Conversations with a Mystic, Part 2: Michael Clark, Ph.D. talks with Teresa Silverthorn
The following took place January 24-27, 2009.
Michael Clark: Teresa, thank you for agreeing to a second interview. Hopefully we can build on the first and explore topics which would benefit a wide variety of readers.
Teresa Silverthorn: Ahh, Dr. Clark. We meet again..
Michael Clark: Yes, and I’d like to pick up from our last dialogue. You most eloquently spoke of a “universal, non-selective grace, over all religions, and all people…”
Could you elaborate on this? It’s been my experience that numinosity differs among different paths, not just in intensity but in character. Along these lines, I’ve spoken to several others who have encountered different textures and qualities of the numinous.
You speak of a grace that runs over all religions. Are you suggesting, then, some kind of universal replacement for all existing religions?
Teresa Silverthorn: I would never suggest or imply that there is a need, or a desire, for universal replacement. I simply hope that all religions would someday recognize that only one creation was made, which propagated:
Specifically, in this case, the human, in its most primitive form.
Therefore, when each religion refers and prays to their Creator, they would recognize that there was only one creator, and one creation.
(Unless, of course these religions are also stating that they were created by multiple creators. But, then again, that would be saying that there is more than one “God” which doesn’t seem to be a popular belief, whatsoever. I am aware that the Hindus believe in several gods, so do the Pagans, but am not clear as to whether they feel these gods created their particular race or religion.)
At this point, it is mere logic to conclude that the division between religions is a human decision, not the decision of that creator.
Therefore, the Creator, is non-selective and non-exclusive.
I heard a quote one day, and never forgot it, closely concerning this very topic:
Put a group of Masters in a room, and they will agree on everything.
Put a group of students in a room, and they will disagree on everything.
In this case, we, the humans, are the students.
Michael Clark: Well, as you know, I lived and studied in India. And for the most part Hindus believe that their many gods and goddesses are manifestations of one God. Some schools call this one God the Brahman (not to be confused with the Brahmin caste).
The idea here is that the unmanifest aspect of God is one but the manifest aspect appears as many–for example, Brahma (Creator), Visnu (Preserver) and Siva (Destroyer). For Hindus these three phases of God help to keep the cosmos rolling. Otherwise, there would be no creation, time nor change.
To extend this idea a bit, do you suppose we might have a similar situation with regard to the existence of one God but many religions? And, if so, why? I mean, why does mankind splinter absolute truth into so many different and, I would argue, imperfect fragments?
Teresa Silverthorn: Why is this absolute truth splintered? I’m glad you asked me that, because earlier today I was thinking of an analogy given to me by one of my dearest teachers, in my training:
“When the earth was first created, and the inhabitants grew in numbers, a crystal ball of truth was cast upon the land. When it struck the surface, it shattered into many pieces.
Upon this, the inhabitants gathered and gazed up those shattered crystals, and carefully picked each one up, and gently carried them away.
Each person carried with them one piece of that crystal ball of truth, and began their own traditions, forms of worship and pathways of wisdom.
Therefore, in order to gain the entire truth, you must gather them back together, re-forming the original “whole.”
This satisfied my own curiosity as far as the division of religions and mindsets. I needed no further answers, to this age-old question.
Michael Clark: That’s interesting. I’ve tended to view the division of religions in terms of cultural biases mingling with different types of spirituality and, in some instances, bona fide grace.
I say “in some instances” because I’m not convinced that one person’s experience of grace is the same as another’s. In fact, I question some forms of spirituality.
Do you believe in the existence of evil? And if so, would you say as a mystic that evil possibly generates deceptive interior lights, perceptions and powers which some believe are good and from God when, in truth, they’re not?
Teresa Silverthorn: This seems to be a popular topic among the philosophers and deep thinkers of our current times. That is, does evil exist?
Instead of answering your question immediately, I find it interesting that the question even needs to be asked. Not only by yourself, but by anyone. It seems to be apparent to me, that evil does, indeed, exist. Not only currently, but throughout history.
The Holocaust, would be a prime example. I doubt anyone could argue that this event was anything but evil.
Unrighteous persecution of the innocent.
Need I continue?
As far as questioning someone else’s spirituality, I would tend to agree that there have been accounts in current times, where I would do the same. Several years ago, a young woman claimed that Jesus told her to kill her newborn infant.
Res Ipsa Loquitur.
But, she was obviously not a mystic. A mystic is trained in discernment, and able to clarify the difference between the many facets of this topic.
But for those who are still wondering, I could only offer my opinion in this matter, which may concur with the popular viewpoint – or not.
Consider the term evil wrongdoing. Put the two words together, and you have an aggressive term. Separate them, and they take on quite a different meaning. The term evil, by itself, becomes passive. It is only aggressive, when paired with wrongdoing.
Meaning, there are pools of dormant wrongdoings which lay within all of us. But, it takes a human to make that pool gush upward, creating a ripple effect of evil.
Certainly, all of us have considered an act which have laid dormant in our minds. Thoughts of revenge, specifically. But, I wouldn’t consider them necessarily evil, unless we act upon them…
Michael Clark: This reminds me a bit of a priest in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). He said we’re always under spiritual attack but sin only arises when one becomes aware of and chooses to act on a harmful influence.
But this isn’t just a Catholic perspective. Many traditions speak of demonic forces and the importance of discernment. I remember a Hindu teacher reading a passage about how the Indian mind is careful to distinguish among Godly powers, evil influences, delusions and the imagination.
And leads to my next question.
We’re not exactly born into this world with a ‘users manual’ in our hands. So what, in your opinion, are the main criteria for the discernment of positive and negative spiritual influences?
Teresa Silverthorn: I’m glad to see a commonality between Catholicism and the Hindu religion. If only they could see it themselves..
But, to answer your question, which, in my opinion, is one of the most important topics of this dialogue:
What is the main criteria for the discernment of positive and negative spiritual influences?
Although this information is rather complicated, I’ll do my best to simplify it as it is so important for you, and your readers, to understand.
Let’s begin by reducing the terminology to negative and positive spirits – instead of spiritual influence. This might make it easier to explain.
Your thoughts, your behavioral patterns and emotional make-up will attract a common “crowd,” if you will. In other words, you attract to yourself, that which you are.
Meaning, if you are a deceitful person, you will attract deceitful spirits. If you are a truthful person, you will attract truthful spirits.
If you are a loving person, you will attract loving spirits. And, if you are a hateful person, you will attract hateful spirits.
What creates these behavioral patterns, is something for psychologists to discern. Personally, I feel it is upbringing, peer groups, experiences and even the media. You are a product of all of these influences, and, in effect, become them.
We are born pure, in my opinion. And, through time, are re-formed continually by those around us, causing our minds to develop certain behavioral traits. These traits are the very thing that attracts both negative and positive spirits to your side.
If you want pure spiritual influence, purify your mind. But, if it is not completely pure, you will still attract the company of spirits who have clued into that small piece of you – that isn’t clean.
So how do you discern what type of spiritual influence you are receiving?
Check yourself – first.
Michael Clark: Yes, in everyday conversation we hear about “bad vibes” and I think some of this could point to the existence of negative spirits, along with impure regions of the spirit, if you will.
I’ve often wondered if those who grumble about picking up other people’s bad vibes are on a spiritual ego trip. That is, do they see themselves as spiritually superior when perhaps they’re stuck in a kind of halfway house of spiritual egotism?
To me it seems that true spirituality is not about self-aggrandizement but, rather, about humility and trying to do God’s will.
Having said that, do you think it possible that some extremely pure and holy souls take on the sins of others? Isn’t that what intercession is partly about?
Along these lines, the Indologist Wendy Doniger says Hindus believe in the invisible transfer of karma from one living being to another. Adherents of Jainism, too, speak of karma transfer, using the analogy of a magnet. Jains say that spiritual impurities fly to the pure soul like “iron filings to a magnet.”
And among other non-Christian traditions we hear of the so-called Wounded Healer.
So, to return to my question, might some exceedingly pure and holy souls pick up bad vibes simply because they’re so close to God? Or does the dynamic of ‘impurity attracting impurity’ that you mention always apply?
Teresa Silverthorn: With all respect, I think you have misinterpreted the meaning of “bad vibes.” As I recall, that term first came in the late 1960’s, and meant, simply, that a person was sensing a negative attitude (sometimes referred to as energy), from another person.
As far as karma, I’m not familiar with Doniger’s viewpoint, or her work. Karma, as I understand it, is simply work left undone. If you pick up someone’s karma, you may end up on the receiving end of a debt they actually owed to someone else, but are unable to do it.
For instance, I worked for a wonderful employer at one time in my life. He was exceedingly generous to me, but there was no possible way to return his kindness as he moved shortly thereafter. Because of this, I devised “The Flanagan Fund,” which is my way of repaying that debt. I felt I owed “karma” and others are receiving that repayment of kindness, instead of my boss.
As far as exceedingly holy souls picking up negativity from others, the only thing I can offer, on that subject, is my sympathy. It is a difficult world for all of us. But, for those who are attempting, in these troublesome times, to do the right thing, I can only admire their efforts…
Michael Clark: Well, meanings within a living language such as English are often polymorphous. That’s why semiologists like Jacques Derrida talk about endless chains of connotation.
As for the notion of karma transfer and its possible connection to sin-taking, this is outlined a bit more fully here:
To return to our dialogue, however, I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of trying to do the right thing.
We could continue here with a discussion about situational vs. absolute ethics, the art of compromise and so on. But we’ve already covered a lot of good ground and perhaps could look into these and other subjects at a later date.
Thanks again, Teresa, for generously offering your time and I truly hope we can do this again to probe deeper into even more esoteric and controversial topics.
It’s been most enjoyable!
Teresa Silverthorn: Dr.Clark, for the sake of our readers, in our next dialogue, I would like to ask you some questions that the world would be interested in asking people such as yourself. Would you agree?
Michael Clark: I’ll certainly agree to your asking questions. How I may or may not reply I’ll reserve for my own judgment!
Teresa Silverthorn: Excellent, we will meet again, Dr. Clark…
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Visit Teresa Silverthorn’s website, Confessions of a Mystic: True Stories