Excerpts from the books of Marianne Williamson.

(Excerpted from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 1996 by Marianne Williamson. )

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson focuses on the principles of A Course in Miracles. In her inimitable style, she expands on spiritual themes through stories of her own relationships, work experiences, and other aspects of her life. A Return to Love has been recognized as an enduring spiritual

"There is no place for hell in a world whose loveliness can yet be so intense and so inclusive it is but a step from there to Heaven."

Those passages with double quotation marks are quoted directly from A Course in Miracles. Those passages with single quotation marks are paraphrased interpretations of that book. A complete listing of citations to A Course in Miracles appears beginning on p. 301. --M.W.

The Darkness

"The journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it."

What happened to my generation is that we never grew up. The problem isn't that we're lost or apathetic, narcissistic or materialistic. The problem is we're terrified.

A lot of us know we have what it takes--the looks, the education, the talent, the credentials. But in certain areas, we're paralyzed. We're not being stopped by something on the outside, but by something on the inside. Our oppression is internal. The government isn't holding us back, or hunger or poverty. We're not afraid we'll get sent to Siberia. We're just afraid, period.

Our fear is free-floating. We're afraid this isn't the right relationship or we're afraid it is. We're afraid they won't like us or we're afraid they will. We're afraid of failure or we're afraid of success. We're afraid of dying young or we're afraid of growing old. We're more afraid of life than we are of death.

You'd think we'd have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don't. We're just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don't have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don't know. Maybe we're missing a chromosome.

It's become popular these days to blame practically everything on our parents. We figure it's because of them that our self-esteem is so low. If only they'd been different, we'd be brimming with self-love.

But if you take a close look at how our parents treated us, whatever abuse they gave us was often mild compared to the way we abuse ourselves today. It's true that your mother might have said repeatedly, "You'll never be able to do that, dear." But now you say to yourself, "You're a jerk. You never do it right. You blew it. I hate you." They might have been mean, but we're vicious.

Our generation has slipped into a barely camouflaged vortex of self-loathing. And we're always, even desperately, seeking a way out, through growth or through escape. Maybe this degree will do it, or this job, this seminar, this therapist, this relationship, this diet, or this project.

But too often the medicine falls short of a cure, and the chains just keep getting thicker and tighter. The same soap operas develop with different people in different cities. We begin to realize that we ourselves are somehow the problem, but we don't know what to do about it. We're not powerful enough to overrule ourselves.

We sabotage, abort everything: our careers, our relationships, even our children. We drink. We do drugs. We control. We obsess. We codepend. We overeat. We hide. We attack. The form of the dysfunction is irrelevant. We can find a lot of different ways to express how much we hate ourselves.

But express it we will. Emotional energy has got to go somewhere, and self-loathing is a powerful emotion. Turned inward, it becomes our personal hells: addiction, obsession, compulsion, depression, violent relationships, illness. Projected outward, it becomes our collective hells: violence, war, crime, oppression. But it's all the same thing: hell has many mansions, too.

I remember, years ago, having an image in my mind that frightened me terribly. I would see a sweet, innocent little girl in a perfect white organdy apron, pinned screaming with her back against a wall. A vicious, hysterical woman was repeatedly stabbing her through the heart with a knife.

I suspected that both characters were me, that they lived as psychic forces inside my mind. With every passing year, I grew more scared of that woman with the knife. She was active in my system. She was totally out of control, and I felt like she wanted to kill me.

When I was most desperate, I looked for a lot of ways out of my personal hell. I read books about how our minds create our experience, how the brain is like a bio-computer that manufactures whatever we feed into it with our thoughts. "Think success and you'll get it," "Expect to fail and you will," I read. But no matter how much I worked at changing my thoughts, I kept going back to the painful ones.

Temporary breakthroughs would occur: I would work on having a more positive attitude, get myself together and meet a new man or get a new job. But I would always revert to the patterns of self-betrayal: I'd eventually turn into a bitch with the man, or screw up at the job.

I would lose ten pounds, and then put them back on in five minutes, terrified by how it felt to look beautiful. The only thing more frightening than not getting male attention, was getting lots of it. The groove of sabotage ran deep and automatic. Sure, I could change my thoughts, but not permanently. And there's only one despair worse than "God, I blew it."--and that's, "God, I blew it again."

My painful thoughts were my demons. Demons are insidious. Through various therapeutic techniques, I'd become very smart about my own neuroses, but that didn't necessarily exorcise them. The garbage didn't go away; it just became more sophisticated. I used to tell a person what my weaknesses were, using such conscious language that they would think, "Well, obviously she knows what her patterns are, so she won't do that again."

But oh yes, I would. Acknowledging my patterns was just a way of diverting someone's attention. Then I'd go into a rampage or other outrageous behavior so quickly and smoothly that no one, least of all myself, could do anything to stop me before I'd ruined a situation completely. I would say the exact words that would make the man leave, or hit me, or make someone fire me, or worse. In those days, it never occurred to me to ask for a miracle.

For one thing, I wouldn't have known what a miracle was. I put them in the pseudo-mystical-religious garbage category. I didn't know, until reading A Course in Miracles, that a miracle is a reasonable thing to ask for. I didn't know that a miracle is just a shift in perception.

I once attended a twelve-step meeting where people were asking God to take away their desire to drink. I had never gone overboard with any one particular dysfunctional behavior. It wasn't drinking or drugs that was doing me in; it was my personality in general, that hysterical woman inside my head. My negativity was as destructive to me as alcohol is to the alcoholic. I was an artist at finding my own jugular. It was as though I was addicted to my own pain.

Could I ask God to help me with that? It occurred to me that, just as with any other addictive behavior, maybe a power greater than myself could turn things around. Neither my intellect nor my willpower had been able to do that. Understanding what occurred when I was three years old hadn't been enough to free me. Problems I kept thinking would eventually go away, kept getting worse every year. I hadn't emotionally developed the way I should have, and I knew it.

Somehow, somewhere, it was as though wires deep inside my brain had gotten crossed. Like a lot of other people in my generation and culture, I had gotten off track many years before, and in certain ways just never grew up. We've had the longest postadolescence in the history of the world. Like emotional stroke victims, we need to go back a few steps in order to go forward. We need someone to teach us the basics.

For me, no matter what hot water I had gotten into, I had always thought that I could get myself out of it. I was cute enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or clever enough--and if nothing else worked, I could call my father and ask for money. But finally I got myself into so much trouble, that I knew I needed more help than I could muster up myself. At twelve-step meetings, I kept hearing it said that a power greater than I could do for me what I couldn't do for myself. There was nothing else to do and there was no one left to call. My fear finally became so great, that I wasn't too hip to say "God, please help me."

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(Excerpted from A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 1993 by Marianne Williamson.)

Marianne Williamson's A Woman's Worth explores the contours of a woman's spiritual and emotional life. Filled with challenging observations and inspirational insight, the book champions the role of women in today's world. Although the book focuses on the feminine experience, it offers many insights for men as well.

The eternal feminine draws us upward.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It's very difficult being a woman. It's very difficult being a man too, I realize, but this is a book about women. Sam Keen wrote a book about men, which he called Fire in the Belly. My friend Tara called me up one day and told me she wanted to write a companion volume, Volcano in the Uterus. I laughed when she said that, but inside I was thinking and Catastrophes in the Breasts and Terror in the Ovaries ...

More women cry, loudly or silently, every fraction of every moment, in every town of every country, than anyone--man or woman--realizes. We cry for our children, our lovers, our parents, and ourselves.

We cry in shame because we feel no right to cry, and we cry in peace because we feel it's time we did cry. We cry for the world. Yet we think we cry alone.

We feel that no one hears, that there is no listening that matters. And we must all listen now. We must hold the crying woman's hand and minister to her tenderly, or she will turn--this collective feminine shadow self--into a monster who will go unheard no longer. This book is an effort to hear and understand her in today's world, as she exists at this moment, imprisoned while still dressed in all her ancient, soiled regalia. She is like a child yet she is not a child. She is our mother, our daughter, our sister, our lover. She needs us now, and we need her.

Womanhood today is tentative and unsure, a thing defined more by what it isn’t than by what it is. For some women, this is not a problem. They have risen above the complexities of society's projections and misunderstandings and now fly high above the clouds. For most women, however, the resistances they encountered as they reached for the sky were so great that their wings have now drooped, and they try no longer.

Womanhood is a mass pain of unspoken depth; and when we try to speak it, we're liable to be told, "There you go--complaining again!"

As long as this is true, not half but all of humanity is obstructed in its journey to our cosmic destination. This destination is far, far away, a place so deep inside us that we have barely glimpsed its outer walls.

This is a book about a woman's inner life. Here, we are our real selves, while in the outer world we are impostors. We're not sure why we're posing except we have no clue how not to. We have forgotten the part we came here to play. We have lost the key to our own house. We're hanging out outside the door. The stress of being away so long from home is hurting us, even killing us. We must not stay away; we must find the key. For until we do, we will continue to shrivel--our faces, our breasts, our ovaries, our stories. We are drooping down and falling apart. If we knew how to moan, they would hear us on the moon.

But the dirt around us is moving, making room for tiny sprouts. Like every woman, I know what I know. Something is starting to happen. New things lie in store for the earth, and one of them is us. Womanhood is being recast, and we're pregnant, en masse, giving birth to our own redemption.

Watch. Wait Time will unfold and fulfill its purpose. While we wait, we must not go unconscious. We must think and grow. Rejoice and dream, but kneel and pray. There is holiness in the air today; we are giving birth to goddesses. They are who we are, for they are us: friends, therapists, artists, businesswomen, teachers, healers, mothers. Start laughing, girls. We have a new calling.

You can tell who we are: We use whatever our business is as a front for talking about things that really matter. We're only stuck in this work, you see, because our real work was taken away from us several thousand years ago. We looked on the map, but our town was gone. We looked through the catalog but couldn't find the course we wanted. It's as if someone removed our chair but couldn’t take away our longing to sit.

"What?" you say. "Me, a goddess?" Yes, I say, and don’t act so surprised. You knew when you were little that you were born for something special and no matter what happened to you, that couldn't be erased. The magic could not be drained from your heart any more than Lady Macbeth could wash the guilt from her hands. Sorry to tell you, but you had it right years ago, and then you forgot You were born with a mystical purpose. In reading this now, you might remember what it is.

Together we embark on a quest for our own enchantment. It will take us to a place where what is feminine is sacred, as are a lot of other things as well. There we can become who we are meant to be and live the life we are meant to live. But we need to see the lay of the land, and we need to see clearly the way back home.

There are women who are enchanted, living here now as there have always been and always will be. They are bearers of the Goddess's torch, however dim its light may shine. On the inner planes, they are priestesses and queens. They are absolutely powerful; they have made it past the gates. I have known a few, and I have heard of others. And I will tell you all I know, of who they are and how they do it.

* * *

At every moment, a woman makes a choice: between the state of the queen and the state of the slavegirl. In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power. Our jailer is a three-headed monster--one head our past, one our insecurity, and one our popular culture.

Our past is a story existing only in our minds. Look, analyze, understand, and forgive. Then, as quickly as possible, chuck it.

Our insecurity is inevitable in the absence of personal meaning. Without a sense of connection to deeper, more noble ideas, we are doomed to a desperate struggle for things that fill us up: the job, the relationship, the looks, the body. We are tyrannized by a belief that we are inadequate. No nazi with machine gun could be a more tormenting presence.

The monster's third head is the pop culture we collectively spend millions of dollars supporting each year. It does not support us in return. Most movies do not love us, most advertising does not love us, most of the fashion industry does not love us, and most rock and roll does not love us (very sad that one--it used to).

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(Excerpted from Illuminata by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 1994 by Marianne Williamson.)

In Illuminata , Marianne Williamson brings prayer into daily life. In this book there are prayers for forgiveness, prayers for couples, and prayers to heal the soul. "Read my prayers or someone else's," Ms. Williamson says. "By all means, create your own." Illuminata shows that prayer is practical and important in our lives today.

There is a spiritual renaissance sweeping the world. Most people feel it, some deride it, many embrace it and no one can stop it. It is a revolution in the way we think.

Its torchbearers are a motley mix. Some are religious in a traditional sense, while some are not. Some are successful in the world, while some are not. Some of us genuinely like one another, while some of us do not. Some are politically liberal, while some of us are conservative. Some seek Truth in fellowship and some seek Truth alone. Some of us are old and some of us are young.

We are an assorted group, an unlabeled group, but together in spirit we are affecting the world in significant ways. We are turning away from a purely worldly orientation. We seek an ancient God and a modern God. We feel a current of change, a cosmic electricity running through our veins now. However disparate our personalities and interests, we all agree on one very important point: Mankind has come to a major crossroads, at which the spirit alone can lead us toward human survival.

We wage, in our way, a revolution based on love. We seek to replace an old, oppressive order, not so much politically or socially, but within our minds where it lives and works. We try to hate no one, for we recognize that hatred itself is the enemy. We hope to change the world into a place of grace and love.

The first shots have rung out in this revolution, and they were not shots. They were bursts of light, streaming silently yet dramatically through the hearts and minds of millions. This historic unfoldment has already begun, and it is playing out on inner planes.

The question on most people's minds, whether conscious or unconscious, is this: What will happen now?

From channeled entities claiming to hail from the Pleiades to fundamentalist Christians, from the prophecies of Nostradamus to visions of the Virgin Mary, from angels who whisper to a backwoods carpenter to scientific think tanks, come predictions of global shift, perhaps cataclysm, in the years ahead. Our own inner sense corroborates the evidence: It doesn’t seem as though the future is going to be much like the past. It feels as though something is up, as though something significant and big is about to occur.

It feels, for one thing, as though something is fundamentally wrong. It isn’t just the environment, just the wars, just the gangs or the violence or the drugs. It isn’t just the lack of values or integrity or love. Something lurks. In Yeats's poem "The Second Coming," he describes a time in which the center cannot hold. Our center isn’t holding. The center isn’t there.

And yet, the deeper the despair that seems to creep around the edges of things, the brighter the light that seems to beckon from the center. It turns out that the center only seemed not to be there; it has merely been ignored. To those who look inward, it is bright indeed. Now, in growing intensity and yearning, the mind of humanity is seeking its Source.

The antidote to what is fundamentally wrong is the cultivation of what is fundamentally right. Should we choose to expand who we are on a fundamental level, new structures will replace the casualties of premillennial disintegration, and the next twenty years will usher in an age of light more dazzling than the world has known. The next twenty years will be the deciding factor, We need all our attention and all our focus to turn the species in the direction of survival.

Ultimately, the choice to love each other is the only choice for a survivable future. The meek shall inherit the earth because everyone else will have died on their swords. Every time we open our hearts, we create the space for a global alternative.

The opening of the heart is an awesome personal politic, providing us with an internal strength greater than any worldly power, As we receive God's love and impart it to others, we are given the power to repair the world. As we give up our collective enslavement to the dictates of Western materialism, we relinquish the increasingly primitive belief that the world outside remains unaffected by our thoughts. We have begun to recognize that our individual minds create our collective realities, and we are ready to take responsibility for the world by taking more seriously our individual contributions to it. Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

Some people think that things are no worse now than they have ever been, that all this talk of some millennial shift is nonsense, even dangerous. Perhaps this book is not for them. I am not trying to convince anyone of the reality of a global crisis; I am concerned, as are millions of others, with increasing consensus and hope among those who already believe that there is one.

This is the drama of our times: the climax of our historical epoch as we reach the conclusion of the twentieth century. Our planet, our species, our generation is shifting. And they are all the same shift. This is not a personal story, though everyone's personal life is affected and everyone's life affects the story. Like strands of DNA, all of us are coded with the history and possibilities of the species. Ours is a collective, generational drama, for our dramas at their core are all the same story. We all came from the angels and we have all fallen far. Now we are poised on the edge of a cliff As a group, we will fall, or as a group we will fly.

The 1990s are a power point in time, an opening in a revolving door that last passed this way in the 1960s. Now, as then, we have a limited time in which to jump in. The decade of the sixties was a societal peak experience, a red-letter era in our evolutionary journey. It was a premystical phase, foreshadowing current history. An entire generation of souls was marked for a lifetime by having experienced that period.

Like Cinderella, who retained one glass slipper even after the spell broke, which then gave her entrance back into the magic, we have retained our cultural talismans and waited three decades for reentrance to a state of collective hope. We had a glimpse of an expanded reality, however drug-based that glimpse might have been at the time. Much as we receive the mark of a rubber stamp on our hands when we enter a place of entertainment, indicating that we don’t have to reenter but we can, an entire generation now looks at that stamp on our hands and wonders if maybe we had it figured out right back then after all. We were marked, chemically altered by those days, and however far we might have run from them, they have never stopped haunting us. We are beckoned by the music, the philosophies, the pictures. No one who was not there then can imagine the way our souls were branded. And they were branded for a reason: Now that we have begun to awaken from the sleep of two ultramaterialistic decades, the branding on our souls, our hands, sparks our memory. We are staring into space. We are jarred by what we know.

And we are not the only generation waking. Everyone on earth at this time is permeated with the vibrations of a dosing chapter in a historical cycle. Small electrical shocks pulse through our nervous systems. We are coded with the knowledge that at this point we must change our course. Memories come from the future as well as the past. The twentysomething generation has a complementary metaphysics to that of the baby boomers, harking as we did to sounds the world can’t hear. Generations are like keys on a piano; baby boomers and twentysomethings are a musical perfect third.

We are a ragmuffin group in many ways, but great revolutions have begun with less.

There is a feeling in the air now, a sense, however faint, of renewed magic. The nineties seem to be revving up for something. We have arrived full circle at the point where we began this journey in the sixties, but this time, those who carry the torch are sober. We began, in those days, a collective quest for an enlightened perspective, and now, perhaps, we might actually find it. Our sobriety is more total than mere recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. A genuinely sober life is one in which moderation is embraced as a higher good, for the valuable part it plays in the creation and right use of energy. We’re letting go our addictions to many things: to people, to sex, to worldly illusions.

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(Excerpted from Imagine by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 2001 by Marianne Williamson.)

In the realm of highest possibilities, what could America look like in 50 years? Best-selling author Marianne Williamson posed these questions to nearly 40 of her well-known contemporaries. Imagine is their collective response: a powerful, provocative, and compelling vision of a better America and a prescriptive call to action for significant positive change.

I once sat watching television with a friend while President Clinton exhorted us to build a bridge to the future.

"He's building a bridge to the future," mused my friend, "but are we really so sure we want to go there?"

I laughed when she said that, not only at her quirky humor but at her inimitable way of conveying a deeper truth that so often underlies a less serious one. The future is upon us, that's true. But what it looks like, none of us is all too sure.

I believe, as do most people I know, that beneath the economic giddiness and technological wizardry of America today, there is an underground psychic river of nervous anticipation. The future does not seem as connected to the present as it once did. We feel that something big is about to happen, but none of us knows exactly what it is. Most significant of all, none of us can possibly know if this something is good or bad.

That is because the future is not fixed. The other side of the bridge to the future is not an objective, predetermined, static destination. In reality, it is a moveable object, a set of probabilities, and most important, a karmic consequence of the lives we lived yesterday and the lives we live today. The bridge to the future is a bridge that moves -- and the land to which it is connected moves as well -- according to how we walk across the bridge and who we are while we are walking.

Our thoughts about the future go far toward creating it; our minds and hearts are like filaments that connect today to tomorrow, they are conduits for either the status quo or the emergence of different, hopefully more loving, possibilities. How we think and how we behave determine where we are going.

Talmudic wisdom proclaims that over every blade of grass there stands an angel whispering, "Grow! Grow! Grow!" I believe that this extends to every moment as well. There are illumined thought forms that emanate from a divine source, guiding us, every moment, away from darkness and into light.

The fact that we so often ignore these illuminations does not mean that they are not there. They are our thoughts of wisdom and conscience and love. They are our sense of goodness, the lure of becoming by which we are taken, though often kicking and screaming, in the direction of our healing. It is this illumined presence--in ourselves and others--that inspires us to hope. It carries the miraculous authority to reroute our bridges, individually and collectively, when the ones we have built are leading nowhere. That is because it has the authority to transform the human heart.

Some people are walking without a thought to where they're going; I did not ask them to write essays for this book. Some people are almost immobilized by fear of where we're headed; I hope that they will read this book. Some people imagine great light-filled possibilities ahead and work each day to invoke them; their words are what fill this book. This book is to be read during our collective bridge time. I believe that by illuminating higher possibilities for the future, the essays here have the power to help us create them.

America has no dearth of problems, but neither do we have a dearth of genius. I had a dream once of a long dining table, yards long, at which guests carried on animated, fascinating conversations with one another. I sat in on many of them, wide-eyed like a child, taking in all the exciting ideas flying around the table. People were talking about how the world could be and what it would take to create Heaven on Earth.

That dream, in a way, was the genesis of this book. Every essay was written by someone whose words, upon reading or hearing them, caused my eyes to grow wide with wonder. All of them have aroused in me a big "Yes, that's it! Imagine if we did that!"

We are living in extraordinary times, when old boundaries are melting, assumptions long sanctified are being fearlessly questioned, and mental boxes that had seemingly been made of steel are crumbling all around us.

Ask someone in business about their quarterly earnings and they're liable to tell you about emotional factors affecting the workplace. Ask someone about their spiritual awakening, and they're liable to talk about extending their spiritual values into social activism.

One simple thought now promises to transform Western civilization: At the deepest level, there is no separation between internal and external. All outer phenomena are mere reflections of consciousness, and there is no changing the external world without addressing internal factors. Knowing that our primary spiritual task is to love, the highest work of consciousness is to not only try to find our love but also extend it into the world.

Thus, in addressing the future of America, we have sought in this book to address issues of both personal, internal transformation as well as institutional, external change. At heart, they are not separate. Writing about our legal system, a law professor speaks of injecting love into the heart of it. Writing about religion, a theologian posits the value of a sacred sensibility in the functioning of our secular institutions.

Our deepest understanding of the world today involves our recognition of the creative, yet often fragile, marriage between the inner and outer realms.

o one who has written for this book is naive about America's problems. But each one of these authors has seen at least part of a way past those problems and found a way to articulate the path for others. They have obviously thought and felt deeply about their areas of expertise and responded deeply to their own imaginations. What emerges is a compendium of possibilities for a future whose underpinning is not anxiety but a deep and abiding peace.

My questions to all the authors were the following: In the realm of highest possibilities, what could America look like in 50 years? What kinds of changes would have to occur in order for that to happen? How can an individual or an institution best contribute to such change? What is the deeper story trying to emerge within this nation and the world?

No one who wrote an essay for this book has a lot of time on their hands. They responded to this book project -- which raises funds for a nonprofit organization dedicated to imagining and working toward a better world for our children and our children's children -- because they are prepared to live by their own bottom-line message: that separately, we face almost inevitable darkness, while together, we face unimaginable light.

In their taking the time to contribute their own unique and inspiring visions, they not only describe the bridge to a better future, but they actually walk it and, in so doing, model for all of us what it will take to bring it forth.

These authors gave their essays as a gift. With gratitude on behalf of myself and the Global Renaissance Alliance, I dedicate this book to each of them. I feel honored to call them colleagues and blessed to call them my friends. May the collective vision they have created here inspire each of us in our walk through life.

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(Excerpted from Everyday Grace:by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 2002 by Marianne Williamson.)

In Everyday Grace, Marianne Williamson explores a practical approach to spirituality. No matter where we are or what we're doing, says Ms. Williamson, there is the opportunity to be happy, and to be holy. The large and small difficulties of our days challenge us to open our hearts and minds. In this book of hours, Marianne Williamson teaches us to ride the currents that lurk in each of those moments of opening to a sea change of the soul.

My father used to speak of the Byzantine Rule, which is that nothing is as it appears to be. I have always had a sense that something is missing in this world – that at the very least there is something important we're not discussing.

I believe that hunger for a "lost dimension" of experience is a natural yearning in all of us, and it doesn't go away just because we ignore it. It is evidenced among other places in the millions of children and adults who obsessively read the Harry Potter books. It is said that fiction is where someone gets to tell the truth. We are a bunch of silly Muggles, and we really do miss out on the magic of existence. There's a collective knowing that a dimension of reality exists beyond the material plane, and that sense of knowing is causing a mystical resurgence on the planet today. It's not just children who are looking for a missing piece. It is a very mature outlook to question the nature of our reality.

We are like birds who have forgotten we have wings, kings and queens who have forgotten our royal heritage. We feel enslaved by conditions that should have no power to bind us, and powerless before forces over which we have been given dominion. No wonder our children are drawn to reading about a world in which people live a more magical existence than the one we offer them here.

I have watched my daughter bury herself, like so many other children, heart and soul in the Harry Potter books. I remember that when I was her age I had a similar fascination with books like A Wrinkle in Time, Half Magic, and the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. In a particularly passionate moment, my daughter once told me that the only time she was really happy was when she was reading Harry Potter. And, sadly, I understood what she meant. It was the only place she felt she could stay in touch with all the magic.

When I am honest with myself, I know that I cry deep inside, just as my daughter does, when I cannot find the magic. Emma has asked me several times, "Mommy, are the Harry Potter books true? Are there really magical places like that?" And I answer her as honestly as I can, which is to say that I answer "yes." But she is never satisfied when I talk about different realms of consciousness, when I tell her that the magic in Harry Potter is a magic that lives in all of us. She wants a simpler magic, which I understand. And I assume that one day she'll find her own path to the magic that lives and breathes inside her.

No one can take the journey for anyone else -- even parents for our children -- as much as we might like to. But if and when my daughter makes her own mystical journey, she will learn that magic indeed is here in this world right now. It is literally all around us. Each of us has a mark on our forehead, just like Harry Potter, that speaks to the fact that all of us come from a very magical source.

Harry Potter is one boy in a long line of mythical heroes who have reminded the human race that we are so much more than we think we are, so much more powerful than we seem to know. Jesus said that we would someday do even greater works than He; should we not take Him at His word? And should not "someday" be today? It's time for us to start working miracles, if indeed we have the capacity within us to do so.

This book is for those who seek to work miracles. The search for the Holy Grail of miraculous power-humanity's instinctive understanding that we are meant to soar above the limitations of our physical world-has been going on for ages. Yet now the search has become a popular yearning not just among monks or adventurers in far-off places, but among many of us living very practical lives. We wish to cultivate the sacred in the midst of the great and small difficulties of our daily existence. We want spiritual principles to be more than beautiful abstractions; we want them to actually transform our lives.

"Heaven and earth shall be as one," according to the Bible, meaning that one day we will live on the earth but think only the thoughts of heaven. The intersection between our material and spiritual existence is the mystical power represented visually in both the Christian Cross and the Jewish Star of David. It is the point where the axis of God meets the axis of humanity. The modern mystic is someone seeking to embody that point in his or her own experience.

In the words of author Manly P. Hall, mysticism is not a religion, but a "conviction of the heart." I realize now that the journey, which started in my childhood-beginning with books about magic, then moving on to philosophy classes, astrology, tarot, the I Ching, and ultimately more classical theological studies and A Course in Miracles (a self-study psychological training based on universal spiritual themes)-has been a fairly common version of my generation's spiritual journey. I was once someone-and in the 1960s and 1970s, there were many of us-who had moons and stars on the walls of every place I lived and encrusted in the jewelry of every outfit I wore. And we needn't discuss the Maxfield Parrish prints: the color, the light, the hint of another reality . . .

I can see now what I was going for, however crudely, and I have compassion for the young woman I was, always thinking there was "something more." Now that I'm firmly planted in my middle years, I can see that the spiritual path has been the calling of my soul for a very long time, and I am ready to devote the rest of my life to walking it as best I can.

The seeker in us is always seeking more Truth, knowing that the search goes on forever. The mystic in us, on the other hand, is trying to practice what we've learned of it: right here, in this moment, whatever we are doing. The mystic is a spiritual practitioner, seeking not merely to understand the principles of spiritual awareness, but to embody them as best he or she can. We embrace the idea-advanced by both ancient philosophers and modern physicists-that the world is one. Everything connects to everything; therefore, as we change, the world cannot but change with us.

Modern mystics form a kind of spiritual underground in the world today, seeking to transform everything. We are everywhere, as mystics have always been everywhere; we come from every religion, as mystics have always come from every religion; and some of us relate to no religion at all. The mystical realm lies beyond all dogma and beyond the evidence of the physical senses. The mystic has been called to an inner journey, through the darkened entanglements of human existence to the radical love at the heart of God.

I have written this book as a traveling companion for the modern mystic, who goes through his day with the deepest desire to be in the world but not of the world-to be walking with her feet planted firmly on the ground, but thinking with her head soaring powerfully through the sky. To live solidly grounded, but from a spiritual foundation, integrating within ourselves the consciousness of earth and the consciousness of heaven-such is the mystic's longing. And that longing is not for ourselves alone. For as any one of us finds our wings, the entire world is lifted.

The mystical path is not always easy, and my hope is that this book might be a bit of a map through some of its thorniest passages. I do not write as someone who has mastered the way, but as someone who has been walking it, though often clumsily, for several decades of my life. There are bits of information I've discovered on my way, pieces of knowledge and understanding that have made their way to me, as they've made their way to mystic travelers for generations. I have seen darkness, but I have glimpsed a little light as well.

May this book shed light on someone's path, and may all of us enter the illumined door beyond which darkness is no more. May the darkened skies of the human heart be lit by the Light of Truth. May the mercy and the peace of God be upon us now and for all our days.


The Mystical Wands

The first thing a mystic needs is his or her tools. When I was a little girl, every August my mother would take me to the store to buy school supplies. First there was the important decision to be made about my lunch box. Did I want Cinderella on the front of it, or ballet shoes, or Snow White, perhaps? And then, of course, there were the notebooks, pencils and pens, erasers, and myriad other accoutrements, such as index cards, Marks-A-Lots, and notebook dividers. Only when I had all my supplies together was I prepared to go to school.

Ultimately I realized that tools are essential to almost any worthwhile endeavor. You don't go to school unprepared, you don't try to climb a mountain unprepared, and you don't walk the mystical path unprepared.

What are the mystic's supplies? They are spiritual principles, much like magical wands in their capacity to turn any situation into a crucible of miraculous transformation. They change the world by changing us. The mystic path is a journey of personal transformation, and while the goal of the journey is to become our true selves, we can only do this by letting go of who we are not. If we wish to experience the fullness of life, we must cut through layers of illusion that hide the truth of who we really are. The mystical path runs through a very deep forest-the forest of our own psyche-and we need our supplies in order to walk through it.

We meet monsters and demons on the inner path. We meet humiliation in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to humiliation; we meet rejection in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to the pain of rejection; we meet the pangs of deep regret in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to regret. We meet the monsters in order to slay them. The only way to rid ourselves of darkness is by bringing it to light.

Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work. The universe is holographic, which means the whole is present in every piece. Therefore, as we address the shadow within us, we are addressing the shadow of the world. The mystic does not deny the darkness, in ourselves or in the world, but affirms a light that lies beyond it. And we have faith the light will prevail because we have faith that light is our true identity. Our task is to remember that. We invoke the light by actively acknowledging it is there, standing as Harry Potter stood on platform 93Z4, knowing the door would reveal itself because of the nature of who we truly are. Being magic, Harry lives in a magical world. And, being magic, so do we.

The mystical realm arises from a different mode of perception than the one we are used to. The human race now stands on the brink of a historic transformation, with new eyes, new ears, new minds, and new hearts emerging from the cosmic drama of human evolution. As an embryo becomes a baby, we are becoming a new, more spiritualized version of ourselves. We are growing mystical wings as we evolve, as any species does, in the direction that supports our survival. We are moving now toward a universal compassion because, if we do not, we will cause our own extinction. To be a mystic is to choose rebirth, for ourselves and for the human race. We are participating in a collective quantum leap forward, in which our species will experience a fundamentally new chapter in our history.

Fundamental change is not a casual occurrence. We cannot casually commit to the process of spiritual transformation. It's not enough to say, "Oh, I think I'll be a mystic this year." Mysticism is not a trend. Our entire being is called to the task, for the journey from density to light involves every aspect of who we are. Whether we are angry at the dry cleaners because they've ruined our favorite sweater, upset with a friend who has broken a promise, or frightened at the diagnosis of cancer in the breast of a best friend; whether we're worried about the state of our marriage, looking for a new job, or anxious about nuclear bombs and terrorists in our midst, we see that everything we go through is a step along the path. We are taking the mystical journey as a way of transforming the world by transforming ourselves. Only by finding the love within us can we provide the love that will save the world.

Each of us carries, in the depths of our consciousness, a boxful of mystical tools. And central to our tool kit is the magical wand. A wand is not just silliness from children's literature. Fairy tales are rife with archetypal truths that teach not only children, but open-minded adults as well, deep and fundamental truths about the nature of our reality. A wand is a medium of power, not just for wizards, but also for you and me. A wand is essentially a principle, an intention, a focused thought. When focused thought is negative, it creates ill. And when focused thought is loving and enlightened, it creates miraculous breakthroughs. A mystical wand is the illumined power that emanates from the mind when it is married to the heart.

Most of us love, to be sure. Yet far too often our love is passive; we must be proactive in our love in order for it to change our lives. Spiritual laziness has no place on the path. First, we must outgrow the myth of neutrality. For in fact there is no neutral thought; all thought leads to love or to its absence. One who is not committed to love is surrendered to that which opposes it, opening up the door to fear as surely as one who consciously welcomes that fear.

There is so much love in the human heart, yet hatred threatens our planet. And why? Because hatred is currently more committed than love. In the words of philosopher Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing." Indeed, the forces of fear in this world are more disciplined, more courageous in a perverse kind of way, than are the forces of love. For hatred, as we know all too well, has no problem announcing itself and its intentions to the world. Our response should not just be that we oppose hate; our response must be that we love the world. Then and only then will love truly triumph: when the children of God don't just feel our love, but express our love.

Our task then is to harness the energies of love -- to actualize its enormous power in practical and meaningful ways. Love too must announce its intentions to the world, with all the passion born of a compassionate heart. We are a species that has everything, yet what we lack is what only we can give: conviction. It is the conviction to love that gives birth to miracles.

In the words of the French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, "One day, after we have mastered the winds and the waves, gravity and the tides, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in human history, mankind will have discovered fire."

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