My Life Will Have To Do!

I went to Southwest Baptist University and got an B.A. in a double major, Theology and Speech/Drama. For the latter I got elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. I did graduate work towards my M.Div at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I did a pastoral internship and became a licensed Southern Baptist minister. However, I was not very happy with that denomination because they were becoming very right wing and anti-intellectual. But it was in seminary that I received an “inner call,” not to be a minister but to be an opera singer. Without any formal training in voice I entered the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1974 and won. I was given a two year apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and made my stage debut there, then with the Tulsa Opera, which nourished me during my early years. I sang at the Metropolitan Opera in a Gala Concert in 1975 and was awarded the Gladys Axman-Taylor Memorial Award for being one of the ten National Winners of the Met Auditions. I moved to New York in 1975 and began studying with Jerome Hines and Cesare Bardelli of the Met and coached with Alberta Masiello, the head of the coaching department of the Met. For two years I had a mailbox at the Met because so many people were writing me there. Every day I would come in the side stage door and check my mail.  I made my New York stage debut in 1980 at the Brooklyn Academy with the Chamber Opera Theater of New York, in an opera by Sir William Walton called The Bear, based on the Chekhov farce by the same name, and received a great review from The New York Daily News. I became a member of Jerome Hines’ personal Opera Company and sang with him for 20 years. In 1981 I starred in the New York premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Mozart and Salieri, and received highly favorable reviews from New York critics as well as 100 critics from all over the world. From that point I sang leading roles in all the major opera companies in America and some in Canada and Europe. Some of the fun times were when I sang La Traviata  in Central Park with the New York Grand Opera. We also performed it at Coney Island and in Brooklyn. Also, in Lincoln Center, I sang a summer concert with the Guggenheim Concert Band.

I won several awards: Besides the Met Auditions, I won the national award for the WGN Auditions in Chicago and the Bruce Yarnell Memorial Award for Baritones in New York.

My European debut was in 1984 as Verdi’s Rigoletto which I played at the Belfast Grand Opera House as part of the Northern Ireland Opera Festival. One performance was broadcast over radio by the BBC. It was still dangerous over there then. We had a judge in the chorus who always had two body guards with him. The theatre itself celebrated Queen Victoria being named Queen of India and was ornately dressed with huge elephants all over the theatre, carved ones of course. The Director was the very famous Nicholas Hytner with whom I got along famously. Hytner went on to make many hit movies and became director of the National Theatre in England.

 

I was fortunate to sing with the great opera singers of that day who were international stars. I always felt my work in opera was to inspire my audience to look upward and ask the big questions in life: “What is Truth, Beauty, and Love.” Art cannot give the answers but it is very good at turning one’s gaze upwards. In short, I was trying to inspire people with my singing and acting. I felt that I could do it better on a stage than from behind a pulpit! But I did not lose my interest in theology. Far from it, I completed and finally received a legal Th.D degree in 2016 just out of my desire to finish something I started long ago.

I was Professor of Voice at the University of British Columbia, Indiana University, Perdue University of Indiana and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am retired now but still teach a few students. It has been a long road from Carthage, and could have been longer. In 1982 I sang a concert based on war and peace, half in Russian (which I learned) and half in English, all high song literature on the subject, including Mussorgsky song cycle, “The Songs and Dances of Death” (sung in Russian). The sponsor for the concert,  which was to be held at Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan,  invited the United Nations delegation from the Soviet Union and the delegation from The United States. The American delegates did not attend, but the entire Russian delegation came and filled the first three rows of the theatre. At the end of the concert, they rushed up on stage to thank me. The lead delegate said to me “That was real Russian you sang!” and we talked for a few minutes. He said he would try to get Goskoncert (the Soviet Art Agency, to invite me to perform in Moscow. All sorts of Congressmen recommended me to them including Rep Taylor from Missouri, but in the end it didn’t happen. In the course of my career I sang for US Representatives, Senators, Consuls, and Ambassadors. I almost sang for Jimmy Carter.  I met him in the elevator going down to my rehearsal! Stars of the Met became my good friends and even were my fans. At the Met, James McCracken, Jerome Hines, Ezio Flagello, Carlo Cossutta, Teddy Uppman, Gilda Cruz-Romo, Marilyn Niska were all my fans and I was their colleague. Those were the days!

Galina Vishnevskaya, the Russian soprano, who was exiled from the Soviet Union along with her husband, Rostropovitch, chose me to sing the leading Russian Baritone role in Tchaikovsky’s Opera, Iolanta, which she was to direct  at the Salzburg Festival. From hearing me sing, she thought I was Russian, so my Russian must have been pretty authentic. I sang the role of Boris Godounov many times in Russian. It was a role that fit me well, perhaps because I learned it from my teacher, Jerome Hines, who was one of the great Boris’ of all time. I received many reviews from world critics which placed me at the top of my operatic profession. But I developed personal enemies among the moguls who politically control opera because I would not depart from my goals to use opera to inspire people and uplift them. I would not do crazy things like wear a space suite and pretend to be singing on the moon, or sing totally nude! Such idiocies were creeping into opera even then. But I did the best I could to fulfill my dreams to use opera as an inspirational art. Hundreds of my performances are on youtube and have been seen worldwide now. I wish I could have done more, but the miracle is that I did all that I did fighting against congenital heart disease. I sandwiched my career in between three open heart surgeries.  My life will just have to do! 🙂

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Let us live in our Love and our Song

Let us leave the world of unforgiveness behind and live in our Love and our Song. The Song is not formal music. It is the eternal call to Home that the spirit hears in every rock and leaf, every grain of sand, every child’s face, every dog and cat’s response to our love for them. The Song is in you. I hear you singing it so sweetly. Oh precious Jesus how the world sings the song you know so well, the song of Oneness in praise of the Love that we are.

The world that was created by fear and anger we can now view through the eyes of newness. No longer must we see the world as separate factions fighting one another. We have forgiven the world of strife we created. Forgiveness now rests on our brows and on the world’s. Now can we see Heaven’s reflection made so perfect in the world. Now that Love has come into aching hearts, the need for time is almost gone. The One Song sings beautifully throughout a world which knew it not and all creation gives thanks to you and to the Creator. Now do we see the steps to Heaven’s gate on which you stand. Now we have no need for the world which served us so well with lessons to be learned. The time for learning is over. The time of the great rejoining has come and every tiny part of all universes has come to join the One Song we sing. And tears of joy come in recognition of the vast ages of time we have entered bodies to remember our eternal Self, One with the Creator, AND WE ARE ALL THE BELOVED. Gently do Heaven’s doors open to receive back its One Son. Gently does the Creator’s arm reach out and gather His Son back to Himself. Less than a tiny moment was taken to heal the tiny mad idea that seemed to set the Son on His long journey. The time for time is over. Now in eternity does all-encompassing Love flow unimpeded through a universe of spirit created by the Song. Forever shall we flow. And shall our little days as individuals be lost forever in Oneness? Oh no, dear ones. Every loving thought you ever had, every loving deed, is perfectly remembered within the Christ Mind that flows through Heaven. And now we say Amen for the time of learning is over and the time of rejoining has entered eternity, with you my loved ones, with you, and you, and you, and you, with your animals and children and every thought of love that lighted your little mind as an individual. Home safe we are, and we shall never leave again. No more dreams will enchant us. We are Home. Love has found itself at last…at last.

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Be Not Dismayed

There are times when the horror of this world almost outplays the wonder of it. Cheaters win; Crooks get away with crime; all that is good seems to be threatened. It comes to us in every generation, this great dilemma of the world. We look for goodness. We look so hard to find meaning, and we look even harder to find love. But we can’t find it in the world and its systems. Through tears we look from catastrophe to catastrophe and find no consolation, until another soul sees us bound up in our agony and says, “Yes, I feel it too! Where is there justice? How can we find our way?” And in that moment of common empathy love makes its existence known. The world knows it not, but the human spirit knows the love it seeks. We are the love the world needs! We are the truth we are looking for. Yes, the world is a crooked place all too often where abusers get away with their crimes, where the needy are sold for the price of shoes, where a man or woman of God seems so hard to find!! The evil one seems to win and laugh at truth and right and all that is good. We have these days where the Brett Kavanaughs of the world are exalted and truth and decency are mocked. But they will not endure. They will not endure for the moral arch of the universe bends long but it bends exactly towards justice. Nothing but Love is Real and Nothing Real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists! It may appear to exist as a nightmare does but it will end!!! IT WILL END my dear brothers. We will awaken from this nightmare into Love’s Presence. I love therefore I am. Descartes was wrong. He didn’t see the way. But I have seen the way and when I love I am real. I rise about the dream of the world and share my thoughts with God!! So now is our time dear brothers and sisters to rise above this contemptible world and find the Love that is in us as our natural inheritance and share it with every needy one who has lost hope, who fears that evil may triumph, that ignorance is all that we can expect and that God is dead!! S/He is NOT dead! S/He lives within the love that is deep in your heart. S/he shares every moment of Love’s experience. S/he know that His/Her Son is asleep, dreaming a terrible dream of good and evil where the evil too often seems to win. But S/He has given us the ability to awaken from the dream, a little at a time or a lot at a time–it is all our choice. But the end is not in doubt. The world was over a long time ago and the Oneness of Heaven is Reality that has not been disturbed by this silly little dream of good and evil that we are playing out right now. Love is all there is. Love is all there is. Be not dismayed. Love is all there is. Be not afraid of Republicans or Brett Kavanaugh. Love is all there is!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The Body was made as a place God could not Enter.

You who made the body made it as a little temple for illusions. Believing it a place where God could enter not, you created it to house all your illusions. Every little pain and thought of separateness you hid within its tissues. Every horrible thought of a world without love you poured into the mold of the body, and thinking each thought safe from investigation you left it there and denied it. Every thought of fear and attack found its home within this sickly little temple you made to pain. This sickly little temple to pain cannot abide Love’s Presence. It would move through each sad tissue of the body with loving touch and release those illusions that you believe in so dearly. Every memory of abuse you suffered and the image of your abuser would have to go with the entry of Love’s Presence. And so you have gone through the years, holding your illusions and their painful presence, wrapped tightly within the tissues of this little temple, almost forgetting them, except when they escape from a Loving touch, a sweet smile, a caring thought from others, the touch of a cat that loves you so much this little brother has chosen to live his life with you. At their release the body for the moment feels weakened, so accustomed to being the bearer of sadness, and so sure that it is a victim come here to this life to stagger and die. Now do you see how deeply you have been misled by illusions of pain and evil. They have lived within the sinews and muscles of this body temple, asking for release, and you denied them. Letting them go seems too much to you. You fear that the body could not live without them. And yet there is a welcome little touch that would allow them to quietly leave and make room for Truth. You have not yet felt the Truth for which you seek, that you are still as God created you. “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions.” Touch someone today with Love, a little pat, a touch of the hand, or maybe more. God’s son is waiting for someone to touch him and begin the flood of release that will save him, and you with him.
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Practical Mysticism

I have evolved a long way since my Southern Baptist ministerial days! I began my theological life as a liberal Southern Baptist theologian! There is a contradiction for you to ponder!! I moved to a Bultmannian, Tillichian liberal Protestant theologian, and then to an adherent of the Primordial Tradition in the school of   Rene GuenonFrithjof SchuonJulius EvolaHarvey Spencer LewisAnanda CoomaraswamyElémire ZollaAlain DanielouJean-Louis MichonGottfried LeibnizAldous Huxley, and Plato. While Plato came the closest to satisfying me, in the end he did not! That satisfaction was reserved for the modern scripture, A Course in Miracles, when it came into my contact.  It brought together the truths of Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Perennialism and modern psychology in a unique way. It remains the most satisfying theological system I have come in contact with! Therefore, my past decade or more has been devoted to an experiment in practical application of the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles. The system is very close to Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought, yet also provides the ultimate Advaita of the Hindu Vedanta. I am an  Advaita Vedantin following the Metaphysical path of A Course in Miracles. At the practical level it has been my intention to see if I can live in the perspective and awareness of Oneness rather than the duality that is the common perception in this world. When I first approached this I spoke with my friend, Dr. Ken Wapnick, if it were possible to live a non-dualistic life in a dualistic world! He responded, “Of course! That is the purpose of A Course in Miracles. It takes a lot of hard work but it can be done.” He should know. He did it. Now that he has left his body, he has left us with an example of one who did just this in his life!

I have had some limited success in living out an awareness that is Advaita. I say “limited” because the longest I have maintained that awareness was six weeks. Yet those six weeks were the culmination to me of my theological quest. Other ACIM students have made similar attempts. The students of Tara Singh have, since his “death”, been meeting together to hold practical sessions on “Objective Thought.” That is essentially Advaita. Objective thought would not project the opposite!!! “Objective thought” would be impersonal, loving thought, shared with God! What would it be like to experience our thoughts shared with God? To me, the practical application of that would be an awareness of “not two.”  Writing about this is extremely difficult! It would take, myth, prose and poetry to approach it. I attempted to do that in a connected series of writings I called “The Beloved and I are One,” in which I used my experiences at a nearby lake to serve as an artistic attempt to convey this experience in practical mysticism. It was good enough to get me my Doctor of Theology degree, but the experiment continues, the quest goes on until I can steadily hold the thought that “the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me!” Then Peace shall reign over the storm and in stillness shall the voice of God be heard!

 

What A Course In Miracles is NOT

This is a very important clarification that needs to be made. A Course in Miracles is not for everyone. Yes, it can be applied by anyone, but not everyone will be drawn to it. ACIM is only for those people who are drawn to it, read it, actualize its principles in their lives and believe it is the “path” for them. The Course is very straight forward about this. It says it is only one form of the universal course all must take. The Course is not competitive with any other system! It is not “evangelical.” It is not trying to proselytize!!

In the early days Dr. Ken Wapnick, jokingly described the Course as a path for intellectuals! (“We intellectuals need a system too!”) While it is true that the Course is very challenging and might appeal to intellectuals, it is truly for everyone who feels drawn to it.

So if you are a Christian of any denomination and you are learning to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, then that path is working for you. Why would you wanted to change? If you are a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and you are learning that lesson, then your path is working for you. If you are a theosophist, spiritualist, or new ager and you are learning this lesson then that path is working for you.

The universal course we all must take is designed to do just that; to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself. The problems come in when these religious forms no longer teach the universal course but instead have gotten off message. Some religions have become Imperial while others have become corporations with corporate motives. The old religious forms of the world have frequently failed today to teach the universal course. Many of the New Age religious forms have much to offer but one is left feeling like the universal course is like a needle in the hay stack of embellished new age forms. The truth is hiding so deeply in the forms that it is very difficult to find. Still if you are learning to love God fully and your neighbor as yourself, that system is working for you.

In the early days, one of the ACIM enthusiasts wanted to put a copy of ACIM in every hotel room along with the Gideon Bible!!! Thankfully we didn’t do that.

Most often, the people drawn to ACIM are people for whom religion is not working. They may be disaffected Christians, or people eager to explore spiritually. In any case, if ACIM is your practice you need to live by its modest requests that you do not act superior to your brothers in other religions, but accept them as parts of God just as you are. The terminology, metaphysics and psychology of ACIM are highly advanced and we need to be kind towards our brothers by not insisting on our terminology but instead look inside to the truth within the form.

Unfortunately ACIM has now surpassed even early Christianity in its early divisions, sects, and quarrels. It is saddening to see the innate tendency in people to divide and attack. The two Lighthouses to steer by are The Foundation for Inner Peace and The Foundation for A Course in Miracles, both in California.

The Course is given to those drawn to it, and to them it is truly “The Thoughts of God” and a Gift to His son.