Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is consciousness?
These are the questions that have been behind so much of my spiritual seeking for all of my life. I remember as a child, laying out in the grass behind my house and looking up at the sky and wondering about life. I would look at the sun and clouds and wonder where they came from? Who made the air who made the grass and clover in which I’m laying? Who is this God guy people keep talking about? Is there really some old man up in the sky who made all of this? And why is life like it is with my house and my parents and school and all the things that surround me? All of these questions would finally lead me to the big question…why is it that I have this internal awareness that even allows me to wonder about these things? Who am I really?
As I grew up and explored various churches… such as the one my parents went to and the ones of the various faiths of the girls I dated… I discovered that none of these religions truly resonated with me. Yet, I continued to wonder about the meaning of life. I finally decided that I would have to learn about the meaning on my own. That’s not to say that there wasn’t truth and wisdom out there for the discovery, I just knew that I wasn’t going to find all of my answers in organized religion.
When I went to college, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I found the subjects that I studied interesting but not always fulfilling. Eventually I was asked to declare a major and I decided that psychology was the only subject that came close to questions I was asking. Although I dipped my toe into philosophy, I found that much of what I read was over my head. Perhaps it might answer the big questions, but I certainly wasn’t ready for how it approached them. Besides, there was a unspoken pressure to declare a major that had some degree of practicality. It was already a bit of a stretch to declare psychology is a major in that regards…..no way I was going to say “philosophy”.
I found that as I studied psychology, there were areas where I really found answers. For example, the work of Abraham Maslow, and specifically his “Hierarchy of Needs” gave me some answers as to be reasons for my motivations. And, although the university I attended was steeped in behavioralism at that time… I even worked for a professor running rats in experiments… they did offer in my senior year at class which delved into the subject of consciousness. We reviewed a book by Robert Ornstein called “The Psychology of Consciousness” which intermingled the results of brain studies and Sufi stories to offer answers regarding this consciousness that I have long wondered about.
After I graduated with my bachelors degree, I thought about going on into graduate school in psychology. However the blessing of marriage and children turned my focus and attention into the outward world. Much of my life could easily be tracked in Maslow’s hierarchy. I worked long hours and moved up the organizational ladder in order to meet the safety and security needs of my family, my own relationship and self-esteem needs, and occasionally (on my own) would see glimpses towards self-actualization.
In the outer world, life served me greatly. One thing that was silently instilled in me as a youth was the need to provide for my family. Therefore, when I married early and had five children, by the time I was 25. This instilled drive to be a provider drove me to succeed in the business world. I worked long and hard and learned. I moved up the ladder within the federal government. I learned how to get work done, and how to work with people. For much of my career I worked in management and leadership positions. The success that I received in my long career with the government also served to feed many of my internal needs. Another belief that had been instilled in me was that outward material success validated my existence and success as a human. I didn’t understand this for many years and only came to understand that I held this belief later in life.
Outwardly, I was also concerned with my children having the best possible life they could have as they grew up. I’m talking not only about material success and having “things”, but also about having the right experiences that instilled in them the right morals, and the right worldview. I have been very pleased to see the adults that these children have grown into.
My point in mentioning all of this is to acknowledge that I had this outer life that was very important to me and grew me while I meanwhile continued to ask those inner questions about life and consciousness. That external life has served me to be the person I am today. But along the way, small things continued to crop up that drove me to look at the big questions. Sometimes they were obvious and consciously intentional, other times more hidden from my awareness but real none the less.
One of those factors was to uproot my family while the children were still a very young age and move them across the country. My wife and I gave logical stories about the move… such as wanting to raise the children in a more enlightened area or the greater chance of career success in the new town… but also underneath all of this was our own internal desire to live somewhere else, where we might grow deeper in our own truth and wisdom.
Throughout my life, I continued to explore religion, science, philosophy, and other paths, but I discovered looking for the answers to life. Along the way, coincidences continued to put me in the position to have experiences that ensured I pursued these bigger questions. Answers would be put before me, coming like clues in a Dan Brown novel. Now I can look back and see that something inside me was conspiring to bring these experiences into my awareness.
Eventually I discovered a philosophy called the science of mind and spirit created by Ernest Holmes. I found it answered more questions for me than anything I discovered up to that point. I delved into the teachings, eventually became a spiritual counselor, and later took their masters program that led me into becoming a Science of Mind minister. Some days I look at this path with great irony that the child who ran from religion became a minister in later life.
Along the way my life certainly changed… the end of my first marriage … my children growing into happy and successful adults with grandchildren arriving… a wonderful new marital relationship……a retirement from the government and moving more deeply onto my path of being a spiritual teacher…
Do why do I mention all of this? Some days I grapple with the issue of how can I truly be a spiritual teacher, when I’ve walked this other more material life for so many years? I wasn’t some long time spiritual teacher with tons of experience teaching “spiritual classes”. But as I’ve come to discover my path was perfect. It gave me the experiences to teach from an awareness that will resonate with others who walked a similar path. And, I have discovered that many people are now coming into the spiritual path having walked a very similar material life.
I have discovered that there are many paths and many teachers who have been pointing in the same direction from different vantage points as Ernest Holmes and the Science of Mind. Although this should not be a surprise, as Holmes created this philosophy by drawing on the great truths from all the other paths, it’s one thing to know that intellectually, and another to feel it through the experience of learning.
So coming full circle now… why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is consciousness? These are some of the questions that drive our spiritual evolution. The motivation to understand is the push that forces us to grow….we may walk the material path, but at some point something ensures we stay on the spiritual path.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!