I was raised in the Lutheran faith in a small city in northern Wisconsin. This region was populated by settlers from such diverse areas as Norway, Sweden and Germany, so we had more than our fair share of blonde people. By the time I arrived on the scene in the early 1960s, we were basically just a bunch of white people with interesting foods to eat during the Holidays.
When I was twenty-five, I moved to Atlanta where I would settle down for the next twenty-five years. Not long after arriving in Atlanta, my parents came for a visit and we attended a church service at Ebenezer Baptist church. My mother had long been the organist at our Lutheran church in Rice Lake, and my dad taught vocal music at the University of Wisconsin two-year school in Barron County. So they were both particularly keen to experience the music, and we were not disappointed.
As I recall, we were the only white people attending the service that day, and the congregation couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming to us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter was giving the sermon, and afterwards, we waited a short while for recordings of the service to become available on a CD. My dad would go on to use it in one of his music classes at the college.
The congregation couldn’t have been more welcoming.
I was recently reminded of all this by my mom who sent a clipping about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr from her daily devotional book. It clarified something that had always confused me: Why did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran religion, have such similar names?
Here is the explanation, according to this source: “Dr. Michael King Sr., a prominent preacher in Atlanta, toured the Holy Land and Berlin in 1934, sponsored by his church, Ebenezer Baptist. In Germany, Hitler was in power, and Dr. King’s church stood against him.
Dr. King was deeply moved by his visit to the land of Martin Luther and by the reformer’s proclamation of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Scripture alone. When he came home, King changed his name from Michael to Martin Luther.
His oldest son, Michael, was five. His father changed his son’s name also, to Martin Luther King Jr.”
First We Believe
I am also struck by the reference to the Lutheran tenet that our faith alone will save us. Most likely, both Dr. King and Dr. Luther understood the deep, unshakable truth about this. But I am guessing that for some people today, the real understanding has gotten lost.
This reminds me of a quote from Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “For the simplicity that lies this side of complexity, I would not give a fig, but for the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.”
In this case, simplicity is faith, and complexity lies in doing the work of healing. In other words, “For the faith that lies this side of doing the work, I would not give a fig, but for the faith that lies on the other side of doing the work, I would give my life.” For that far faith is true faith, and discovering it is what life is all about.
Heaven is within.
Before we begin on a healing journey in which we remove the obstacles that are blocking our inner light—remembering what Christ taught, which is that heaven is within—we can only believe with our ego mind. And belief as a mental concept has no spiritual value. It’s hardly worth a fig. For the ego is not a deep resource. It does not have the ability to comprehend the whole truth.
The ego, in fact, always lives in duality, not unlike the fragments of ourselves caught in child consciousness. The ego, then, can only hold one half of a whole truth. But in the center of our souls, where we can live in unity, we are able to hold opposites.
For many people, including many who are deeply religious, having faith and doing the work are opposites they can’t reconcile. Left to choose, the ego opts for faith and rejects the notion we must do any work to heal ourselves.
Then We Will Know
It goes on to say in the daily devotional: “Today we remember the founder of our church, Dr. Martin Luther (d. February 18, 1546), his faith in the Gospel, and his declaration of the free gift of salvation given to us unworthy sinners, by grace, from God.”
As the Pathwork Guide teaches, Christ did indeed come to Earth in the form of a man named Jesus. His mission was to open the door for us to get back to heaven. That was essentially a free gift. But salvation we must work for. For as the Guide clearly said, “If you do not meet that in you which freezes and paralyzes the living spirit, it is impossible to be moved and lived by the living spirit.”
We simply cannot transcend duality while living from our ego. To transcend duality we must discover the living spirit at our core. Then our ego must surrender and learn to live from there. Only then can we have a deep inner knowing of the truth, including the truth about how worthy we each are.
That’s how we save ourselves. We save ourselves by finding our deeper true selves, for that is where we find heaven.
Half-Truths Get Us Nowhere
If we look around, we see that Christianity is in a state of decline. Lutherans are no longer filling the pews. But we can say the same about Pathwork. The organization is now nearly defunct in the United States.
To understand this, we can turn to the Pathwork Guide’s teaching about the three principles of evil, one of which is confusion. For few things confuse us more than half-truths. More than that, when something is not fully in truth—when we embrace only half of a truth and reject the opposite half—it can’t keep growing. For all untruth equates to negativity, and all negativity eventually grinds things to a halt.
Our work is to use our free will to find and free up that light.
So many Christians embrace the need to have faith, welcoming the light of Christ in their hearts. But then they fall short in clearing away whatever is blocking that light. There is recognition that we have sinned—none of us are perfect—and that we feel unworthy. These things are true. But that is not the truth of who are. In truth, we are each worthy, because at our core, we are all light.
Our work is to use our free will to find and free up that light. We had the right idea when we sang in Sunday school: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. But the follow-through wasn’t there during the rest of the week. People started to see the hypocrisy that resulted. Worse, many were affected by various kinds of abuse that festered in the unhealed darkness.
As such, many people turned away from church and gravitated to spiritual paths that face what’s not aligned with the light. This became the growing Spiritual But Not Religious group. For a time then, Pathwork communities were thriving in many regions across this country. Significant healing work was done as people worked to transform their Lower Self.
But many who were drawn to Pathwork had strong negative feelings about church. In an effort to avoid offending anyone—in an effort to keep people from leaving Pathwork—the topic of Christ was rarely mentioned. Seldom in my own decades of Pathwork experience was it acknowledged that the whole point of doing all this inner cleaning work is to live in a clean house—a house that Christ built.
Letting the Light of Christ Shine
The Guide teaches that transforming our Lower Self is always an act of our Higher Self. It is our inner light that inspires us to become better. It is our own faith that there could be more to life that compels us to search for deeper meaning. In the end, it will be our willingness to take self-responsibility for what disconnects us from our own core that will bring us home to God.
Christ is going to come again, but not as a person. The next time Christ comes, it will be through each one of us as we do the necessary work of clearing away our negativity and calling forth our inner light. When we do that, we will learn how to live together in harmony and in true faith.