Love is the question here today, so tell me Peter, how would you define love? And is there a difference between the love between people in relationships and spiritual Love with a capital L?
It is put most simply and beautifully, I feel, in the words of Joni Mitchell: "Love is touching souls." As we all know, the feeling we have from loving and being loved, brings a warmth and richness to life in a way that that nothing else can.
Love, in its purest sense, is unconditional acceptance. Unconditional acceptance of someone or something, the way they are, without judgment. That's Love with a capital L. Accompanying that, or substituting for that in many cases when love is felt in personal relations, is desire, caring, attraction and admiration - and of course those qualities are increased if the feeling is mutual. But essentially, love is accepting and welcoming a person just as they actually are, without them having to put on an act or behave according to some hidden standard.
The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.
When did you first get a major insight about love in your life, and how did that change things for you?
Well, the first experience of love was in my mother's arms, of course, and not long after I fell in love with the little girl next door. But Love with a capital L took more finding. As a choirboy at the local church, it suddenly dawned on me that all these sermons about our sinful nature and the wrath of God, were being made on a totally misguided agenda. I let go of that belief system and it was a huge relief, a huge burden off my back.
Going in quite the opposite direction, I studied Buddhism and found there a validation of each individual as a spark of the universal consciousness. There were meditative methods to help the person attain a higher level of that consciousness for themselves. But again I found the orthodox dogma of that religion stifling as well. I decided to both stay clear of organized religions and also to look for better ways of expanding consciousness that do not take lifetimes to achieve their goal.
What I had learned from Christianity was the New Testament message of the power of Love; and from Buddhism I'd learned the importance of acceptance and non- attachment. It was enough for me to perceive of God as the quality of Love, and that when we love (which is to say accept unconditionally) we are part of God. As the saying goes, "When we love, we are the universe and the universe lives in us."
I realized that inner gnosis - intuitive knowledge of spiritual truth - was the way to go, since fundamental truths are simple and graspable when we look inside to our intuitive understanding. I realized that right back then, at eleven years old, though in simpler words perhaps. What remained complex and a mystery to me was the structure of mind, and the million and one ways that mind sneaks in to obscure or corrupt our natural insight and wellbeing.
Do you agree that ego is the primary obstacle to enlightenment and living a life guided by Love?
This is a piece of harmful New Age dogma. Ego is your personality - your face to the world, as well as your inner thoughts, fears, likes, desires, needs. It's an essential part of being a human being, your everyday conscious thinking self. Without wanting to do well competitively, to play and win at the games of life, the world would be back in the Stone Age, yet we're told how our selfish ego is such a barrier to spiritual growth. This is a misconceived put down of natural instincts; a fear of worldly things, really. Personal growth is about transcending the ego, not weakening it - it's already too weak and afraid, which is why it's immaturely selfish and hateful. The ego should be embraced and loved, like a child growing up, not rejected as imperfect. The stronger and more mature it is, the more transparent it becomes to the spiritual essence that lies behind the personality. The ego then becomes an instrument of Love.
Personal growth is about integrating and loving; it is never about separating and destruction. Ascension is not destruction of the ego, it is integrating and transcending the ego, to be one with God and also with the body-mind, purified by Love. To be one also with all others and All That Is, since there is no separation in truth, in Love. Since if you're one with God and God is everything, then you're also one with everything, at the highest viewpoint of oneself - the Higher Self. The Higher Self may be better described as our connection with God. It is Self. It is God too... our all-knowing, all-loving Source of being.
The more we are aware of our connection with God, the less reason the ego has to fear its awful loss of identity at death. This fear underlies all others and releasing it opens a huge pathway for the illumination of Love to lighten the shadows of our personality. The healing of fears is always Love: unconditional acceptance. A beautiful aspect of love is that it never dies. You live on in all that you love; you live on because you ARE Love.
Speaking of dogma, we should beware the cultural influence of orthodox religions too. There's a line in the Flatlanders where Butch Hancock says, "Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love." This way of manipulation is called a "double bind." It depends on acceptance of the lies of high authority (Hell and Original Sin in this case). It makes people neurotic and therefore unable to trust their own thoughts and feelings, and enslaves them to the religion that caused the damage.
The real enemy is dogma, per se. Like the Trans4mind motto says, "Minds, like parachutes, function better when open." We each need to discover our own truth, not have it dictated to us by authorities. Truth is inevitably simple in essence but the network of defenses we erect to deny our own truth (driven by fears) and the sophistication of the conditioning we receive to imprint and then to safeguard the status quo (much of it misinformation) - these are complex.
So many assume the truth is either black or white... It's all evolution or it's totally creation, for example. Reality creates consciousness; consciousness creates reality. Actually truth is inclusive, neither black nor white, nor a shade of grey. Indeed, truth is a multicolored spectrum, a beautiful hologram! Truth is inevitably simple, but it's multi-dimensional too, like a koan.
What is truth? In psychology, whole books don't begin to describe the complex tapestry of the mind. Really it's a labyrinth of fears and separation. But in spiritual matters, it's quite the opposite. Fundamental truth is so simple that words are inadequate... truth is a state of being, it simply is what IS, perceived with perfect communication, understanding and empathy. Using the Insight techniques, we see again and again that when the underlying truth is revealed, always it is a message of love, of unconditional acceptance, of oneness with what is.
Each of us can make a lot of headway by applying some simple principles and disciplines...
These will take you a very long way.
There's much more in the full interview: Free PDF Download.
Peter Shepherd answers many questions about Love including... What is the difference between personality and the core essence of a person? Why is a broken heart the most painful experience in the world? Is love more than an emotion, is it actually the fabric of the entire universe? Does loving yourself help you love others? How do we get past our resistance to allowing in love? What has love to do with manifestation?