating, ever-present, yet ephemeral moment we call life. While sacrifice is sometimes the act of a great heart, it is sometimes more important to learn how to live for your purpose rather than die for it. Myths and stories shape our world, sometimes for the better and sometimes to our detriment. Humans can be said to evolve through their cultures, and we are a species that is at a turning point in its evolution. Much of the world has moved beyond the stories that have given their cultures meaning and stands poised to take a leap into an unknown future. It will be crucially important which myths and stories we choose to take with us. Excerpted from Authentic Spirituality by Richard H. Potter All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. xi
Part 1 Transforming Old Habits
1 Stories and Mythsp. 3
2 The Onep. 19
3 The Mysteryp. 31
4 The Moral Lifep. 49
Part 2 Understanding the Core of Spirituality
5 Opening the Heartp. 69
6 Masteryp. 83
7 Creating Personalityp. 97
8 Paths, Transmission, and Teachersp. 113
9 Spiritual Freedomp. 123
Part 3 Spiritual Practices and the Development of Consciousness
10 Thinking and Consciousnessp. 137
11 Creative Imagination and Meditationp. 147
12 Spiritual Practice with Breathp. 163
13 Spiritual Practice with Soundp. 173
14 Spiritual Retreatp. 185
15 Nature and the Natural Rhythm of Lifep. 197
16 An Authentic Spirituality for the Futurep. 205
Glossaryp. 215
Works Citedp. 219
Selected Bibliographyp. 223
Indexp. 229