Search & Read
Salvation and Liberation Are Not the Same
Ram: Dear Catherine, well, I’m back from the video tour and properly rested. I read your email and I am quite familiar with the concepts. The idea that salvation comes from Grace is obvious to me. In my case, it happened in the post office at Waikiki. Here is an account of it.
Since I am not an accomplished writer and cannot describe my feelings of self-loathing well, you will have to take it on faith that I finally hit bottom, my consciousness peppered with thoughts of suicide. Then on a lovely tropical morning, after a drunken and debauched night with a woman whose husband was out of town, I was sluggishly lumbering through the International Market Place on my way to the post office, the pavement glistening from a light morning shower, the sun playing hide-and-seek with big billowy clouds, plumerias spraying their erotic fragrance as gentle trade winds rattled the palm fronds, when I noticed a jaunty old man, a vacationer or pensioner come to idly pass the sunset years, appropriately attired in Bermuda shorts, aloha shirt, tennies and a straw hat, perusing his mail as he ambled my way. As he got closer I realized we were on a collision course and sent a message to my feet to move left, but nothing happened! Panic stricken, I tried to move out of the way a second time, but the body would not respond!
I had completely lost control.
A couple of seconds before impact the bodies stopped face to face and I heard a sweet voice, which was not my own, speaking through me.
“Excuse me, sir, may I ask you a question?” it said.
Someone else had taken over!
Since I had no idea what the voice was about to say, I tried to apologize but the words would not come.
I was not connected at the mouth either!
The old man looked up, unaware of my distress, a kind smile on his wrinkled face. “Yeah, sure, sonny, shoot.”
Then the voice, flowing like nectar from a deep place within, resumed, “Out of curiosity, sir, how old do you think I am?”
Since I already knew the answer and had not the slightest interest in the opinion of the doddering old codger, I was completely flabbergasted.
Certain I was going mad, I ran frantically around inside my mind looking for the control panel but reality, with a mind of its own, was completely uninterested.
The old man stepped back, pulled on his pipe, gave me the once-over and judiciously replied, “Well, sonny, I’d say you’re forty-three.”
A long history of untruth meant I could spot a lie a mile away; he was deliberately underestimating his age to spare my feelings.
“Well, yes, thank you very much,” the voice said sweetly.
“Don’t mention it, sonny,” he said, proceeding on his way.
I seriously considered the possibility that I was losing my mind, but the experience was permeated with such a sense of clarity I did not indulge my fear. And then I regained control and proceed toward my mailbox, the mind settling on the concerns of the day.
But as I entered the foyer I lost it again! Instead of proceeding into the post office proper as programmed, the body confidently turned left, entered the men’s room and parked itself in front of a big mirror over the wash basins, the eyes glued straight ahead, feet welded to the floor.
“Oh, shit, not again! Am I flipping out?” I thought anxiously.
But I was not going mad. I was having a good look, courtesy of God, at what I had become. I do not know how long I stood there, unable to move a muscle – perhaps a full five minutes – aware but unaware of the stares of the men coming and going, the flushing toilets, the irritating flicker of the neon over the mirror. But it did not matter, because a brand new world had miraculously opened up, an inner world illumined by a powerful Light in whose presence I saw it all – every last bit of the sin and corruption that I was.
The moment of truth in the post office lifted a monstrous weight, Saul on the road to Damascus. Though I still looked a wreck, overweight and run-down, my face etched with deep pain lines, I felt young again, inspired by the conviction that I might find an exit from my dark labyrinth.
And for the first time in my twenty-six years I realized there was a compassionate God.
My salvation, however, was not the end of my suffering, although it was the beginning of the end. I think when the Lord blesses someone with an experience it is up to the person to make the changes that the experience implies. I was completely inspired by this experience and eagerly set out to live a righteous life. And I discovered that the works I did acted as an invocation, that is, God responded to my efforts by showering me with many more salvations, direct experiences of Him, at least as powerful and sometimes more powerful than the one I described. These experiences lasted for about three years. During that and subsequent epiphanies I saw God clearly, as clearly as I see the computer screen on which these words are appearing. What I saw coincides with what scripture describes as the nature of God. Whether the subsequent epiphanies were caused by my invocations or not is hard to determine. But why should God not respond to sincere attempts to communicate and understand in an obvious way – by generating experiences that reveal His nature?
One thing I have realized during my long and intense communication with God, which is as intimate and strong as it was the day we (me and God) met, makes me question the following statement, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life, is that saint and sinner are already heirs to eternal life. We just do not know it. God’s nature is eternal and so is ours – man is cast in the image of God –so the whole point for us, motivated by faith, is to remove our ignorance of the nature of God and therefore remove our self-ignorance. When we discover that we are whole and complete, lacking in nothing (because God has made us that way), the propensity to sin dries up, sin being just the God (and self-) insulting actions we do out of the light of God. Some may find this view a bit heretical because they have been so conditioned to believe in their innate (original) sinfulness. In my experience there is original sin, in the sense of a deep and apparently beginningless ignorance of God, but when knowledge of God becomes firm it erases the sense of limitation and separation that causes us to pursue our own selfish ends at the expense of God’s will and the world around – which is also God. And it allows us to merge into God, in the sense of understanding our identity in love with Him. The world is God because scripture tells us that God is omnipresent. The creation is non-separate from God because it comes directly from Him like the web of a spider is made of the spider’s body and shaped by the spider’s intelligence. God did not requisition souls from an evil parallel universe and plunk them down in his lovely creation just to save them – what perversity that would be! – because there is simply nothing anywhere that is not God, or if you prefer – of God. One can account for the belief in the reality of Lucifer by ignorance of God. When you haven’t been saved you experience fear and selfishness. And because these are uncomfortable emotions they are repressed and then personified – to get the sinner off the hook; he or she can blame the Devil for his or her suffering.
As far as the idea that salvation implies that one do good works, I agree completely. But it is not easy. The tendencies that one develops before one realizes that there is a loving God and that he or she is part and parcel of God are often very deep, so usually salvation sets up a struggle within the person between the noble God-fearing part and the selfish part – which may take many years to resolve.
I’m sure that we are going to have an interesting conversation about the Lord. So you get a better idea what my idea of God is, I’m enclosing a discussion about God I had with a fellow I met on the internet. Mind you, my interest in sharing with you is in no way motivated by an attempt to alter your faith. On the contrary, I would hope that a discussion with someone outside your tradition would help to clarify and strengthen your faith. My view is that whatever a person’s beliefs, they have come by them honestly and need to be respected, and that God has this whole creation under control and does not require us to proselytize, because in the long run what really matters is love, not what one thinks. When I was more intemperate in the old days I occasionally crossed swords with people whose views were different from mine, but time has had a mellowing effect, I’m in the autumn of my life and much inclined to peace.
So I’m saying what I’m saying simply out of love for you – nothing else.