Interview with Rev Carol Parrish

So you all don’t think I have been sitting in the corner twiddling my thumbs….. Here is a transcript of an interview I did last weekend with Rev Carol Parrish (www.sanctasophia.org).  Please don’t distribute as parts of it are going to become an article for Quest Magazine. 

Interview with Rev. Carol Parrish, 4/27/2007,
Asheville, North Carolina

J: Can you tell us a little about your background, and how you came to be involved with wisdom teachings and the broader theosophical tradition? 

C: I started on my spiritual quest when I had a near death experience at age 23.  I had no framework to understand my experience.  No one did in 1958.  It totally wiped out the way I saw things, and left me with a whole new framework which no one understood.  I was Roman Catholic, and I was heartbroken when the priest couldn’t explain to me what had happened.  The doctor couldn’t help me.  My family was sure something was wrong with me, and I became very very lonely and isolated.  In my experience I was given all this information, but I had no vocabulary to step it down, and no one to discuss anything with.  Moreover, I wasn’t physically well.  I had to rebuild my strength.    My children’s father was a fireman, on duty for 24 hours at a time, so I had a lot of time by myself.  My children were little.  After I put them to bed, I would sit on the couch and I would love that light that loved me.  That’s all I did.  My practice developed without conscious thought. It wasn’t even a prayer as much as it was an action.  In my near death experience, I had experienced a kind of love which was unlike anything, anything that I knew existed.  And I would love that light.  After a little bit, it would start loving me back, and I would feel this interaction.  This was my only practice, and sustained me for two years or more.  When I had any reason to say something about this activity, I would just say I’ve got to do my devotion, which is how I thought about it.   Then my life came completely unglued.  Everything fell apart, in the traditional style!   I prayed for all the negativity to be gone, and everything I had went!  My husband left. I had children to raise.  I had to get a job. In the middle of this huge crisis in my life, when everything was deteriorating in every direction, I met a teacher.  I went to hear a lecture, and the speaker said he was going to talk about astral travel.  I thought “O God, a travelogue,” and I almost got up and left.  But I didn’t, and I realized he was talking about what was happening to me.  The lecturer gave me his card with an address of a place in St Petersburg, Florida.   

The next time I was in St Petersburg for work, I went to this place to see what it was like.  A woman walked up to me, and said, “I have been waiting for you.”  And I said, “No, ma’am, nobody knew I was coming.” She replied that she knew.  She then started talking to me, and I thought “This little lady is senile and if I am nice to her, somebody will come and get her in a minute.”  She said, “Sit down, I want to tell you something.”  Meanwhile I was looking around, looking for my exit.  She began describing my office, and she said “You know, you’ve got a spiritual work to do and you aren’t paying any attention to it.” She also told me some other things which were very valid.  When I said I had to go, she picked up a newspaper and wrote her number on the white little border, and tore it off and gave it to me. I stuffed it in the pocket of my suit and I fled.  I thought, “Oh my God, how does she know all that about me?” This was beyond any of my experience of life.  I probably had never heard the word “psychic.”  I went home, and I went to see the priest. I went to confession.  I told him about this woman, and he said she was a psychic.  I said I didn’t know what that was. He told me to fast and pray, and to say that all of this is to be gone from my life.  Well, I started fasting and praying.  I was having strange physical experiences, which I later learned were caused by kundalini, but I had no framework it.  One day when my body was doing strange things, I found that piece of paper.  I called the lady, and asked if she could tell me what was happening.  She asked me to come over to her house.  Instead of living 50 miles away in St Petersburg, she was 5 miles down the road in my little town.  For 7 years I was her student.   She was an independent teacher, very quiet, teaching one by one in her home.  That’s how I got on my track.   In those years, I worked in an accounting firm.  It was a wonderful company that would pay for any educational experience I wanted, even spiritual lessons, if I kept quiet about them.  I was taking lessons from a little spiritual school, and I had a visitation.  A being said to me, “My name is El Morya. Write these things down.  They will be important later.”  I had never heard this name, but I took notes on a pad.  The next day, I called a man I knew and asked him if the name  “El Morya” meant anything.  He told me this was a Theosophical Society master.  I asked, “What is the Theosophical Society?”  He gave me the address of a library in St Petersburg.  I went to the library, very eager with questions I had been holding for 5 years, but the elderly librarians did not want to talk to me.  One man told me I was too young, and that I should come back in twenty years.   It was not a good start with Theosophy, but then I found Leadbeater’s book, The Masters and the Path.  I thought to myself, “Wow!  Here it is!”  Around the same time, I also found a book by Vera Stanley Alder, who had been in Alice Bailey’s class.  As my first teacher’s life was coming to an end, I began corresponding with Vera.  Eventually, I started going to England and studying with her.  In time, I met Torkom Saraydarian.  He was my third teacher.  I am a synthesizer.  I am not a person who is probably ever going to follow just one line.  My mind asks some question, and I go off trying to figure them out.   But I have had good teachers.  All of my teachers have been really strict with me. For whatever reason, God decided I had to have hard teachers, because they were demanding.   I believe each student has to grow in their own way and that the work of the mentor is to figure out as best they can, with the help of the student, how the program should unfold. At first I had a small group, and I was doing it myself.  I mentored each person, and we would decide what was the right path, what was the right project, what was the right study.  I believe that we have to honor the individuality of the person.  I believe that we have to develop the sensitive side of the person, but also the courageous and bold side, and that there is a kind of balance you are watching for.  Dion Fortune said that whatever you are, the opposite, what you are not, is what you must become.  You must develop the weaker side, and bring both sides into balance. If the students are so sensitive they cannot go out, they must go out and find a way to express themselves.  If they can’t shut up, then they have learn silence.   

I think the overriding factor about myself is that I am very curious.  When I was young I used to say there were only two things I wanted out of my life – one, I want to know everything, and two, I want to be perfect. And I said it for years.  Then I decided they are printing books faster than I can read them and I don’t know what perfect is anymore.  So I had to give them both up. Now, I have come to really trying to do the best I can every day, and seeing that some days I do it better, and some days I don’t, and that is the way it is.   I love to teach.  I see my writing as an extension of teaching.  I didn’t know if I could write. When I was very young, when I was in high school, I loved to write articles. After I began lecturing and teaching, people would suggest that I transcribe some tapes and I would have a book.  Well, I tried that and it is not true.  It is radically not true!  I saw how awful it looked when you just transcribe a lecture, and how disjointed it is, and how much depends on body movement, facial gestures, and so forth.  I had a gentleman whom I was working with in the death and dying ministry, and he decided I was going to write, and we were going to write a book together.  He said “You write a chapter and I’ll write a chapter, and we’ll put it together on death and dying.” I wrote a chapter, we came back at the appointed time and he hadn’t written anything.  We agreed to meet again the next week. So I wrote another chapter and he came back and hadn’t done anything. After the third chapter, he said, “Carol, you are already writing the book.  You don’t need me.”  I think I wrote that book for myself.  The day I got a contract on that book, I buried one of my daughters and granddaughters who had been killed in an accident.  I took my manuscript upstairs and for about 3 days I re-read it to see if it was true, if it worked. Then I put a little postscript on the end of it and sent it in.  I began to find a certain kind of pleasure in writing, but I was really afraid of my first editor.  I told her when I gave her manuscript, “Be careful. I don’t know if I can take criticism or not.”  I was very tender around that issue, and she was kind with me.  We lived through it and then later I had another editor whom I worked with for 14 years.  I loved her and I was heartbroken when she retired.  The way I write is that I picture who I’m writing to.  I imagine I am in class, and I talk to my class through my typing.  I love it now.  I am making my first attempt at working with an online school.   It is a whole new area.  I put the first class up last October.  It is beginning to go well.  It is called Sophia, Holy Spirit of Wisdom: A Study in Esoteric Christianity.  I am trying to show how Christianity fits inside the wisdom tradition, which is a foreign concept for most people.  But I think it is the next step in the movement from churches to temples of initiation. 

J: In seeing how Christianity is one more expression of the universal wisdom tradition of humanity, you can live in respect with all these other traditions because you see the underlying wisdom in all of them. C; Right, and your attitude has freedom to move.  And you know you have the freedom to think for yourself. I have a very high regard for the inner authority of our own soul and I think that is missing in religion. People want your conscience which is programmed by outer authority to carry you, not any genuine inner direction or voice. 

J: It is a lot easier to hand off responsibility to something or somebody else, whether a set of directions, or the priest or whatever.  We like to say, “You take care of that, you do that, I’ll just follow.”  C: “You just tell me what’s right.”  I have a daughter who became a fundamentalist and I couldn’t believe it.  It blew my mind.  She wrote me harsh letters, copied scripture out of the Bible and sent it to me.  At first I was nice, saying “I am glad you found something that works for you,” all these nice things.  Finally, after several years of this, I wrote her back and said, “Come off of it! I have been involved with churches, I understand spirituality, I love Jesus just as much as you do, and I am sick and tired of some of the things you say.”  I just said everything. I said, “You are judgmental, unkind, and the very sort of hypocrite that Jesus was after.”  I let her have it.  She wrote me back and said, “You really hurt my feelings, but I think you are right.  And before I teach my Sunday School class every month, I am going to read your letter. I am never going to be unkind or hypocritical. I think you have a right to believe the way you do, even though I don’t.”  I never had hoped I would get that response from her.  It was wonderful.  I demanded my right to see it my way. And she got it.   I feel like people retreat in religion to dominating personalities to feel safe. Each one of us should be an activist, expressing our spirituality.  Each of us is empowered to make a difference right where they are, to be the wise one.   If you have been reading, praying, living your spiritual life sincerely in everyday situations, you are the wise one.  Be open to the fact that you can share that grace.  We need wise people to show up in our lives.  When Ann, my first teacher, came over to me, I didn’t even know the question.  I had no idea that she knew anything. I didn’t know who she was. I was not in any position to ask her anything. J: And she was wise and patient enough to allow for that. 

C: Yes. I try to sow seeds with my lectures.  I am not going to direct where people go.  I love it if they come to our school, but I love it if they go to any school, to any group.  Just get on with it!  There is so much attention given today to what is falling apart.  I love the fact that it is falling apart.  Where the cracks are is where the light comes in. There has be enough breakage to make room to arrange our lives around new concepts.  Years ago, I used to say it is like a mosaic and we each have a piece. We have to unwrap our own piece and put it in place.  But now I have decided it is a kaleidoscope, and the pieces are moving. We put our piece, in but the pieces keep moving, finding other aspects, hooking up with other ones, moving on.   I am not the person I was  35 years ago when I started lecturing.  Today, I’ll say things hopefully better, but surely differently. The consciousness of the collective is different today.  Gradually we are making this kaleidoscope, a picture for this year, and a picture for next year.   Recently I got a letter from Alice O. Howell.  I had quoted something from her in the Sophia Sutras book, and she saw a review.  She sent me a letter, and I was thrilled, as I feel she is someone who has walked ahead of me.  She told me she is 84 and still in service to Her.    Hurray for those people who went ahead of us.  We stand on their shoulders.  The people we are talking to today, and writing for today, are going to pick this up and carry it further.   The public is ready today.  We are just breaking through.  I knew from my near death experience, which was 50 years ago next year, that I was related to the Divine Feminine and that was powerful in me, even though I had no feminist theology or thoughts.  I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. 

J:  What strikes me about your work about Sophia is what you just said – that it was not constructed according to pre-conceived ideas, but that it flows as something that comes from direct contact with Spirit, with the Divine Feminine.  It comes through as authentic, not as something that is forced into a particular political program. It cuts through resistance, as there is not a sense of the spirituality being shaped or manipulated by an agenda other than the Spirit. C: What I wanted to do with my book was to introduce people to Sophia the way I know her.   I feel that she is with us always at the edge of our mind, that she moves with us and through us and moves us in all these ways that we never rationalize and we never understand.  She just touches and prompts and pats and whispers, and then we say, “Oh! Yes, I have had that thought.”  I wanted to write with her own style. 

J: It comes across as very conversational, time at the coffee table with Sophia.  C: That is what I wanted, without eliminating the mystique.  Each of us has our style.  Knowing Sophia has a style.  She has a style.  She slips into our lives and disappears.  It is like a window opens for just a minute. It is an essence. The book took me three years – I collected little thoughts, ideas, bits and pieces.  When I had time, I would connect them, allowing the prompting of that presence in my life put the book together. 

J: I think that shows in the feel of the book. 

C: That’s what I wanted.  I am delighted that you got that out of it.  It isn’t a rational book. So much of our life is not rational.  If we were totally rational beings, we would never fall in love, certainly never have children, never start a business.  These things cost too much. They take too much out of us.  They are too risky, too demanding.  They impede us in so many ways that we say we’re not going to be bothered.  And yet we fall in love, we start things, we do all this strange stuff that makes life wonderful and exciting.  But most of it is not rational – it is the flavoring, the spice, all these other things.  And I think that is the role Sophia brings to us. I tried to give a name to the Divine Masculine, since I am using Sophia for the Divine Feminine.  I pondered this for awhile and I ended up writing in the online course about David, the Divine Masculine.  David seemed to be the right name.  We have lived a long time in that Divine Masculine consciousness, and now we are challenged to let the two dance together. J: Right, because if you stay on one side of a polarity, you are missing out, and where is the potential for the creative new which comes out of the intersection?  I liked what you said about the new world religion – not a mashed-together stew/synthesis, but different traditions and cultures maintaining their own identity, while respectfully co-existing in a mutually fertilizing space.   

C: I have enjoyed very much the openness of Hinduism.  I remember the first time I went to India. I was in an ashram and there was a beautiful framed picture of Jesus and Mary.  I was so surprised to find them there.  The person at the ashram said to me, “They are saints. All saints belong to us.”  That was such a revelation to me! I mean, you cannot go to a Christian church and see a picture of Vishnu.  All holy people belong to all of us.    Somehow our consciousness has to get over these little dividing lines and realize that every time a human being breaks through to enlightenment or holy status or whatever you want to call it, it is good for every single one of us. J: It is for the universe. 

C: It is. It is universal.  The Gnostics used the idea of the circumference as the personality, the line as the soul, and the spot in the middle as the spirit, the true self, the one.  I like to take that image and turn it into a labyrinth, because I think that is how we get there.  We move a little inward, and then we go all around our journey.  And maybe the next life, another step in further.  We keep working to get to that inner place.  At this point in time, a good many of humanity are joining together in taking the step inward.  I see us breaking out of the very progressive religious approach and the very fundamentalist religious approach, as so many of us do not fit in those categories. 

J: The path of direct experience breaks through these boundaries.  Even winding through the labyrinth, if you have ever had even a fleeting experience of the center, you cannot erase that fact that you know it is there. 

C: Right, although other people often try to devalue that.  When people tried to tell me my experience was a hallucination because of the medicine or whatever excuse, all I knew to do was to shut up.  I really knew inside myself that it had totally changed me, and you cannot take that away from a person.  I never thought I would ever tell anyone about it again, after people tried to shut me down.  After I became a minister, the first time I was working with a lady who was dying,  she said, “I’m scared, I don’t really know if there is ongoing life.” I said, “Oh, there is, I can tell you.”  I mean, it just came out of me. I ended up sharing my experience with her, and I saw what a difference it made.  From then on, I would never hesitate.  People could think what they wanted to think.  That was their problem. I was going to tell my truth. Thank goodness it is happening to enough people, and we can connect and recognize that, and thus give permission to other people to claim their experience.  And gradually we are changing the world. People in the religious world realize something is happening, and people in the scientific world realize something is happening, although it is not always easy to put them together.  These two approaches are trying to find a way to reconcile their differences, and I think they are finding a way toward allowing all manner of different people to take these steps.  We are giving permission for people to honor the Self within and no one did that in the past.  “Do what you are told, be good kids.”  We are not going to continue to be good kids.  We are growing up. Maybe some of us have been in teenage years. Maybe some of us are getting to a certain degree of maturity, and we have a new vision.  And our vision is to perceive the plan of which we are a part, and to play that role, do that piece. I think that that, for those of us who have been through the process, we know that it is work and effort, and we have to be dedicated.  Ray 6 has helped us to really focus, to break through, to cut through, to understand where the value is for ourselves, and to devote ourselves to it.  The ray 7 part is: “How do we order this in the world? How can I make presentable ideas which are strange to most people?”  I really think I am a bridge person. J:  You do stand in the middle of many approaches. 

C:  I think that’s my role…..  for me to speak in a church, and to help them to understand that there is a deeper spirituality, and not alienate the church to the point they won’t let me in the door again. J:  Well, the word pontifex does mean bridge builder. 

C: I think that’s what I do.  I am anxious to continue that work. Someone asked me after this book came out, “Carol, are you going to write again?”  Well of course I am going to write again, because I can’t stop writing.  I am one of those people who scribble on everything and save my little pieces.  I am busy now with the online course on esoteric Christianity.  Someone else asked if I am going to turn it into a book, and I have no idea at this time.   You know there is a different freedom in writing a lesson from writing a book.  J:  With a lesson, there is dialogue, a relationship, whereas a book just goes out there into the world. 

C; When I wrote my first book, I worried about what would happen if I wrote something and then didn’t believe it later, or found out something more or different.  A friend said to me, “Well, then you write another book.”   But I was really worried that I was supposed to know everything before I started writing.  I finally got over that.  I think that is one of the wonders of what we are doing – to say, “This is what I think now.”  I do say in lectures that a lot of the things I once thought were limited in what I perceived them to be at that time.  I grow and change. J: And that gives other people freedom to do that too. You as the teacher are not an infallible authority issuing pronouncements which cannot be questioned. They can see your own growth, your own process over the decades. 

C: That is the movement away from the guru approach.  J: As opposed to a companionship model, where everyone is in process, which is a more honest model. 

C: A much more honest approach, and it allows you to continue growing.  It’s like my first two things – to know everything and to be perfect.  I gave myself permission to get off of it.   I used to be really rigid on myself.  I never have been rigid on other people, but on myself, I really was.  I gradually realized that I beat myself up unnecessarily.  I could get my breakthroughs, I could grow easier by not being so hard.  That was a hard thing for me to learn to do.  I am very interested in astrology, although I am not a good astrologer.  But it has helped me to understand that transiting influences help us to change.  The wonder of this time is we are relating collectively in a new way.  The fear of what people think, what people say, locked us down so tight in our personal life, in our family lives, that it kept us in a kind of physical and mental bondage, and we are throwing that off now. J: We are unlocking our souls 

C: Yes, and I do believe that we are learning how to live as souls.  I am very interested in what 2012 is going to bring, and 2025, and some of these dates.  I remember when I was pretty young, probably in my 30s, I remember wondering what it would be like to be alive in the year 2000.  All the predictions came out about terrible things that were going to happen and none of them did.  Now I am looking at 2012 and I’m wondering what kind of magical something is going to happen.  And I have two beliefs about this – One, I believe that things happen whether we know it or not.  J: Yes, a lot of things are very hidden – look at Jesus, obscure guy, obscure country, and yet he changed the world. 

C: That’s right.  I think something can happen and we don’t even know. We go barreling by and say nothing happened, and it did happen.  The second thing is that I believe that a profound shift happens in certain places. Let me give you this idea.  When I was studying in India, we heard terrible predictions of what would happen and they did happen – but in India, not in the whole world.  When I am in the Mayan lands and I listen to their prophecies, their prophecies are coming true when we watch things happening in central and south America.  I think we need to understand that a prophet stands within their own point of view. J: Within the consciousness of their people. 

C: Their people.  They call it all the world, but it is their world, their people.  J: Especially in past eras when people didn’t know there was a broader world, beyond what they knew. 

C: Yes.  And I think we need to pay attention to the prophecies of our own people, and the prophets of the place where we live.  If you are familiar with the work of Zachary Lansdowne, I love his work on Revelation.  To take Revelation out of the context of “I will scare you to death, scare you into heaven,” as opposed to seeing it as the soul’s journey to initiation.  When you look at it this way, you begin to see that all around us are certain guidelines and keys to how to go forward. Every tradition has them, but they get restricted to third dimensional reality J: Or a surface interpretation of language that should be taken as a mythic or inner level.   As with Jesus, regardless of the details of his historicl existence, the important part is the pattern and incarnating it now, seeing all existence sacramentally.  As I listened to you talk about the 7th ray last night, I was wondering where are the sacraments of Sophia hiding? 

C: It’s that intimate moment.  When a chaplain is talking to a person and something passes between them.  Or a parent and a child.  Or two good friends that just encourage each other.  I tried in that book to talk about the mysteries of Sophia, and they are all very intimate.  They are all areas of our life that, in a patriarchal way, we stuffed away at home, out of sight. We didn’t talk about them.  Each of them is so intimate that we don’t know how to put words to them and we generally don’t realize at the moment how sacred they are.  J:  Yes, it’s what Mario Schoenmaker used to call the sacrament of grace, when two people encounter one another and share their lives through conversation.  We have thought of this in the form of a confessional box, dealing with what is wrong with our lives.  But Mario said maybe it is just how we meet, and if we can carry that grace, the reality of the mediation of Spirit and transmission into the way we meet and deal with one another, that is the sacrament. 

C: I have tried to talk about grace.  The word grace to me is one of the most wonder-filled words J: And very misunderstood. 

C: Hardly understandable, really.  As it can take so many different forms, we can’t nail it down.  I feel like maybe grace is the dress that Sophia wears  J: Or even a name of Sophia. Something freely given, that can’t be captured, this mysterious inbreaking in life… 

C: You can see why when I give a lecture about Sophia, people ask about Mary, about Kwan Yin.  I explain that these are outpicturings, those are just personifications of Sophia for us, so that we have a way to relate, knowing the essence is beyond.  The simpler we are at a given time, the more we need something to hang on to.  The more we build our mental capacity, the more we can handle something abstract.  We inch along, experiencing something, and we put that little piece in place.  And then you get another concept and struggle with it.  If I explain a concept and you get it, you then have to take the Carol Parrish off, and get your own version, and then you grasp it, and turn and explain it to others. And they receive it, and have to take you off of it, to find their own version. 

J: This is why I have often said to people that it is very important to study more than one spiritual system, so as not to get locked into any particular esoteric fundamentalism C: Yes, that is what becoming a global consciousness is about: We are going to be so respectful in listening to the other person that it expands us.  If a great many of us do this, then the people we talk to, our students, will never be as narrow-minded as we were when we young.  We can only hold so much, and then we have to let it go, go to the inner school if you want to call it that, and then we come back in another period of time and have a new framework and we go at it again.  I don’t really care if people believe in reincarnation or not.  That’s not my issue.  It works for me. 

J: It’s a picture.  C: Right, it’s a picture.  However, I really do care that people believe in karma, because I believe it has social consequences that we can apply today. 

J: A lot of karma happens right here, right now.  Effects flow, and if you pay attention, you realize they are much bigger than the surface. C: If we begin to watch the karmic process, we begin to be selective, planting only the seeds we want to grow.  We plant good seeds, get a good crop.  Spiritual life allows us to be more selective, more discriminating, more wise in our choices, our responses.  As we move along, we build up an inner life, and we can keep that inner and outer life reconciled a little better, not living out on the periphery any more. 

J:  The personality becomes the priest of the inner self, the mediator of the inner self out into the world.  C: That’s an interesting way of putting it. I haven’t seen it just that way. J: I stole that from Lloyd Meeker, in Letters to You. 

C: It’s a beautiful idea.  I have seen it explained as the personality as the container. We want the light to shine through the container. Same concept to a certain degree, but I love the idea of the personality becoming the priest  – more active, with it being attuned to the self, aligned with the self. I have a problem with the word surrender.  I don’t like the word surrender.  I say to people I don’t like the word, I am not going to surrender, I am going to align.  I don’t surrender to my soul, I don’t surrender to Spirit.  I align with them. J: Right, because Spirit doesn’t want any of this to be given up.  It just needs to be brought into harmony. 

C: Surrender just sounds like it is going to beat you down until you holler uncle. J: And you’re not going to like it, but you are going to take it 

C: And somehow you are just going to flatten out and die, and do whatever must be done.  I want to shape up, I want to comprehend, I want to align with that higher will. And I will give it my all. Alignment sounds possible for my personality type, whereas surrender just says lay down and die, get it over with.  J: Give up, give in.  In Jeremy Puma’s commentary on the Gospel of Thomas, he discusses the verse where Jesus says “Don’t do what you hate.”  Jeremy points out that we usually take this as a restatement of the Golden Rule, but we can look at it more directly.  Religion typically batters into us: you must take this approach, you must go do this prayer, this fasting, you must serve the poor in exactly this way.  Maybe we should trust the indwelling divine enough to let it guide us to how we need to serve the Christ, however that is – and to listen to Christ’s counsel: Don’t do what you hate.  If you really dislike this approach, just don’t do it. 

C: Right, it’s not your way. Certainly for me, I began to take literally the need to follow your bliss.  I really began to look at what works for me.  It has been important for me, for when I follow that bliss, I dance with Sophia.  That is what happens.   I went through a time of pondering the meaning of people saying I am doing the best I can. I don’t like that answer, especially if something is half-done. J: As an excuse 

C: Yes, as an excuse. So after a while I started struggling with that, and wondering what if people really are doing the best that they can, when they do something?  I went around and around, and it made me more compassionate in one way, and more clear in the beginning about talking about a standard or self-examination or a starting point  J: Don’t embark on it if the capacity is not there 

C: If you know that you can just do this much, then let’s assign just this much, so that it is a success rather than me ending up feeling like this person is not trying J: And the person ending up feeling like they have been criticized or they are a failure, instead of saying Gee, I did this, and letting it stretch their capacity so next time maybe they can do more. 

C:  Part of the problem with churchianity is that it puts out all these rules about do this, don’t do this, and you feel like a failure if you break any one of them.  If you are not condemned by anyone else, you are condemned by yourself as you did not live up to the model. I think we are learning enough psychology today, to recognize that there are more facets of us, alive and exercised today, than in Jesus’ time.   You couldn’t race to
Jerusalem, go shopping, do this, do that, rush home, and be able to do whatever normal family life demands.  If you are going up to
Jerusalem, everything stops and you walk for two days or whatever it takes. As the world is learning, there has to be a renewed vision every age, because that renewed vision has to fit who the people are, the circumstances.  I really believe that part of the Aquarian humanitarian impulse is the right use of money. Money has to be a currency that flows all the way around, all around the world, taking care of all people.  Not social status.
 
My first teacher said to us, “Whatever money comes into your hands, divide it into 3 stacks.  Learn to live on one.  The 2nd you keep for a future opportunity that will come to you.  And the 3rd you give away.  Every disciple is given money to distribute on behalf of the higher world.” 

J: Because you are allegedly wise enough to see where need lies. C: And it is not ten percent.  She always said that 10% was appropriate for the early people who understood that, but they had a whole different way of relating because they knew the 10% was just to prime the pump.  In our society, we have made excess an expectation.  Last night, we talked about how many rooms we have in our houses.  People from other cultures happily take other family members into their house, when they have extra rooms, without thinking anything of it.  We have so much today that it is hard for us to think, “I have this much money, and I am supposed to give a third of it away.  That’s too big a share!  I need that to have my excess.” 

J: Or to feel secure  C: And yet we can look back on our lives and see how the Divine takes care of us.  It’s like me meeting my husband, who is a wonderful man.  I went to a retreat saying I was never going to get married again.  I had a life, I liked my life, and marriage was not a happy picture for me, so why would I want it?  I met him and I had no idea then – it was two years later that I got involved with him.  I met him, his mother fell and her back was injured.  I went over and did a healing with her.  She was 78 years old. She got up and walked.  She got well.  And later he came to one of my classes, and then did some volunteer work where I was, at Florida Humanistic Institute.  We developed a friendship.  When I look back and think…. It’s almost like in the heavenly world they are moving the mannequins around to get the two of you to meet each other, and you say, “Oh my God.”  It’s amazing when we get a big picture. 

J: And it makes you a little more humble about your life right now. I think I know what is going on, but ten years from now, I will look back and …. C: A lot in life just goes back to showing up. 

J: If you don’t give up, you get through most anything  J: My last formal question for you:  After 30 years of this – the seminary, the village, the church, all these pieces of your work – where do you see your work going in the future?  What is next? 

C: I believe that it is very important for me to help prepare the organizational structure for the future when I am not there.  I am trying very hard to enlist really good teachers, and to pass on as much as I can.  Communities are terribly important, but they have a really hard time. J: People have a hard time living together, period. 

C: You don’t just go into a community.  You have to take everybody as a cousin – sister, brother, cousin, they are all one family, and big families are notorious for minding each other’s business, for being a pain, for criticizing, for speaking up when they should have been quiet, whatever. And it is all true.  So I certainly want to see more communities.  As a person who has lived in community almost all of my adult life, sometimes I don’t like it at all – and I love our community. I want people to have enough idealism to hold up the principles, and enough compassion to live with one another gently.  It doesn’t always happen.  It is idealism that holds it together.  You have to have some kind of vision for that village.  I want that to happen for us.  I am trying to step back and let the village learn how to find its own way without me being a dictator.  I want the community to have its working mechanism in place.    I started 2 years ago, in each class I teach at the seminary, to have another teacher with me.  The hardest thing in the world is to walk out and let somebody else take your class that you have been teaching.  So I started giving the other teacher half a day per week, and last year I got up to a full day.  I just don’t show up, and they know it is their day.  And they have to fit it in from what we did before, and have it ready for me the next day. So I am really thinking about the future and hoping that people get the vision well enough that they will be fired up inside, so it goes forward.    J:  Yes, after the original teacher dies, schools almost always die, fracture, or crystallize  

C: I am trying really hard to not let that happen.  I have never wanted my name on the organization. I want the name Sancta Sophia to be well-respected, standing on its own merits, and I want it to be fed by a lot of rich rivers.  In our bookstore, Torkom Saraydarian – whom I loved – wanted us to only have Bailey, Blavatskay, Roerich, and his work.  I said no way.   I feel like we should use wisdom from anywhere.  So our library and our bookstore have a great variety.  When people come to our school, I know some will wind up in churches, and some will never go to church again.  Some will have study groups, some will be counselors. J: It doesn’t matter.  They are sent out to do whatever it is, because they can trust they are going to receive their own guidance. 

C: And that is what it is all about  – helping people open up to their own inner contact.  And if the words of Annie Besant do it here, and the words of Krishnamurti do it there, I don’t care.  All it is about for me is about helping each one connect.  We are just a support system.  We encourage people to figure things out for themselves early – we may feed them a certain body of material, but they don’t have a test, they do a project.  We had a lady who did a project in World Religions.  She had been studying Hinduism, and she cooked a whole meal, after going and learning from East Indians how to prepare all the foods.  I tell students all the time that the most important word we can learn is “ponder.”  Pondering is what it is all about.  I have to deal with this all the time with our board of governors – I have to say to them wait a minute, you are nailing it down, I don’t want it so structured, I don’t want them reading that many books, I don’t want the requirements so intellectual.  I want the middle ground.  I don’t want it to be an academic reality where if you do these things, then automatically anything.  We are trying to find something that people respect with certification.  The students do academic work, but the program is a process and honors process.  Our world has had too many priests and teachers and leaders who have never had an experience, and that is part of what is wrong.  We want to help them find that experience. 

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