The Inner Core
Robert L. Marshall
Introduction — The Inner Core
Every spiritual movement is composed of those who lead and those who follow. It seems that most of us find our place by becoming teachable. We study books, attend classes, and sincerely attempt to create the same patterns that others have outlined for us. Over time these patterns become sacred doctrines. The height of spiritual advancement is often measured by how closely one has aligned with these well-traveled doctrinal patterns.
However, within all vibrant spiritual movements there are a few who are not content to master the known patterns. They long for the realm not yet explored. They walk to the edge of their teaching and peer out beyond, just as the founders of their spiritual tradition did. Eventually, they step into the abyss and uncover a new, higher spiritual Truth. Though they may be criticized by those who police the boundaries of their religious movement, they become spiritual leaders, pioneering new inner realms. We call them mystics.
The mystic is simply one who studies the mysteries of life, the unseen, the unknown, and reaches out to experience these mysteries first-hand. Someone must step ahead of the masses to become the cutting edge of spiritual awakening. More and more people then follow, until these realms become “normal” for large groups. Mystics work with the invisible until human beings awaken enough as a whole to see the potential they describe and accept it as natural. At this point, the mystic has once again forged ahead into the unknown next step. Thus the spiritual advancement of humanity progresses. Every religion has within it an inner core of mystics who break new ground so that others may follow. World religions are like spokes in a wheel, with their mystics being those closest to the hub. The outer worship practices and names of each tradition seem quite distant. They lie far out on the spoke near the rim. Yet the mystics of different world religions are quite similar, having discovered the same inner spiritual principles and had similar transcendent experiences. The further we go, the more we realize there is only one Truth. There is only one God, no matter what we call Him/Her.
Jesus was a Jewish mystic, perhaps the greatest mystic who ever lived. Thus Christianity began as a mystical offshoot of Judaism. However, since Jesus’ understanding and use of the higher invisible realm was so far beyond those who reached out to embrace Christianity, the Church placed him on a pedestal. They developed worship patterns for honoring his teaching, adulated him for his spiritual attainment, but shied away from truly following in his footsteps by colonizing these higher realms.
Christianity slowly became mired in “Churchianity.” Most Christians stayed in the safe area: “Pray to God, worship Jesus Christ, follow the rules set by the church, and everything will be all right in the end.”
Throughout all this time, there have always been a few who have kept the fire of spiritual exploration burning: monks in certain secluded monasteries, individuals with unquenchable thirsts for spiritual adventure, and small secret orders studying beyond the boundaries of majority opinion. Each chose to experience directly the inner realm Jesus taught so clearly. All carved whatever path they could and left their piece of the puzzle to humanity.
During the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s, Christian mysticism entered into the public domain. Spiritual explorers like Mary Baker Eddy, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, and Ernest Holmes broke ground in areas of spiritual experience. Their personal encounters with the higher realms inspired others to move beyond doctrines onto a quest for the doors to the spiritual kingdom in which Jesus lived.
These loosely knit New Thought groups grew into a major spiritual movement. The emphasis on spiritual experience began to seep into Christian doctrines everywhere. The heralding of a higher Self within each human being was embraced by psychology. Science pursued the power of positive thinking, expanded powers of the mind, and the development of the higher human potential. Everyone began to enjoy the fruits of the mystical journey.
Human consciousness has begun to move swiftly now. The Truth taught by New Thought teachers is no longer the treasured pearl of a few, considered strange and far out by most. New Thought is rapidly becoming the popular philosophy of our time, regardless of religious affiliation.
Humanity has stirred into wakefulness. What was once cutting edge has become accepted norm. With this new acceptance has come a realignment of energies within the so-called Truth movement. Many Truth students have turned to the monstrous task of creating vehicles for training everyday people in the basics of spiritual development.
Marketing has become the byword. How can we package our cutting-edge awareness more attractively so as to reach the most people? Valid and demanding as this need is to serve, another problem requires our attention. When cutting edge becomes normal (as it should), who is stepping beyond to the new cutting edge? In an era when mysticism as we know it is becoming the safe zone, who is exploring the new mysticism, the new unknown that lies before us?
Every truly successful company has a research and development department to make sure that marketing has something up-to-date to work with in the future. Teaching the standards is important, but without spiritual exploration, stagnation will set in.
Human-consciousness evolution has accelerated. No longer can a handful do the exploration while the rest follow. To keep pace, more and more people must carry their quest beyond the basics, beyond the limits of what is known, and bring back their findings for a ravenous humanity to devour and assimilate.
If you have been thirsting for more, feeling the need to “experience” something deeper, and have the courage to try to do the things that Jesus did, then you have been given the invitation to join the inner core of spiritual explorers who will cut new paths inward into the higher realms.
If you choose to accept this invitation, you will have begun the adventure of your lifetime. You will need to develop some new skills. There is no one to tell you how to go where you want to go or what you will actually find. We can give suggestions as to how to start on a project and some pointers on how to develop your own techniques and practices. However, no one but the Masters have gone down the path as far as you will go. What you discover will excite even those you call teachers.
As a young man, I learned to sail by reading several “how-to” books on the subject. I learned the parts of a sailboat and the theory of sailing. I also learned how to make all kinds of maneuvers in my mind. Though I began to feel that I had a mastery of sailing, I frustratingly yearned to actually put my hands on the boat.
Finally, I acquired this prized possession and put it in the water, sure I would sail like a pro. I found, immediately, that doing it was a lot harder than learning the philosophy. In fact, transferring my sailing expertise from mental understanding to actual experience was one of the truly challenging experiences of my life.
It is the same with spiritual things. Many believe that if they read enough books, gather enough spiritual knowledge, and master the philosophy, they will become illumined. Reading inspires you toward your goal, helps you to stay centered, and possibly gives you some suggestions to start with. Reading takes you to the door of a spiritual adventure but is a poor substitute for the actual experience.
If you are to join the inner core as a spiritual explorer, you will have to take your religion out of the section labeled “philosophy” and move it into “do-it-yourself.” We don’t want to hear what you believe to be true. We want to hear what you’ve found by actually going there.
There’s a big difference between professing that “faith moves mountains” and moving them. When you’ve actually done it, we want you to tell us how you finally accomplished the task. Even if you fail, the jewel may be in what you encountered trying—what worked, what didn’t, what seemed to help, and where you lost it.
Mystical exploration has always involved group effort. No one can do it all, so we glean as much experiential information from one another as we can. Someone eventually breaks through.
As a spiritual explorer, you must first master weeding out useless, unproven philosophy from experiential information that enables you to “do” something in a spiritual area. To this end, we are always looking for practices which we can work with to encourage an experience of the Truth which we accept.
If no practice is presented, consider how you might give this principle concrete expression in your life. Create an activity which uses the principle or a meditation which concentrates on the principle until it goes beyond a mental concept and becomes an experience, something happening so strongly in your feeling nature that it overshadows the original mental picture.
Scientists prove theories by creating experiments that physically demonstrate the use of the theory. It is not accepted as scientific fact until other scientists in other areas can follow the instructions of the first scientist and come up with the same results.
Admittedly, mystical exploration is a little harder to tie up into a neat package. Yet our results should be provable by others who follow with dedication the same practices we develop. In fact, those who follow our instructions should get there a bit faster since we can warn them of the pitfalls and urge them toward the most effective approach.
An expedition requires someone or several people to play the role of “point,” scouts to go out ahead of the main group and report back about the terrain. These pathfinders explore by trial and error the most effective route and urge the main body to travel that way to avoid the dead ends.
Humanity is on an expedition in search of the lost kingdom of heaven that the ancient mystic Jesus Christ found, explored, and taught. He showed us where it lies and is available to help us retrace his steps. But the expedition still needs scouts to forge ahead into this experiential terrain and determine where it is easiest to break through the limits of our group consciousness.
The speed of our expedition has increased. We sense freedom ahead and are quickening the pace. Human-consciousness evolution has reached a frenzy. In earlier times a few mystics exploring ahead kept humankind crawling along. Now we must cut paths in a thousand different directions, because the people of the Earth are ready to follow.
It’s a glorious time to be alive. Generations from now, our era will be remembered as one of spiritual pioneers settling the new frontier. But we haven’t completed the challenge yet. We’ve just begun, and now the rules have changed. We can’t depend on a few to lead. We need a legion of spiritual explorers to cover the territory. I hope you are willing to be one of them.
When faced with spiritual challenges, Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore was quoted as declaring, “I will go straight to headquarters.” He then proceeded to sit in the silence each day until Spirit revealed the answers to him. In this tradition, a number of years back, I set about a process referred to as “opening the heart.”
Opening the Heart
I became aware that there were certain spiritual experiences which I was missing. I was told that they lay in the area of the heart but was given very little guidance as to how to reach them. Feeling at a loss as to what to do, I simply started concentrating on my heart center and using affirmations.
At first, I seemed to be getting nowhere, but finally, I started feeling a slight thrill that I would later declare was heart energy. The process got speeded up immensely by the advent of an emotional crisis that shattered my life. As I struggled to keep my ideals and my sanity in the midst of a crumbling world, something popped open, and I started experiencing beauty to a depth that seemed almost to hurt.
Grabbing my new leverage with both hands, I devised all sorts of practices to keep experiencing beauty everywhere I went. I redoubled my efforts to meditate on the heart center, using sound, affirmations, visualization—any technique I could come up with. As a result, I became able to generate an energy in my chest at will. That energy would change the way I related to people and events.
For the next five years I explored the application of this energy in every area I could. I learned to change emotional states, to see beauty and deeper purpose in everything, to reach out and touch people or things with my heart, to know the inner essence of people and patterns of growth. The whole realm of intuition opened, and my spiritual path went from black and white to color.
The further I reached, the wider the unexplored vistas became. I was overwhelmed by the realization that I would never be able to explore even a fraction of the immense territory which lay through the door called “the heart.” One entire lifetime would not be enough. And other spiritual areas were beckoning to me. I wanted to look into these areas also.
About this time a friend came to me describing experiences that were happening to her. I recognized them as heart openings and excitedly told her, “I know some practices that will speed this process along.” I’d spent five years wandering—trying this or that until I hit something which worked. I was able to share with her the fruits of my labor. I gave her the practices that had worked best for me in each area of development.
A little over two months later she returned, thanking me for the guidance and having gained some measure of mastery in each of the areas we talked about. What had taken me five years, she covered in a few months. She didn’t have to walk down blind alleys and struggle in darkness. Someone who’d already done that gave her a map.
I remember wishing that there was someone who had spent those last five years working in one of the areas I’d not covered, who could show me the shortcuts. After all, I wasn’t sure I had five years to devote to every spiritual quality I needed to develop, especially in light of the fact that my five years had only brushed the surface of unexplored areas within the heart.
It was here that the dream of the Inner Core took form. I began to realize that I didn’t have time to pioneer every area. The process is too slow. But I could pioneer one area or a handful of areas in my lifetime and teach others what I’d learned. They could also pioneer and teach me what they learned. A group could accomplish what no single one of us could.
I believe that Christ consciousness is attainable by us in this generation. Recently I’ve come to believe that the path is set up so perfectly that to reach the top, we cannot do it alone. We must reach beyond our separateness and work together as one.
I don’t have five years to devote to every aspect of Christ awakening. But if I spend five years on one area and you spend five years on another and someone else covers yet another aspect, and then we teach one another, the whole group and each of us within the group travel farther than any one of us could hope for. Together, we can present quite a nice chunk of consciousness to the next generation. They will soak it up as if it had always been easy and will cut paths into areas beyond.
The Inner Core Support Group
In an era of support groups for every malady a human personality can fall into, I urge you to gather others of like aspiration and form an Inner Core support group for spiritual explorers. Let’s have support groups for those whose spiritual quest goes into potentials only hinted at so far. It’s time to quit hiding unexplained spiritual happenings in the closet because people might think us strange. Ask around. You’ll find there are others like you to share the journey and the work.
Our spiritual traditions cover the basics well. But when you are hungering for more, don’t leave your church or spiritual family looking vainly for higher teachings. One mystic put it like this, “Be firmly rooted in your tradition, but become its cutting edge.” Running from place to place will not provide the shortcut to enlightenment. Stand in one place and dig in. Quit looking for the way around the work and start doing it.
Years ago I looked out across the field of leaders within my spiritual tradition, planning to choose one to emulate. Some wonderful names were on my list. Yet, as I went through them, there was always a reason or two that I should not totally pattern myself after them. After disqualifying the finest names in the movement for this reason or that, I sadly found myself at a loss. Whom shall I pattern myself after?
I retorted to myself: Well, Jesus Christ, of course. Yes, but I was hoping for someone a little more tangible—someone in between Jesus and myself.
I usually don’t hear voices, but occasionally a thought comes through so clearly that it could be a voice. This was one of those times. Become the spiritual leader you seek!
The thought-voice was forceful and direct, leaving no room for questioning, and it rocked me. I soberly contemplated the assignment for a moment and then had to laugh. Of course! This is the instruction for anyone who travels the path. Eventually, each of us must stop looking for someone else to lead the way. We each must take our turn at the front.
If this is your realization, that it is time to walk to the edge and put your ideals to the test, you will take comfort from others who have accepted the same assignment. They will be all around you, and you need the power that bonding with them will provide.
Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Over and over we have proven the spiritual power of gathering together in an effort to express the spiritual principles that Jesus demonstrated so well. Small prayer groups with each person praying for the desires of the others have proven almost magical. Miracles happen. The bonding of the group goes deep. There is power in such a group.
What we are creating here in the Inner Core is a prayer group with an even higher objective. Instead of asking the group energy to draw to us our earthly needs, we are using the group energy to draw forth from each of us some expression of the Christ Self. You will be sharing your deepest, most sacred experiences, your frustrations and failures in reaching toward the highest of ideals, your hard-earned successes, and the map of how to reach them. As you can see, this group could become very powerful in catapulting you forward. Treat this gathering with the utmost of reverence.
Much of this power will be dissipated if you lose focus. Our objective is to do the things that Jesus did, to follow in his footsteps in a very concrete way. To turn philosophy into action and, in a sense, religion into science. We are offering ourselves as living laboratories for the creation of the expanded human being. We aspire to Christ consciousness and are willing to get there one quality at a time, if need be. We abandon the fear that has held us within safe boundaries. If we are children of God, it is time we figure out how to do the things children of God do and not just settle for baby steps.
The first pitfall to watch for is debate. Intellectual debate can be invigorating, but there are plenty of places to pursue philosophical discussion. This group is not about “thinking.” It is about “doing” and “being.”
Keep centered on experiences and the practices or possible steps that could lead to them. Share exactly what you’ve encountered in your research project and the realizations you’ve come to that could prove helpful to others in getting results. Brainstorm other approaches. Report your blind alleys so others in the group can avoid them. Journal breakthroughs so others outside your group may eventually benefit. Then pray together and know for all those in the group that Spirit will guide them to success.
The second pitfall to avoid is allowing the group to degenerate into a counseling session. This is deadly to a prayer group of any kind. The emphasis shifts from the Divine to the human, with the resulting loss of power.
The members of your Inner Core group will become intimate friends. You will want to share your daily pleasures and traumas. You should, but not at the official gathering. Let that be strictly an experience of Divine Power in action. Share learning experiences and the accompanying realizations, but be sure it serves the higher Self when you do.
Bible teacher Dr. Herbert Hunt used to start every session with the statement, “Jesus Christ is the head of this class.” It’s worth remembering, especially when the third menace, “inadequacy,” sets in: I don’t have anything to offer ... I don’t know how to get started ... I keep hitting a brick wall... Everyone’s having experiences but me.
When you are sure you’re not up to the job and there is no one to show you how, remember that Jesus Christ is the head of this class.
Yes, we are forging into generally unknown territory, but it’s a realm that Jesus understands intimately. Hold to the knowledge that his presence will guide you (seemingly haphazardly) onto a path that will take you where you need to go.
If that leaves you a little unsure, possibly your relationship with Jesus Christ is worth a research project. However, Jesus told his followers that after he left, the Spirit of Truth would come and teach them everything they needed to know. This same Spirit of Truth sets up the entire learning curriculum that life provides. Trust life to show you a path. If you endure in this knowing, it always does.
There is a third pitfall the group must avoid. Let’s call it “pride.” When spiritual experiences start happening in abundance and breakthroughs push us far ahead of our expectations, some will face the “guru ego test.” People will admire you for what you have attained under God’s direction. Messiah-hood is enticing. Sidestep this one by keeping things in perspective.
Recently someone told me her friend now believed himself to be an “old soul.” I responded that I had that feeling about myself: “I feel I’ve been around forever, but I’m not sure it’s anything to be proud of. It’s kind of like bragging that you are a 20-year-old in the 5th grade. I’d much rather be a young soul moving right along.”
There’s always a different perspective. Don’t be so quick to claim your laurels even when wonderful things begin to happen. Pace yourself. There’s a long way to go.
© 2001, Robert L. Marshall
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.