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The world could use some good news

There’s plenty enough bad news out there every day, and maybe enough bad news “in here” as well, as we all transition through some challenging times.

But whatever the news is — on the outside or the inside — there is good news that is ever available, and not dependent on the weather or the news report. What is it, and what’s so good about it? Traditionally, the “good news” is called the “gospel,” and like it or not (depending on your personal frame of reference), the major tradition in the United States is Christian. Back in the day, Jesus was spreading the gospel. At his birth, an angel reportedly was announcing to country shepherds the good tidings of great joy that a savior was born, who is “Christ the Lord.” But the gospel that Jesus preached was that the kingdom of God is at hand, or “the kingdom of God is within you.”

In the gnostic gospel of Thomas, we read, “The father’s kingdom is spread out upon the Earth, but people do not see it,” and, “What you look for has come but you do not know it.”

This is the teaching of the divine presence, which is less dramatic than healing the sick, casting out demons and raising the dead, but it is more to the point. It is a point of knowing, not limited to a gospel 2,000 years ago, but the good news of every moment. The invitation is for people to wake up to that news. Whether we open to that through faith or belief, it involves an awakening of consciousness which is more than just a heightening or intensification of awareness, but what Jesus called the “conversion of the heart.”

Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Democrat, Republican or none of the above, this conversion is what the world needs more than ever. More than this or that belief, or this or that political endorsement, it is the conversion of the heart that is central. Is it your enemy’s heart, your neighbor’s heart, your partner’s heart that is to be converted? No, it is your own heart that is your primary business, in this moment and any other.

What that “conversion of the heart” amounts to is something of a mystery. A person can have a great insight, achieve a great goal, see a great movie, have a great meal, have a great orgasm, fall in love, and any number of other experiences, and still not have what amounts to a “conversion of the heart.” And while many will maintain that it involves a conversion to Christianity or Christ, a person might have what amounts to an essential conversion of the heart without ever having heard of either. While a person could have an impactful near-death experience, a psychedelic journey, even an enlightenment experience, these might not bring such a conversion. And yet sometimes a seemingly ordinary human experience can be sufficient if the person is ripe for it. Again, it is something of a mystery.

What is essential in such a conversion, in terms of consciousness? The “gospel” is the “God’s spell,” which in one sense can involve being spellbound by a sense of the divine, and in another sense can mean being under the spell — or trance — of the sense of a separate god. This is a matter of the sense of the divine being “out there” in some sense. It is the sense of being separated from that, the sense of being separated from essential reality. These are two sides of one coin — the sense of the separate god and the sense of the separate “one.” This is the root of the sense of separation, the primary wound, the knot in the heart.

When the mystic talks about scales falling from their eyes, this is basically pointing to the unbounded and infinite nature of reality, from which nothing is separate or could ever be separate. When the full impact of this reaches the heart, we have the “conversion of the heart.” Then your life is about being the good news, wherever you are, whatever is happening and regardless of faith or nonfaith.

Ed Hirsch leads meditation practice of presence. He will lead an online Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class on Mandalas of Presence: Spirituality and Practice this fall. Contact OLLI to sign up or email presenceofone@yahoo.com. Inner Peace articles are welcome. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.