Friday, February 20, 2009

The last page of the novel Moby Dick describes the sinking of the whaling vessel Pequod – how it and all the sailors whose personal dramas and inter-relationships had been recounted for hundreds of pages sank beneath the water and no sign remained that the ship and crew had ever existed. Not a ripple marked the spot where it had gone down. “The great shroud of the sea rolled on as it had for thousands of years.”
This is the nature of death – what exists disappears. This is what happens to you and me – we die, and nothing of us remains. It is not a pleasant thing to contemplate.
One man, Ishmael, survives the sinking of the Pequod. He is saved by a wooden coffin that buoys him.
The Christian religion promises a pardon, a kind of wooden coffin, from the sentence of death we live under. Christianity says that the Savior Jesus Christ redeemed us by dying in our place. By dying he disabled death itself, we are told. He was resurrected by God, and so may we be. Salvation is attainable. We shall not surely die, not really, at least not the part that is really us. Our bodies may perish, but not us.
I have no quarrel with those who believe in the Resurrection. The essence of what they believe will no doubt come to pass. Their bodies will perish, but who they really are will ascend unto heaven, there to be united with God into eternity. For myself, however, I see such beliefs as tending toward self-deception. The fact is, our time here on earth is at best a substitute pattern of what God intended; we are not, as it was put, walking with God and sharing in his creative processes. As fallen man, we live lives separated from God in our consciousness. Anything we do separate from God will perish. Like the Pequod and its crew, it is all going to pass away.
A few years back my mother died and my two daughters and I spent a sad afternoon sorting through her personal effects. Most of her photographs and correspondence we put in the trash barrel because we didn’t know the people. They had enriched my mother’s life, but without her none of the things had meaning. The day is coming when my things too will go into the trash. And rightly so. The remains of my human existence here on earth will disappear.
The Book of Genesis records the creation of man and the purpose of his existence – to walk with God and serve as his steward on earth. The book also tells the story of how man, represented by the figures of Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and hid from Him. And were subsequently expelled from the Garden of Eden (actually they expelled themselves). And how they were condemned to earn their bread by the sweat of the brow and how death came upon them – despite the sibilant hissing of the serpent, “Ye shall not surely die.” Death is not the ordained end of man as God made him, but it is the unavoidable end of fallen man.
Professed Christians sell themselves short. They have a self-centered, limited vision of themselves and the cosmos that God created. Christians imagine that life consists of three score and ten years here on earth and then an eternity in heaven. Zip, zip, once around the track, across the finish line, up to heaven, and that’s it. The race is run, the game is done. The truth, the reality, might prove to be something more. There is no finish line. God's creatuve processes are ongoing and never ending. We are all a part of the unending, never finished work in progress. That's where our consciousness, our sense of self, our "soul" if you will, needs to be. Evrything else perishes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Memory of Sunrise

(Note: This memoir was written at the request of my older daughter, who was born and reared on Sunrise and lived there until she was 19. She wanted a written history of the place she called home. I share it here because the story relates to all of us. -- Bob Moore)

Now living in my eighth decade of life on this earth, I look back and ask what it was all about, what did I do with my time on the planet, did any of it mean anything. Old people think about such things. We all have a story to tell.

My story starts back in the summer of 1958, at a boarding house on Montana Avenue in El Paso, Texas. I was 22 years old, and my personal life was in a turmoil. In the evenings I often played chess with an older fellow who smoked a pipe because he was trying to wean himself off cigarettes. He had an interesting way of saying things that I found soothing. One evening he told me about a place called Sunrise Ranch up in Colorado. He said it was kind of like the Walden Pond place I had read about where people could relax and learn to think straight.

Six months later, at his invitation, I visited this curiosity called Sunrise Ranch. It was like stepping back a quarter of a century into the Great Depression. I saw a lot of people crammed into primitive buildings. Meals were taken communally in an old ranch house, and there were a number of small cinder-block cottages where people lived with no utilities other than electricity. A number of outhouses were scattered about the property. I was full of questions but by way of answers was told that physical labor is always a prerequisite to understanding abstractions. And so I spent a number of hours each day straightening nails salvaged from scrap lumber.

I learned quite a bit about the community by simply observing. Milk cows, goats and chickens, for instance, provided much of the food. An appointed committee oversaw financial expenditures and purchases, and work leaders called focalizers supervised various construction and agricultural projects. Women rotated work in the kitchen preparing meals, and several worked as transcribers, using their home as an office. A two-acre garden produced vegetables in the summer, and tons of fruit were canned in the fall. Everybody, men, women and children, participated in these group projects.

In some respects it was a harsh environment, not very uplifting. Nothing about the human habitation appealed to the eye. Yet the natural setting was beautiful. Green Ridge to the west rose in ever-higher forested crests as part of the Rocky Mountains, and to the east the sandstone reds of the rimrock made a colorful framework for the narrow strip of fertile soil called Eden Valley.

When I first arrived at the Ranch my friend Tom from El Paso brought me in by what he termed the “Gateway,” a road that left the Estes Park highway and crossed the Big Thompson River. Several houses were clustered on the slope where the river and the road came together. We stopped at one of the houses and went inside to meet Tom’s special friends, Dave and Rosa Groves, an elderly couple from the Arkansas Ozarks. They were a sweet and engaging couple who could have posed for a picture representing “everybody’s grandpa and grandma.” Dave and Rosa had three grown daughters, the youngest of whom, Kathy, had married a young man named Lloyd Meeker. And it is with him that the real story of Sunrise Ranch is told.

Lloyd Meeker was a prophet sent by God. Now that’s what you could call a declarative sentence! But one that needs to be said, for it is the premise behind Sunrise Ranch. A normal, sensible person will of course rightly be skeptical in accepting such a statement. However, the reader is not asked to believe anything. Unlike the Christianity with which we are all acquainted, the God that Meeker represented promises no rewards for believing and no threats of penalties for disbelieving.

In written and audio records left by Meeker, he has described how he began a ministry in 1932 designed to provide a foundation for the restoration of the earth and its people to what God intended for his creation. In 1946 he was able to purchase a “hardscrabble” rundown farm ten miles from Loveland, CO, which he gave the name “Sunrise” to symbolically portray the dawn of a new day, and “Ranch” to designate its rural setting.

The Ranch had a twofold purpose: It provided a self-sufficient community in which people could learn how the spiritual and physical aspects of life intersected, and as a place where people located around the world could look for leadership.
Meeker took on the pen name of Uranda, the sound of which he said best conveyed the name of his eternal spiritual identity.

Over the years Uranda established a network of followers across the United States and Canada. He traveled extensively, giving lectures and talks to small groups. Many of the responding ones from these meetings eventually came to live at the Ranch, and others created “service centers” where Uranda’s talks were read and discussed.

A burgeoning number of “service centers” were led by graduates of the Palmer School of Chiropractic. They were attracted to Uranda because he was able to explain in rational terms how the “no hands” chiropractic adjustment that some practictioners were using in their offices worked. In essence, Uranda’s explanation said that every human being both emits and receives “radiation,” what he called “the currents of life.” Alignment of the spinal cord, which is the primary chiropractic treatment, could be achieved in just a few minutes of “no hands on” radiation.

Uranda called this healing process, which he expanded far beyond chiropractic boundaries, “attunement.” Many remarkable stories of health restoration via attunement have been recorded. Attunement, however, is not intended to replace other forms of healing. In fact, attunement is never offered as a “treatment” of any illness because attunement is viewed as just one facet of a holistic process.

In 1952 a number of these “attunement servers” and their families gathered on Sunrise to attend a six-month educational program called the Servers Training Class. Refinements of the attunement technique were taught, but the primary teaching focused on “attuning” the body, mind and heart of each individual to his or her spiritual life source. To the degree that an individual let this occur, he or she became a more effective, stable and happy human being. This “attuning” process was 24/7 for everyone on the Ranch. Or at least it was supposed to be. Human nature being what it is, over the years there were those who tended to forget why they were there.

The Servers Training Class became an annual affair, numbers increased, attendees came from all walks of life and the chiropractic input was lessened. In August 1954 the community was stunned by news that Uranda and Kathy, along with two others, had died when their private plane crashed into San Francisco Bay.

The future of the Ranch, and indeed of everything Uranda had established, seemed in jeopardy. But, as some like to say, the Lord provided. One of Uranda’s earliest contacts had been a Canadian, transplanted from England, named Martin Cecil (pronounced sess-el). In 1940 Uranda had acknowledged him as his prophetic equal and eventual successor.
So it was that until his death in 1989 Martin Cecil led the ministry Uranda had christened as Emissaries of Divine Light with headquarters on Sunrise Ranch. EDL was the legal name which enabled the ministry to function as a tax-free entity, but both Uranda and Martin preferred the term, Third Sacred School, to describe the enterprise. God’s covenant with Abraham, which formed the tribal Children of Israel, was considered the First Sacred School; two thousand years later the advent of the Christ, Jesus, followed as the Second Sacred School; and two thousand years after that, the formation of the Third Sacred School, which was built upon the foundation provided by the First and Second Schools.

Martin, as the saying goes, was a different kettle of fish from Uranda, an entirely different personality. Uranda had been outgoing and ebullient, and some said “you couldn’t stop from falling in love with him.” Martin, however, had the seemingly aloof personality of the upper class British society in which he had been born. He was all business.

I have sat in the audience and heard Martin speak at least a thousand times. And each of those talks was exactly sixty minutes. Well, give or take 30 seconds. There was no clock on the wall, no wrist watch, just Martin’s internal clock. Every talk was done without notes, entirely extemporaneous, had a beginning, middle and end, and was perfectly timed.

For many, many years he gave four hour-long talks a week –Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. And when the class was in session, he spoke for an hour every weekday morning, always without notes. All of his talks were transcribed, and today, along with Uranda’s words, comprise the 18 printed volumes of the Third Sacred School.
Today I read those words that I once heard first hand, and I wonder anew at them. Much of what he said zinged right over my head when I first heard him, I wasn’t sufficiently “attuned” to comprehend all that was said. Nowadays my perception is better and I marvel at how clearly he was aware of his role in furnishing for posterity a complete record of God’s will for man.

People sometimes ask me what the religious beliefs of “Emissaries” are. I reply that I can’t think of a single one. Beliefs are mental concepts that may or may not have some connection with reality. Emissaries honor the Bible as a record of God’s interaction with man and often use biblical verses to illustrate a point. The one known as Jesus is also acknowledged as the focal point of deity on earth. The Emissary ministry is not just another Christian denomination. For one thing, it does not accept the underlying premise of Christianity – that man can kill God. Man has the temporary ability to defy God, to steal from God, but man, unlike what Christians assert, cannot kill God.

Returning to my personal story, after my initial visit to the Ranch I returned and stayed for 25 years. I took the six-month Servers Training Class in 1960. I milked cows and goats, changed irrigation pipes, baled hay, stacked hay, weeded in the garden, washed dishes in the dining hall, picked corn, canned fruit, painted walls and ceilings, fixed flats, edited two Emissary publications. I married and fathered two wonderful girls, and met many people from all over the world, some of them becoming lifelong friends. Is that sufficient description on a quarter of a century?

In her book, The Vibrational Ark, Grace Van Duzen gives at least one comment on each resident of the Ranch. In her eyes, I was best known for stringing 26,000 feet of barbed wire one winter. If I were to single out an accomplishment, I think it would be that I probably set a record for most pipe changes. It was something over 2,000.

But the time at Sunrise was not really about milking cows or baling hay. The real work to be done, the reason for being there, was attunement – learning how to let one’s capacities of body, mind and heart be attuned to one’s own divine source. In theory, physical work was a way to accomplish this. The spiritual and the physical are two aspects of the same world, not two separate worlds.

It is said that the devil is in the details, and so it proved to be for me and many others at Sunrise.
My early years at Sunrise were joyous and uplifting, full of challenges and accomplishment, but the later years were tinged by a sense of failure and disappointment. Unable to find resolution, my wife LeAnna and I were divorced and I left the Ranch. Now, another quarter of a century later, aided by time and distance, I can look back and discern what happened.

1) Too many people stopped along the way. Pioneers don’t always make it to their intended destination. They lose a wheel off a wagon and instead of repairing it decide that this looks like a comfortable spot to stay and live. Total immersion in the truth of being was required, but many settled for intellectual knowledge about the truth.
2) The healing currents of the attunement technique became an addiction for many. Their lives tended to center around the wonderful sense of serenity they knew when they “got an attunement.”
3) Too many Sunrise residents tended to believe that their community organization was a microcosm for what the whole world should be and they had the authority to make it so. Consequently a plethora of Little Hitlers developed, or as Martin himself more kindly put it, “Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.”
4) A gushy, syrupy, sickly sweet interpretation of what “spiritual expression” meant.
5) A tendency to worship Uranda and then Martin. Some said that worship of Uranda was so pervasive that it blocked the flowering of his ministry, and that Martin deliberately cultivated an aura of austerity in order to discourage personal adoration.

In the mid 1970s Sunrise built a 300-seat Dome Chapel – an architectural marvel in its time – to seat the growing number of people coming to hear Martin speak. Plans were laid and later fulfilled for a two-story dining facility called The Pavilion to handle the crowds. In this decade Martin made several allusions to the year 1981. He said that year, give or take a year or two – could mark a significant milepost in the ministry originated 50 years earlier– perhaps the beginnings of a manifestation of Uranda’s vision.

In 1982, a world conference of Emissaries was held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins because the Ranch couldn’t handle the numbers. (Parenthetically, it was the presence of Emissaries on campus that summer that prompted the Denver Broncos to permanently move their football training camp to Greeley.)
That world conference proved to be the high tide of the EDL enterprise; the numbers and the energy receded year by year. Apparently a tipping point had been reached; either a sufficient number of people had realized the supremacy of their spiritual selves so that the next level of a heavenly outworking could be attained -- or they had not. Possibly a celestial accounting agency had crunched the numbers and came out with a negative score.

Martin continued to speak once a week until his death in 1989 at age 82. Several years prior to his passing, however, he is reported to have commented that he had said all he had come to say. His son Michael took his place for a couple of years. Then Michael announced that EDL had served its purpose and he would no longer have any ties with the organization.

A number of Emissaries chose to keep the EDL organization operating, and to continue the existence of Sunrise Ranch. A democratic governing body of EDL was established, consisting of seven elective board members. Sunrise Ranch, now a fairly modern resort with a property value in the millions of dollars, began supporting its 50 or so remaining residents by catering to weekend or week-long gatherings of New Age groups, providing meals, lodging and a Dome for meetings.

About 20 years after I left the Ranch I met with a couple of old friends who had shared my time there and we recalled one memorable evening of service. Martin had delivered his customary 60-minute talk, ending it with a prayer and an AUM that seemed to shake all the rafters in the building. The prolonged sound –AUM -- coming through Martin’s voice but seeming to reverberate in our own bodies and in the very air around us and to go on and on, was, we agreed, the most vivid, unforgettable experience we ever had on Sunrise Ranch.

I have pondered that experience, and likened it to the biblical account of Pentecost, when “a sound as of a mighty rushing wind” filled the room. Martin never repeated the event; some of us wondered why. Perhaps the comments that I heard voiced in conversations -- that it was “just so wonderful” and “made me feel so good” – indicated that too many people were still stuck in their self-centeredness.

A visit to the Sunrise Ranch of today finds quiet serenity; one can stand in the midst of the property and not see a single soul moving about – a stark contrast to the bustling activity that once characterized the place. It would probably be accurate to say that Sunrise served as the womb that nourished the birth of the Third Sacred School and, having fulfilled that function, the placenta has dissolved back into the earth. The buildings of Sunrise remain, but the purpose that imbued the structures with meaning has accomplished its mission and moved on.

A nagging sense of having failed at a great enterprise plagued me for many years, but recently I have come to view my Sunrise experience in a less critical light. I suppose I could say it took me a long while to grow up. I didn’t immediately heed what might be called the great preachment delivered over and over again – let the personal circumstance you complain about be used as the means of your deliverance. It took me a while to discover the freedom that comes with spiritual expression. The truth is simple: We are all spiritual beings having a human experience here on earth.

Whether or not the ministry of restoration initiated by Uranda in 1932 realized the full flowering of its potential will never be known. The face of God is inscrutable to the eyes of men. But one thing is a fact: it did leave a great legacy for mankind, the books of the Third Sacred School. Moreover, those who drank from the cup of life offered by Uranda and Martin have become a new generation of the seed planted thousands of years ago. There is a parting of the ways occurring in the world, and tribulation ahead for the human race, but the outcome is sure – the restoration of the human race to its divine identity.

A friend met more than 40 years ago on Sunrise recently gave me his own assessment of his time spent there, and we agreed that:
“It was the best of times and the worst of times. It was a call to greatness. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We Live on a Ball of Fire

A recent news article in the Cody newspaper featured a hoax on the internet that had anyone living within 100 miles of Yellowstone National Park being evacuated due to an impending volcanic explosion. The hoax was built on factual reports of hundreds of small earthquakes occurring in the Park during the Christmas holidays. The largest of the quakes was measured at 3.8 on the Richter scale and was not considered dangerous. The series of quakes, however, did remind everyone that Yellowstone Park is in fact the dome of the world’s largest volcano, and molten lava comes within a few feet of the surface.
No one knows why the quakes occurred, but there is a fearful recognition that a huge volcanic eruption of disastrous proportions is possible in the Park. And for good reason. The rocky crust of the planet is no more than 25 miles thick (or thin, depending on how you look at it), much less than that in Yellowstone. The core of the planet is molten lava, with a temperature of about 6,000 degrees centigrade, 8,000 miles across.
Almost nothing is known about this fiery core, or how it affects life on the earth’s surface, including human beings. The little that has been deduced relates to such things as the Earth’s magnetic field and the probability of its influence on the migration of birds and animals. One thing that is known is that human bodies are composed of the substances of the planetary body, the crumbly minerals that originated in the fiery core – “the dust of the earth” as it is put in the Bible.
It is also known that all life on the planet, including humans, is dependent upon the radiation of the sun 93 million miles away. Without the sun all life would perish. Exactly how the sun affects human bodies is a relatively new study, but it is known, for example, that being deprived of sunshine often results in mental depression.
The sun, of course, is entirely molten, and is a thousand times bigger than the Earth. There are uncounted millions of suns – stars – in the galaxy. In cosmic terms, our little earth is exceptional because it has that thin little skin of cold rock where there lives these peculiar little two-legged creatures called humans.
So we have the sun above us, and the fiery core beneath us. Life, including us, is animated by energy which emerges from both the planetary core and the sun. There is a chain of relatedness of smaller forms to larger ones. There is the relatedness of man to the planet, the planet to the sun, the sun to its center in the galaxy, and the galaxies orienting to their larger Center of orientation. The core of the cosmic Body is fire – and the suns, which are spread throughout the cosmos, are the primary portals of the animating energy.
Fire can be a purging, healing element, an animator of life. Or it can be destructive. Peter wrote: “But the heavens and the earth…are…reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Offending life forms can be eliminated with the dropping or raising of the earth’s temperature by just a few degrees – an ice age can readily clear the decks, as can raising the temperature.
We live on the cool crust of a planet that is essentially a ball of fire. We are blind to what goes on underneath our feet, even though our very lives depend upon that fiery heat. It is all part of a Grand Design established long ago, in which human beings were created to tend and keep a Garden. One way or another, the planet and the life upon its surface will fulfill the purpose for which it was brought forth.