Lesson 1: Opportunity
(Q) Why do I have such a feeling of loneliness and uselessness, especially with this lesson [Opportunity]?
(A) As the activities of self are expressed in that done unto others, so is the abundance of love, companionship, expressions of His closeness, found in thine experience.
For, as given, HOLY is he or she that has the love of the Father expressed in the acts of thine hands, and thine mind, day by day.
For, with the love of the Father to those about thee manifest in the life day by day, so is the fullness of the life filled with the joy of the Lord. (262-51)
People are always looking for opportunities. The unemployed are seeking work and income. Business leaders are looking for opportunities in the markets. Politicians are looking for opportunities to advance an agenda or gain advantage over an opponent. And so on…
From a spiritual perspective, it is helpful to remember that life is not an accident. The universe is on purpose. It is arranged to provide the optimal setting for soul development.
The earth is a classroom where you are presented with one opportunity after another. Sometimes the opportunities are challenges or even apparently insurmountable obstacles. Certainly, life can be depressing sometimes.
The trick is to see every situation as an opportunity. No matter how difficult or negative it may appear on the surface, life is purposeful and every event in life is an opportunity for growth and development.
The greater the darkness in the world, the greater the opportunity to share light. The greater the need of others, the greater the opportunity to serve.
You may look around and see a world in trouble at every turn: Financial and economic woes; wars and conflict; racial problems; deprivation; human suffering. This can be depressing and discouraging – or it can be seen as an opportunity for service.
Application: Live each moment consciously aware of the opportunity that presents itself in that moment, being mindful of each opportunity as a little gift – regardless of the nature of the situation or happenstance. Live moment-by-moment, aware of the opportunity to be a companion with the Creator of the universe. Seek attunement to God's will in prayer and meditation. Invite God into your experience as a partner as you meet the abundant opportunities of life. As you apply that in hand, more is given. That is the promise of boundless opportunity. But you must use it – apply the truth that you know to do in the situation that is directly in front of you at each moment.
The Ideal Opportunity
In making the outline, and in the definitions that have been presented, rather should there also be given that, while opportunity is in the sense as presented, yet it must ever be considered as the material manifestation of a thought or spiritual ideal; as it is sometimes quoted, that "Man's extremity is God's opportunity." (262-50)
Opportunity in a material world is a result of one’s spiritual ideal. For better or worse, the ideal projects into the material universe, providing an opportunity to meet that ideal in a material setting.
This follows the pattern of downward causation as we have seen with the ideals exercise and Plato’s "Allegory of the Cave" in previous lessons (ASFG I lessons 3 & 4). The higher the ideal, the greater the opportunity for soul development in the Search for God.
Application: As you approach each opportunity in your daily life – whether big or small – consciously use your spiritual ideal as the standard for how to meet that opportunity.
Sweet and Bitter
(Q) Why am I called to read Revelation and the prophets during this lesson [Opportunity]?
(A) For, as has been presented, opportunity is of the spirit presented or manifesting itself in the activity of individual souls. As is shown in the prophets, THESE were also called to present truths that came into the experience of those to whom the prophets spoke.
So, in Revelation is there seen, in the activities of those that name the name, those that are called, those that would harken – hence, as in water the face answereth to the face, so in thine consciousness does the spirit of truth in the prophets, in the Revelation, answer to the consciousness in self. (262-51)
In John’s Revelation, the last book of the Christian bible, there is a symbolic story of spiritual initiation as described in the video overview. A mighty angel came down from heaven holding a little book in his hand. The angel told John to eat the book. He said that it would be sweet in the mouth like honey, but bitter in the belly.
John obeyed the angel and ate the book. Sure enough, it was sweet in the mouth and bitter in the belly.
This pattern is part of everyone's spiritual journey. When we learn about spiritual truth, it is sweet in the mind to contemplate and sweet in mouth to discuss. But when we have to live that truth in the midst of life, it can become very bitter to stomach.
The bitterness is part of the purification process. We come to know who we are and what we believe by application of spiritual truth. This is how we are transformed.
By its very nature, spiritual initiation is voluntary. We have to say "yes" to the sweetness. No one can be forced into it.
If we are forced to be spiritual, we usually don't become bitter — angry or resentful perhaps — but not bitter. To experience this type of bitterness we must have had the sweetness first, we must have said, "Yes I want spiritual transformation."
Then, when we apply spiritual truth we are purified. That is not always easy to digest. If it were not for the sweetness that draws us into the initiation, we might never get around to it! No one said that enlightenment was always easy or fun.
But just keep in mind that we are always meeting ourselves. So when the bitterness comes, we can be sure that it is coming from within us – we are being purified. The key is to not let the process end with bitterness, but to accept the initiation and be purified of the negative attitudes and emotions that are pouring forth. Don't allow yourself to lapse into feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others for how you feel. It is your initiation. Own your feelings and work through the bitterness.
The concept of initiation exposing negative attitudes, emotions, and behaviors will be familiar to anyone who has been active in a church or other spiritual organization. The long shadow cast by a high spiritual ideal, often leads to unseemly behaviors as drosses are brought to the surface for purification – as sweetness turns bitter. By understanding the sweet and bitter of initiation, you can provide support and assistance to others as they undergo the initiation process.
Application: Look within your own life and determine whether you have ever experienced the sweet and bitter of spiritual initiation. If you have and are still clinging to some bitterness, own those feeling as part of your initiation and allow yourself to be purged of that negativity. It may also be helpful to think about others that you have encountered on the spiritual path in terms of this pattern of sweet and bitter. Does it help you to understand why such negativity can be brought out during spiritual awakening? Does it make you more understanding and compassionate for others who may be going through such an initiation?