Good Dreams

Good Dreams

 

“The old dreams were good dreams. They didn’t work out but I’m glad I had them.”

(Robert Kincaid – The Bridges of Madison County)

 

Riding up the snow covered mountain in North Carolina in March 1981, half-sick, I wondered how I was going to be able to get through Fidelio. A tenor friend had talked me into doing Pizarro- a part that clearly lies too low for me- at a festival in North Carolina on top of a mountain. I had to take the part since there was no other way to pay the rent. Singing sick had happened many times before but I always managed to pull it off. As soon as I got there I explained that I had taken a cold and needed two days rest before beginning rehearsals. I had a routine for beating a cold in a hurry when I was performing. It involved taking a double dose of cold medicine, and sleeping constantly. In two days I emerged for rehearsals. I am sure they would have docked my pay if they could have because the atmosphere was definitely tense until I began to sing. In the sitzprobe (rehearsal) all went very well and no one could tell my voice had gone through a cold. Then we staged the opera. The stage director gave me a ridding crop for a prop. I used it to the hilt to play the Gestapo-like character of Pizarro. The director looked a little stunned and said, “Man when you get a prop, you really use it.” My voice held throughout the performance and my one Pizarro was over. But I wasn’t pleased with it because I couldn’t project my voice well in the lower range. I learned the hard way, ‘never sing out of your fach.’ I never sang Pizarro again.

We were snowed-in on top of a mountain in North Carolina. If we wanted to get to the airport we would have to go down the side of the mountain in four wheel drives, which is what we did. I felt like kissing the ground when I arrived at La Guardia and quickly cabbed my way back to my cozy apartment and my beautiful Blue Persian cat, Jenny. On the long cab ride my mind wandered back to my beginnings in Missouri.

I was born with heart disease, specifically Coarctation Syndrome. Most people who are born with that do not live very long. When I was born the syndrome was not even well understood, and so the kindly old country doctor that served our family didn’t really know what was wrong with Joe-boy except that he could hear a heart murmur and knew that my immune system didn’t work too well. I had a lot of athletic talent but was never permitted to play organized sports because of my heart. I felt sort of like a leper as a kid. There was this mysterious thing wrong with me that kept me from doing what other kids could do.

Finally, in 1967 when I was 19 years old, our doctor advised me to go have the best cardiologists look at me. We packed up the car and drove to Houston Texas where the great Michael Debakey was practicing at Houston Methodist Hospital.

They found the coarc in the aorta (a weakened collapsed part of the aorta) and replaced it with some everlasting Dacron tubing. They left the stenotic aortic heart valve untreated for some strange reason. Perhaps it was just as well given the state of medicine then in comparison to today. Unfortunately, after 19 years, my body had grown small blood vessels in the lower half of my body and my kidneys had learned to request high blood pressure. So the treatment was far from complete. Still, it gave me something of a new lease on life and I was able to go to college and begin to dream dreams.

College was not such a tough choice for a kid who lived his whole life in Carthage, Missouri. My grandfather, Vernon Shore, had been a well-known Baptist preacher during the depression and afterwards. I felt pressured to move into his shoes, not knowing just exactly where my shoes were at the time. I graduated from high school in 1966 and headed to Southwest Baptist University the next year.

Southwest Baptist University was a beautiful place, situated in rural Missouri near rivers and lakes, in a small town. I liked it right away. I had this funny idea that I wanted to take voice lessons as well as study theology. After all, I had always sung in choirs and it had been a great joy in High School. I drew a voice teacher named Nathan McCallister who was a bear with a very little brain, a Baptist church choir leader with a voice that sounded just right for the job. He heard me sing in the first lesson and announced that I had no talent. Instead of assigning me the standard early Italian songs that all singers cut their teeth on, he let it be known that I was not even ready for them. He assigned instead, “Stand-in’ on the corner watchin all the girls go by.” After one semester I decided voice lessons were not for me.

SBU had some fine scholars on staff in the theology department but these were hard times in the Southern Baptist Convention. There was a whiff of controversy in the theological air regarding Biblical interpretation. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but I knew that I wanted to tackle theology head on. I wanted to do my best. I was always one of the top students in class but I was slowly inching towards theological positions that would be called “liberal.” I was becoming a rebel within Southern Baptists ranks.

I still had music in my life. Even though I had given up on voice lessons, I had been accepted into the choir. I was happy but a bit timid because there were a lot of music majors in it with “real” talent. To make matters more intimidating, the director, Dr. Cowan, was a star. He had sung with the famous Robert Shaw Chorale. He let us hear his rich, bass-baritone voice from time to time and we were all convinced that only Ted Harris had a better voice in all of Missouri. Ted Harris was a Professor of Voice who had sung with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Harris commanded respect and more than a little awe. The year that I arrived at SBU, Mr. Harris was preparing a role in Jerome Hines’ sacred opera on the life of Jesus called I Am The Way, which was going to be performed in Los Angeles. I sat outside Mr. Harris’ door listening to the indescribable sounds coming out of his office as he rehearsed. I had never heard anything like those sounds. I just wanted to sit there on the floor and listen, and hope he would continue to sing. Later Jerome Hines himself told me that Ted’s voice was tremendous at Los Angeles, sounding, in Hines’ words, “like a canon.” No small praise coming from Hines!

A lot of good things happened at SBU. One of them was that I was elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities for my work in Drama. Another good thing was that I was licensed to preach. Part of the Bachelor’s degree program in Christianity involved a field guidance program. I went a few miles over to The First Baptist Church of Buffalo, Missouri and did a pastoral internship under Brother Glen Pence, the Senior Pastor. Actually, he was the only pastor. Back in those days churches had one pastor and a minister of music. We were trained to be the pastor for the church. An internship gave me the chance to feel what it is like to have responsibility for a whole church. They were simpler times back then, especially in a small town, but a pastor’s job was still largely the same. During the week you visited the sick, planned Sunday’s sermons, did a little pastoral counseling for people in crisis, taught a little Bible at Wednesday night prayer meeting, met with a few committees, and that was about it! That could be a lot, but many times it was not as involved and as demanding as a modern-day senior pastorate. Glen Pense liked modern scholarship and I fit right in with my liberal tendencies. I also did a little supply preaching at other churches and went out on week ends with revival teams from SBU, but things were not right with me inside. I wandered why I had never experienced a “call” to the ministry. My colleagues in theology could point to a specific “call” they had to the ministry. I tried to put it out of my mind. I was a scholar and scholars had things to do in the world. I would go to seminary to the most scholarly seminary Southern Baptists had to offer, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. There I would find happiness as a great scholar, or so I thought! I graduated from Southwest Baptist University in 1970 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and Drama.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky was the jewel in the crown of the Southern Baptist Convention. As I packed everything into my 1961 Buick LeSabre and set out on the interstate, I knew I was going to more than a seminary. I was going to the best the Southern Baptist tradition had to offer. That’s what I thought then.

The campus was Southern beauty itself, situated in rolling, Louisville green. This was the Yankee Stadium for a Baptist theology student. This was the House that A.T. Robertson built. Scholars taught here, great men like Dale Moody, Professor of Systematic Theology. He had studied with Barth, Tillich and Brunner, and actually lived with Brunner. His academic robes were from Oxford. When the faculty donned their caps and gowns, Moody looked like the Pope himself, proudly clad in his bright red Oxford finest. Of course, the Southern Baptists wanted no Pope and they certainly would not have wanted a scholar like Moody, if they had. For these were the McCarthy witch hunt days. Fundamentalists were rising in numbers like a hundred year flood that no one could stop. There were not enough theological sand bags in all the country to hold back these flood waters. The Southern Baptist Convention was teetering on the edge of Civil War, and like any Civil War, it would be very unholy.

The fundamentalists within the denomination were fearful of all that Southern Seminary stood for. They distrusted modern scholarship. They wanted the old time religion where everyone knew his place! And they wanted every modern professor and student OUT of the denomination. As much as anything, the war was about political power.

No scholar at Southern really believed that their fortified walls could be breached. Scholars like Eric Rust openly jousted with the fundamentalists in the classroom. With his English accent he would play with the word itself: “’Fun-dam-mental-ist.’ I can see the fun in it, and I can see the dam in it, but I’ll be damned if I can see anything mental in it.” And yet, this bravado struck many of us as a bit forced, with just a tinge of worry in it. The fundamentalists had made a charge, years earlier, at Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City. An Old Testament Professor, Ralph Elliott, had been fired because he taught that the stories of creation in Genesis were not to be taken literally!

Ralph Elliott had gotten his Th.D. at Southern under the venerable scholar Dr. Clyde Francisco. Francisco was a wacky, wonderful professor who sounded sort of like Goofy reading Hebrew because of his deep Southern drawl. He talked about “thuh Bauble,” (‘the Bible’) and punctuated his comments with a “Hyulk, Hyulk.” He was prone to Southern pontifications, as when he would say, “Nawh (Now) I don’t denawh (deny) that a stupid man can be saved.” (Grand pause ) “But I denawh that a stupid man can understand thuh Bauble, Hyulk, Hyulk.” When he would counter the fundamentalists, he would say “Nawh, some people say that thuh Bauble says what it means and means what it says. But that’s not true! Thuh Bauble doesn’t say what it means. It means what it means.” But he was truly a fine scholar and he did not suffer fools.

“Whawh, Ralph Eliott,” He would say, “All he did wuz take mawh notes and publish um! Hyulk, hyulk!” And yet it was Francisco who, in the darkest hours, showed the most compassion for the fundamentalist brethren, refusing to condemn or judge them, standing firm in his faith. Francisco knew love, not fear. None of his jokes were intended to be cruel. They but took the edge off for the nervous young troops about to go to their first battle.

We all wanted to believe that the power of reason would dispel mob rule. But the line would not hold. The gates would be breached. A lot of lives would be lost in that Civil War. None of us came out the same person we went in as. We had such hopes, such dreams. Most of us had a long heritage of family allegiance to the Southern Baptist tradition, but we also had a little grey matter between the ears and we were searchers and shakers. The history of Southern Seminary showed us, or so we thought, that there was a place within the denomination for a deep, engaging, scholarly questioning of the nature of God, man and the universe, which did not cancel out our devotion or piety. These great scholars, Moody, Francisco, Honeycutt, Rust, Claypool, and others all showed us that there was a place for us.

Who would have believed it, that Southern would fall, the last bastion, and the hordes would pile in over the broken battlements, set fire to the books, and lay waste to a hundred years? A mind is a terrible thing to waste. How about thousands, of them?

It was not that Southern was really all that ‘liberal.’ By most denominational standards she was still a conservative ship. But in the minds of the fundamentalists you would have thought we had entered a different world. Faith had lost to fear and the hangman was doing great business. Professors mounted the gibbet one by one, refusing to confess to the fundamentalists’ fearful creed. Their necks but snapped while their hearts were full and love showed no taint. Aye,’twas a good day to die. We would all live again. That’s where we had ‘um, you see? The fundamentalists don’t really, truly, believe in the meaning of “resurrection.” We do! They but occupy a bit of ground now, a row of barracks full of fears. Love won. Love will always win in eternity.

I entered Southern as part of the last class. We were a fine bunch, all testing our limits as far as we could and searching for a place to stand.

The one student who always competed with me for top grade was an interesting fellow named Lynn Fann. Some might have called Lynn an odd duck. He played opera in the dorm, morning, noon, and night and drove everyone crazy. He had no real, serious voice but would fancy himself an operatic tenor as he sang along to the records. He essentially introduced me to Grand Opera. The only kind of opera we knew in the Ozarks was the “Grand Ole Opery.” Still, as a university student I had been introduced to some great singers and this experience whetted my appetite for more. I listened to records of most of the great singers of the second golden age of singing there in the seminary dorm, including one great bass from the Metropolitan Opera named Jerome Hines. He stood out not just because of his wonderful bass voice, but because he was also an evangelical Christian who witnessed on skid-row in New York when he wasn’t singing at the Met. These great voices I heard spoke to me. There was something about the sound of their voices that grabbed me and I began to listen to opera in my room while I studied theology.

I grew more and more empty inside in seminary. I wanted desperately to be a minister but I felt very much out of place, like I didn’t really belong there. It was 1972 and while I was at my most desperate I cried out to God for help. I actually heard an inner Voice say to me, “Your sermons can be your characters on stage. The stage can be your pulpit. The audience can be your congregation. Now go put feet to your faith.” I had absolutely no reason to believe this Voice. Baptists do not hear voices. Maybe Pentecostals do but not Baptists! I had taken no voice lessons.

Nobody heard any special singing talent in me of this magnitude. Remember my only teacher in university, Nathan MacAllister, had even refused to teach me because I was so untalented. I had no reason to think that I could ever get on a professional stage and sing Grand Opera. It sounded like a stupid idea! But at some level deep inside of me I must have believed it. I wondered why I had never really felt a “call” to the ministry, but this experience definitely fit the description of a “call” to sing opera. Eventually, after fighting seminary another semester, I left, got an apartment across the street and a job in a pizza restaurant. When I wasn’t working I was listening to opera. One day in 1973 I opened my mouth to see if I could make a sound like one of those guys on the records and out came the essential sound that I have today. A couple of weeks later a friend heard me singing as he came for a visit and said, “Wow, you’ve got quite a voice. You ought to enter the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.” I didn’t know what they were but I said. “Ok.” I sent off and got an entrance form. The first level of the competition was in Tulsa where I was supposed to sing five operatic arias. I knew none of course but I had records. So I picked out what I thought were the five hardest bass arias on the records and learned them by listening! Four were in Italian, and one was in Russian. Both languages I learned phonetically by listening. I can admit all of this now because the whole affair was such a miracle. In 1974 I went to Tulsa without a care in the world, sang without any nervousness and was easily named one of the winners. I seemed to be stepping into something that was very comfortable to me, something like a miracle.

People from Tulsa Opera were there and offered me beginning roles with their company as well as a scholarship to Tulsa University.

One of the judges was from The Santa Fe Opera which was also hearing singers audition for Apprentice Artists. Later I discovered that ten thousand singers across America were auditioning to become one of forty apprentices chosen for that summer season. An apprenticeship with The Santa Fe Opera was one of the most highly sought plums for a young opera singer trying to turn professional. The Artistic Administrator came back stage and said to me, “You haven’t applied to us but would you like to be an apprentice?” I didn’t even know what that was but I said, “Yes,” and my career in opera had begun. “This opera business is a snap,” I thought. Before going to Santa Fe, I made my debut with The Tulsa Opera singing a small but important part in Madama Butterfly alongside stars from The Metropolitan Opera. At Tulsa University I sang scenes from The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, and Don Giovanni, then packed up my old car and drove to Santa Fe in the summer of 1974 for a high profiled new beginning. When God opens doors, they open wide and people fall all over themselves to help you. But, as I would painfully find out later, when He closes those doors, no amount of pulling will open them.

When I won the Met auditions in Tulsa in 1974, representatives from Tulsa Opera Inc. offered me not only small roles with them but a scholarship to do masters work in voice at Tulsa University. Tulsa became a new home filled with supportive people who would become almost like a family. A voice professor from TU came back stage at the auditions and recruited me right then and there for his studio. I did not know at the time that he was trying to cabbage onto me to aggrandize his flagging studio. I found that out later as representatives from Tulsa Opera said, “Oh dear. You’re going to study with HIM? You need to study with Laven Sowell!” I had one or two lessons with the first teacher but I found them odd. He didn’t seem to have anything to say. I delicately changed teachers to Laven Sowell. Laven was chorus master at Tulsa Opera as well as Professor of Voice. He had his hand in all the vocal pies of Tulsa and everyone who was anyone studied with him. He was a large man with a jolly disposition and a big belly laugh. Everywhere he went he left a little of himself behind. His beautiful home displayed a love-affair with elephants. It was a fitting love affair for a large man with a large impact on life. Elephants of jade, stone, wood, all shapes and sizes, claimed his home as theirs. Students would bring him new elephants from all over the world when they sang in some far off place. Laven’s share of their spoils was a new elephant and pride in their accomplishments. He had heard me sing at the Met auditions so he knew my voice and was only too happy to get me into his studio. Laven said things to me that every teacher thereafter would say. “I don’t want to touch your voice. I just want to help you use it.” My voice came already to go. What Laven Sowell gave me, I have tried to give to all of my students since. He gave me love! He will probably be a little embarrassed to read this, but it is true. He gave me a lot of good musical and vocal knowledge as well, much of which I use to this day. Laven had studied voice with some very interesting characters and he therefore brought a very rich experience to the studio. As a young lyric baritone with a nice sporty instrument, he had toured with the Charles Wagner Opera Company. His voice still served him well and I wished he had used it more when I studied with him. He had sung small roles with Tulsa Opera alongside great singers from the Met before becoming chorus master. His experiences gave him a lot of stories to tell. Stories are important. They humanize an otherwise clinical study of voice.  Even though I came into the profession of singing with a technique given by God, I had a lot of wonderfully influential coaches and teachers who passed on their experience of singing.

In assessing the things that Laven Sowell gave to me, I could describe many musical items and vocal tidbits. I don’t mean to say that they weren’t important. They were. But I am looking back now at the truly wonderful things given, and they are not a relaxed jaw or five and nine tone scales. Laven Sowell cared about me and he shared himself with me. I will always carry something of him within me. I have tried to be as good to my students as he was with me.

I want to clarify something at this point. At the time that all this was happening I did NOT have the same perspective that I have today. I was inside a whirlwind! I was still deeply shaken by what seemed to be my failure in theology. Actually there was no failure in anything. I had just been “called” to sing opera. It may sound like it was all easy but it wasn’t. My ability to understand the things of the Spirit had never been developed. I didn’t want to tell anybody about hearing this inner Voice. I didn’t want to think about it! It was easy to run away from the pain of what happened in seminary by just immersing myself in a new profession, and that is what I did. I did not consciously think about viewing my characters as sermons, my audience as my congregation, or my theatre as my church. I just went to work being an opera singer. I know that is hard to understand now that I could have been so stupid, but everything had happened so fast. It was going to take me time to sort things out! The young man that studied in Tulsa with Laven Sowell was confused, and therefore insecure, posturing a little with an arrogance that anyone could have understand as circumstantial if they had chosen to look closely, and he was bursting with an incredible amount of talent and promise. Some people came alongside and chose to help me. Wonderful people in the Tulsa Opera Guild arranged for my introduction to the arts in Tulsa and made sure I could eat regularly! Thank you!

Jeannette Turner, the Director of Tulsa Opera, was a wonderful woman who mothered me and introduced me to “The Maestro.” Maestro Carlo Moresco was the conductor for all Tulsa Opera productions. Along with Tony Stivanello who staged, costumed, and made-up the cast, he was the head of “Instant Opera.” “Instant Opera” made it possible to mount operatic productions in regional companies all over America in just one week! One week for everything: sets, costumes, rehearsals for orchestra and principals. In seven or eight days the curtain could go up! That kept production costs down so that regional companies could afford to have opera in their cities. The geniuses behind “Instant Opera” were old Italian maestri like Carlo Moresco and Toni Stivanello who had a huge set and costume shop on Long Island which could supply all of Instant Opera’s needs. The local company supplied a chorus master, like Laven Sowell, and a local chorus which learned the music well in advance. Jeannette Turner called the artist managements in New York and hired the lead singers who had done their parts so many times they did not need more than a week’s rehearsal. Small parts were done by local singers, like Laven Sowell, who learned their parts well ahead of rehearsal week.

Instant Opera is usually spoken of derisively these days. But I would like to speak in its defense. Instant Opera allowed opera to spread all across North America to cities which otherwise would not have had it. It gave young singers like me a chance to sing alongside great artists and learn by doing. It gave America a taste of the Italian tradition in singing and it gave the audience more than its money’s worth! Today it is in vogue to mock Instant Opera because it did not give the new stage director cult full sway over a cast for six weeks. Let me tell you. I have been a part of that scene and many times the opera we produced in Instant Opera was a better artistic product than what came out of a narcissistic stage director intent on using the stage and everyone on it to showcase his own little, and I mean little, mind! Instant Opera kept opera an essentially vocal/musical art form which it is historically. It kept the vocal/musical art of the individual singer front and center. People do not come to opera to see the beautiful sets, or to see the acting, although both are nice to see. They come for the vocal/musical art of the great performer. The sets and costumes can be beautiful. The acting can be great. The singers can be young and slender. But if there are no great voices being used artistically, opera as an art form will die! Only dilettantes do not understand this. Unfortunately, there is a whole forest of them running the opera world.

Maestro Moresco ruled by complete intimidation, the old Italian way of insuring that quality in the art-form would continue! He made his entrance from the back of the auditorium with a trench coat, the collar up around his neck, hands in his pocket, looking like something out of The Godfather. He was Don Corleone! You didn’t cross him! He had been in America many years but had learned only about ten words in English. When he needed to tell the orchestra to “mark” a particular section in the score, he lacked the words, so he would scream at them, “Sign, sign, sign.” How he screamed at the orchestra! When they dissatisfied him, he would shout, “Peegs! You play like-a peegs!” He knew every note of the orchestral score by memory and could solfegg the entire opera. He would cue the orchestra from the “si bemolle.” I was scared to death of him. I thought he might have me taken out and shot if I missed the cue. The old Italian conductors could be counted on to give you a clear beat with the baton and a clear cue. There was no prompter in Instant Opera except The Maestro, and you no-a-wanta-miss-a the cue. The Maestro could turn you to stone with one glare of his eyes from the podium! Opera was serious business to the Italians. The “new” conductors often had unclear beats–cake mixing in a circle was a favorite, or the constant up and down of a confused wrist intended to make us look elsewhere for clarity! Bruno Bartoletti was such a “new” Italian conductor. Famous as the conductor at The Lyric Opera of Chicago, he could not be bothered to conduct in a pattern. He looked sort of like a bird with a broken wing as he curved his wrist towards himself and conducted everything up and down, never making eye-contact with the singer and never demeaning his position by giving even a hint of a cue. All of that music stuff was our business as the singers! None of that pretentiousness characterized “The Maestro.” His beat was clear. He kept perfect eye contact with everyone on stage and he never missed a cue! I don’t know how he did it, but everyone felt the gaze of the Maestro’s eyes. Once in a rehearsal of Madama Butterfly, for my debut in 1974, I was singing the musically tricky part of “The Bonze” and made a mistake in my entrance. The Maestro stopped the music. There was utter silence. I have never been so terrified in all my life. Finally the silence was mercifully broken by the coach, Marienka Michna, who literally leaped between The Maestro and me, begging for another chance. I got it right the second time!

Later in New York, in the early 1980’s, after The Maestro had been ousted in Tulsa by the new director, I coached some of my Verdi roles with him. I loved him dearly! Why, you might ask? What did The Maestro give to me? Let me tell you. The Maestro generously gave himself to me. He gave me the entire history of Italian singing. No words can describe the love of opera which he passed on to me. The Maestro was a heritage and he gave it to me probably without even knowing it. In his time a conductor grew up in the theatre, learning its entire art before he went to the podium. He even learned how to play the anvil on stage in Il Trovatore! He learned the art of singing as well as the art of making an orchestra sing. Moresco was the past, in a very good sense. As I observed him, worked with him, coached with him, he gave me that past. He gave me Tosi and Mancini, Lamperti, Garcia and Marchesi. He gave me Caruso and Ruffo, Stracciari and Granforte, Toscanini and Boito, Tebaldi and Del Monaco, Corelli and Bastianini. He gave me the sun of Italy in the middle of the Midwest! And he gave it all to me in his arm! As that arm moved during my coaching’s, The Maestro spoke. The Maestro gave. Thank you Maestro!

I never turned into a great conductor, although I have taken the baton from time to time and conducted this or that piece fairly well, but I have never forgotten the Maestro’s arm! If, while I am teaching you, dear ones, I begin to move my hand like the conductor I am not, please understand. It is the Maestro I am remembering. I will try to give myself to you as thoroughly as he and others like him gave themselves to me.

The Metropolitan Opera Auditions were a national search for new operatic talent conducted in stages. The district level was for all singers in the state. Three or four winners were chosen to go to the regional level which comprised several states. One winner from each region in the US and Canada went to New York to the Metropolitan Opera for the National Semi-Finals. Ten winners were selected to appear at the Metropolitan Opera for the National Finals. In the earlier years, one person would be selected from the ten to be given a contract with the Met, but that practice had changed. The Met was no longer interested in hiring people that way. The National Finalists were usually given scholarships and sent on their way out into the operatic world where the prestige of being a National Winner or Finalist would hopefully contribute to career building.

In 1974 I had won the district level in Tulsa and I expected to win at the regionals in St. Louis. I was sure my voice was better than everybody else’s and victory had to be certain. In fact, absolute fame and fortune had to be certain! I knew nothing about taking care of my voice or preparing for a contest. I expected my voice to be there whenever I wanted it and at top form. On the very day of the regional competition, I got up early, had no breakfast, and drove my old car 350 miles to St. Louis. There I expected my miraculous voice to knock everybody down the way it did in Tulsa!  By the time I arrived in St. Louis, my body was dehydrated. My voice was dry and crackly and I felt none of the power I had felt in Tulsa. Undaunted, I went out on stage to sing, expecting to bowl people over! I thought I sang well, but nothing happened. Nobody paid me any attention. Some soprano went on to win and go to New York for the next round. I was infuriated! The judge was a soprano from the Metropolitan Opera named Lucine Amara. I was furious with her and shot her daggers with my eye contact. She returned a nice smile. (Five years later we would be friends and colleagues but not this day!) What had happened? I thought this opera business was supposed to be a snap! Licking my first real wound I drove back to Tulsa to prepare for my first season at The Santa Fe Opera.

The Santa Fe Opera was an oasis in the desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico. John Crosby’s father had made millions in the Cuban sugar trade under Battista and he bought an opera company for John.  It was a beautiful setting in that magical New Mexico desert. The theatre was open air so the magic of the New Mexico night mixed with the opera. When Madame Butterfly pointed in the distance to “Nagasaki” she pointed to the lights of a real city in the desert shining through the back of an opera stage. Santa Fe had made a name for itself in the opera world by staging unusual works in this beautiful setting, using a combination of established and young singers, and having the best apprentice program in the world. Forty apprentices were chosen from over ten thousand singers who auditioned annually. Our main function in the summer season was to provide the chorus for all the operas, but we also sang small parts, served as understudies for the principals, coached with staff, took voice lessons and learned stage movement. The theatre was situated in the middle of a large ranch which also housed rehearsal stages, halls, a swimming pool, and the Crosby ranch house itself. Apprentices were paid virtually nothing, around $400 per month, out of which one had to pay all living expenses, including housing!  I had dreams now of doing something with my voice and with this art-form called opera. But the dreams were not clear yet.

The staff voice teachers for apprentices were a husband and wife team named Andy Field and Audry Langford from The Cantica School of Voice in London. Richard Gaddes, the Artistic Administrator, had been an accompanist for them in their studio and he had brought them over. Santa Fe always kept an English connection. Audry Langford had sung as a coloratura soprano at Covent Garden in the distant past. Now she had a lady bass voice, about three octaves lower than she used to sing. Age had sadly not been kind to her. She looked sort of like one of the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. Andy was a soft spoken man who had never had a major career, but he had sung some oratorio in England. Together they taught a type of voice production which was essentially empirical (that is, it did not employ mechanical and acoustic information) and which claimed to desire the “freedom” of the voice. “Freedom of the Voice” is the ubiquitous philosopher’s stone of voice teaching which all methods claim! I drew Andy as teacher and found him a sweet, supportive man. He liked my voice very much and compared it to the great bass- baritones he had known in his youth, Covent Garden stars like baritone Paolo Silveri and bass Boris Christoff. Like Laven Sowell, he said, “I don’t want to change your voice. I just want to help you use it better.” Also like Sowell, the main thing that Andy Field gave me was love and encouragement. Andy professed amazement that I had only just started singing. I sounded, he professed, as though I had been singing leading bass-baritone roles for years in the world’s great opera houses!

With classes in stage movement, languages, make-up, I began my new life in the theatre, thinking very little indeed about God!

In the fall of 1974, when I returned from my first season at The Santa Fe Opera, I found Tulsa changed. Jeannette Turner had retired as Director of Tulsa Opera and the winds of change were in the air. A new director was hired who wanted “ensemble opera” as opposed to Instant Opera. Most regional companies were attracted to a new American national opera-form which wanted young, attractive singers, obediently flexible in rehearsal, good diction, obedient to the stage director’s every whim. America’s “ensemble opera” was both good and bad. It was good in that it wanted bigger budgets for regional opera companies and better quality of acting on stage. But it was bad in many other ways. It began a “new” look at opera as an art-form that did not need great singers. Mediocre singers would do just fine if they were attractive, moved well and had good diction! Ensemble Opera thought it could attract the television and movie audience if it just boosted the visual quality in opera. The moguls of Ensemble Opera thought that if opera were to survive into the 21st century it had to change. The problem was that they were willing to change it away from the essential vocal/musical nature of opera. After all, they thought, most Americans are ignorant of the vocal quality standards implicit within the heritage of historic opera. Give them young, attractive, slender singers (if less talented vocally) on a well-dressed stage and drain off some of that television/movie revenue for “opera,” and if the moguls happen to get rich in the process, well this is America!

As you can imagine, one of the first things Mr. New Director did was to fire The Maestro. Mr. New Director was a soft mannered, slick talking fellow, affable, so sincere. He sold it to the Board. The Maestro was gone. Jeannette Turner telephoned Tulsa Opera from her retirement and inquired, “What’s going on there?” She was summarily informed by an underling: “Jeannette, we are going to do things differently now.” That was the last contact she had with the opera company she had nourished. She died not long later. The diagnosis may have been cancer but I know it was because of a broken heart!

Mr. New Director acted towards me very differently than Jeannette had. To her, I had been the darling young discovery with all of this talent. She and the good ladies of the Opera Guild had found me out in the cabbage patch of life and were only too happy to bring me in, dress me up and show me off as a “find” for Tulsa Opera. Mr. New Director played along with the program for a while as though he had inherited me along with the furniture but it was obvious his heart was in a very different place. Mr. New Director provided a new experience for me in opera, opposition! That should have given me pause had I maintained any spiritual discernment. God had opened doors for me and people had fallen all over themselves to help me. Now, all of a sudden, here was a powerful man who stiff armed me! What did that mean? It meant that God was trying to get my attention. I was not learning. Instead I became even more prideful and offended that ANYONE would dare oppose me. MY voice was obviously superior and that should be fully respected by all!

These were really days of learning, not chastening. My arrogance as a young singer was just a posture I took to protect myself from going insane with all this talent suddenly heaped on me. I was going to have to learn about good and bad administrators in opera, and my karma would bring them to me.

I was preparing to enter the Metropolitan Opera Auditions again in 1975 with a view towards winning the whole thing. I was commanding my voice much better than I had in the previous year and I had learned a lot of literature. When it came time for the district round again in Tulsa, I found myself with a bad cold. A “little Voice” which I had almost forgotten said “Wait until next year.” Hum…What was that voice? No matter. I wanted to do things my way. I entered anyway, singing over the cold and easily winning the district level again. This time it would be different at Regionals. I took with me to Kansas City a group of supporters from Tulsa for my very own cheering section. For my position on the program, I drew last place, number 13. Last place is a tremendously advantageous position because it gives you the last word. The worst position is first place. Nobody remembers you by the end. I sang Macbeth’s aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” with a long sustained high A flat.” I felt very good and it seemed to be my night. The judge, the Assistant to the Artistic Administrator at the Metropolitan Opera, sent word back stage that he would like for me to sing an aria which was not on the list. I politely refused and sang the aria on the program. I brought the house down in Kansas City and was named the winner. Some of my competitors were singers of some acclaim in the region, like baritone James Ditsch, a student of the noted teacher, Paul Sommers, at The Conservatory of Music in Kansas City. He was highly favored. Ditsch later told me he went over the list of singers with Sommers, asking about each one, and when he came to my name, Sommers told him, “Oh, don’t worry about him. He doesn’t have much of a voice.” I had sung for Sommers once in 1974 before entering the Met Auditions for the first time. Apparently he had not liked my voice then because it was not bright enough to suit his taste.  After the contest I saw Sommers in the hall and spoke to him. He looked sort of sheepish and said, “I have to admit it. You really brought the house down.” His star, James Ditsch did not even place. The next morning, Feb. 23, 1975, the most respected critic in the Midwest, gave me a review in the Kansas City Star comparing me to one of the greatest of past baritones, Lawrence Tibbett.

“One could close the eyes and imagine what it might have been to hear Lawrence Tibbett when he was in his early twenties. A Verdi baritone. No doubt about it.” John Haskins, The Kansas City Star

I didn’t think any more about that little voice that said I should wait until next year. The next round was the National Semi-Finals in New York at the Metropolitan Opera. I had never been to any city larger than Tulsa, but I had tunnel vision and felt ready to head on up to the Big Apple. The only problem was that when time came to fly to New York, I had a pretty bad cold again! No one had ever told me not to fly with a cold and I thought I had to go, so off I went. On the flight to New York I blew my nose many times, thinking nothing of it. When I got off the plane at La Guardia, I was as deaf as a post! Infected mucous had blown back into my ears and the compression of the cabin had sealed it in there. The Met sent me immediately to the best laryngologist in the whole world, Dr. James Wilbur Gould, who treated all the Met stars. He told me that my vocal cords were alright but my hearing would only come back gradually. He could not tell if I would be ready for the Semi-Finals in a week. He put me on Erythromycin and prednisone and wished me good luck. The Met people were very nice. “If you want, you can come back to the Semi-Finals, next year.” There were those words again! I suddenly remembered the internal Voice telling me in Tulsa to wait until next year. So what do you think I did? Did I say, “Yes, I’ll go back to Tulsa now and return next year”? I’m sorry to say I didn’t. I wanted to do things my way. I stayed and tried to coach with the Met coaches without being able to hear. The day before the Semi-Finals, my ears popped open and I could hear again. But I had lost a lot of time and confidence. Who should show up at the Gala Concert but Lynn Fann from seminary days! We had occasionally written since seminary and he had shown up to see this miracle of my voice which he still couldn’t quite accept. I sang well in the Semi- Finals, though not as well as in Kansas City, and received a grant from the Met National Council. I had also made the cut and was one of the Final Ten. Now I had a week to coach my arias with the Met’s best coach, Maestra Alberta Masiello, who would also play for me at the finals. Miss Masiello, as she was called–she hated ‘Maestra’- had been a mezzo soprano with a brief career many years ago at the New York City Opera. I don’t remember exactly what cut her career short but I seem to remember that she suffered from excessive stage fright. Since the 1950’s she had been the best coach at the Met., knowing the Italian repertoire commandingly. Every conductor at the Met respected Miss Masiello tremendously. If I thought Maestro Moresco was intimidating, Miss Masiello gave the word new meanings! She smoked those little cigars incessantly, even while coaching, regardless of the singer’s pleasure or allergies! Her mezzo soprano voice had descended to the depths of a foggy lady bass in which she intoned commands. She never smiled. She never once said anything complimentary, but she would eat you alive for any mistake. Moresco was a pussycat compared to her! I sang my best arias for her and hoped for something nice. Instead she looked down at the piano and intoned somewhere around low C, “You need Italian badly. Go see Maestra Cozzi!” I was stunned. Nobody had ever complained about my Italian before, not Moresco, not anybody at Santa Fe. I felt deflated like I was back to square one.

I went to see Maestra Cozzi who ushered me into her quaint apartment at the Ansonia Hotel. She treated me in a grandmotherly way. I expected her to bring out tea and cookies. She began her Italian lesson speaking to me as if I were about four years old. I left in an hour thinking I had been to the Twilight Zone. Miss Masiello never said anything about my Italian after that. In fact she never said anything except that she did not want me to sing Macbeth’s aria because “the high A flat is not written and otherwise it only goes to a G flat.” It was my decision to make, not hers, and something inside me told me that I had to sing Macbeth’s aria. But I let her talk me out of it. Inside, my funny little feeling was getting worse and worse about all this. Miss Masiello wanted me to sing The Prologue to I Pagliacci and Valentin’s aria from Faust. Once, while singing The Prologue, I held the high G at the end a long time, and Miss Masiello stopped. With a stern look on her face she snapped, “No, if you hold the high G that long I will come down without you! You may hold the A flat!” I let her rough manner eat away my confidence. The Prologue was jinxed!

There were singers at the Met then who saw me as a winner who could get a contract. One of them, tenor Douglas Alstedt, took me aside and said, “I think you really have a shot to get a contract. Go for it.”  The Finals were a Gala Concert to a sold-out Metropolitan Opera house. They were to be broadcast live on radio all over the US and Canada! The Gala started at 2:00PM. That means I should have gotten at least eight hours sleep and awakened by 9:00AM. Instead I got up about 11:30AM and did very little vocalizing. I arrived backstage at the Met to find my own dressing room with my name on the door! I went in and tried to warm up but a lot of the voice was not there. It was not working the way it had in Kansas City. Everything about this trip to New York had thrown me. I was not quite ready for it. That little voice made sense when it told me to wait a year. I simply had no experience of how to awaken and enliven the voice for a matinee. I walked into the wings to await my turn and there was Doug Alstedt to wish me luck. I walked out on that enormous stage and felt totally alone. This was not like Kansas City. There when I walked out, power walked out with me. At the Met, on that stage at that time, I was just Joe Shore. I tried to start The Prologue but only about one third of my voice came out. I blustered my way through it. Finally the last climactic page came where I always had excelled. The climax is on a high A flat, the ultimate note for a baritone. Most don’t even have it. But I had it, just not on that day. I went up for the A flat and tried to hit it and it cracked! I got off of it quickly and went on. The final note was a high G, almost as high, and I hit it and held it a good while. Miss Masiello did not come down without me. The audience cheered but I knew I had lost. This was not the voice that had won everything for me. In the wings Doug Alstedt tried to make me feel better. “Don’t worry about that,” he said, “MacNeil goes out there and does that all the time.”  The second aria went better but still not up to my standards. As you have guessed by now, The Met offered a contract to another singer, a young lyric soprano. I went back to Tulsa feeling utterly defeated and deflated.

Wouldn’t you think I would have gotten the message by then? Some part of me must have gotten the message because, thereafter, I began to pray before I would go out on stage. I don’t mean a nervous prayer like, “Please don’t let me crack anymore!” Rather, I would have a quiet time in my dressing room and I would pray a prayer that came out of me, like this: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, flow through me like water through a pipe so that the people may see you through me.”

All that God had done for me had been His response to my prayer for help in seminary. Even though I was going to have to learn many things the hard way, that little prayer I prayed in my dressing room kept me going. I can truly say that after that I never let an audience down. My voice never failed me, and God was able to use my voice to affect people in a deep way.

I went back to Tulsa in May of 1975 to a hero’s welcome. But I didn’t feel like a hero. I felt like an “also sang,” and my voice was not an “also sang.” I had to prepare to go back to Santa Fe for my second and last season as an apprentice in the summer of 1975, hopefully to leapfrog into the status of artist. Being one of the ten National Finalists in the Met Auditions in 1975 definitely helped my image at Santa Fe. I was given good roles to understudy and even a small but good role in the regular season. I got to play the part of the Grandfather Clock in Ravel’s, fantasy opera, L’Enfant et les sortileges. I was inside of an enormous grandfather clock with its weight suspended on my shoulders by straps, dancing around as I sang high F sharps and G’s!

That year I decided to live alone. I found an adobe cabin next to the Pecos Wilderness area and set up housekeeping with my Blue-point Himalayan cat, Ali Baba. The cabin was thirty miles from the opera but the drive was worth it. My Buick LeSabre got rid of those miles in no time. It was hard on Ali Baba though and I thought of getting him a playmate. One of the apprentices had a Chocolate-point Himalayan that he was going to have to give away because of allergies. I got Mocha. She was the beautiful cat of my dreams, but she had not been spayed and was just coming into heat. One night I left to go to the theatre and I accidentally left a window open the tiniest crack. When I got back Mocha was nowhere to be found. I grabbed a flashlight and began a search for her that lasted a good portion of the night. When I got up in the morning I found her. The neighbor’s dog had dragged her body back to his yard. Apparently, that night she had managed to get out the window-how I will never know–and follow her instincts. A pack of dogs had chased her and killed her. When I saw her body, all torn up, I just lost it. I started screaming and crying.  I am narrating this because this experience became a “substitution” that I used for years to bring to life Rigoletto’s discovery of the body of his little girl, Gilda. What happens to us in life is what we use on stage to make the stage come to life.

At the end of the season, the apprentices performed an evening of operatic scenes. There I did my first Rigoletto, performing the most difficult scene of the opera. Act 1 scene 2 contains the duet with Rigoletto and Sparafucile, the aria, Pari Siamo, and the long duet with Gilda. It is surely the most difficult scene for Rigoletto. Eugene Kohn, who later became famous, conducted. Friends from Tulsa came to see it. James Sullivan, director of the Arizona Opera, was also there and he hired me for my first major role as an artist. I was to perform “Tonio” in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci.

As I drove back to Tulsa, I knew I was also driving back to say, Good-bye. It was time to move on up to the Big Apple, and slowly but surely there began to develop in the back of my mind, a dream of doing opera my way. I dreamed of opera where the singers acted as well as actors on stage or screen and sang with the beauty and power of the great singers of the golden ages of singing. I dreamed of making people’s lives better because they had seen opera.

In the fall of 1975 I made the big move to New York. Tulsa had cradled me and brought me along, but now was the time to head on up to the big time. As in everything else, I was helped by my unseen Friend. Things just seemed to fall into place. Lynn Fann, the same friend who introduced me to opera in seminary, had introduced me to his friends in New York who shared an apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan near Columbia University.  By the time I was ready to move to New York, one of them was ready to vacate, leaving a vacancy for me. The terrible job of searching for an apartment in New York was spared me. It was an acceptable area, on the border of safety. I loved being right next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I spent many days meandering through the beautiful chapels much the way I had meandered through the garden during childhood. It seemed that everything was being arranged for me, including the proximity of this wonderful cathedral.

One of the first things I did in New York was to arrange for an audition with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera, that operatic basso par excellence who had provided me with the model voice during my seminary years. In theological seminary my fellow student, Lynn Fann, had introduced me to opera. I had never really heard it before. In Carthage we knew about the “Grand Ole” Opery but that was about it. I listened to all of the great singers of the second golden age of singing with Lynn. Something in their sound made me sit up and pay attention, especially the singing of the great bass, Jerome Hines, partly because he was also a Christian who would sing at the Salvation Army on skid-row in New York when he wasn’t singing at the Met. His voice and his life became a model for me. Now in 1975 I was going to get to sing for him. My old teacher from college, Ted Harris, had been instrumental.  Ted told me that Hines’ opera company was going to be auditioning for a baritone to take the place of Met baritone, Calvin Marsh, for a production of Hines’ opera on the life of Jesus, I Am The Way, to be staged in April 1976 in Columbus Ohio. Ted arranged for me to talk to the stage director, Derek de Cambra, a spunky, enthusiastic fellow with a British accent who had a love for beautiful singing. I was to go over to New Jersey to audition directly for Hines himself. I was finally going to meet the wonderful singer whose voice excited me so much in seminary. In those days I was not really nervous. I was excited and ready to go. My voice could do anything and I could pound on it for hours, if necessary, and it would still be fine for the next outing. I prepared my benchmark arias that had won the Met auditions for me and took a train, then a bus, to the New Jersey audition site. It was a small room to sing in.  Hines was seated only a few feet from me. Still, I went eagerly to the task and sang Macbeth’s last act aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” which had won for me the Midwestern Finals of the Met Auditions, interpolating a long, sustained, high A flat at the end. Hines was visibly impressed and began talking about his recording of Macbeth with Leonard Warren. He was warm and cordial but every bit the opera star that I expected him to be.

He talked several minutes about great baritones he had known and how favorably my voice compared. I could not have asked for a more favorable review from one I idolized so. I got the part and began preparing the role. The baritone I was replacing, Calvin Marsh, was a Met baritone with a huge voice, beautiful color, commanding range, and a veteran. He was a tough act to follow. My voice was much different than his, darker, almost a bass-baritone compared to his, yet more lyrical because of youth. My old college teacher, Ted Harris, was to sing the bass part of the villain, Eliakim, one of the chief priests (a fictitious character), who conspires with Judas to capture Jesus. I was going to get to see two dreams come true, to sing with my teacher and my idol.

In the spring of 1976, after performances of “Tonio” in I Pagliacci in Tucson with the Arizona Opera, and a cross-country concert tour for Columbia Artist’s Community Concerts, I headed for Columbus Ohio, my ego beginning to inflate from the heady rushes of early successes. I still heard the inner Voice, but I did not remember “who” or “what” it was, and I certainly was not cultivating a habit of reliance on it for guidance. At times I would do what it said, and at times I wouldn’t.  Each time I obeyed, I was amazed at the eerie way in which things fell together for my benefit.

For example, In 1975 I had made the finals of the highly prestigious WGN-Illinois Opera Guild Auditions of the Air in Chicago but had not won. The Voice told me in strong “words” that if I entered again in 1976 I could win them. I entered and easily passed the first two rounds. The auditions director, Dick Jones of WGN Radio, Chicago, really liked my voice and thought my singing had improved over the previous year. Some time later I was notified that I was to sing in the finals at the Chicago Lyric Opera House. There was only a small problem. I was in the middle of a cross-country concert tour with a trio, performing from town to town. I discussed my feelings about the audition with my colleagues, Roger and Debbie Lucas, and they were supportive in anything I chose to do. The Voice was very strong that I had to find a way to go to the finals, and that I would win. The trio’s schedule just worked out that we had a day’s travel, no concert, on the day of the finals. After our performance in Pueblo Colorado I caught a flight to Chicago, got into the hotel about 4:00AM for five hours sleep and showed up at the stage door of the Chicago Lyric Opera House at 11:00AM, ready to sing. I sang my first aria, “Cortigiani vil razza dannata” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and was pleased with the way it went. But for the next round, the judges got to pick an aria from my prepared repertoire. I “knew” that if they picked the prologue to I Pagliacci, I should be one of the two winners chosen. The Voice told me that I would be the second winner. The judges chose the prologue. I sang it with full gusto, including a resounding high A flat, and left the stage feeling good. I could not stay for the end of the auditions. I had to run to the airport immediately to catch a plane to Traverse City Michigan to rejoin my concert trio for a performance that night. When I arrived in Traverse City, I called back to Chicago and found that I had been named the second winner.

Wouldn’t you think that experiences such as these should have been enough to teach me to listen to that inner Voice and always obey it? Apparently they weren’t, because I didn’t. I still thought my rational intellect was the most important part of me to listen to, and I liked the heady rush of the ego as I saw my name up in lights, doing things my way, with my voice.  I soon began believing all my publicity and was convinced that I belonged in the Tsar’s court in old St. Petersburg and that by divine right, of course.

By the time I arrived in Columbus Ohio in April 1976 to begin rehearsals for I Am The Way, I was full of it, and I don’t mean the way, the truth, and the life, but a substance with a lot more unpleasant odor to it!  I had just gone up to my hotel room and unpacked when the telephone rang. It was one of the other cast members who wanted to come up and say hello. I felt mildly irritated at being disturbed but magnanimously allowed him to come up to the room. He was a very down to earth fellow; full of something I had once known, not too long ago, sincerity and thanksgiving. He was singing the tiny part of “Thomas”, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He literally had only a couple of lines to sing in the whole show! His face beamed with joy as he described his pilgrimage from the Deep South, at his own expense, just to sing his two lines. By the time he finished visiting with me I had begun to feel very ashamed of myself for the egotism I had allowed to grow inside me, replacing my gratitude to God for the voice I was given. I was making my own ego world-view of specialness, rather that viewing my voice as a gift to give to others. I prayed. I apologized and asked for renewed innocence. The Voice was right there. It had gone nowhere. Only I had changed. The Voice said, “Just keep on going the way you are going now and I will have you sing for Presidents and Kings.”  It was a startling message! By this time, I was supposed to go down to the lobby to meet the Director. I grabbed my score and headed for the elevator. No sooner had I reached the elevator than did the doors open. Inside it stood Jimmy Carter. He extended his hand saying, “I just wanted to shake hands.” We rode down to the lobby together in silence. You have to understand that in April of 1976, Jimmy Carter, running for the Democratic nomination for President, was still a long-shot. Nobody thought he would get the nomination and nobody dreamed he would be elected President of the United States. As we exited the elevator, I watched him go, and said another quiet “thank you” to God for his faithfulness, and for the internal Voice which always spoke for truth, on my behalf. I knew Jimmy Carter was going to be President of the United States. And maybe if, just if, I did what the Voice said, kept on going the way I was going, then I might even get to sing for him!

During rehearsals of I Am The Way, I met many wonderful people who were going to stay with me throughout the years as close personal friends. The rehearsal period itself was rewarding because, in addition to the good staging by Derek De Cambra, Hines himself did some of the dramatic coaching, working with the singers on subtle acting points, “camera angles”, Chris Lachonas, a veteran, called them. This stayed with me my whole career as I tried to use a style of acting that was as suitable for television as it was for the stage. The music of I Am The Way, all composed by Hines himself–an extraordinary feat for a singer, not trained in composition–shows a little of every role he ever sang.  The scene called “The Woman at the Well” shows a lot of the playfulness of the Bohemian characters in Puccini’s opera La Boheme, which Jerry sang many, many times. In fact during the bleak years at the Met when Rudolf Bing was trying to force him out, Jerry was cut down to one performance a season of “Colline” in La Boheme. Still, he stuck it out and had a renaissance long after Bing had retired. The scene called “The Last Supper” showed a lot of Wagner influence, especially Parsifal, in which Jerry sang the role of “Gurnemanz.” I did not view this negatively.  It seemed inescapable to me that if an opera singer were to compose an opera, it would inevitably show the influence of everything he had sung. The music he composed was beautifully full of sweeping melodies and well constructed scenes. The image of Jesus bothered me as a “liberal” theologian. I thought of it as a literal, Sunday school character, based on an evangelical literal reading of the Bible. What gave it an impact was Jerome Hines himself! There was that enormous, richer than rich, bass voice with incomparable grandeur, being used in the role of Jesus. What more could anyone ask for?  In 1976, Hines was 55 years old and his voice was still at the peak of his powers. He sailed through the performance with ease and assurance. I used every second as an opportunity to listen, observe, and learn, how he made an entrance, how he related to the other characters on stage, and most of all, how he sounded! In one scene called, “At Bethany,” my character, “Simon Peter”, sits right beside Jesus as he sings the Lord’s Prayer. Looking up at Jerome Hines, hearing that enormous voice so close to my ear, I gave thanks to God for His incredible ways. And then the performance was over and the company packed up to go back to New York, the singers back to their other careers. I went to the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York to sing with the Symphony and prepare for my first Rigoletto in the fall of 1976 for the Houston Grand Opera. As a young singer, I had no rational reason to believe I could sing this, the greatest of Italian baritone roles, but the Voice said that I could do it and I had agreed when I got a letter from the General Manager asking me to do the part. The letter came “out of the blue,” and I knew, even then, that this was something I was destined to do.

The Hines Company performed I Am The Way only once a year. The following year, 1977, Calvin Marsh returned to the role of Simon Peter, leaving me without a role. Not to be outdone, I suggested to Jerry that I play the role of the heavy, “Eliakim,” the chief priest who conspires with Judas. Jerry had always had difficulty casting it because of the way it was composed. As I was told the story, originally, the role had no aria. But when Jerry approached the great basso, Ezio Flagello, to sing the role, Flagello refused unless an aria were written for the character. Ever the one- upsman, Hines said, “All right. I’ll compose you an aria, but it’s going to be so hard you won’t be able to sing it.” The result was Eliakim’s long aria which is loud and very high for any bass, ending on a long, sustained high F sharp, not territory that basses like to hang around in, even a great bass like Flagello. He never sang the part again, and Jerry went through bass after bass trying to find someone who could sing it. I suggested that I could sing it. Even though I was a baritone rather than a bass, I had enough richness in the voice that I could carry its heavy insinuations. Learning my own one-upsmanship I said, “but you have to transpose the aria up one half step for me.”  Hines laughed and agreed, so off I went to Birmingham to sing Eliakim, following in other years to different cities.

In Cleveland in 1978, I was rehearsing the big aria with Hines himself at the piano, accompanying. After I finished, Hines was silent for quite a long while. Finally he said, “I wish we could have recorded that. I’ve never heard anyone sing my music the way you do.” It was the most wonderful tribute I could have been given by this man whose singing meant so much to me, and who I had come to love so dearly. Some years were difficult. Two years later, November 1980 in Edmonton, Alberta I had a dangerously close dovetail of engagements. I ended a string of performances of “Germont” in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Arizona Opera, the evening before dress rehearsal for I Am The Way.  The Director was confident of my ability to do the role without rehearsal by this point, so I flew from the desert of Phoenix right after the last performance of La Traviata to the November cold of Edmonton! I was exhausted and slept until 4:30 in the afternoon with the dress rehearsal at 8:00PM. Still, I felt ready to go, and during one scene I interpolated a high B flat! For the non-singers reading this, a high B flat is the pinnacle note for a tenor, and is virtually never attempted by a baritone. Once, the Met’s star baritone, Sherrill Milnes, had recorded a high B flat, but I don’t recall him ever singing one on stage. Why did I do it?  Because I could! It was that much ego, nothing deeper. Hines was in the audience for the rehearsal and he let me know what a good note it was. I was happy, justified in my specialness. But the next night was performance. There would be no day off for rest as was usually the case, and I desperately needed a day off for rest. Edmonton in the winter is colder than anything I had ever experienced! It is so cold that the water particles in the air freeze into ice crystals which can cut your lungs when you breathe! I had known cold in Missouri but nothing like this, and I was coming straight from balmy Phoenix. My body was in shock and tired.  That night after rehearsal I slept very poorly. I was too tired to sleep and wished that I had brought along the singer’s friend, “restoril”, to induce a good night’s sleep. But I hadn’t. I lay tossing and turning all night, finally drifting of to light sleep early towards dawn, only to be awakened early by the maid who did not want to believe the “do not disturb sign” posted on the door.  Furious at her for disturbing my specialness, I screamed at her from the bed to get out and tried to go back to sleep, all to no avail. I was up. After two pots of coffee I began to vocalize a little and did not like what I felt. That afternoon was no better. Still, the show must go on, and my voice had never really failed me before…except on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera when I had muffed a high A flat. Still, I was seasoned now, and I had not cracked on a note in public in the six years since. Staying with my typical performance schedule, I found the nearest steak and potatoes around 4:30 PM and began to tank up for the evening performance. That evening I sang the difficult aria OK but the voice still seemed off, stiff and thick.  More importantly, my tenacious clinging to ego specialness had cut off my ability to hear the internal Voice that guided me in everything. The time in the scene came where I had interpolated the high B flat the night before. Should I do it again, in performance? As soon as the question flashed through my mind, I heard the internal Voice say “No.” What the hell? I would do it anyway! I went up for the special high note, hit it…and it cracked! Not to be outdone, I tried to regain it and it cracked again!! The curtain mercifully descended and I made my way, like a scalded dog, as quickly as possible through the labyrinths of back stage corridors, eyes to the floor, to my dressing room. I was mortified, disgraced. I, Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, had cracked on stage! Standing in the hall, barring my refuge into my dressing room was Hines, in costume as Jesus, making his way to the stage, enormous grin on his face, laughter ready to commence at any moment. He began to chuckle, “That just makes you human,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. But remember from now on; when you crack a note, get off of it and let it go. I remember when Set Svanholm, at the Met, cracked on the high B flat at the end of ‘Celeste Aida.’ He cracked and tried to get it back and cracked again, just like you did.” Somehow it did not make me feel better. I brooded. How I brooded. I spent the night in the dressing room trying to avoid all conversation. My specialness had been wounded and I was not eager to address any  re-shaping of my image. Years later, Hines said to me, “You know, I was glad to hear you crack on that high B flat because it proved to me you were human. You always sang like someone who wasn’t human.” I took it as a compliment. But for fourteen years he never let me forget that I had cracked on a high B flat. I never let myself forget it either!

I did Eliakim again the next year in Allentown Pennsylvania, and it went extremely well, but then I stopped singing I Am the Way. I told myself that I was tired of singing the villain and performing in such an “evangelical” spectacle. But wasn’t it really because I had cracked on a high note and injured my feelings of specialness? In the intervening years, I missed my friends terribly. I missed Jerry. I missed I Am The Way. During the years of 1982-1990, a lot of water went under the bridge professionally. I performed new roles at new opera houses, but there was some lesson I was not learning. Things were not going the way they were supposed to go. The performances got better and better artistically, but the engagements were getting fewer and fewer. I thought I knew what the world was supposed to be like, but I didn’t!

Then in 1994 I found myself near death. The internal Voice returned with great strength. I had a four-month-long life review as I waited, near death, for the Canadian medical system to put my name at the top of the list for surgery. Back in my hometown of Carthage my father went into the hospital at the end of June for what was supposed to be a minor surgery repair of a hernia.  Something told me however that this was the end of the line for Dad. The doctors gave us a progressive litany of worsening prognoses. Finally, they told the family that he was not leaving the hospital.  I knew that part of him had faith in a life after death, but I also sensed that part of him was very frightened because he felt that he had failed in some important aspects of his life, one of those being in his relationship with his son. Those failures tore at him very deeply. Involved in my own near-death struggle I could not go to Missouri to be with him. We braced ourselves for the fact that he could die at any time. But I had much unfinished emotional business with Dad which I did not want to leave without closure. I also wanted to help him in his final hours.

I prepared a special time when I would be alone in the house, and began to pray for Dad. I asked God to let him know that I forgave him for all the things between us that he held against himself. I asked God to tell Dad I that it was all right for him to let go and go on if that is what he needed to do,  but if he was supposed to fight and stay with us, that was all right too. I wanted him to know that I supported him in his decision, one way or the other. For some reason it was important to me to sing my prayers for him. I do not know how long this final song lasted. It might have lasted an hour or two. I had little sense of time as I was doing it.

My son, Tom, was to have his birthday in just two days, and I really did not want Dad to die on Tom’s birthday. So he didn’t. Tom had a wonderful birthday. Dad died the following day, July 10, 1994. The night he died, I had an archetypal dream about seeing someone off on a ship. It was Dad. The next morning I thought that he had passed over. Sure enough, he had. I was somewhat disappointed that I had not had a full parting vision but I knew he understood now that everything was OK between us. I just missed the good-bye. Finally, two days later, in the early hours of the morning of his funeral in Missouri, I awoke in the spirit while my body was fast asleep. You can call it a dream if you want but it was not a dream. I was in a very special kind of railroad station looking for Dad. I was pushing through enormous crowds of people who were waiting to board this train. I was in a great hurry as I knew this train was about to leave. Then I saw him from behind. I knew it was him. I called to him, “Daddy, Daddy.”  He turned around with a big smile all over his face.  I ran to him and jumped into his arms. I remember the feeling. I looked into his eyes. I remember those eyes. He was young and looked somewhat differently than in life, but there was no mistaking him. All of the cares and worries, doubts and fears, insecurities and self judgments, were gone from his face. Instead, there was this pure love, all throughout him which gave him his new substance. I hugged him and said, “I love you Daddy.”  He squeezed me. I remember that squeeze, and he said, “I love you too.” And then he made a little joke just to make sure I knew I wasn’t just dreaming this. He knew I would remember it.  He said, “You see, I’m a little thinner now than I used to be.” He was now spirit, not flesh. Then he boarded that train. A few hours later his funeral was conducted in Carthage.  Even though I could not be there, we had our farewell.

Around this same time, I got an unexpected phone call one day from my old friend, Derek de Cambra, Jerry Hines’s stage director for I Am The Way. He said that the company was doing I Am The Way in Benton Harbor, Michigan next year, 1995, and would I do the role of Eliakim again. The Voice shouted “yes,” and I immediately agreed. I was so happy to be back in I Am The Way. Jerry had done a wonderful job in keeping his voice all these years. He would be 74 years old in 1995! What a miracle to keep his voice! Few singers had accomplished that. No basses, to my knowledge, had done so.  I was happy, truly happy, to be back in I Am The Way. The Holy Spirit was that Voice which always spoke for truth and He must have something there for me to do, something for me to learn, some service for me to render to others, I thought. I could not know more at that point. I began to restudy the role of Eliakim and sing it back into my voice. The last time I had sung it had been the fateful performance in Edmonton! That was out of my mind now like a bad joke. I saw the silliness of the ego’s distorted view of things. I just wanted to go back to old friends! This time I took with me a young voice student who had heard all of my stories of the great singers of the previous era, called the Second Golden Age of Singing. I was passing on my love of singing and my love for Jerome Hines to another generation.

When I arrived in Benton Harbor it was indeed like a reunion with long lost friends. How I loved them. How they helped me to remember the Light. Jerome looked like a sight for sore eyes. Even his slight infirmities of age could not make him look old to me. But he was not singing in rehearsals and I could tell he was worried about his voice. He and I got together for an afternoon of vocalizing the way we had done in earlier years. They were wonderful times for me, learning experiences, as I observed this supremely great singer go through the vocal calisthenics necessary to sing grand opera. But this time Hines’ voice was not working. The whole cast knew it and we were all worried.  Jerry had been in trouble before vocally and always made it through the performance. One time in Cleveland we finished a final dress rehearsal about 2:00AM. Jerry wanted to go out to an all night restaurant near the lake. It was mid winter and freezing cold in Cleveland. But what Jerry wants, Jerry gets, so off the whole crew went. I noticed that Jerry was not even wearing a coat, and I said, “Jerry, what’s the matter with you? Put a coat on!” “Ah, let your body breeeeeathe,” He vocalized in Hinse-ian tones.  “I don’t need a coat!” We went to the restaurant and had a feast. The next morning Jerry called the conductor to his hotel room in a panic that his voice didn’t feel good for the show the next night. He even looked at his own vocal cords with a homemade device and saw that they were pink and swollen.  Ever inventive, Jerry had taken two dental mirrors and welded them together with just the right curvature so that he could look at his own vocal cords! Panic ensued within the Directoral staff, but we all, Jerry included, managed to pull the show out of the fire.

This time in Benton Harbor was different. There was something seriously wrong with Jerry Hines’ voice.  We made it to the final dress rehearsal. I had already counseled myself to end the “infamous” scene on a lower pitch than the interpolated high B flat! I would sing a high F instead, which is plenty high and would give me no trouble. I would not entertain any notions of interpolating ego notes.  I had learned my lesson!  Hines watched the rehearsal from out in front. At the end of my scene He came up to me and said, “Good job, Joe, but I was really a little disappointed that you didn’t take the high B flat!” I couldn’t believe my ears. He wasn’t joking.  He was serious! I made a joke of it and said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask HIM,” pointing upwards.  “It’s HIS voice. I’m just the caretaker of it. I’d have to get the OK from HIM.” Jerry smiled and went back to observe the coming scene.  We made it to opening night. Hines limped through the performance, sounding ill, while the rest of the cast did a fine job. I ended my scene on the high F and all went well. We had one day of rest and then a Sunday matinee at 2:00PM. Matinees are difficult for all singers. We are accustomed to preparing our voices for an 8:00PM curtain, not 2:00PM! I hated matinees. In my earlier days of incessant bravado I had plunged into them full voice, thinking nothing of it. In the fall of 1979 I had performed the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth with the Arizona Opera Company. We finished the dress rehearsal about 2:00AM, and like Hines, I wanted to go out and get something to eat. I ate a huge plate of rare prime rib. By the time I arrived back at the house where I was staying, my gluttony was telling the tale. I threw up everything and continued to throw up for an hour. I got to sleep about 5:00AM., got up at 7:30AM, went to the theatre at 8:30AM and performed a “matinee” at 9:30AM of Macbeth for school children. It was one of the best performances I ever gave! But I still hated “matinees.”

This time was different. Hines was in real trouble. On his day off he had gone to a doctor to have ultra sound therapy performed on his larynx, but it was to no avail. He seemed totally laryngitic.  There was no understudy. Jerry would have to go on or we would have to cancel the performance, which meant financial disaster. Jerry went on but he barely made it through his first big scene of “The Woman at the Well.” My scene as Eliakim was next and I sailed through the aria better than ever, holding a long sustained high G towards the end, finally ending on an optional low F sharp.  The infamous scene was next, but I was not nervous, I had already decided not to interpolate the high B flat. I had sung the high F the previous performance and it had been more than sufficient. As Mary Magdalene sang her long monologue, I sat back in my throne-chair and played with the character, Eliakim.  Finally the end of her aria arrived.  I had two beats before I was to sing the infamous words which ended the scene, “Is the whole world gone mad!” Usually those two beats fly at you like the wind and you have just enough time to take your breath and sing the notes. But this time, time itself seemed to slow down. Those two beats became an eternity.  What was I to do with all this luxury of time? The Voice said, “Take the high B flat.”  I could not believe it. There was plenty of time for an argument. “What? I’m not doing that again! No way.” The Voice was very clear, “Take the high B flat.” Something I had learned made it easy for me to agree. I went up for the high B flat. It was not only there, it was there in spades!  I held it forever. This time there would be no scalded dog, hiding his head as he crept through the halls to his dressing room.  Slowly and happily I walked off stage as my colleagues said things singers say to one another after a good job: “Wow, what a note!” “Holy cow, what did you eat? I want some of it.” On my triumphant way down the hall I passed Jerry’s dressing room. The door was open. He sat disconsolate at his make- up table. I could see that he was worried and afraid of the next scene coming up. It was the “At Bethany” scene and he had to sing the Lord’s Prayer aria which had always given him trouble, even in good voice. I walked into his room. He smiled faintly and said, “So the B flat worked tonight?” Without thinking I said, “I sang that high B flat for you so that you would know that if I can sing a high B flat, without cracking, you can make it through this next scene!” His face dropped and showed his true feelings of insecurity. “But how am I going to make it through it?” He said. “Dear God,” I thought, “what am I supposed to say to this man, my hero and mentor?” The words came tumbling out my mouth without any thought, “Just go out there, breathe deeply and don’t push!” Those words seemed to rally him. “All right,” he said, and headed for the stage. During the scene, the Voice told me to position myself in the wings, unnoticed by the audience, but in such a way that I had clear view of the stage. The Voice said that I was to pray for Jerry to be given strength. I did, and I saw that it was helping him get through the scene. Finally he made it to the big aria, Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer. Hines did what I said. He breathed deeply, taking many more breaths than he needed, and he didn’t push! He made it through. As the curtain descended, a happy Hines almost collapsed into the arms of his colleagues as they congratulated him. “I just did what Joe Shore told me,” he said, “And it got me through.”

For the rest of the opera, since my character does not appear with Jesus, I stood in the wings and prayed for Jerome.  He gained in strength. During the difficult “Last Supper” scene, the Director came into the wings with a look of worry on his face, “He’s struggling,” He said. “Don’t worry,” I said with a smile. “He’s going to make it through just fine,” And he did.

I knew why I was supposed to go to Benton Harbor. It was my love for Jerome Hines that was the lesson. That love is the love Jesus would have us learn. It is the same love I received from my grandparents and parents. It is the love that God gives us. Receive it. It is there, waiting for us to grasp it in every learning experience, and every experience is a learning experience. Had I learned my lesson earlier and not gotten off course, I am sure I would have gotten to sing for Jimmy Carter! Nevertheless, I sang for Congressmen, Senators, Governors, the Russian Diplomatic Mission to the UN, and Consuls to several countries.

Months later, the Voice told me to call Jerome and let him know that I not only wanted to perform the role of “Simon Peter” again, but that I was supposed to. I knew Jerry would understand. I made the call. It just so happened that the Hines Company was going to be doing I Am The Way in June 1996 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, but the role of “Peter” was already taken by one of Jerry’s students from OMTI (Opera Music Theatre International). “Put me on standby,” I said, “You never know. This guy may not be able to do it.” He agreed. A short time later, the Director called me with the news that Mark Delavan could not do the part and it was mine. Twenty years had passed since I sang the role of “Peter,” but I knew it. Jerry was in fine voice. This time, my character sat at the Last Supper table with Jesus. As I looked at Jerry I knew that the love I have for him is the message of Jesus, that we should love one-another even as He loved us; and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The circle was complete.

 

More Thoughts on Journey to the Christ

Journey to the Christ: The Road to Enlightenment

 

It would be helpful if we agreed on what the Christ is. Some think it is Jesus’ last name, “Jesus Christ,” like Joseph Shore. Some think of it in the narrow terms of literal minded Judaism, the “Moshiach,” or in Greek, “Christos,” but none of these meanings serve any real purpose. Just what is the Christ? You had better want to know. The Christ is the only real part of you. It is the Love that God created as you, and nothing you can do can change it one bit. It is real and eternal and it is the Mind God shares with you. A Course in Miracles gives us a clear picture in its section called “Clarification of Terms.”

 JESUS – CHRIST

“There is no need for help to enter Heaven for you have never left. But there is need for help beyond yourself as you are circumscribed by false beliefs of your Identity, which God alone established in reality. Helpers are given you in many forms, although upon the altar they are one. Beyond each one there is a Thought of God, and this will never change. But they have names which differ for a time, for time needs symbols, being itself unreal. Their names are legion, but we will not go beyond the names the course itself employs. God does not help because He knows no need. But He creates all Helpers of His Son while he believes his fantasies are true. Thank God for them for they will lead you home.

“The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. Yet who can save unless he sees illusions and then identifies them as what they are? Jesus remains a Saviour because he saw the false without accepting it as true. And Christ needed his form that He might appear to men and save them from their own illusions.

“In his complete identification with the Christ, the perfect Son of God, His one creation and His happiness, forever like Himself and one with Him,” Jesus became what all of you must be. He led the way for you to follow him. He leads you back to God because he saw the road before him, and he followed it. He made a clear distinction, still obscure to you, between the false and true. He offered you a final demonstration that it is impossible to kill God’s Son; nor can his life in any way be changed by sin and evil, malice, fear or death.

“And therefore all your sins have been forgiven because they carried no effects at all. And so they were but dreams. Arise with him who showed you this because you owe him this who shared your dreams that they might be dispelled. And shares them still, to be at one with you.

“Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you. His little life on earth was not enough to teach the mighty lesson that he learned for all of you. He will remain with you to lead you from the hell you made to God. And when you join your will with his, your sight will be his vision, for the eyes of Christ are shared. Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you. For he will set your mind at rest at last and carry it with you unto your God.

“Is he God’s only Helper? No, indeed. For Christ takes many forms with different names until their oneness can be recognised. But Jesus is for you the bearer of Christ’s single message of the Love of God. You need no other. It is possible to read his words and benefit from them without accepting him into your life. Yet he would help you yet a little more if you will share your pains and joys with him, and leave them both to find the peace of God. Yet still it is his lesson most of all that he would have you learn, and it is this:

“There is no death because the Son of God is like his Father. Nothing you can do can change Eternal Love. Forget your dreams of sin and guilt, and come with me instead to share the resurrection of God’s Son. And bring with you all those whom He has sent to you to care for as I care for you.”(ACIM, Clarification of Terms, 5.)

**********

Every time you have a loving thought it is shared with God through the Christ Mind. You DO know the Christ every time you love, but you have not identified with the Christ as your only Mind. You still think you are an individual mind (and body) with all sorts of “personal” wants and goals. Thus your self is split off from your Self. The little self is an illusion but how we cling to it. We have to learn many lessons in order to give up the little illusory self.

I know the Christ. The Christ is the love of God. If you read my messages/essays in my group The Pleroma, or on FaceBook, you will hear the Christ speaking to you. My messages are “channeled” through the Christ Mind. These messages come through me like water through a pipe. After I have written them, my little self reads them, and tears flood my eyes. I am ready to give up little “Joe Shore” but what more must I do to identify with the Christ Mind completely? I am on the trail of the Christ. I am willing to do my lessons and if they take a hundred more illusory lifetimes, I will go to class and do the work. But I have seen Heaven’s gate. I have felt the Christ in me. I have done and am doing His work to save God’s son. I see the goal post in sight. I want to be the Christ, so that Joe Shore no longer lives but Christ lives in me. I have accepted Jesus’  mission to flood this illusory world with the Love of God.

I wrote a little letter to my ego this year. Here it is:

“Letter to my ego from a Higher Me: ‘Joe….Joe, listen.’ Think of being on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Yup, that’s you. There are some things I need to say to you. You know I think you are an illusion and you think I want to get rid of you. I know that sounds pretty frightening to you. But let me tell you something, Joe. ‘I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.’ You were perfectly made for me to learn the lessons I needed in this lifetime. Yes, you could be harsh and authoritarian, but you could also be informative, inspirational, and daring. You were the image of the Aries for all his strengths and faults. I guess you probably miss all the intellectual debates you used to have, and the authority you held as a theologian and then a university professor. Those positions perfectly fit you. But they could not last because you had more lessons to learn. I forgive you your faults and I thank you for your daring, inspirational, actions. You are going away but fear not. You are going away with my love and thanks! Thank you, Joe. You were the best, brightest, most talented of your generation. Accept this truth and this love, and don’t worry about tomorrow. It will all be OK.”

Still, my willingness does not obviate all the lessons I must learn to be the Christ. I’ll bet some of you think that Jesus’ disciples went to heaven and stayed there! Well, they didn’t. They had MANY lessons to learn. They understood Jesus so poorly. They have been reincarnating and learning their own lessons. The real “Saint” Paul now lives a life today as Nick Bunick.( http://www.nickbunick.com/) Obviously, he needed more work. When he wrote, “Now no longer I live but Christ lives within me,” he was apparently quite mistaken.

I have had lengthy periods in which I identified with the Christ Mind in me. The longest was six weeks last year. I shared it with you:

“A stillness has come to me

“A stillness has come to me which is unlike anything I have experienced before. The Love of God has come into my mind to take up abode. I am not alone, nor lonely, nor do I ever feel bored. I am actively experiencing the Love of God in my mind. I need no TV. The thought of it is humorous. I need nothing. I eat my meals while looking happily out my window at the beautiful clouds and mountains. I walk to the grocery store, talk to the street beggars with a smile and love in my heart while I pull out the change in my pocket and give it to them. I come back home and look at the clouds and the mountains and am more than content. Songs play in my mind of peace and the love of God. I write on Facebook, email friends, and pet the cat. What more need there be? I am still inside and need no entertainment. I know that I am a part of God and share his holiness and glory. I am at the gates of heaven. This is a stillness which I have not had before. This is not the stillness from nature, as beautiful as that is. This is the Love of God which has taken up abode in my heart and I want for nothing more; not fame, nor riches, not wife, nor position. I have found peace and happiness within the Love of God. And I am not alone here in my mind. You are here too. We are all one Mind and we are almost home. We are the Glory of God.

“The Glory cloud of God will fall on us. Be grateful that it will fall. Nothing in all your life has prepared you for anything like being under the Glory cloud of God. You will not be able to stand. The body cannot stand in the Glory of God. In the Glory cloud there is the weight of holiness and as much as our spirits belong there, the body does not! The body will groan, shout, and travail under the Glory cloud. But your spirit will never want to be any other place than in the Glory of God. We belong in the Glory cloud of God. We are the rays of His Glory. When the Glory cloud falls the spirit remembers its true home. We know then that we are not a body, but a spirit and a part of the Great Spirit of God. The holiness we feel under the Glory cloud is our holiness as well. But the body can only groan or bark like dogs. In the Glory cloud we speak the language of the Spirit. No human language can work in the Glory cloud.
Pray for the Glory of God to fall, as we awaken to Self, One with God. In the Glory cloud will all our lessons be reviewed. In the Glory cloud will we climb up the ladder. In the Glory cloud will we see Jesus. In the Glory cloud we will know our Home. Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world. Soon we will just be what we are. We are the Glory cloud of God.

“The Glory of God is all I need.
The Glory of God is my Home.
The Glory of God is my peace.
The Glory of God removes all illusions,
None can stand in The Glory of God.
The Glory of God is all I want.
The Glory of God is all I seek.
The Glory of God is the will of my spirit.
The Glory of God is the answer to my deepest question:
“Who am I?”
I am the Glory of God,
As rays from the sun,
I am His Glory.
I am The Glory of God.

“I eat my food and pass my water. I pet the cat and watch the clouds, gather in the twilight and welcome the night.

“I teach my students and just stay in this Love which I never, ever, want to leave. It is my Home. It is my Highest Self. I am where I belong, and I am far from alone. You are here with me, and you, and you, and you, and you. “We are all here, Father. The Mind which you created as One has come Home to you. And you know we never really left. We travelled only in dreams while safely in your embrace. Our Love, Our Light will shine forever with You. And the Love you have for your Son is returned back to you as pure as it was when you created Him. Our song, in praise to You, is all that will be heard.”

“I thought that, for me, the most difficult part of staying in right-mindedness, and continuing my experience of the Love of God in my daily life would be to control reactions. Reactions can send you right back to wrong mindedness. But I have found that the Love of God actually gently protects me from reactions. I mean, there is just so much space and timelessness! I stood in a long line at the IGA today, without any temptation to lose patience. I just listened to the people’s thoughts and feelings as I waited. That’s another thing about the real Love of God…It is not evangelistic! I had no urge to try to persuade people! The Love of God honors our sleeping brothers! It is like Tara Singh said, “Some of our brothers are deeply asleep. That’s alright. Let them sleep. They will awaken.” The Love of God knows no pressure.

“Today I awakened from sleep rather early for me. I thought, ‘Jesus why am I up so early.’ I soon found out there was work he wanted me to do. This is life in the Spirit. We listen to an inner Voice that always speaks for truth, and we happily do as the Voice tells us. We have learned over the years, that those who obey the inner Voice will know the Love of God! May you know it today!! Peace.

That was my sharing with you. For six weeks the Christ Mind was almost totally me. It was the culmination of my life. Eventually, though, I faded back into Joe Shore, more loving, of course, and with higher gifting, but Joe Shore nonetheless.

The stream of ages flows and in it is all that is of love. You and I are one bubble in that stream. Could we but see the world truly, the flow is all we would see. All love is the same. In every place and in every one you have experienced it, it is part of that stream of ages. I sit here now with my companion, Blanche, and we are one love in two silly bodies. The flow comes into and through the heart. Here we live and move and have our very being. We are Love’s Presence:) We are the magnificent radiance of God!♥♥♥ Could we but know that and stay in the flow, the world we think we see would disappear and all separations removed. Love is and we are its manifestations. We are the bubbles in the stream and the rocks over which it flows. We are source and the end. We Love therefore we are, not as separate bodies, but as One. We are the breath of the wind through the trees; we are the cat’s purr; we are the happiness of two becoming one; we are the birds that fly through the air and the fish that swim through the creeks; we are the Love that holds all things together as One; and we are here NOW, not in time, but in this moment of Love realized and fear vanquished. We are the tears that stream down our faces; we are the arms that embrace us; we are Love’s Presence, and there is nothing to do. No ambitions can stand in Love’s Presence. Consciousness itself cannot stand in Love’s Presence. From deep within the unconscious flow of the stream of ages, I know that I Love you.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 🙂

Joe 02-13-16

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.

JOSEPH & BLANCHE-jpeg

What to Do

What to do? I think this is a good time in world history to repeat a classic story from A Course in Miracles. A Course in Miracles student is walking home after enjoying a group meeting on ACIM when he comes to a bridge over a river and he sees a young person standing on the railing screaming, “I am going to jump! I am going to jump! Don’t anybody try to stop me!” What does the ACIM student “do?” I’ll give you a little time to think:) …………You have an answer? It is a very good story to look at because right now, especially in the Western world, that despairing person on the bridge threatening to jump represents the way a lot of people feel right now, and it is only going to get far worse as the election season comes in full swing, or as England finally has to deal with Brexit!! The ACIM student represents all of us who can see what is happening in the world. OK here is the answer:  The ACIM student should not rush to do anything physically, like give the jumper a little lecture on “you’re so young. You have so much to live for;” nor a little ACIM lecture about how the physical world is unreal, nor offer to give the jumper a free copy of ACIM!  What he must do is be at Peace in that moment so that he can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit which will TELL him what to do, whatever that is will be in everyone’s best interest. Without His voice telling us, our ego mind has absolutely no way in the world to figure out what is best to do. Now that is true in the world right now which is caught up in an ego frenzy like we have not seen since the Nazi’s took over Germany!! Much of the Western World feels like they are just ready to jump! They thought they were trying one last thing to help change the system by electing Trump or voting for Brexit!!! But it didn’t work, of course. OF COURSE it didn’t work. It didn’t work for Germany when they tried with Hitler. It didn’t work with Italy when they tried with Mussolini. It didn’t work for the USSR when they tried with Stalin!! Voting in the Strong Man figure corresponds in our story to actually jumping off that bridge. But you get down in that river and the water is moving faster than you thought it was. You have no control and you are being swept away! You reach out and snag a hold of any branch of a tree sticking out from the bank and you scream for help. The young ACIM student is at Peace while witnessing this and the Holy Spirit says, “Go help her out of the river; dry her off; speak words of kindness to her, and when she is ready, take her to an inn where you can give her some hot soup and dry clothes. And then when she is ready, ask her if there is anybody she would like to call.” In an instant that whole instruction will be conveyed. The Holy Spirit will take charge of the situation.  You see the ego has us all hypnotized to believe that loving kindness is intrinsically stupid! There is wisdom that comes from Love when one makes a loving choice and the direction that the Holy Spirit will give you will be loving…for every one.  But first your mind must be at Peace. You can’t choose again for the Holy Spirit to be your teacher instead of the ego (which we all chose) while your head is full of chatter and you think you have only some thought out of that chatter to guide you!! Take a look around! See how good that has worked!!!! Back to our little story. Rewind now to the place where the ACIM student gets to the bridge and first sees the jumper. He stays in Peace because he has had practice at stilling the mind. His mind is ready to hear the Holy Spirit’s advice. The Holy Spirit says, “Go…..and…..” And he does. (hint: the wisdom within Love’s Presence will tell you what happened.) 

Joe at Johns-1a

Surviving a spiritual disappointment

Surviving a spiritual disappointment…It does sometimes happen in life that a spiritual leader we have trusted falls and when s/he does, it hurts a lot of people. It can happen in any religion. I think of a family I know who were devout Catholics. Everyone of their children were baptized by a beloved priest. Many years later it was discovered that that priest had been involved in child molestation. The entire congregation was hurt by this. But they did get help from others to understand that the fall of that priest did not negate God’s work in their lives. The offending priest was removed and the congregation has recovered with help. We have to realize that people can fail, but God cannot. Perhaps it would be better if we realized that the spiritual growth and healing we receive does not come from any special person but from God. All of us are children of God and all of us share the Father’s ability to extend His Love and help others. When healing comes, it comes from a family or congregation of people who extend love.

I once new a Baptist sponsored university in which one of the most beloved professors had a spiritual fall. Because all of his life had been directed to such good things and had helped so many people, that when he had his spiritual fall, people did not rush to judgment but looked to understand what psychological trouble he was having. Instead of firing him from the faculty, they made sure he got the counseling he needed to heal. In time he was able to back into teaching but at another college. Those who had been hurt by his fall were counseled and the impact on them healed.

Those of you who went to see John of God and had a blessed, loving, and even healing time, are now confused and hurt such the terrible fall from grace John has had. It may help to think of it the way I have discussed these other cases. God’s work was done by God, not by John. John the medium has been terribly damaged but in this case the medium is not the message. Many people DID in truth experience a wonderful healing time with John of God. Ram Dass even went to Abadiania to see John and he spoke about what a beautiful spiritual environment it was, so that he could compare to his own teacher in India. Ram Dass is not a man to be easily fooled. Dr. Wayne Dyer experienced a great healing through John of God and spoke to everyone about it. There was a time when good was there.

John the man has fallen and his falling has confused and hurt many people. People can fall. The Apostle Paul said,

“But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. The Amplified Bible
1 Corinthians 9:27

People can fall. Let us not. Supposedly the wisest man in the Old Testament was Solomon. His writings even became included in Scripture. But the last thing we hear about Solomon is that he fell from the faith of Israel having gone off to worship other gods and taking foreign wives. (I Kings 11:4)

If you have been tempted to reject altogether the good experience you received under a minister who later fell, examine your heart and see if that is what God would have you do? Keep in the Light. Remember all the loving things and the love will eventually heal the pain. 

Healing and the Chakras

I am going to share with you some information that spiritual healers have. You may not know that in Brasil one used to have a choice of going to a regular hospital and be treated by modern medicine or going to a Spiritist hospital and be treated by mediums. Many diseases, they found, were caused at the spiritual level. In the course of working as a healer I have learned a bit about this subject. For example, a woman came to me who was having relationship troubles. She always seemed to pick the “wrong man” for a relationship. I did a reading of her and discovered she had a lot of upper chakras closed. The Crown, The Third Eye, the Throat and the Heart chakras were all closed. I explained this to her and asked her if she wanted me to open them. I did. I tossed a little chi on them and commanded them to open. No big deal for me to do. But at the end of the session I checked her again and they were closed back again. Then I realized my mistake. I had not consulted with Spirit before opening them. I had a good chat with her guides and found out that her upper chakras were closed karmically as part of this life’s plan. Because of her karma in a former life her upper chakras were shut for this lifetime. Counseling her had to take a different route!

I have found that certain chakra closings are also associated with certain neurological impairments. For example, those with asperger’s syndrome and autism had their upper chakras closed. The closing of the chakras was karmic, due to a former life, and the chakra closings manifested as asperger’s or autism. Again, no amount of chi could open those chakras and keep them open.

I have also encountered people who have ALL of their chakras karmically closed!!! I didn’t know one could be alive with them ALL closed. Further dowsing of one individual with this condition showed that he had “sold his soul,” so to speak, to the Dark Side. If you believe in the devil then this guy sold his soul to him! I was aware of an extreme amount of negative energy when I was around this fellow and he had a wall I could not penetrate.

Now this one I am about to tell you may be controversial. I was given permission to dowse Donald Trump. Trump also has ALL of his chakras closed by karma.

Chakras can be seen by Polycontrast Interference Photography, invented by Dr. Harry Oldfield and utilized within the British medical system.

Death does not give you Enlightenment

The tendencies we have NOW in thought carry with us at the death of the physical body. We don’t get advanced just by dropping our bodies. Nothing significant happens to us when we drop the body. We are still a mind believing we are separate with all of our perceptions still in tact. How we advance depends on our willingness to work with spirit in that realm of mind, and that is affected by our patterns of thought when we were alive! As you know, I am a medium and I often contact those spirits who have dropped their bodies. One of my dear friends in opera dropped his body at the age of 82. Of course, I felt loss just like everyone does. But within a week after his passing, I was awakened in the night by his spirit contacting me. I followed his voice in spirit and zipped right up into the mid-Astral and found him in a hall with other great singers. It was not a fancy hall. It could have been any meeting hall here on earth but all the great opera singers in history were there. That is what my friend wanted, apparently, and that is what he got, He was young–about 30–tall and slender, and having the time of his “life” talking with all the great singers who had passed over before him. I talked with him briefly there in that hall and inquired about a Metropolitan Opera coach who we both knew, who had passed away a few years before. My friend laughed and said, “I don’t think she came up here. I think she went down,” and he pointed down and laughed, but it wasn’t a laugh of derision or judgment. It was just a recognition that where we were was still in illusion!! For many months I could not communicate with my friend. My angels told me that he was having great fun exploring the universe. He had been a scientist in life as well as a singer. Then a couple of weeks ago I heard from him again. He and I had developed some grievances while he was alive and they began to be aired with one another. He had been a very insecure person psychologically in life, and so he was also in death. After playing around in the universe for a while he came right back to the mid-Astral, very close to earth and very much still invested in the perception of duality. The year before he died his insecurity had bubbled over. He would call me up and ask me to assure him that he was the greatest bass ever! I would say, “Well, you were one of the greatest basses in the 20th century.” That was not enough. Week after week he would call me and interrogate me in the same manner. After he died his “personality,” now disembodied, continued with that line of insecurity. The other day I was listening to one of his recordings and artistically appraising it. His spirit jumped right in, trying to defend his work from my appraisal.

What illusions we have here we need to work on here because otherwise we carry them into spirit and they are harder to work on there!!!!!!!

Birth and Spirit

When your mother was carrying you, you were hovering around, sometimes nearby, sometimes following where she went and always looking in on the baby inside her. As a spirit you thought about your many lives you have lived before and your decision to live again, this time with this mother and father and the history you would be a part of. Even before you made the plunge and joined that little body inside her womb, you felt your mother’s love for you. You felt her little pats, the hugs of her body as she carried you. You watched what she ate and enjoyed her pleasure at eating those dill pickles. As she walked through the park you went with her, flying just over the tops of the trees. You weren’t quite ready to make the plunge yet and enter that tiny body. (In Dr. Joel Whitton’s book, Life between Life, hypnotized patients recalled their experiences like these before they were born.) You watched your father too and got a good feeling for him. It was the quality of the love shared by your mother and father that sent a message into the spirit world which you applied to accept, to come here again and have another lifetime that would give you lessons you need to learn. Your mother provided so much of your early training. Her breast milk would feed you, not just with nourishment, but with oxytocin, the love neurotransmitter. You would learn love from your mother’s breast milk. But nine months before that oxytocin played a huge part in your process. When your father sent his sperm to join with your mother’s egg, oxytocin was released with his sperm! See, there is just no way, you can get away without love! 
Then came the big day, probably somewhere around the last trimester, and you decided to join that little body in mother’s womb. There were angels around you helping you take a deep breath and jump! Your mother felt it when you landed into her! She called to your father to tell him. He ran over to your mother and placed his hand on her tummy. More oxytocin was released!!!!!! You settled down in that little body in the womb and sort of took a cat nap, aware but comfortable, like you remember a former life, being in your jammies in an old chair. Boy (or Girl!) did you get to know your mom!!!!!!!! Every thought she had. Every feeling, every hope, every joy and every fear. That’s OK as long as there was not too much fear. You had a chance to sympathize and empathize with her during that last period before the BIG DAY! BIRTH!!!!!! You had been floating so nicely, bobbing and weaving within that nice pool of amniotic fluid. But now earthquakes!!! The sides were shrinking and you were being pushed down. Your mom was getting a little scared but dad was there smiling like everything was cool! You were being pushed and shoved through a tunnel but there was a light at the end of it. There was only one way you could go, like you were being flushed!! Out you came flying like a greased pig at the fair! Then this alien in a white space suit grabs you and spanks your bum!! It hurt and you began to cry!!! But then the big alien guy layed you on your mother’s chest and you just knew those nipples were made for you! You docked on and out came the best oxytocin you have ever tasted…and the milk was great too, as sweet as cotton candy and plenty of it! That was day one of your new life on earth! Wow, back another time for another go round of tests and lessons! Another chance to learn to love yourself and others. Another lesson simply to learn to be kind to everyone. You may get 60 or 70 or 80 years to learn this so pay attention! The time will fly away.  Then you will fly away too but the love you have learned you get to take with you! 

baby3

A Letter to the Father

Many of you know the story of how I went to seminary and intended to be a professor; how I felt deeply I was in the wrong place but didn’t know where the right place was. One of my dorm mates was an opera buff who had every opera record under the sun and listened to them morning, noon, and night. I listened with him for the year and a half I was there. Something about those great voices grabbed me down deep somewhere in my psyche and I bought some and began listening to opera while I was studying. Then one evening, a strange thing (for me then) happened. I clearly heard an inner voice say to me “your characters could be your sermons; the stage could be your pulpit; the theatre could be your church; the audience could be your congregation.” Now go put feet to your faith.” This shocked me! Baptists do not hear voices! Maybe Pentecostals do but not us Baptists. You have to understand that I had never had any serious voice lessons. I sang in choirs and sounded no better than anyone else. But just before I heard the voice, I remember praying almost through tears, “Father please tell me what to do. I don’t feel like I belong here.” Maybe that is why I believed it. I took a little step by faith. This was a new kind of ministry. I left seminary and got a job. When I wasn’t working I was listening to opera. This went on about six months until finally one day I opened my mouth to see if I could make a sound like those guys on the records, and out came the operatic voice I have had since! A friend came by and said “Hey, you’ve got quite a voice. You ought to enter the Met Auditions.” I didn’t know what they were but I said sure. I filled out the application, got some music for some hard bass arias and set to learning them by listening to records. I went down to sing the first level of the Met Auditions in Tulsa and had no expectations. I just sang and was named one of the winners. I was even given an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and the Tulsa Opera sponsored me and gave me grants. I thought to myself, “Gee, this opera business is a snap.” I had absolutely no social preparation to help me deal with this new profession. And I found out that not everybody would like me. I would have real enemies to fight. But I did my best, sang big roles in big houses. I made some mistakes and after singing in this world 11 years I made a personal mistake that took me off the stage. I kept thinking I would find a way to get back on, but I never did. I became a university teacher instead. But all through this era my heart was aching that I had failed in this new ministry that I had been divinely given. Friends were well meaning when they said, “It’s all in the past. Just move on!” But they didn’t understand the miracle I had been given and how deeply it had hurt me to feel I had not fulfilled what I had been given. I was still a minister at heart even when I was an opera singer.

Today, I wrote a letter to God and made a little boat with my recordings in it and my reviews, and I set it on the ocean when the tide was going out. I am going to share with you that letter.

Dearest Father,
I know that you know my thoughts and that you are here now as I type these words, but it is good for me to write to you this way. I love you with all my heart Father even though I scarcely know how to love, even scarcely know what it is. But you know me and knew me since before all time when I was and still am a part of you. I am a thought in your mind. It feels like I have been away from you a long time, but I know that is not true. I have just been dreaming a dream which to me seems long, but it really was over a long time ago. I am not making very much sense am I? I feel your heart in mine, dear Father. I have almost come for the time to leave this body and set sail again within the world of spirit. It is all a part of the dream which you can’t know because you know that I am safely inside your Mind. Thoughts leave not their thinker. But the Holy Spirit came with me into my dream. He witnessed my birth into this imaginary world. He saw how I so often thought of you. He saw as I viewed my part in my dream as a hero who would help people to remember you. He saw our Song awaken in my heart and formalize itself into a singer in this dream world. My career as an opera singer was the most important thing in my life because you gave me the gift to sing. Your Holy Spirit told me in Seminary that “my characters could be my sermons; the stage could be my pulpit; the theatre could be my church; the audience could be my congregation.” Then your Holy Spirit said to me, “Now go put feet to your faith.” I believed it Father. I knew it was True and that it came from you. I went into this strange, cruel, but wonderful world of opera and I sang with all my heart. I was surprised when some people didn’t like me, because my voice was from you. Along the way I sang as best as I could and I thought of you every time before I went on stage. I made some personal mistakes which I know you have forgiven me for. But I had a hard time forgiving myself for them. They took me out of the world of opera and took away my stage where I had my church. I felt like such a failure. I so wanted to use my voice to help others awaken. I thought my tears would never end for the loss of my career as a singer. You could not know my dream, of course, though you knew I was dreaming. But the Holy Spirit saw and felt everything that happened to me. He saw my tears and my broken heart. He saw the way I had to work in a cruel, cruel world of opera where the men who ran it were asleep in their own dreams of indifference, hatred and usury.
But Father, after the dream of opera changed, I learned more and remembered more. A new dream of awakening into love’s Presence came to me. On the shores of Burnaby Lake with beautiful ducks and geese, birds and fish, water and flowers, I remembered us more. That dream of awakening is still playing out in me. Father, I loved singing, but I give it back to you now as my gift to you. Here in this little boat that I have set adrift to the ocean, there is a computer stick, with all my songs, and all my reviews. They are my gift of thanks back to you for the song we share. Now I will finish the work I began at Burnaby Lake. I will fully remember you and see the face of Christ in all my brothers, even the dark ones who dream nightmares, and who will laugh at the silly old man who writes to God. But that is OK. I do not care. We can speak now all the time if you want Father. I have nothing on my mind but you…and my brothers because I keep seeing the face of Christ in them!

Your Loving Son,
Joseph

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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.
bench into eternity

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!

 

Not Two!

Love is the Home we seek for. In everyone and everything there is this memory of Home that we seek for. We have almost forgotten it but not quite. We cannot forget it. It calls to us like a whisp of a melody almost forgotten and yet too dear and too close to us to forget it. It is the certitude that we seek. It is the perfect lover and companion that we search for. It is the almost forgotten country from which we all came. Consciousness obscures it and makes us think there is a great distance between us. If there are two–I, as a consciousness, and Home as a place, then there is distance and time. Then there is journey and the perception of need. All of this perception of two is false. There is only “Advaita,” not two. The Home that we all remember is unconscious love, perfectly unconditional because it is impersonal, and full of Truth and Knowledge, an impersonal universe of spirit which is our only True Self. Lots of people go around preaching that “consciousness is god.” Well if it is dear ones, it is a pitiful god because it would mean that forever there is duality, that nothing exists without an opposite. There is no Ground of all Being! Being would exist only to be threatened by the other! Were this the nature of Truth, this would indeed be madness. We must awaken to see that “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” That Peace is the Home we seek and the love that fills it. Consciousness is the land of dreams, the land of separation. In this dream “I” proclaim I exist as an observer and the universe is outside of me to be observed. In consciousness I am separate from God and every other sentient being. “I” as a consciousness am dreaming and in the dream I search for Home and love. How do I awaken from consciousness? You see I do not want to promote more consciousness! That just puts me into deeper dream states which are all illusions!! God is not consciousness. Consciousness is the dream that “I” can separate from God and stand apart from Him and observe Him! Consciousness is the original madness!! There is no original sin apart from this original madness In God’s world, there is only unconscious, impersonal, Love which is also Truth and Knowledge. As long as you believe your little body self is real you will not be able to find this Home that you long for. The first phase of awakening comes when the fabricated little “I” can say, “I am not a body. I am free, for I am just as God created me; spirit, not physical, a part of Him, not separate, connected to all things that think they are separate and feel themselves in need. While I seem to be in this body I will serve them by forgiveness, love and kindness. I will awaken because the great time has come!!!!!” 

(many concepts and terms I used here come from ACIM)

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We are on the bottom rung now on the ladder that leads back to our Home. As we came down the ladder by first becoming lost in the dream of consciousness, we go back up that ladder by rising higher in awareness. As we do we may catch glimpses or have experiences of a foretaste of our True character. Truth may break in on us, a little at a time. These little periods of enlightenment cannot yet stay but as long as they last they give us a propulsion upwards.
In the early fall of 2012, as I was preparing to go to Brazil to see John of God, I was visited by a change in consciousness which can only be described as a foretaste of enlightenment. It felt like Heaven right here.  I wrote about it this way then:

“A stillness has come to me which is unlike anything I have experienced before. The Love of God has come into my mind to take up abode. I am not alone, nor lonely, nor do I ever feel bored. I am actively experiencing the Love of God in my mind. I need no TV. The thought of it is humorous. I need nothing. I eat my meals while looking happily out my window at the beautiful clouds and mountains. I walk to the grocery store, talk to the street beggars with a smile and love in my heart while I pull out the change in my pocket and give it to them. I come back home and look at the clouds and the mountains and am more than content. Songs play in my mind of peace and the love of God. I write on Facebook, email friends, and pet the cat. What more need there be? I am still inside and need no entertainment. I know that I am a part of God and share his holiness and glory. I am at the gates of heaven. This is a stillness which I have not had before. This is not the stillness from nature, as beautiful as that is. This is the Love of God which has taken up abode in my heart and I want for nothing more; not fame, nor riches, not wife, nor position. I have found peace and happiness within the Love of God. And I am not alone here in my mind. You are here too. We are all one Mind and we are almost home. We are the Glory of God.
Pray for the Glory of God to fall, as we awaken to Self, One with God. In the Glory cloud will all our lessons be reviewed. In the Glory cloud will we climb up the ladder. In the Glory cloud will we see Jesus. In the Glory cloud we will know our Home. Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world. Soon we will just be what we are. We are the Glory cloud of God.

“The Glory of God is all I need.
The Glory of God is my Home.
The Glory of God is my peace.
The Glory of God removes all illusions,
None can stand in The Glory of God.
The Glory of God is all I want.
The Glory of God is all I seek.
The Glory of God is the will of my spirit.
The Glory of God is the answer to my deepest question:
“Who am I?”
I am the Glory of God,
As rays from the sun,
I am His Glory.
I am The Glory of God.

“I eat my food and pass my water. I pet the cat and watch the clouds, gather in the twilight and welcome the night.

“I teach my students and just stay in this Love which I never, ever, want to leave. It is my Home. It is my Highest Self. I am where I belong, and I am far from alone. You are here with me, and you, and you, and you, and you. “We are all here, Father. The Mind which you created as One has come Home to you. And you know we never really left. We travelled only in dreams while safely in your embrace. Our Love, Our Light will shine forever with You. And the Love you have for your Son is returned back to you as pure as it was when you created Him. Our song, in praise to You, is all that will be heard.”

“I thought that, for me, the most difficult part of staying in right-mindedness, and continuing my experience of the Love of God in my daily life would be to control reactions. Reactions can send you right back to wrong mindedness. But I have found that the Love of God actually gently protects me from reactions. I mean, there is just so much space and timelessness! I stood in a long line at the IGA today, without any temptation to lose patience. I just listened to the people’s thoughts and feelings as I waited. That’s another thing about the real Love of God…It is not evangelistic! I had no urge to try to persuade people! The Love of God honors our sleeping brothers! It is like Tara Singh said, “Some of our brothers are deeply asleep. That’s alright. Let them sleep. They will awaken.” The Love of God knows no pressure.

“Today I awakened from sleep rather early for me. I thought, ‘Jesus why am I up so early.’ I soon found out there was work he wanted me to do. This is life in the Spirit. We listen to an inner Voice that always speaks for truth, and we happily do as the Voice tells us. We have learned over the years, that those who obey the inner Voice will know the Love of God! May you know it today!! Peace.

That was my sharing with you. For six weeks the Christ Mind was almost totally me. It was the culmination of my life. Eventually, though, I faded back into Joe Shore, more loving, of course, and with higher gifting, but Joe Shore nonetheless.”

At first, I agonized over losing this state, but then it came to me that it had been a precious gift which I could not fully hold yet. But one day I shall be able to go into that

state and remain there…with all of you, my brothers! ❤

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Let it Shine

How to stay “Light” in a dark world—the world is very dark right now. The dream of the world has taken a turn back into fear. One can see it in the reflections of the world on TV and movies. Never has there been such fascination with darkness. It would seek to beguile you. But if you have seen your own inner Light you need but use the awareness that your Light gives. Don’t watch that dark TV show. Don’t let it fascinate you. Turn the TV off and go into your own Light again. We are the Lighthouses of the world. It is up to us to bear the Light in a world that knows neither Light nor Love unless we provide it. And provide it we can. Each of us contains the Whole of the Son of God within himSelf. We are each of us the radiance of God and we can awaken each other from the fearful dreams God’s Son has made in his mistaken belief in terror. Terror would indeed be terrible were it true. Then that which is Real could be threatened and there would be no firm Ground of all Being. Thank God that is not true!!! Only in a nightmare could it seem to be true. In Truth, where you and I and all things have our being, Nothing Real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein does indeed lie the Peace of God. That Peace I must bring with me into this terrified world. That Peace must shine in me! “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Enlightenment, little by Little

In the ceaseless chatter of the brain there is the constant urge to project the opposite. There is a thought of love and the brain projects an opposite. There is a thought of happiness. The brain projects an opposite. What would it be like if we learned to stop projecting the opposite? It would mean that the mind has stilled and stilled the brain as well. Only Love’s Presence would be sensed in everything. The student workbook exercises in ACIM are a very good way to help us with this problem. As long as we project the opposite, this world of separation will remain strong, and we will have to work hard to keep our peace. The lessons of the workbook help us to become aware of our thoughts so that when the urge arises to see something negative, the mind brings up a lesson: “The Light has come. I have forgiven the world.” When I am tempted to see myself as some low image, the mind brings back, “I am as God created me.” When I am tempted to believe in “magic” the mind brings to me, “I am under no laws but God’s.” Gradually we are learning right mindedness, and dispelling separation. Gradually you have more periods of Peace than you do of anxiety. We always thought that Enlightenment was something that came all at once, after long periods of study, yoga, meditation. We made such people who did these things to acquire Enlightenment “special.” WE wanted to be them but we didn’t want to have to live an ascetic life!!!! And we thought that once you were enlightened you stayed that way, or maybe would just disappear one day into the heart of God. It never occurred to us that little bits and pieces of enlightenment come to us all the time as we forgive one another, refuse to engage in attack thoughts or hold on to grudges. We were just waiting for that moment when we would be able to walk six inches above the ground, or on water. Then, we would know, or so we thought! But we were still dissatisfied. Enlightenment was our GOAL and so we were unhappy with the life we had. That is one of the clues that tells us our quest–any quest–is an ego trick. The ego wants to have its cake and eat it too! But any enlightenment that maintains a dualism, an I-Thou relationship is not worth a plugged nickel.

In the summer of 2014, with the help of partner, Burnaby Lake, my right mindedness opened me up into a six week period of enlightenment. I shared it this way:

“A stillness has come to me which is unlike anything I have experienced before. The Love of God has come into my mind to take up abode. I am not alone, nor lonely, nor do I ever feel bored. I am actively experiencing the Love of God in my mind. I need no TV. The thought of it is humorous. I need nothing. I eat my meals while looking happily out my window at the beautiful clouds and mountains. I walk to the grocery store, talk to the street beggars with a smile and love in my heart while I pull out the change in my pocket and give it to them. I come back home and look at the clouds and the mountains and am more than content. Songs play in my mind of peace and the love of God. I write on Facebook, email friends, and pet the cat. What more need there be? I am still inside and need no entertainment. I know that I am a part of God and share his holiness and glory. I am at the gates of heaven. This is a stillness which I have not had before. This is not the stillness from nature, as beautiful as that is. This is the Love of God which has taken up abode in my heart and I want for nothing more; not fame, nor riches, not wife, nor position. I have found peace and happiness within the Love of God. And I am not alone here in my mind. You are here too. We are all one Mind and we are almost home. We are the Glory of God.
“The Glory cloud of God will fall on us. Be grateful that it will fall. Nothing in all your life has prepared you for anything like being under the Glory cloud of God. You will not be able to stand. The body cannot stand in the Glory of God. In the Glory cloud there is the weight of holiness and as much as our spirits belong there, the body does not! The body will groan, shout, and travail under the Glory cloud. But your spirit will never want to be any other place than in the Glory of God. We belong in the Glory cloud of God. We are the rays of His Glory. When the Glory cloud falls the spirit remembers its true home. We know then that we are not a body, but a spirit and a part of the Great Spirit of God. The holiness we feel under the Glory cloud is our holiness as well. But the body can only groan or bark like dogs. In the Glory cloud we speak the language of the Spirit. No human language can work in the Glory cloud.
Pray for the Glory of God to fall, as we awaken to Self, One with God. In the Glory cloud will all our lessons be reviewed. In the Glory cloud will we climb up the ladder. In the Glory cloud will we see Jesus. In the Glory cloud we will know our Home. Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world. Soon we will just be what we are. We are the Glory cloud of God.
“The Glory of God is all I need.
The Glory of God is my Home.
The Glory of God is my peace.
The Glory of God removes all illusions,
None can stand in The Glory of God.
The Glory of God is all I want.
The Glory of God is all I seek.
The Glory of God is the will of my spirit.
The Glory of God is the answer to my deepest question:
“Who am I?”
I am the Glory of God,
As rays from the sun,
I am His Glory.
I am The Glory of God.
“I eat my food and pass my water. I pet the cat and watch the clouds, gather in the twilight and welcome the night.
“I teach my students and just stay in this Love which I never, ever, want to leave. It is my Home. It is my Highest Self. I am where I belong, and I am far from alone. You are here with me, and you, and you, and you, and you. “We are all here, Father. The Mind which you created as One has come Home to you. And you know we never really left. We travelled only in dreams while safely in your embrace. Our Love, Our Light will shine forever with You. And the Love you have for your Son is returned back to you as pure as it was when you created Him. Our song, in praise to You, is all that will be heard.”
“I thought that, for me, the most difficult part of staying in right-mindedness, and continuing my experience of the Love of God in my daily life would be to control reactions. Reactions can send you right back to wrong mindedness. But I have found that the Love of God actually gently protects me from reactions. I mean, there is just so much space and timelessness! I stood in a long line at the IGA today, without any temptation to lose patience. I just listened to the people’s thoughts and feelings as I waited. That’s another thing about the real Love of God…It is not evangelistic! I had no urge to try to persuade people! The Love of God honors our sleeping brothers! It is like Tara Singh said, “Some of our brothers are deeply asleep. That’s alright. Let them sleep. They will awaken.” The Love of God knows no pressure.
“Today I awakened from sleep rather early for me. I thought, ‘Jesus why am I up so early.’ I soon found out there was work he wanted me to do. This is life in the Spirit. We listen to an inner Voice that always speaks for truth, and we happily do as the Voice tells us. We have learned over the years, that those who obey the inner Voice will know the Love of God! May you know it today!! Peace.

That was my sharing with you. For six weeks the Christ Mind was almost totally me. It was the culmination of my life. Eventually, though, I faded back into Joe Shore, more loving, of course, and with higher gifting, but Joe Shore nonetheless.”

My first reaction to its lifting was gratefulness that I had it for 6 whole weeks. But then I had to question, “Why did it leave after six weeks?” I began to feel guilty that I was not something enough for it to stay. And I knew that some people would say, “If it only lasted six weeks, it could not have been real.” Such judgments always come from the ego. One can just hear some people thinking, “If it had come to ME I would have kept it!!!” In truth, these periods of Reality do break in on us. Many people will tell you their experiences if they feel free to do so. We learn Right Mindedness little by little. We climb the ladder of consciousness one step at a time WITH our brothers. No one can climb the ladder alone because no one IS alone. We come as One Mind to the top of the ladder. Then the ladder disappears and all that is left is God and His One Son in Oneness. Consciousness has disappeared as a tiny mad idea. There is only the One, all-inclusive Love of God.

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Happiness

Happiness is a sign that Love’s Presence has been felt. Blockages have been removed and Love’s Presence has come into awareness. In this dualistic world people search for happiness in all sorts of unproductive ways: acquisition of stuff, money, fame, other people, and none of these things work to bring happiness. You would have to find something that has no opposite to become happy, wouldn’t you? Everything that has an opposite is temporary and subject to change. Now I could step forward and tell you that real Love is that which has no opposite because it is eternal and carries God’s nature, but will that help you to experience it? Probably not. But let’s say for the moment that we can agree that if you found this Love which is all encompassing and has no opposite you would also be happy. So happiness is no longer the issue. Love is the issue, but not as the world knows it. That is attachment and subject to time and change. So then you would surely ask me how you can find this Love and I would tell you that you must look inside you. That may mean nothing to you. You may think I mean for you to examine the body! I could step forward then and ask you if you have ever seen behind your eyeballs, or bitten your own teeth? You would think I am either mad or obscure and you would walk out the door. But as you leave you will see very beautiful trees with just a whisper of wind in their top branches. You would see my garden where bees frolic among the flowers and earthworms trundle through the soil. You would smell the fragrance of the flowers. The chatter of your mind would stop and you would be still. In that stillness there are no blockages to the awareness of Love’s Presence. You would feel yourself to be a part of some whole. You would soon see that you are not a body, and just as quickly you would sense yourself to be the immensity of my garden. The branches of the trees are a part of you. The flowers, the bees, the worms, are all a part of you. And just so you will really get it, a hummingbird glides in and hovers right in front of you. He hovers and waits until you finally feel this experience as Love’s Presence and your eternal Self. Now the whole experience of the whole has given you the experience of Love which has no opposite. It does not come from doing anything. It is your natural inheritance, while all along you thought you were a body full of mostly water! You will laugh now at the silly idea that you could somehow be limited! You will sense your immensity and within that is true happiness. It will follow you wherever you go. People will ask you what is different about you. They will ask you to be their guru. You just smile and bless them. They will find their own immensity in time. But now you know that happiness was never the issue of your search. You needed to know who you ARE. That’s all that matters, just to know who you ARE. Until you get it, life’s lessons will continue, as long as you need them. They were made for you.

Getting this thing called Enlightenment

“The Holy Spirit’s function is to take the broken picture of the Son of God and put the pieces into place again. 2 This holy picture, healed entirely, does He hold out to every separate piece that thinks it is a picture in itself. 3 To each He offers his Identity, which the whole picture represents, instead of just a little, broken bit that he insisted was himself. 4 And when he sees this picture he will recognize himself. 5 If you share not your brother’s evil dream, this is the picture that the miracle will place within the little gap, left clean of all the seeds of sickness and of sin. 6 And here the Father will receive His Son, because His Son was gracious to himself.
T-28.IV.9. I thank You, Father, knowing You will come to close each little gap that lies between the broken pieces of Your holy Son. 2 Your Holiness, complete and perfect, lies in every one of them. 3 And they are joined because what is in one is in them all. 4 How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognized as being part of the completed picture of God’s Son! 5 THE FORMS THE BROKEN PIECES SEEM TO TAKE MEAN NOTHING. 6. FOR THE WHOLE IS IN EACH ONE OF THEM 7. AND EVERY ASPECT OF THE SON OF GOD IS JUST THE SAME AS EVERY OTHER PART.” (ACIM T.-28.IV 8-9)

What would it mean if we really got this? How would we change our relationship to the planet and all its seemingly separate things? If we really saw that every rock and tree, every blade of grass, every animal, every person is a part of the Son of God, would we ourselves not be changed? We would also see ourselves as Holy, as part of God’s Son, and the “WHOLE IS IN EACH” of the parts. Like a hologram which contains the whole within it, every byte of sensory data we call “the world” contains the whole of God’s Son! How holy is your cat and dog? How Holy are your children? How holy is this planet? When we see that, we won’t want to abuse anything!!! And UNTIL we see that, we will go on with the abuse until the planet is destroyed!!!!

So this thing called “enlightenment” is not just some abstract concept for Eastern eggheads!!!!!! It determines whether this planet continues. Let us look at it from both sides of the mind, wrong-mindedness and rightmindedness. In wrong mindedness we began as the One dreaming Son believed the ego’s lie that he had in fact separated from Heaven and was now fearfully on the lamb from an angry God who wanted to destroy him for his “sin” of leaving Heaven. In fear the Son ran out of his Mind, “so to speak” and dreamed up a physical universe in which to hide from God. As He enters it (“Big Bang” indeed) he shatters into all the pieces of the universe, and in this dream, he seems to evolve into more and more complex creatures in which to hide from God.

Lesson 241 in A Workbook for Students tells us: “The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love’s absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him. Here was perception born, for knowledge could not cause such insane thoughts. But eyes deceive, and ears hear falsely. Now mistakes become quite possible, for certainty has gone.” The senses were made to deceive! So in this kind of perception (wrong mindedness) we began in this universe, forgetting the Truth of Oneness, exchanging that Holiness for the separateness of fragmentation, out of fear!!! So when we see the world as a “thing” for us to exploit, we are acting in fear and the destruction of the planet is inevitable with fear. Fear causes us to be more and more defensive and defensiveness invites attack. “If I defend myself I am attacked.” Defenses will inevitably kill the world….and that would make no difference at all except for the fact that we can attain to “right minded perception.” The Holy Spirit came with the Son into this universe and He whispers to you and me the Truth of Oneness we are afraid to hear. Skilfully He moves us to forgive our brothers, not to hold grievances, not to have attack thoughts, and little by little we can climb back up that ladder of consciousness we came down on. This is the true ascension!! We can go back up the ladder, and then the world changes in perception to a shining reflection of Heaven, so beautiful we would love it as we love God. This is the Salvation of the world and God has given us the job of saving it, not by judgment or evangelical proselytizing but by the offering of our minds to God, ceasing our attack on him by individualization and sporting uniqueness. Who could do that when you have an experience that everything is your brother and a part of you? The animals are not less than you. I once heard a very spiritual man say a very wrong-minded thing. He said that animals lack the capacity to know beyond their senses! I was so amazed! I thought, my God this man has never had a relationship with an animal! Animals transcend the senses all the time! Create a holy space by quietness and see how quickly the cat becomes a Buddha! Take a dog to a suffering child and see how quickly the dog begins to cure the child. Do your best meditation, climb as high as you can on the ladder of consciousness and you will discover the mind of your cat has followed you there!! The idea that only man can become enlightened is a very clever trick of the ego, designed to make some broken parts of the Son of God more important than others. Then you open the door to “specialness” which the ego loves and which is based on fear, not Love.

We must get this! We must do our lessons. In eternity it does not matter. This little crazy idea was corrected in an instant in eternity, but it is playing itself out in the eons of time. In time, it makes a difference whether we extend love or fear. It makes a difference if there is a beautiful planet called earth where we can learn our lessons by taking on these dreamy bodies and living out our little dramas so we can undo fear and experience love’s presence.

 

Overcoming our illusions….and Easter

Overcoming our illusions….and Easter

As a child, as an artist, as a teacher, I have carried the same illusions around with me…those of loneliness and lack. I know they are illusions but they are mine to work with until I can undo them. When you are at the top of your profession it is easy to feel lonely. I was and I did. I was invited to join MENSA, and maybe I should have, but I thought it was just adding more to the illusion of specialness, which in itself comes from the ego illusion which fosters loneliness. As a result of these illusions I have often accepted “friendship” from people who were really NOT friends. Instead they viewed me as special and wanted to get something from me. When you have achieved some fame, people always want to “touch you,” as though it will rub off on them, and then they want you to treat THEM as though they were special! ACIM tells us that the “special relationship” is at the heart of the ego’s function which is to instill fear and lack. Ego’s cannibalize others in their quest to get something from others. Many of you FB friends are, I believe, really friends. Many of you can see my soul in my writing and postings and know me better than some people in my city who cannot see my soul and view me through only their projections. So, to you, I say: “Thank you. You have helped me in my journey.” I am working hard to forgive all of those false friends. Just so we are clear, a friend is someone who has joined with you in mind (spirit). They see you as a gift from God. They look on you from the bright side, even if you have done something they think is wrong. They have your back when you have forgotten who you are. If others say something negative about you, they will not join in. They enjoy being in your company, not because they want something from you, but just because they are your friend. They forgive on the fly. They do not hold grievances. They do not save up stamps to be used for another day! They give you that same love you remember receiving from your grandparents! 🙂 Friends help to end the illusion of separation, lack and loneliness. They would never plot against you or enter into some sort of cabal to do harm to you. They do not attack. If you have had harsh words, they forgive quickly or ask to talk to you about it. They know no conspiracies. In the end, it is Jesus’ lesson from the crucifixion that helps us forgive false friends. He advises us that when we are tempted to see ourselves as victimized that we use his model in the crucifixion. He did not see attack. Instead he associated himself with his spirit which cannot be attacked, cannot be betrayed, cannot suffer lack or deprivation. In his association with his spirit he changed crucifixion to resurrection, not by the resuscitation of a dead body, but by placing the altar to God where it belonged, not with the body but with spirit. From that place he could say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus’ body became what it always was, NOTHING, nothing at all, for it never existed in truth. In his victory over illusion, he allowed the body to simply not exist. Having fulfilled his mission he exists within the Sonship as an active symbol of the love of God. We are his students.

Which Option Do You Choose?

If I were speaking to a room full of a hundred people interested in spirituality and I said this to them, how would they respond? How would you respond? So here is the speech.

Were I to tell you that you could choose one of these options which one would it be?

One option would be that you as an individual do not truly exist. Instead you are a part of the Mind of God, undifferentiated, you are a part of the Light of God. You are part of the Ocean of God’s Love. You are just as God, spirit, not physical and you are not an individual, distinct, unique, with plans and goals of your own. You are a part of God, which is all-encompassing Love and Light for all eternity.

The other option would be that you ARE an individual and you are unique with your own opportunities to prove yourself. You have a soul which will live forever as an individual, but while you are on Earth, you sing the song, “I did it MY way.” The universe is a real artifact separate from you and you as a unique individual get to go out and explore it! Go to shopping malls! Buy new jeans! Get a car. Buy a house. Marry a hot guy or girl!

These are the two options. Which one would you choose? (I have actually done this so I know what happens! smile emoticon ) Most people pick the second option and as a reason they say, “It sounds boring to just be a part of God’s Light for all eternity.” Some people say, with a defiant tone, “I AM an individual, UNIQUE, and I can be whatever I want to be. Who cares about God!!” There may be one or two people who will choose the first option!!

From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, this shows how our minds have accepted the idea of separation. The Course tells us that the Son of God made the same mistake! He fell into a little dream that somehow he could be different from His Father. This all happened in the mind. There was no world yet. But when the idea came to him, he forgot to laugh at it. He took it seriously and that is the first split of the mind from Oneness. The Son now thinks he is outside of Heaven observing God and into his mind there come two voices: the first one is loud and brash. “Look what you have done? You have left Heaven! God gave you everything and you have just spit in his face! You have stolen the crown jewels. You have SINNED against your Father and do you think he is going to let you get away with this!!! He is going to hunt you down like the dirty dog you are and he is going to annihilate you! So you better scram, get out of here as fast and as far as you can and hide!”

The second voice is calm and quiet. It says, “Nothing has in truth happened. You just fell into a little dream. You can wake up now.” The first loud voice we will call the “ego” and the second quiet voice we will call the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit counsels the sleeping Son just to wake up and find himself as he must forever be, a part of Heaven sharing the Mind of Christ with his father. For some reason we will never know, the Son chose to believe the ego and when he did he chose the emotions of the ego; fear, sin and guilt. So the Son runs out of his mind, so to speak, and dreams (though he thinks he creates it) a physical universe which he enters by the Big Bang. But after the Big Bang, the Son splits into zillions and zillions of pieces of stuff: star dust, matter, planets, star systems, and life forms, including you and me. The Son would have lost all memory of his true state were it not for the fact that the Holy Spirit came with him into this universe as a memory of truth. Now each life form thinks itself independent and separated just as the ego thought caused it. The Course tells us that the body was made as a place God could enter not! The dreaming Son, made insane by the lies of the ego, now fears himself to be an individual, separated from God, living out a life based on sin, fear and guilt. Part of the ego’s lies makes him believe he is forever separate, forever UNIQUE, forever his own person, that this physical universe is his home and that he is A BODY, not a mind or a spirit. The ego creates worlds of special people, unique people, good people, bad people and tells his “creation” that duality is just the way things ARE. “It’s a tough world out there. You gotta get yours! I got mine!” The ego’s thought system rules the world it made:

specialness, good and bad
uniqueness for the individual
the body as the altar of “truth”—shopping malls, modern life, the pop world, the good world, the bad world. Conflict, war, aggression, depression et al–these all come from the ego’s thought system of separation.

So you can see why most people take the second option!!! It is the fall-out from the Son’s original mistake (IN HIS DREAM ONLY; It could never happen in Truth). Nothing real can be threatened! The Son cannot truly be different from his father. He cannot be an individual and hide in a body! That’s just a bad dream!!!. The way to awakening from the dream is to treat each other as brothers, to look for what we have in common, without proclaiming our “uniqueness,” which is a real illusion; to forgive some individuals who you think have wronged you, because it has not really happened in God’s world. As we forgive, we cast away grievances we have held; we begin to show more Light from the inside. We begin to be the Light of the world. We see ourselves as spirit, not bodies, and we hear the call to go Home to our true reality. We get weary of being individuals. We just want peace and Love. We have been running from a god we created out of our ego minds. We begin to feel the tug of Home pulling at us, like we were little kids and had been away at camp for a month, but now we just want to hug our mom or dad and drink hot chocolate. We HAVE been in this dream a long time and we do yearn to go home. In the time it has taken you to read this, perhaps you will revise your choice of the two options. Maybe somebody will break through and say “YES, I want option number ONE. I want to go back into that ocean of Love that is my Home. I will gladly hand over this silly little idea of Joe Shore as a unique individual and rejoin Oneness!

NOW THE GREAT PART is that this has already happened in Truth. It all got resolved in an instant in eternity, but now that resolution is playing itself out through the billions of years of “Time.” So NOW, we can do what the Son forgot to do, LAUGH at the silly, mad idea, that any part of God could break off and observe the Whole, outside of which is nothing; LAUGH that any part of God could hide in a body! LAUGH at the thought that you could be an individual and find something more interesting to be than GOD!!! grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon grin emoticon

Joseph Shore's photo.

Gratefulness

Gratefulness is one of the gifts of awareness. It is given to those who know silence and encounter the Holy Instant. Gratefulness remakes our perception. Where once we saw a sinful world, gratefulness shows us the children of God, lost as in a dream, perhaps, but sons of God nonetheless. Gratefulness remakes us from the inside out. In gratefulness we would find the ability to let loose old grievances we have held. How long we have held them and clung to them as though they were precious gifts, but now the tears of awareness come and show us the hurt that confused our minds. We can let go now. Every grievance we held against others was an attack on God, as surely as though we were storming the Kingdom with the deeds of war. Thank God, none of our attacks on God, can change Him. The Love that He is cannot be threatened. It cannot be avoided either, for there is no place in Truth where this Love is not. It is all-encompassing just as His will is all-encompassing and will be done. His Will is that you be just as you were created by Him. Made of His Love, sharing Himself to make you, you are a chip off the old block. You and I are the Love of God. That is all we are! Everything else is a little dream we fell into and stayed there but an instant. And now, in this Holy Instant, we have remembered who we are and must forever be. We are the Love and Light of God. When we have all remembered, the world will vanish as the illusion we made as a place that God could enter not, and we will find ourselves, not as bodies, but as rays of Light in the corona of God’s Presence. But for this moment, languor a while in gratefulness that your fears were wrong, that the world is not a terrible place where tortured and wounded creatures come to die. Bathe a while in this gratefulness and be remade.

Father we are coming Home. So long have we been lost in this dream of separateness. So long have we clung to little dreams of sin, fear and guilt. We are as your little children Father, your little toddlers who wandered into a fearful land and grew up almost forgetting you, almost forgetting who we are. But we could not forget your Love for we are made of it, and we had to see it sometime. We are coming up your steps Father as fast as our little toddler feet can carry us, longing now only for your embrace and our eternal Home.

Joseph Shore's photo.

Love is all there is to talk about

Love is all there is to talk about. It is the only thought that we can share with God. It is the only thought that goes beyond thought and connects us to Reality, which is all-encompassing Love with no opposite. In our dualistic world of infinitely important persons (sic!) “love” is usually attachment. It means that I see something in you that I really want or need and you see something in me that you really want or need, so we attach to one another and feed off each other! Real Love is not personal just as God is not personal, the real God, that is, not the Biblical Jehovah who is a man-child of a person, choosing a few special people and cursing all the rest, throwing temper tantrums like destroying the world, then repenting of it saying, “Oops. I shouldn’t have done that. Here’s a rainbow for you to show I won’t do that again.” Even the “love” mentioned in the New Testament (as in 1 Corin. 13) is still dualistic because the Bible cannot see beyond dualism. There is always an “I–Thou” relationship, never a joining. In true love, the lovers are One. They are One Love in two illusory bodies and they light the way for the true reunion that must happen; the bringing together of each piece, each broken shard of the One Son of God who is seen splintered here in this illusory universe, having forgotten he is Spirit, believing he is a body, subject to time and feeling lack. He tries to connect to other bodies who also have forgotten they are Spirit and experience lack. This is attachment, the broken son of God’s substitution for the all encompassing Love he truly is. Attachment doesn’t satisfy and if people marry with it they get tired of marriage and divorce.

So how do we find this real “Love?” First we would need to acknowledge, as does ACIM, that this Love is our natural inheritance and our true Self, that we are a part of God’s radiant loving light, from which we can never be separated. We have erected barriers to the awareness of Love’s Presence. The biggest barrier we erected is the WORLD!! ACIM says that the dreaming Son dreamed up this world as a place God could enter not! The body is his ultimate citadel against God! But this illusory world can be de-constructed. Every time I look on another and see that what is in his best interest is also in mine, a little light has come to us. I begin to find that if I refuse to make opinions about you that more light comes. As that light comes I begin to feel Love when I am in your presence, a Love which comes to both of us. In that moment my barriers are down and Love’s Presence comes into my remembrance. It joins you and I as One Spirit in two illusory bodies. The bodies are silly things. The Love is all important. This Love we share with God and remember for all our brothers. Love is all there is to talk about!

The Peace that Stays

Peace is here…within. It can be found. It has not been lost to the Mind which God created. It can be covered up and overlooked, but it cannot be lost. When the mind joins with the heart in quiet, Peace comes. It comes in every moment the mind remembers a love not of this world. It is here in Christmas because we ask the Prince of Peace to come at least this one time of year, and he is faithful. He comes into the minds of his brothers. He came very early to you. As a child when you so looked forward to Christmas, when everything sparkled with innocence and expectation, when you decorated the tree, when you made candy with your mother, when you loved your pets just a little more and gave them treats, when you opened your presents and were overcome with joy. The Prince of Peace delighted in delighting young hearts and minds at Christmas time. But this Christmas Peace is available all year long. You remember it during those times you sat on your mother’s lap and felt so comforted and loved. You remember it from the love of your pets. They looked you in the eye and made you remember a Love that is not of this world, and Peace was there. As you grew older, Peace did not age, but was there in calm reflection of the good in all things, and the blessing itself of your life. Peace has always been there. It has always been the Truth of you. It never knew any illusion about you, but always saw you as God created you. And it is waiting for you tonight both to remember and to pass it on to a brother who has forgotten it and thinks himself alone and abandoned. Love you brother and awaken the Peace within him that you may know it better yourself. The Christ child is here within. He is you as God created you and must forever be. Nothing God created tarnishes or fades. Only the world that is passing away knows such illusions. Let not this Peace pass away from your mind, but stay in it, even as illusions come and go, Peace stays.

When Jesus came……

When Jesus came……

During my years with medium David LeBaron at his little Spiritualist church in Seattle, nothing was more stunning in seance than the materialization of Jesus. David LeBaron was a great physical medium. That means that spirits could manifest physically through him. Sometime they only partially manifested as a gaseous form, but other times they manifested as solid as you or me, and in that form I have walked arm and arm with them in a partially lit seance room. One year I was going through a painful lesson. David knew I had to go through it but he loved me and wanted to ease my pain if he could. He underwent two weeks of meditation in order to manifest a High Master named Adriotis of Atlantea. One Sunday afternoon in seance, David’s Spirit guide named Hilda, called me to come up to the cabinet where David sat in trance. She said that this High Master was coming through for me. He materialized as solid as a brick, wearing robes made of light. Lights flashed all over him as we walked around the room arm in arm. He gave me assurance that I would get through this painful ordeal and that there was a divine plan for me which I would still fulfill. Then his physical body became gaseous and disappeared through the ceiling.

As impressive as that was, something else happened that same year in Sunday afternoon seance that would top it. It was Easter. The week before, David had prepared us that Jesus might materialize to us in seance because he usually came every Easter. That was my first Easter with David and the church in 1994. We were not long into the seance before Hilda told us that “the Master” was coming. He materialized semi-solid in flowing white robes. I cannot over-emphasize the impact that this had on all of us. We were all brought up into a higher dimension that was so loving, we were possessed of love for one another and for the Master. He let us come to him and feel his robe. It was made of light but it still had texture. As we felt it, we could feel the pattern of it, where there were stitches. He spoke in ways that Spiritualists will understand. He said that he did not die for our sins. He said that He agreed to go to the cross to show us that death does not exist and that we are made of spirit to live forever. His presence inundated us with his Love. His voice was so loving, so calm, so assuring, we lost all sense of human lack or anxiety. Another reason I remember it so well was because, as he manifested and spoke to us, David was permitted to awaken from trance and join us as we talked to him. There we were, his sheep, having gentle conversations with him. And then he said that he would see us again and dematerialized. David went back to his cabinet and tried to go back into trance but could not. We all just sat there, immersed in Love, talking to one another. This experience showed to me the heights of Spiritualism and Spiritism. It showed that God and us are not separate. We are not in truth different from Him. We are cut from His cloth. We are emanations of God and we are here remembering who we are.

I was with David for three more Easters. Each time, Jesus came.

Remembering You

Remembering You

There was a time when I was filled with wonderment and peace; a time in which all things were possible, all hopes held, all miracles accepted, and Love knew its name in every word we spoke. We glided together through a wonderland of nature filled with peace and majesty and saw our souls reflected in beauty. Each wood duck showed your glory; each Mallard but spoke of your grace. Arm in arm we shared the beauty and wonderment of Love’s Presence in a May garden, in a time that so kindly stopped for us. Have we ever left? We are still there in that quiet moment. I know we will never leave it, for those moments were real and eternal. They are ours to revisit anytime we need to know Truth and Love. A field of daffodils, on quiet waters, a still vastness, and so much more that words cannot speak, we shared in a few days in May at Burnaby Lake. And now I am still filled with wonderment and peace. It is still a time when all things are possible, all hopes held, all miracles accepted, and Love knows its name. The changes of the seasons will not affect the Lake or foul the peace that lives there. Changes come, but Peace and Love stay. The ducks and geese will still be waiting for us to feed them. The sky will still welcome the marsh wrens and swallows in their swirling flight. The beavers will still be in their den and vastness will still caress its feathered creatures and flowers, leaves and bees, its creatures of the lake who come forth from such immensity. We will always be there and Love will always be Present. I am haunted by such grandeur.

Jerome Hines and My Story

This is part of my story of being a young opera singer in New York.

In the fall of 1975 I made the big move to New York. Tulsa had cradled me and brought me along, but now was the time to head on up to the big time. As in everything else, I was helped by my unseen “Friend.” Things just seemed to fall into place. Lynn Fann, the same friend who introduced me to opera in seminary, had introduced me to his friends in New York who shared an apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan near Columbia University. By the time I was ready to move to New York, one of them was ready to vacate, leaving a vacancy for me. The terrible job of searching for an apartment in New York was spared me. It was an acceptable area, on the border of safety. I loved being right next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I spent many days meandering through the beautiful chapels much the way I had meandered through the garden during childhood. It seemed that everything was being arranged for me, including the proximity of this wonderful cathedral.

One of the first things I did in New York was to arrange for an audition with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera, that operatic basso par excellence who had provided me with the model voice during my seminary years. In theological seminary, a fellow student, Lynn Fann, had introduced me to opera. I had never really heard it before. In Carthage we knew about the “Grand Ole Opery” but that was about it. I listened to all of the great singers of the second golden age of singing with Lynn. Something in their sound made me sit up and pay attention, especially the singing of the great bass, Jerome Hines, partly because he was also a Christian who would sing at the Salvation Army on skid-row in New York when he wasn’t singing at the Met. His voice and his life became a model for me. Now in 1975 I was going to get to sing for him. My old teacher from college, Ted Harris, had been instrumental. Ted told me that Hines’ opera company was going to be auditioning for a baritone to take the place of Met baritone, Calvin Marsh, for a production of Hines’ opera on the life of Jesus, I Am The Way, to be staged in April 1976 in Columbus Ohio. Ted arranged for me to talk to the stage director, Derek de Cambra, a spunky, enthusiastic fellow with a British accent who had a love for beautiful singing. I was to go over to New Jersey to audition directly for Hines himself. I was finally going to meet the wonderful singer whose voice excited me so much in seminary. In those days I was not really nervous. I was excited and ready to go. My voice could do anything and I could pound on it for hours, if necessary, and it would still be fine for the next outing. I prepared my benchmark arias that had won the Met auditions for me and took a train, then a bus, to the New Jersey audition site. It was a small room to sing in. Hines was seated only a few feet from me. Still, I went eagerly to the task and sang Macbeth’s last act aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” which had won for me the Midwestern Finals of the Met Auditions, interpolating a long, sustained, high A flat at the end. Hines was visibly impressed and began talking about his recording of Macbeth with Leonard Warren. He was warm and cordial but every bit the opera star that I expected him to be. He talked several minutes about great baritones he had known and how favorably my voice compared. I could not have asked for a more favorable review from one I idolized so. I got the part and began preparing the role. The baritone I was replacing, Calvin Marsh, was a Met baritone with a huge voice, beautiful color, commanding range, and a veteran. He was a tough act to follow. My voice was much different than his, darker, almost a bass-baritone compared to his, yet more lyrical because of youth. My old college teacher, Ted Harris, was to sing the bass part of the villain, Eliakim, one of the chief priests (a fictitious character), who conspires with Judas to capture Jesus. I was going to get to see two dreams come true, to sing with my teacher and my idol. In the spring of 1976, after performances of “Tonio” in I Pagliacci in Tucson with the Arizona Opera, and a cross-country concert tour for Columbia Artist’s Community Concerts, I headed for Columbus Ohio, my ego beginning to inflate from the heady rushes of early successes. I still heard the inner Voice, but I did not remember “who” or “what” it was, and I certainly was not cultivating a habit of reliance on it for guidance. At times I would do what it said, and at times I wouldn’t. Each time I obeyed, I was amazed at the eerie way in which things fell together for my benefit.

For example, In 1975 I had made the finals of the highly prestigious WGN-Illinois Opera Guild Auditions of the Air in Chicago but had not won. The Voice told me in strong “words” that if I entered again in 1976 I could win them. I entered and easily passed the first two rounds. The auditions director, Dick Jones of WGN Radio, Chicago, really liked my voice and thought my singing had improved over the previous year. Some time later I was notified that I was to sing in the finals at the Chicago Lyric Opera House. There was only a small problem. I was in the middle of a cross-country concert tour with a trio, performing from town to town. I discussed my feelings about the audition with my colleagues, Roger and Debbie Lucas, and they were supportive in anything I chose to do. The Voice was very strong that I had to find a way to go to the finals, and that I would win. The trio’s schedule just worked out that we had a day’s travel, no concert, on the day of the finals. After our performance in Pueblo Colorado I caught a flight to Chicago, got into the hotel about 4:00AM for five hours sleep and showed up at the stage door of the Chicago Lyric Opera House at 11:00AM, ready to sing. I sang my first aria, “Cortigiani vil razza dannata” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and was pleased with the way it went. But for the next round, the judges got to pick an aria from my prepared repertoire. I “knew” that if they picked the prologue to I Pagliacci, I should be one of the two winners chosen. The Voice told me that I would be the second winner. The judges chose the prologue. I sang it with full gusto, including a resounding high A flat, and left the stage feeling good. I could not stay for the end of the auditions. I had to run to the airport immediately to catch a plane to Traverse City Michigan to rejoin my concert trio for a performance that night. When I arrived in Traverse City, I called back to Chicago and found that I had been named the second winner.

Wouldn’t you think that experiences such as these should have been enough to teach me to listen to that inner Voice and always obey it? Apparently they weren’t, because I didn’t. I still thought my rational intellect was the most important part of me to listen to, and I liked the heady rush of the ego as I saw my name up in lights, doing things my way, with my voice. I soon began believing all my publicity and was convinced that I belonged in the Tsar’s court in old St. Petersburg and that by divine right, of course.

By the time I arrived in Columbus Ohio in April 1976 to begin rehearsals for I Am The Way, I was full of it, and I don’t mean the way, the truth, and the life, but a substance with a lot more unpleasant odor to it! I had just gone up to my hotel room and unpacked when the telephone rang. It was one of the other cast members who wanted to come up and say hello. I felt mildly irritated at being disturbed but magnanimously allowed him to come up to the room. He was a very down to earth fellow; full of something I had once known, not too long ago, sincerity and thanksgiving. He was singing the tiny part of “Thomas”, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He literally had only a couple of lines to sing in the whole show! His face beamed with joy as he described his pilgrimage from the Deep South, at his own expense, just to sing his two lines. By the time he finished visiting with me I had begun to feel very ashamed of myself for the egotism I had allowed to grow inside me, replacing my gratitude to God for the voice I was given. I was making my own ego world-view of specialness, rather that viewing my voice as a gift to give to others. I prayed. I apologized and asked for renewed innocence. The Voice was right there. It had gone nowhere. Only I had changed. The Voice said, “Just keep on going the way you are going now and I will have you sing for Presidents and Kings.” It was a startling message! By this time, I was supposed to go down to the lobby to meet the Director. I grabbed my score and headed for the elevator. No sooner had I reached the elevator than did the doors open. Inside it stood Jimmy Carter. He extended his hand saying, “I just wanted to shake hands.” We rode down to the lobby together in silence. You have to understand that in April of 1976, Jimmy Carter, running for the Democratic nomination for President, was still a long-shot. Nobody thought he would get the nomination and nobody dreamed he would be elected President of the United States. As we exited the elevator, I watched him go, and said another quiet “thank you” to God for his faithfulness, and for the internal Voice which always spoke for truth, on my behalf. I knew Jimmy Carter was going to be President of the United States. And maybe if, just if, I did what the Voice said, kept on going the way I was going, then I might even get to sing for him!

During rehearsals of I Am The Way, I met many wonderful people who were going to stay with me throughout the years as close personal friends. The rehearsal period itself was rewarding because, in addition to the good staging by Derek De Cambra, Hines himself did some of the dramatic coaching, working with the singers on subtle acting points, “camera angles”, Chris Lachonas, a veteran, called them. This stayed with me my whole career as I tried to use a style of acting that was as suitable for television as it was for the stage. The music of I Am The Way, all composed by Hines himself–an extraordinary feat for a singer, not trained in composition–shows a little of every role he ever sang. The scene called “The Woman at the Well” shows a lot of the playfulness of the Bohemian characters in Puccini’s opera La Boheme, which Jerry sang many, many times. In fact during the bleak years at the Met when Rudolf Bing was trying to force him out, Jerry was cut down to one performance a season of “Colline” in La Boheme. Still, he stuck it out and had a renaissance long after Bing had retired. The scene called “The Last Supper” showed a lot of Wagner influence, especially Parsifal, in which Jerry sang the role of “Gurnemanz.” I did not view this negatively. It seemed inescapable to me that if an opera singer were to compose an opera himself, it would inevitably show the influence of everything he had sung. And the music he composed was beautiful, full of sweeping melodies and beautifully constructed scenes. What gave it an impact was Jerome Hines himself! There was that enormous, richer than rich, bass voice with incomparable grandeur, being used in the role of Jesus. What more could anyone ask for? In 1976, Hines was 55 years old and his voice was still at the peak of his powers. He sailed through the performance with ease and assurance. I used every second as an opportunity to listen, observe, and learn, how he made an entrance, how he related to the other characters on stage, most of all, how he sounded! In one scene called, “At Bethany,” my character, “Simon Peter”, sits right beside Jesus as he sings the Lord’s Prayer. Looking up at Jerome Hines, hearing that enormous voice so close to my ear, I gave thanks to God for His incredible ways. And then the performance was over and the company packed up to go back to New York, the singers back to their other careers. I went to the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York to sing with the Symphony and prepare for my first Rigoletto in the fall of 1976 for the Houston Grand Opera. As a young singer, I had no rational reason to believe I could sing this, the greatest of Italian baritone roles, but the Voice said that I could do it and I had agreed when I got a letter from the General Manager asking me to do the part. The letter came “out of the blue,” and I knew, even then, that this was something I was destined to do.

The Hines Company performed I Am The Way only once a year. The following year, 1977, Calvin Marsh returned to the role of Simon Peter, leaving me without a role. Not to be outdone, I suggested to Jerry that I play the role of the heavy, “Eliakim,” the chief priest who conspires with Judas. Jerry had always had difficulty casting it because of the way it was composed. As I was told the story, originally, the role had no aria. But when Jerry approached the great basso, Ezio Flagello, to sing the role, Flagello refused unless an aria were written for the character. Ever the one-upsman, Hines said, “All right. I’ll compose you an aria, but it’s going to be so hard you won’t be able to sing it.” The result was Eliakim’s long aria which is loud and very high for any bass, ending on a long, sustained high F sharp, not territory that basses like to hang around in, even a great bass like Flagello. He never sang the part again, and Jerry went through bass after bass trying to find someone who could sing it. I suggested that I could sing it. Even though I was a baritone rather than a bass, I had enough richness in the voice that I could carry its heavy insinuations. Learning my own one-upsmanship I said, “but you have to transpose the aria up one half step for me.” Hines laughed and agreed, so off I went to Birmingham to sing Eliakim, following in other years to different cities. In Cleveland in 1978, I was rehearsing the big aria with Hines himself at the piano, accompanying. After I finished, Hines was silent for quite a long while. Finally he said, “I wish we could have recorded that. I’ve never heard anyone sing my music the way you do.” It was the most wonderful tribute I could have been given by this man whose singing meant so much to me, and whom I had come to love so dearly. Some years were difficult though. Two years later, November 1980 in Edmonton, Alberta I had a dangerously close dovetail of engagements. I ended a string of performances of “Germont” in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Arizona Opera, the evening before dress rehearsal for I Am The Way. The Director was confident of my ability to do the role without rehearsal by this point, so I flew from the desert of Phoenix right after the last performance of La Traviata to the Nov. cold of Edmonton! I was exhausted and slept until 4:30 in the afternoon with the dress rehearsal at 8:00PM. Still, I felt ready to go, and during one scene I interpolated a high B flat! For the non-singers reading this, a high B flat is the pinnacle note for a tenor, and is virtually never attempted by a baritone. Once, the Met’s star baritone, Sherrill Milnes, had recorded a high B flat, but I don’t recall him ever singing one on stage. Why did I do it? Because I could! It was that much ego, nothing deeper. Hines was in the audience for the rehearsal and he let me know what a good note it was. I was happy, justified in my specialness. But the next night was performance. There would be no day off for rest as was usually the case, and I desperately needed a day off for rest. Edmonton in the winter is colder than anything I had ever experienced! It is so cold that the water particles in the air freeze into ice crystals which can cut your lungs when you breathe! I had known cold in Missouri but nothing like this, and I was coming straight from balmy Phoenix. My body was in shock and tired. That night after rehearsal I slept very poorly. I was too tired to sleep and wished that I had brought along the singer’s friend, “restoril”, to induce a good night’s sleep. But I hadn’t. I lay tossing and turning all night, finally drifting off to light sleep early towards dawn, only to be awakened early by the maid who did not want to believe the “do not disturb sign” posted on the door. Furious at her for disturbing my specialness, I screamed at her from the bed to get out and tried to go back to sleep, all to no avail. I was up. After two pots of coffee I began to vocalize a little and did not like what I felt. That afternoon was no better. Still, the show must go on, and my voice had never really failed me before…except on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera when I had muffed a high A flat. Still, I was seasoned now, and I had not cracked on a note in public in the six years since. Staying with my typical performance schedule, I found the nearest steak and potatoes around 4:30 PM and began to tank up for the evening performance. That evening I sang the difficult aria OK but the voice still seemed off, stiff and thick. More importantly, my tenacious clinging to ego specialness had cut off my ability to hear the internal Voice that guided me in everything. The time in the scene came where I had interpolated the high B flat the night before. Should I do it again, in performance? As soon as the question flashed through my mind, I heard the internal Voice say “No.” Oh well, I would do it anyway! I went up for the special high note, hit it…and it cracked! Not to be outdone, I tried to regain it and it cracked again!! The curtain mercifully descended and I made my way, like a scalded dog, as quickly as possible through the labyrinths of back stage corridors, eyes to the floor, to my dressing room. I was mortified, disgraced. I, Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, had cracked on stage! Standing in the hall, barring my refuge into my dressing room was Hines, in costume as Jesus, making his way to the stage, enormous grin on his face, laughter ready to commence at any moment. He began to chuckle, “That just makes you human,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. But remember from now on, when you crack a note, get off of it and let it go. I remember when Set Svanholm, at the Met, cracked on the high B flat at the end of ‘Celeste Aida.’ He cracked and tried to get it back and cracked again, just like you did.” Somehow it did not make me feel better. I brooded. How I brooded. I spent the night in the dressing room trying to avoid all conversation. My specialness had been wounded and I was not eager to address any re-shaping of my image. Years later, Hines said to me, “You know, I was glad to hear you crack on that high B flat because it proved to me you were human. You always sang like someone who wasn’t human.” I took it as a compliment. But for fourteen years he never let me forget that I had cracked on a high B flat. I never let myself forget it either!

I did Eliakim again the next year in Allentown Pennsylvania, and it went extremely well, but then I stopped singing I Am the Way. I told myself that I was tired of singing the villain. But wasn’t it really because I had cracked on a high note and injured my feelings of specialness? In the intervening years, I missed my friends terribly. I missed Jerry. I missed I Am The Way. During the years of 1982-1990, a lot of water went under the bridge professionally, new roles at new opera houses, but there was some lesson I was not learning. Things were not going the way they were supposed to go. The performances got better and better artistically, but the engagements were getting fewer and fewer. I thought I knew what the world was supposed to be like, but I didn’t! Then in 1994 I found myself near death. The internal Voice returned with great strength. I had a four-month-long life review as I waited, near death, for the Canadian medical system to put my name at the top of the list for surgery. Back in my hometown of Carthage my father went into the hospital at the end of June for what was supposed to be a minor surgery repair of a hernia. Something told me however that this was the end of the line for Dad. The doctors gave us a progressive litany of worsening prognoses. Finally, they told the family that he was not leaving the hospital. I knew that part of him had faith in a life after death, but I also sensed that part of him was very frightened because he felt that he had failed in some important aspects of his life, one of those being in his relationship with his son. Those failures tore at him very deeply. Involved in my own near-death struggle I could not go to Missouri to be with him. We braced ourselves for the fact that he could die at any time. But I had much unfinished emotional business with Dad which I did not want to leave without closure. I also wanted to help him in his final hours.

I prepared a special time when I would be alone in the house, and began to pray for Dad. I asked God to let him know that I forgave him for all the things between us that he held against himself. I asked God to tell Dad I that it was all right for him to let go and go on if that is what he needed to do, but if he was supposed to fight and stay with us, that was all right too. I wanted him to know that I supported him in his decision, one way or the other. For some reason it was important to me to sing my prayers for him. I do not know how long this final song lasted, quite some time I think, maybe an hour or two. I had little sense of time as I was doing it.

My son, Tom, was to have his birthday in just two days, and I really did not want Dad to die on Tom’s birthday. So he didn’t. Tom had a wonderful birthday. Dad died the following day, July 10, 1994. The night he died, I had an archetypal dream about seeing someone off on a ship. It was Dad. The next morning I thought that he had passed over. Sure enough, he had. I was somewhat disappointed that I had not had a full parting vision but I knew he understood now that everything was OK between us. I just missed the good-bye. Finally, two days later, in the early hours of the morning of his funeral in Missouri, I awoke in the spirit while my body was fast asleep.
I was in a very special kind of railroad station looking for Dad. I was pushing through enormous crowds of people who were waiting to board this train. I was in a great hurry as I knew this train was about to leave. Then I saw him from behind. I knew it was him. I called to him, “Daddy, Daddy.” He turned around with a big smile all over his face. I ran to him and jumped into his arms. I remember the feeling. I looked into his eyes. I remember those eyes. He was young and looked somewhat differently than in life, but there was no mistaking him. All of the cares and worries, doubts and fears, insecurities and self judgments, were gone from his face. Instead, there was this pure love, all throughout him which gave him his new substance. I hugged him and said, “I love you Daddy.” He squeezed me. I remember that squeeze, and he said, “I love you too.” And then he made a little joke just to make sure I knew I wasn’t just dreaming this. He knew I would remember it. He said, “You see, I’m a little thinner now than I used to be.” He was now spirit, not flesh. Then he boarded that train. A few hours later his funeral was conducted in Carthage. Even though I could not be there, we had had our farewell.

Around this same time, I got an unexpected phone call one day from my old friend, Derek de Cambra, Jerry Hines’s stage director for I Am The Way. He said that the company was doing I Am The Way in Benton Harbor, Michigan next year, 1995, and would I do the role of Eliakim again. The Voice shouted “yes,” and I immediately agreed. I was so happy to be back in I Am The Way. Jerry had done a wonderful job in keeping his voice all these years. He would be 74 years old in 1995! What a miracle to keep his voice! Few singers had accomplished that. No basses, to my knowledge. I was happy, truly happy to be back in I Am The Way. The Holy Spirit was that Voice which always spoke for truth and He must have something there for me to do, something for me to learn, some service for me to render to others, I thought. I could not know more at that point. I began to restudy the role of Eliakim and sing it back into my voice. The last time I had sung it had been the fateful performance in Edmonton! That was out of my mind now like a bad joke. I saw the silliness of the ego’s distorted view of things. I just wanted to go back to old friends! This time I took with me a young voice student who had heard all of my stories of the great singers of the previous era, called the Second Golden Age of Singing. I was passing on my love of singing and my love for Jerome Hines to another generation.

When I arrived in Benton Harbor it was indeed like a reunion with long lost friends. How I loved them. How they helped me to remember the Light. Jerome looked like a sight for sore eyes. Even his slight infirmities of age could not make him look old to me. But he was not singing in rehearsals and I could tell he was worried about his voice. He and I got together for an afternoon of vocalizing the way we had done in earlier years. They were wonderful times for me, learning experiences, as I observed this supremely great singer go through the vocal calisthenics necessary to sing grand opera. But this time Hines’ voice was not working. The whole cast knew it and we were all worried. Jerry had been in trouble before vocally and always made it through the performance. One time in Cleveland we finished a final dress rehearsal about 2:00AM. Jerry wanted to go out to an all night restaurant near the lake. It was mid winter and freezing cold in Cleveland. But what Jerry wants, Jerry gets, so off the whole crew went. I noticed that Jerry was not even wearing a coat, and I said, “Jerry, what’s the matter with you? Put a coat on!” “Ah, let your body breeeeeathe,” He vocalized in Hinse-ian tones. “I don’t need a coat!” We went to the restaurant and had a feast, whooped it up in grand fashion. The next morning Jerry called the conductor to his hotel room in a panic that his voice didn’t feel good for the show the next night. He even looked at his own vocal cords with a homemade device and saw that they were pink and swollen. Ever inventive, Jerry had taken two dental mirrors and welded them together with just the right curvature so that he could look at his own vocal cords! Panic ensued within the Directoral staff, but we all, Jerry included, managed to pull the show out of the fire.

This time in Benton Harbor was different. There was something seriously wrong with Jerry Hines’ voice. We made it to the final dress rehearsal. I had already counseled myself to end the “infamous” scene on a lower pitch than the interpolated high B flat! I would sing a high F instead, which is plenty high and would give me no trouble. I would not entertain any notions of interpolating ego notes. I had learned my lesson! Hines watched the rehearsal from out in front. At the end of my scene He came up to me and said, “Good job, Joe, but I was really a little disappointed that you didn’t take the high B flat!” I couldn’t believe my ears. He wasn’t joking. He was serious! I made a joke of it and said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask HIM,” pointing upwards. “It’s HIS voice. I’m just the caretaker of it. I’d have to get the OK from HIM.” Jerry smiled and went back to observe the coming scene. We made it to opening night. Hines limped through the performance, sounding ill. The rest of the cast did a fine job. I ended my scene on the high F. All went well. We had one day of rest and then a Sunday matinee at 2:00PM. Matinees are difficult for all singers. We are accustomed to preparing our voices for an 8:00PM curtain, not 2:00PM! I hated matinees. In my earlier days of incessant bravado I had plunged into them full voice, thinking nothing of it. In the fall of 1979 I had performed the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth with the Arizona Opera Company. We finished the dress rehearsal about 2:00AM, and like Hines, I wanted to go out and get something to eat. I ate a huge plate of rare prime rib. By the time I arrived back at the house where I was staying, my gluttony was telling the tale. I threw up everything and continued to throw up for an hour. I got to sleep about 5:00AM., got up at 7:30AM, went to the theatre at 8:30AM and performed a “matinee” at 9:30AM of Macbeth for school children. It was one of the best performances I ever gave! But I still hated “matinees.”

This time was different. Hines was in real trouble. On his day off he had gone to a doctor to have ultra sound therapy performed on his larynx, but it was to no avail. He seemed totally laryngitic. There was no understudy. Jerry would have to go on or we would have to cancel the performance, which meant financial disaster. Jerry went on. He barely made it through his first big scene of “The Woman at the Well.” My scene as Eliakim was next. I sailed through the aria better than ever, holding a long sustained high G towards the end, finally ending on an optional low F sharp. The infamous scene was next, but I was not nervous, I had already decided not to interpolate the high B flat. I had sung the high F the previous performance and it had been more than sufficient. As Mary Magdalene sang her long monologue, I sat back in my throne-chair and played with the character, Eliakim. Finally the end of her aria arrived. I had two beats before I was to sing the infamous words which ended the scene, “Is the whole world gone mad!” Usually those two beats fly at you like the wind and you have just enough time to take your breath and sing the notes. But this time, time itself seemed to slow down. Those two beats became an eternity. What was I to do with all this luxury of time? The Voice said, “Take the high B flat.” I could not believe it. There was plenty of time for an argument. “What? I’m not doing that again, no way.” The Voice was very clear, “Take the high B flat.” Something I had learned made it easy for me to agree. I went up for the high B flat. It was not only there, it was there in spades! I held it forever. This time there would be no scalded dog, hiding his head as he crept through the halls to his dressing room. Slowly and happily I walked off stage as my colleagues said things singers say to one another after a good job: “Wow, what a note!” “Holy cow, what did you eat? I want some of it.” On my triumphant way down the hall I passed Jerry’s dressing room. The door was open. He sat disconsolate at his make-up table. I could see that he was worried and afraid of the next scene coming up. It was the “At Bethany” scene and he had to sing the Lord’s Prayer which had always given him trouble, even in good voice. I walked into his room. He smiled faintly and said, “So the B flat worked tonight?” Without thinking I said, “I sang that high B flat for you so that you would know that if I can sing a high B flat, without cracking, you can make it through this next scene!” His face dropped and showed his true feelings of insecurity. “But how am I going to make it through it?” He said. “Dear God,” I thought, “what am I supposed to say to this man, my hero and mentor?” The words came tumbling out my mouth without any thought, “Just go out there, breathe deeply and don’t push!” Those words seemed to rally him. “All right,” he said, and headed for the stage. During the scene, the Voice told me to position myself in the wings, unnoticed by the audience, but in such a way that I had clear view of the stage. The Voice said that I was to pray for Jerry to be given strength. I did, and I saw that it was helping him get through the scene. Finally he made it to the big aria, Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer. Hines did what I said. He breathed deeply, taking many more breaths than he needed, and he didn’t push! He made it through. As the curtain descended, a happy Hines almost collapsed into the arms of his colleagues as they congratulated him. “I just did what Joe Shore told me,” he said, “And it got me through.”

For the rest of the opera, since my character does not appear with Jesus, I stood in the wings and prayed for Jerome. He gained in strength. During the difficult “Last Supper” scene, the Director came into the wings with a look of worry on his face, “He’s struggling,” He said. “Don’t worry,” I said with a smile. “He’s going to make it through just fine,” And he did. I knew why I was supposed to go to Benton Harbor. It was my love for Jerome Hines that was the lesson. That love is the love Jesus would have us learn. It is the same love I received from my grandparents and parents. It is the love that God gives us as His own. Receive it. It is there, waiting for us to grasp it in every learning experience, and every experience is a learning experience. Had I learned my lesson earlier, had I not gotten off course, I am sure I would have gotten to sing for Jimmy Carter! Nevertheless, I sang for Congressmen, Senators, Governors, the Russian Diplomatic Mission to the UN, and Consuls to several countries.

Months later, the Voice told me to call Jerome and let him know that I not only wanted to perform the role of “Simon Peter” again, but that I was supposed to. I knew Jerry would understand. I made the call. It just so happened that the Hines Company was going to be doing I Am The Way in June 1996 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, but the role of “Peter” was already taken by one of Jerry’s students from OMTI (Opera Music Theatre International). “Put me on standby,” I said, “You never know. This guy may not be able to do it.” He agreed. A short time later, the Director called me with the news that Mark Delavan could not do the part and it was mine. Twenty years had passed since I sang the role of “Peter,” but I knew it. Jerry was in fine voice. This time, my character sat at the Last Supper table with Jesus. As I looked at Jerry I knew that the love I have for him is the message of Jesus, that we should love one-another even as He loved us; and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The circle was complete.

hines and i, 1995 i am the way

The Ego and Division

It is in the nature of the ego to uphold separateness and foster division. Wherever you see schism you know the ego is winning. The ego is the god of this world. The Bible calls the ego Satan and says he is the god of this world. The problem with that is it makes the ego seem real and a dualistic force against God. That perception is the original problem. The ego is not real. It is just a mistake in thought, a crazy idea the mind has focused on. But focused on it, a whole universe of duality and conflict arises from it. I see the ego winning in politics. American politics shows the ego winning very handily. The whole country is founded, not on Christian values, but on the ego and its views of separation, of “specialness” for the individual. In truth we are all equal, not special, and the distinctions we have in personality and accomplishment are NOT important eternally, in the world of Truth. But in the world of the ego we believe that everybody’s opinion is a sacred truth!!! And everybody’s opinion separates them from everybody else!!! The U.S.A. is crumbling because of opinions, 300 million people each with their “sacred” opinions, each willing to fight for the rightness of their opinion, and all it does is foster more and more separation. The U.S.A. is no longer one country, indivisible. It is many countries now, all formed by the ego’s need for schism and separation. If it splits up formally into separate countries, it will solve nothing. The ego will continue its pattern of division within those new countries.

Spirituality would offer a better way. It would tell us to find what is common with us and treasure that above personal opinion. It would ask us to “join” with our brothers in mind by seeing our brothers and sisters as part of our Selves! To do that all we have to do is begin with a little willingness to see that what is in our brother’s interest is also in ours. Let me give you an example. I am a singing teacher by trade. People come to me with all sorts of personal opinions about everything. Instead of engaging them in arguments about their opinions, I look for something we have in common and begin a friendship based on that. The “joining” that defeats the ego is a kind of friendship. What is so great about my opinions anyway? What is so great about your opinions anyway? The ego will flare up and say, “I have a right to my opinion and I demand everyone take me seriously.” That begins the conflict again, and the ego is happy! That is why I will not engage in debates, either in FB or in life. Debates only foster division and whoever wins has won nothing but discord.
Back to the U.S.A. again, a nation of 300 million people either can see a lot in common….or nothing in common. That perception makes all the difference.

hysterical kitties

Western society is crumbling from within

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Western society is crumbling from within. The reasons, though multi-factoral, stem from personality disintegration. If you look at normal developmental milestones, fewer and fewer children through teen years are developing them. Just look at the normal milestones for teen years:Adolescence is divided into three stages: early (12 to 14 years), middle (15 to 17 years), and late (18 to 20 years). While certain attitudes, behaviors, and physical milestones tend to occur at certain ages, a wide range of growth and behavior for each age is normal. These guidelines show general progress through the developmental stages rather than fixed requirements. It is perfectly natural for a teen to reach some milestones earlier and other milestones later than the general trend.Emotional Development

Has a better sense of self.
Becomes gradually more emotionally stable.
Has a greater concern for others.
Has thoughts about his or her purpose in life.
Has pride in his or her own work.

Social Development

Has become self-reliant and able to make own decisions.
Becomes more comfortable around parents.
Becomes interested in and concerned about serious relationships.
Can combine both emotional and physical intimacy in a relationship.
Has developed a clear sexual identity.

Mental Development

Has ability to think ideas through and set goals.
Has ability to express ideas.
Has developed a deeper view of life and may become involved in community issues (environment, homelessness, world hunger).

OK….now think how many teenagers you observe in your world who have never developed these milestones! Many of them cannot even read! These broken persons are sent out into an adult world where their decision making ability is immature, even mentally ill. Western society has broken down in the educational and maturational processes needed to bring a child to adulthood. Those causes are also multi-factoral but surely a great deal of the problem stems from the society and its political structures which really do not want to spend money on education and child development. Therefore the society continues to crumble.

As an artist this became apparent to me in my career. Audiences after WWII appreciated opera and the great voices on the stage. However, by the end of the Vietnam War, audiences were considerably less able to appreciate the arts. Johnny Carson, and Jack Paar before him, would bring opera singers on to the Tonight Show. But by the time Jay Leno took over, it was unthinkable to bring an opera singer on the show. The people simply had lost all appreciation, and more importantly, great artists were viewed as having psychological threat value to the weaker personalities that comprised the audience. As we produce more and more fragmented people, they have less and less ability to appreciate education and the arts. The Western Society we have produced reflects that. It is a superficial, anti-intellectual, anti-art, culture that we have developed. OF COURSE it does not want to spend money on education! It doesn’t value education!!! That is the vicious cycle that will eventually crash Western civilization…unless true visionary leaders appear!!! Where would they come from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

baby3

Our Lives Are Planned

Our lives here are planned to give us the lessons we need to learn. WE planned them with guidance from our Higher Self and the angels. We also planned for alternate time lines based on different decisions we could make at crucial places within the script! Some of you may think you are living on plan B or C or even Z. Well you may be. You gave yourself wiggle room in this life to make different choices. So instead of beating yourself up for that “wrong” choice you made, see it as just an alternate choice. Regardless of how attached we may be to one particular time line, the details of our lives here are not the point!!! This is a holographic training school. The details are not the point. Our choices and our intentions are the point because they show the errors in thought we came here to undo. So, whatever time line we are on in our scripts, let us learn our lessons so we can go HOME. Summer camp is just great until it begins to last forever!

Someday Joe-Boy will take us fishin’

“Someday Joe-boy will take us fishin’,” Lena Ritchie said to her husband, George. It was four o’clock in the morning and grandmother had put a nice breakfast on the table for us. We needed a good start of the day for our fishing trip. I had slept over at their house so we could get a good early start down to Oklahoma, to the Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees. I was eight years old.

When I was about seven years old, grandmother and grandpa introduced me to the wonders of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in nearby Oklahoma. For years they had been going there to the promised land of fishing, bringing back huge catches of crappie, blue-gill, catfish, and white bass, all for table fare. Having survived the great depression, they were determined never to go hungry again. A huge freezer chest of frozen fish from Grand Lake made it seem unlikely. And yet, like our river adventures, the important thing was really to go to the lake and be there.

At Grand Lake, no convenience was denied a fisherman. Large in-door, heated fishing docks, with theatre seats for comfort, were situated over key areas for crappie and other pan fish. Cedar trees were suspended from the docks to entice the cover-minded crappies to huddle there in schools, unaware of the fate which awaited them. It was a grand invention for a Grand Lake. Grandmother and grandpa introduced me to these holy haunts with a fervor reserved otherwise only for the garden.

Fishing with my grandparents was the purest form of Love I learned as a child. Most days you could not have gotten me out of bed at 3:30AM if you lit a fire cracker under my bed, but knowing we were going fishing, I eagerly went to bed with my grandparents and the chickens around dark and jumped out of bed when I heard the alarm at 3:30AM. Grandmother would fix breakfast while grandpa and I loaded the car with our fishing tackle.

“Someday Joe-boy will take us fishin’ George,” Grandmother repeated. “You betcha,” said grandpa as he reached for his coffee. They drank the most terrible coffee: Folgers, or Maxwell House, percolated in what is now an ancient contraption. They drank it black and I drank it with them. Maybe eight years old was just a little young for coffee, but I drank it! Grandmother packed a lunch for us and put plenty of that coffee in thermos bottles for us and off we went. It was so exciting to start off on our journey while it was still dark, the crickets still chirping, and the neighborhood still asleep. We drove the old highway to Joplin to a bait shop where we got our minnows, worms, and catfish bait. The best thing I knew about Joplin as a boy was that it wasn’t far from Grand Lake! Grandpa liked to drive old highway 60 through the big town of Seneca Missouri on route to Grand Lake. Grandmother and I might be nodding off but grandpa would loudly announce, “We’re now in Sen-ee-kee,” and we would pop to, knowing that the lake was near. Outside of Seneca there was a fork in the road and we would have to decide if we were going to go to Twin Bridges fishing dock or on down the lake to Ice Box Bluff or Blue Bluff. This day we made the turn as grandpa said, “Let’s go to Ice Box.” It was grandpa’s favorite dock and the owner was a friend of my grandparents, but then many dock owners were their friends. It was the first dock I fished when they brought me to the lake a year before. It was like heaven to a kid. All the grownups there didn’t act like grownups. They were all fishin,’ acting like kids!

Eighteen years later, I had graduated from college, spent two years in graduate school for theology, and was on my way to a new career as an opera singer. But before I left for the Santa Fe Opera and a new career that would take me away from them, I said to my grandparents, “It’s time I take you fishing.” They were both startled, like they couldn’t quite believe the day had come, but they quickly agreed. I was driving an old Rambler that had the “b” and the “l” knocked out of the front grill so that it read “Ram—er.” It shimmied if you went past 55 but off we went in it one clear day about 4:00 AM. Grandmother sat in the back and grandpa sat up front. I took the same route grandpa had always taken, into Joplin, to the bait store, down through Seneca. We came to the fork in the road and I said, “Let’s go to Ice Box.” Off we went. I don’t remember how many fish we caught but there was something wonderful about the completion of Love in that outing together. As I drove back home, I accidentally pushed the speed up past 60 and the old “Ram—er” began to shimmy. Grandmother said, “Boy the old thing shimmies doesn’t it?” I slowed back down to 55 and we made it back home. That was the last time we went fishin’ together. I moved on up to the big city, up to NEW YORK CITY, and became an opery sanger, but my love for Lena and George Ritchie has stayed in my heart strong! They loved me…and I loved them back. The fish were just part of the story.

I am not a medium for nothing! This story about my grandparents was prompted by my inner conversations with them in spirit. They are both still in spirit and together. Grandmother said, “We know how much you want us to meet you when you pass over, so we have been staying here for you.” Grandpa smiles. Grandmother chuckles and says, “Boy, we’ve been having to put off the angels that keep coming and want us to go back down.” Grandpa grins. “We’ll be here to meet you. Don’t you worry.” Grandpa says, “I’ve been trying to tell you not to use so much of that nose spay. It’s not good for you. But you cain’t hear me.” I am taken up in Love’s Presence with these little conversations in spirit. Believe me, there is not much separating us from our loved ones who have passed over. Grandmother chuckles, “Boy howdy, let me tell you Joe-boy, it is goin’ to take you a little while to adjust when you come over here. We were not prepared at all for it.” She laughs big.

Tonight I needed to go get something to eat. Instead of hopping in my car, I knew I should walk over to the shopping center and to Subway. Walking is not easy for me now and would never be my first choice, except tonight. I just wanted to wall slowly. Conversations with George and Lena continued in my mind as I walked, and the Love poured out. The girl at Subway recognized me and I flirted with her a little bit. That’s one of the nice things about being my age. You can flirt with the girls and nobody is offended. As I walked back to my apartment my whole life gently passed before my eyes. Somehow, there was something sweet about walking slowly with my cane and seeing the gentle irony that I used to be a dashing figure on the stage, running around as Macbeth or some other great character. What a figure I cut. Now my pace is slow and I need my cane, but it is alright. Nothing is amiss. I am no longer very famous and all my money is gone, but somehow, in a very sweet way, I am happy. I am thankful for my life and I have learned many lessons. I wanted this to be my last lifetime on this planet, but you know, if I have to come back a hundred more times, that is alright too. It is all alright.

George and Lena Ritchie

Joe at 9

Overcoming our illusions….and Easter

Overcoming our illusions….and Easter

As a child, as an artist, as a teacher, I have carried the same illusions around with me…those of loneliness and lack. I know they are illusions but they are mine to work with until I can undo them. When you are at the top of your profession it is easy to feel lonely. I was and I did. I was invited to join MENSA, and maybe I should have, but I thought it was just adding more to the illusion of specialness, which in itself comes from the ego illusion which fosters loneliness. As a result of these illusions I have often accepted “friendship” from people who were really NOT friends. Instead they viewed me as special and wanted to get something from me. When you have achieved some fame, people always want to “touch you,” as though it will rub off on them, and then they want you to treat THEM as though they were special! ACIM tells us that the “special relationship” is at the heart of the ego’s function which is to instill fear and lack. Ego’s cannibalize others in their quest to get something from others. Many of you FB friends are, I believe, really friends. Many of you can see my soul in my writing and postings and know me better than some people in my city who cannot see my soul and view me through only their projections. So, to you, I say: “Thank you. You have helped me in my journey.” I am working hard to forgive all of those false friends. Just so we are clear, a friend is someone who has joined with you in mind (spirit). They see you as a gift from God. They look on you from the bright side, even if you have done something they think is wrong. They have your back when you have forgotten who you are. If others say something negative about you, they will not join in. They enjoy being in your company, not because they want something from you, but just because they are your friend. They forgive on the fly. They do not hold grievances. They do not save up stamps to be used for another day! They give you that same love you remember receiving from your grandparents! Friends help to end the illusion of separation, lack and loneliness. They would never plot against you or enter into some sort of cabal to do harm to you. They do not attack. If you have had harsh words, they forgive quickly or ask to talk to you about it. They know no conspiracies. In the end, it is Jesus’ lesson from the crucifixion that helps us forgive false friends. He advises us that when we are tempted to see ourselves as victimized that we use his model in the crucifixion. He did not see attack. Instead he associated himself with his spirit which cannot be attacked, cannot be betrayed, cannot suffer lack or deprivation. In his association with his spirit he changed crucifixion to resurrection, not by the resuscitation of a dead body, but by placing the altar to God where it belonged, not with the body but with spirit. From that place he could say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus’ body became what it always was, NOTHING, nothing at all, for it never existed in truth. In his victory over illusion, he allowed the body to simply not exist. Having fulfilled his mission he exists within the Sonship as an active symbol of the love of God. We are his students.

Baby and I

Sharing the Resurrection

When I was singing opera, there was a baritone on top of the world, heralded as the greatest. I hated him for having the position which I felt belonged to me by superior talent and right. Yet it was I who denied myself that position by choosing pain and sacrifice as my teacher when I could have chosen joy. Over the years he became a symbol to me of injustice and victimization and I hated him all the more for it. Then came A Course in Miracles into my life and I knew I had to forgive him if I wanted to be free. How I resisted. My hatred for him seemed the only thing left in my operatic career that I loved so dearly. Then there came a time that I saw him differently. He sang badly, though he was so highly touted, so badly that he ruined his vocal chords and had to leave the stage in disgrace. There were no plaques given to him, no retirement ceremonies, no nothing, just a phone call to his agent saying he would not be hired any longer. He seemed to have learned little from his life; no spiritual lessons, no advancement. He just faded away. I could see that I really did not want his life. I chose mine long before, and though I chose pain as my teacher, I at least chose a teacher and a path of advancement. I could have compassion on him as a lost soul. I could forgive him for what I thought he did to me, for he had done nothing at all. If we would share in Jesus’ true resurrection, we must learn to cherish no resentments, harbor no secret hates, and give up the story of our victimization. If we would know resurrection instead of crucifixion we need say only this, but say and mean it totally we must:“I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked.”

“We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same small willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgement, to be too much to pay for peace.

“This is the only thing that you need do for vision, happiness, release from pain and the complete escape from sin, all to be given you. Say only this, but mean it with no reservations, for here the power of salvation lies:

“I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked.

“Deceive yourself no longer that you are helpless in the face of what is done to you. Acknowledge but that you have been mistaken, and all effects of your mistakes will disappear.

“It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident. No accident nor chance is possible within the universe as God created it, outside of which is nothing. Suffer, and you decided sin was your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide for God for you. This is the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit, and even this He gives to you to give yourself. For by this gift is given you the power to release your saviour, that he may give salvation unto you.

“Begrudge not then this little offering. Withhold it, and you keep the world as now you see it. Give it away, and everything you see goes with it. Never was so much given for so little. In the holy instant is this exchange effected and maintained. Here is the world you do not want brought to the one you do. And here the one you do is given you because you want it. Yet for this, the power of your wanting must first be recognised. You must accept its strength, and not its weakness. You must perceive that what is strong enough to make a world can let it go, and can accept correction if it is willing to see that it was wrong.

“The world you see is but the idle witness that you were right. This witness is insane. You trained it in its testimony, and as it gave it back to you, you listened and convinced yourself that what it saw was true. You did this to yourself. See only this, and you will also see how circular the reasoning on which your ‘seeing’ rests. This was not given you. This was your gift to you and to your brother. Be willing, then, to have it taken from him and be replaced with truth. And as you look upon the change in him, it will be given you to see it in yourself.”
A Course in Miracles, Chapter 21 II.

Today is our Easter time, and Resurrection is our true birth right. Let us join together with Him who showed us the Christ Mind that we might awaken to share it.

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My mentor and hero in opera was Jerome Hines

My mentor and hero in opera was Jerome Hines, the great bass of the Metropolitan Opera and the greatest bass America has ever produced. Not only was he my mentor but we became very close friends, as close as Jerry could get to people. Jerry was born in L.A. to a socialite mother and an alcoholic Father who worked in low level Hollywood productions. When Jerry was born the parents thought they had no time for a child so they sent the infant Jerome to live with a foster family. Jerry grew up the first five years of his life thinking the foster parents were his real parents. Then, when he was five, his real parents showed up and said, “Hello we are your real parents and you are going to live with us now.” Can you imagine? He said it was like hell living with them. They were always fighting. The father was always drunk and in and out of jobs. The mother was over protective and smothering. But by the time he was 16 he discovered that he had a voice and could sing. At 17 he became a student of Gennaro Curci, a famous voice teacher who had been an operatic bass and the brother in law of the famous soprano, Galli-Curci. The rest is history. Jerry signed his contract with the Metropolitan Opera when he was 25 years old and went on to become the greatest bass America ever produced. In the 1950’s and 60’s he was a household name in America, appearing on TV and singing for the first family many times. He was the first American ever to sing at the Bolshoi in Russia, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. After his performance of Boris, Krushschev came back stage and gave him a secret message to give to President Kennedy. When he arrived back in New York he was quickly taken away by secret service officers for debriefing. He had to sign a national security non disclosure document never to speak of what he was told. But over the years he told us the gist of the message. Kruschev wanted Kennedy to know that Russia would not go to war over Cuba. Jerry remained at the Metropolitan Opera as leading bass for 41 consecutive years breaking all time records for a lead singer. He also had his own opera company which he used to perform his sacred opera on the life of Christ, called I Am The Way. He chose me as a leading baritone with his company in 1976 and I stayed with him until 1997. He dedicated one of his books to me. His wife, Lucia, contracted Lou Gherig’s disease and he spent his later years nursing her and spending every dime he had on her treatments and nursing. He said to me one day, “Do you know a good witch doctor? I have tried everything else.” At that time I didn’t. But now, I could tell him to take her to John of God who has cured people with the same disease. Lucia died in bed with him one night. Jerry was never the same. He was broke, could hardly sing anymore and there was a double mortgage on his house. He only had a few students, one of which would bring him food, because otherwise he did not eat. One day he asked his student Les, if he would take him to the Vet to buy some food for his old dog. Les agreed and off they went. Jerry went in the store and picked up a bag of dog food and went to the counter. He opened his wallet and just stared into it. Les quickly saw what was happening and went to the counter to pay for it. “It’s OK Jerry. This is on me.” They took the food and went back to the car. Jerry began to cry. “I never wanted you to see me like this,” he said to Les. Jerry would often call me during those days and wanted to talk with me about his career. He could not make the adjustment from being one of the greatest operatic basses in the world to being an old man who couldn’t sing anymore. Over and over he would ask me to tell him if he had really been a good singer. Over and over I would tell him he was one of the greatest basses of the 20th century. Then his threatened ego would come in and ask me to tell him, “Well, was I the greatest bass of all time?” His ego could not adjust either. Patiently I would tell him, “You were one of the greatest basses of the 20th century, Jerry.” For a while that would hold him, and then we would go through it over again in a few minutes. I couldn’t know then how he felt. At the time I was still in the prime of my voice and I expected to sing into my 70’s as he had. In the fall of 2002 Jerry became quite ill. He looked like a skeleton but he was still talking about singing. On Christmas in 2002 he went to the Salvation Army in New York where he had worked for years as a volunteer, and stood up to sing. People who were there said that this tall skeleton of a man, looking like father time himself, hobbled up to the podium. But when he opened his mouth, out came the voice of Jerome Hines. Shortly after that he was hospitalized and within a short time, passed over. He had used every ounce of his talent. He had traveled through the storms. I felt enormous loss when he died..and still do, but I did not feel what he felt about losing his ability to be on stage until 2006 when I had a disastrous heart surgery, during which the surgeons made errors which damaged my lungs, disabling my normal breathing. I could no longer sing like Joseph Shore. I lost my persona, my art, my profession, my self-image, my ability to make a living, all because of a surgeon’s incompetency. Then I knew what Jerry felt like; like all of a sudden you are not you anymore! Who can cope with that? I went from being Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, to being a semi-invalid with no ability to be me, and little ability to make any income. I suddenly understood the state of mind of my dear mentor and a man who had been a great world artist. All that saved Jerry was death. All that has saved me has been A Course In Miracles. Cherish the day you have. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. But this is not such a sad story for me. Since 2006 I have learned more about spirit and my abilities to work with spirit, which means my ability to help other people. Helping others is the way I escape despair. And it is better than just avoiding despair. I have had many episodes of Cosmic Consciousness, one of which lasted for six weeks!! Life is still beautiful. The sadness now, of no longer being Joseph Shore, the great opera singer, is a part of the happiness then! That’s the deal! And you can’t re-negotiate it; at least not until you pass over and have a good long discussion with the Lords of Karma. In the meantime, while I am still here, I try to help people. That’s my lot now. It’s not so bad.
hines and i, 1995 i am the way

Since Ken Wapnick’s Passing

Since my dear friend has passed over, I was thinking about our discussions regarding the afterlife. I have decided to post here an email and response from Ken that is about this subject. Here was Ken’s response to the article below:

On 10.05.2012 Ken Wapnick wrote:

“And blessings to you, my beloved and wise friend. Right on, brother!” Here is the article he was commenting on:

On 10/5/2012 12:17 PM, Joseph Shore wrote:

How Real Is The Near Death Experience?

Since I have made it plain on this site that my path is ACIM, this question is pertinent. If the body is an illusion and the universe is an illusion, is the NDE an illusion? The Course uses ultimate terms for “reality.” To the Course, Heaven is the only reality. All else is illusion. In this sense, the NDE is an illusion too, though a very different one than our daily world in  the body. Since we are minds (spirits) rather than bodies, the Course has no difficulty in accepting that the mind (spirit) can be “apart” from the body since the body is never real anyway. At the event that we call physical death, the mind (spirit) of the person is still just as it was when it believed itself to have a body. It still has its lessons to learn and still retains its illusions. Nothing has happened except the inherently illusory body has been dropped. Many NDE-ers have gone all the way into death of the body, as measured by this world. They come back with quite a story and some personal changes. Those who worship the Ego and believe there is no life after the death of the body always try to find a way to disparage NDEs. That includes skeptical scientists who think there is no consciousness after the death of the body. The NDE is a big threat to them. But how “real” is it? That depends on how you view reality. From the point of view of those who think life in the body is real, NDEs are at least that real! But the Coursewould not call our life here on earth “real.” It is an illusion, a dream. So for the Course, NDEs are an extension of the illusion but in a different dream state. The worlds of Light the NDE-ers experience are very interesting but they are just as illusory as the so-called physical universe we live in now. Minds without bodies seem to create other bodies, astral bodies, celestial bodies, all as illusory as the physical bodies and all preserve some sense of separateness which is illusory. What about the all pervasive love they feel in these states? From the point of view of the Course, the physical body is the greatest barrier we have erected to the awareness of  Love’s presence which is our natural inheritance. When the body is gone, it may well be that the mind is flooded with the love it was hiding from in the body. But minds can be wrong-minded or right-minded. Wrong-minded minds will surely continue in their wrong-mindedness after the body is dropped, and they may create wrong-minded dream worlds to appear to inhabit. Purgatory or hell states will be just as real for them as the celestial beings experienced by right-minded minds. What about the life-review that NDE-ers report? The Course would have no difficulty with that. We are told that we  are responsible for our learning and that lessons we did not complete have to be retaken. What about meeting Jesus in these dream states? The Course would tell us that Jesus is now a symbol of the Love of God present within the mind of the sonship. What we know now about such “symbols” is that they PARTICIPATE in the reality they symbolize. They are not “nuda signas,” mere illusions. They have great power in the mind. Jesus as a symbol for the Love of God is active within the mind of the sonship regardless of the illusions of the sonship. When NDE-ers claim to encounter this Being of Love that they identify with Jesus they are doing just that in the mind. They are not meeting the historical Jesus but the Jesus who is an active symbol of the Love of God. What about the other beings NDE-ers claim to experience, like dead relatives friends or high beings? The Course has no trouble with the idea that disembodied minds meet other disembodies minds, and the illusion of separateness continues, so you can meet Aunt Sofie or Cousin Johnny. They are there in this new dream state that the mind has created since dropping their physical bodies. But even so-called “high beings” are as inherently illusory as us as separate beings. As long as there is the appearance of individuality and separateness, we are still in the dream.

What about the report from NDE-ers that there are levels in the worlds they experience, some higher to God than others? The Course makes it very plain that there are no hierarchies in illusory states. What we can say is that those minds who have almost finished learning their lessons create a different dream world than those who are just beginning their lessons. This would account for all the so-called levels in spirit (mind).

What about the so-called Trans formative effects of the NDE? It is true that when they return to the body they often “remember” more of who they are as a mind rather than just a body and they often return with the memory of Love’s Presence which broke in on them when the physical body was dropped. I have yet, however, to meet an NDE-er who was moved by his experience to come back into the body as an enlightened person. They still have lessons to learn andthey still come back as egos. They are now happy egos and they do have a  sense of Love’s Presence which helps them to be more loving in their daily lives. They also appear to have after effects that are interesting and which appear to be side effects of realizing that they are spirits (minds) rather than bodies. Like minded spirits (minds) can join and often NDE-ers returnwith a mind connection to disembodied spirits they have met in their NDE. So they may be able to talk to Uncle Fred even after returning to the body. For many NDE-ers, the experience breaks the illusion that we are bodies living in this world. They now at least have experienced that they are minds(spirits), not bodies, and that our “life” on the earth is just one phase of existence. That is quite a lot for any one experience to give to you, so we should not disparage the NDE just because it is not ultimate reality. It is a different dream from the earth, but a dream non-the-less. It can move people to learn their lessons faster while on the earth and it can make people more loving. By themselves NDEs do not provide a full theology and it would be illusory for people to try to create a theology out of them, but ACIM gives us a much fuller picture. Even the Course does not try to give us a full systematic theology. It aims at taking down the barriers we have made to the awareness of Love’s Presence so that we may hear the inner Voice (in mind) of our teacher, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, the active symbol of God’s  love. Let us be content with that for now.♥♥♥♥

 

Blessings to all♥♥♥♥

Questions and Answers from the perspective of A Course in Miracles

Questions and Answers from the perspective of A Course in Miracles:

Do we have a soul? Yes, and it is as real or more so than your experience of self in this life; but it is not eternal. It is still an illusion because it separates you from your eternal Self which is One with God. Our souls are a pattern of lessons we need to learn in order to go back into God.

What is our eternal Self? The Christ Mind is our real and eternal Self. We share it with God.

Is the universe God? No the universe is not real. It is a dream the Son of God (that includes you, me, and everybody else) is having. God the Father did not make this world. The world is a dream the Son is having and it will be over one day.

Is A Course in Miracles true? Yes, it is indeed true. It is a gift of God to His Sleeping Son.

Is A Course in Miracles the same as Christianity? No the Course is a distinct path. You choose one or the other.

Is there a Pope for A Course in Miracles? No, and no church either. The Course is designed as a self-study course in which you and the Holy Spirit undo the mistakes in thought you have made.

Is God a person? No, indeed not. God is impersonal unconditional Love. God is the ground of all being, or being itself, not a single being, like the Old Testament Jehovah.

Does God send people to hell? God only knows eternal truths. He is Love, Truth and Knowledge. He knows no such thing as sin, error, retribution or punishment. He knows no forgiveness for it is not needed in Heaven.

Will I go to Heaven when I die? Not unless you have completed all your lessons. Otherwise you will be given other opportunities to learn them. The Course strongly suggests reincarnation as the way we are given new chances to learn old lessons.

Is there a spirit world we go to when our bodies die? The Course strongly suggests that nothing happens to the spirit when the illusory body dies. The mind is still present with its illusions, just without a body. But the Course does not rule out the idea that the spirit (mind) joins with other minds who have constructed spirit worlds, as reported often in Near Death Experiences. But these spirit worlds are still a part of the illusion of separateness. They are not Heaven.

Is there a Heaven? Indeed. It is our true Home. The Course tells us that God created a spiritual universe (not this physical one) in which He and His One Son create by extending themselves. Heaven is a condition of complete Oneness. There are no individual souls in Heaven. Heaven is the perfect Oneness of God and His One Son and is characterized as all-encompassing Love without an opposite. There is nothing but this Love, and so there is no observer.

Who am I? According to the Course, the body is an illusion. But you are your mind, or your spirit. The belief that you are distinct and separate from others is an illusion called the ego. In truth your spirit is the same as my spirit. We are all the same spirit, seemingly split into parts. And that whole spirit put back together is the divine Son of God.

Who is Jesus? The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. Yet who can save unless he sees illusions and then identifies them as what they are? Jesus remains a Saviour because he saw the false without accepting it as true. And Christ needed his form that He might appear to men and save them from their own illusions.

In his complete identification with the Christ, “the perfect Son of God, His one creation and His happiness, forever like Himself and one with Him,” Jesus became what all of you must be. He led the way for you to follow him. He leads you back to God because he saw the road before him, and he followed it. He made a clear distinction, still obscure to you, between the false and true. He offered you a final demonstration that it is impossible to kill God’s Son; nor can his life in any way be changed by sin and evil, malice, fear or death.

And therefore all your sins have been forgiven because they carried no effects at all. And so they were but dreams. Arise with him who showed you this because you owe him this who shared your dreams that they might be dispelled. And shares them still, to be at one with you.

Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you. His little life on earth was not enough to teach the mighty lesson that he learned for all of you. He will remain with you to lead you from the hell you made to God. And when you join your will with his, your sight will be his vision, for the eyes of Christ are shared. Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you. For he will set your mind at rest at last and carry it with you unto your God.

Is he God’s only Helper? No, indeed. For Christ takes many forms with different names until their oneness can be recognised. But Jesus is for you the bearer of Christ’s single message of the Love of God. You need no other. It is possible to read his words and benefit from them without accepting him into your life. Yet he would help you yet a little more if you will share your pains and joys with him, and leave them both to find the peace of God. Yet still it is his lesson most of all that he would have you learn, and it is this:

There is no death because the Son of God is like his Father. Nothing you can do can change Eternal Love. Forget your dreams of sin and guilt, and come with me instead to share the resurrection of God’s Son.And bring with you all those whom He has sent to you to care for as I care for you.

Amen!

bench into eternity

Looking again at the grief we have when losing a friend

Looking again at the grief we have when losing a friend…..We pretty much know what happens at physical death. The body drops away. That is about all. The mind of the person remains and finds its way into the spirit world with other discarnate minds. Some of those minds are wrong minded and some right minded. Birds of a feather flock together. But it is important to remember that all the spirit worlds are a part of this illusion of universality. They are not eternally real. Dying does not make anyone enlightened. It does not dispel illusions the mind is holding. It is different to be a mind without a body but it is not necessarily better. After a time in those spirit worlds most discarnate minds come back into another physical body in order to work on the lessons we need to learn, to undo the errors in thought which made this illusory universe in which we dream we are separate from God and each other. In talking about Jesus the Course identifies him this way: “The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do.” He dispelled that illusion by identifying himself with the Christ mind and we have to do the same. All of our lessons go to this goal. “The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God.” We are all on the trail of the Christ, whether in the illusion of the physical world or the illusion of the spirit world. The reality we are awakening into is the Christ Mind. In Truth we are all a hologram of the Christ Mind. We are all One Mind. The so-called “soul” is not eternally real. It is just a pattern of karma we have, a curriculum of lessons, to dispel the error of thought that gives us the illusion of separateness, and yes, of individuality. God has One Son, and we, as minds, are all a part of that Sonship. The Son is dreaming now. He is in a little nightmare of thought, brought about by a tiny mad idea that He could be something different from His Father….something different, like an independent observer, outside of the Whole, outside of the Will of God. Being a part of the Sonship we share that dream and are waking up by doing our lessons. The Holy Spirit is here in the dream to help us both with our lessons and with awakening. As we awaken fully we give up all little illusions of soul identity, and merge back into the Ocean of God, not to be extinguished. The single drop is not lost in the Ocean. The fullness of the Ocean enters into the drop. Just as surely, every loving thought and deed we have done within the dream of separateness has been perfectly remembered within the Mind of God, for we have share those thoughts with Him. Everything that has been “real” within our countless lives has been perfectly remembered in the Mind of God. Is that not a better picture of eternity than trillions of souls existing forever in some sort of eternal church meeting, or roasting in hell? What is not true cannot be made true. “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
Photo: Looking again at the grief we have when losing a friend.....We pretty much know what happens at physical death. The body drops away. That is about all. The mind of the person remains and finds its way into the spirit world with other discarnate minds. Some of those minds are wrong minded and some right minded. Birds of a feather flock together. But it is important to remember that all the spirit worlds are a part of this illusion of universality. They are not eternally real. Dying does not make anyone enlightened. It does not dispel illusions the mind is holding. It is different to be a mind without a body but it is not necessarily better. After a time in those spirit worlds most discarnate minds come back into another physical body in order to work on the lessons we need to learn, to undo the errors in thought which made this illusory universe in which we dream we are separate from God and each other. In talking about Jesus the Course identifies him this way:  "The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do." He dispelled that illusion by identifying himself with the Christ mind and we have to do the same. All of our lessons go to this goal. "The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God."  We are all on the trail of the Christ, whether in the illusion of the physical world or the illusion of the spirit world. The reality we are awakening into is the Christ Mind. In Truth we are all a hologram of the Christ Mind. We are all One Mind. The so-called "soul" is not eternally real. It is just a pattern of karma we have, a curriculum of lessons, to dispel the error of thought that gives us the illusion of separateness, and yes, of individuality. God has One Son, and we, as minds, are all a part of that Sonship. The Son is dreaming now. He is in a little nightmare of thought, brought about by a tiny mad idea that He could be something different from His Father....something different, like an independent observer, outside of the Whole, outside of the Will of God. Being a part of the Sonship we share that dream and are waking up by doing our lessons. The Holy Spirit is here in the dream to help us both with our lessons and with awakening. As we awaken fully we give up all little illusions of soul identity, and merge back into the Ocean of God, not to be extinguished. The single drop is not lost in the Ocean. The fullness of the Ocean enters into the drop. Just as surely, every loving thought and deed we have done within the dream of separateness has been perfectly remembered within the Mind of God, for we have share those thoughts with Him. Everything that has been "real" within our countless lives has been perfectly remembered in the Mind of God. Is that not a better picture of eternity than trillions of souls existing forever in some sort of eternal church meeting, or roasting in hell? What is not true cannot be made true. "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God."

Our Dear Brother, Ken Wapnick goes Home

It is my sad news to report that Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, the teacher of A Course in Miracles since its beginning, has passed over. His foundation gave this message: ” It is with the utmost sorrow that we inform you of the death of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick on Friday December 27, 2013. He died peacefully at home with his beloved wife Gloria and family at his side. The family will have a private service and plans are being made for a forthcoming public memorial.

“There is no death. The Son of God is free.” (W-pI.163)
“Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.” (T-11.VI.7:3-4)

Ken was my dearest friend, and definitely my mentor in ACIM. All of the articles I have posted on FB about ACIM were given to Ken first for his comments. We never had any significant disagreements. Ken was a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology and a fine theologian as well. His many books and videos survive him. He fulfilled the job Jesus laid out for him and he is receiving, I am sure, thanks, gratitude, and good reviews for his life by the angels.

For me, it is a great personal loss. Ken was my fan as well as my mentor. Part of Ken’s journey into Spirituality came from his love of opera. Over the years I sent him many arias, scenes and operas that I performed and he was always a heart-felt fan. I always knew that I could share anything with him and get his honest answer.

We will not dispute the higher decision to call Ken Home now, but we inevitably wonder about the future of ACIM without Ken. Ken, there with Helen from the beginning, was appointed by Jesus to be the teacher of the Course. He held the ship steady even while ACIM was splintering into schisms at an alarming rate, matching even Christianity’s early splintering into sects, which continues to this day. Thankfully Judy Skutch remains at the helm of The Foundation for Inner Peace.

Thank you, my dear, dear, dear friend and brother Ken I love you and I so thank you for all you gave me in this life. You lived a Christ-like life and touched us all. Fly high dear friend. I will see you again one day. ♥♥♥♥

Ken

Spirit to Spirit Communication

My paternal grandmother had some gifting in healing. She was an Ozark country woman with nine children to raise in the great depression. Her husband was a farmer and an itinerant Baptist preacher. He was a gentle soul with a beautiful silvery voice. She was a boisterous, take-charge, drill Sergeant of a mother, but if any people in their area of the woods had problems, they would go to Minnie Shore. She was especially good at witching off warts with some sort of knowledge her Beck clan had passed down to her. I don’t think there was any doubt but that she had some spiritual gifting, underdeveloped as it might have been. I did not get to know her well. She and Vernon (the preacher) moved to California when I was a small boy. Had I been around her she surely would have seen my own gifting and come along side me. I needed that desperately, but it was not to happen. Fast forward to my life in seminary preparing to be a theologian. Vernon was happy that I was getting the theological education that he never did. Our family went to California on a visit when I was still in seminary. Something took place between my grandfather and me that was quite precious. I could see that he was going to die shortly. As we left, I said to him, “I’ll be seeing you.” There was more than words in that sentence. His eyes popped open wide and he smiled real big as he said, “Yeah, I’ll be seeing you.” We had made a spirit to spirit communication. I never saw him again, but in that exchange we remembered ourselves as spirits who come and go, often in groups together and that gave us a much bigger theology than the Baptists were aware of♥

You know the story from here: While in seminary I heard an inner voice telling me to leave seminary and become an opera singer, something for which I had no training at the time. By faith I left seminary, got a job, and when I wasn’t working I was listening to opera. I had all of my theology books in my little apartment covering three walls. I went to the kitchen to feed my cat and when I came back to the living room, the biggest book in my library–about 18″X18″–was sitting on the floor, opened up. It was certainly not there when I left the room. As I looked at it, a picture of my grandmother Minnie came to my mind and I heard a voice in my head say, “Regardless of what you do, don’t forget what you have learned here.” That was the first time I was aware of a spirit contacting me to give a message. What she advised, though, was amazing because I had not learned that “old time religion” in seminary. I had learned to be a scientist who analyzed the Bible with critical methodology. I did not forget what I had learned. I became an opera singer but I kept digging for my Truth. It led me out of traditional Christianity and into a form of Spiritualism that respects all paths up the mountain. My grandmother had indeed come along side me to help. I so look forward to seeing her and Vernon again♥♥♥♥♥

Beautiful Construction

Our lives are constructed so that we keep running into people who will shape our lives. When I was a high school student, I knew nothing about opera. But every Christmas we would get a Goodyear Christmas album with the great opera singers of the day singing Christmas songs. I so looked forward to that every year. There was something about those great voices that hooked something very deep in me. After high school I went to Southwest Baptist University. I thought I wanted to major in music but I was discouraged by a teacher who thought I had no talent, so I majored in theology with a double major in speech/drama. The best singer on the faculty of the Music Department was a bass named Ted Harris. The year that I entered school Mr. Harris was rehearsing for a performance he was going to sing with Jerome Hines, the famous Metropolitan Opera bass. I just sat down in the hall outside Mr. Harris’ door and listened to those incredible sounds coming out of him. I think that was the first time I heard the name Jerome Hines. Skip forward, I was in seminary and one of my dorm buddies was an opera buff who played opera morning, noon, and night in the dorm. I listened with him to all the great singers, especially to Jerome Hines. I found it interesting that he would go into skid row and work in a soup kitchen or sing for the homeless men who came.

While I was in seminary I sang in the oratorio chorus. A beginning sort of voice was coming out of me. In order to earn a little money I got a job as the music director of a small Baptist church in rural Kentucky. During my time there, the area churches had a singing contest. I entered and sang “The Holy City,” and won. The pastor of the church I served said, “Wow I should call my friend Jerome Hines about you.” There was that name again.

My opera buddy wanted to go down to Memphis over the weekend to see their production of Boris Godounov starring….you guessed it, Jerome Hines. We got front row seats. I wanted to watch how he worked on stage. Hines was astounding. Unfortunately, the others singers were local talents who could not compete at that level. Backstage Hines was a little miffed at the production, saying, “This company is not ready to produce Hansel and Gretel, let alone Boris.” We went backstage to see him. He was warm and gracious and I was star struck. I transferred seminaries after a year to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City Missouri. Who should come into the area fro a community concert but Jerome Hines. I went with my old college teacher, Ted Harris, to watch Hines. He was magnificent as always…but he never remembered me from any of these visits. You know the story from here. I heard an internal voice that told me to leave seminary and become an opera singer. I won the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions and moved to New York. One of the first things I did in New York was to arrange for an audition with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera. Now in 1975 I was going to get to sing for him. I was to go over to New Jersey to audition directly for Hines himself. In those days I was not really nervous. I was excited and ready to go. My voice could do anything and I could pound on it for hours, if necessary, and it would still be fine for the next outing. I prepared my benchmark arias that had won the Met auditions for me and took a train, then a bus, to the New Jersey audition site. It was a small room to sing in. Hines was seated only a few feet from me. Still, I went eagerly to the task and sang Macbeth’s last act aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” which had won for me the Midwestern Finals of the Met Auditions, interpolating a long, sustained, high A flat at the end. Hines was visibly impressed and began talking about his recording of Macbeth with Leonard Warren. He was warm and cordial but every bit the opera star that I expected him to be.

He talked several minutes about great baritones he had known and how favorably my voice compared. I could not have asked for a more favorable review from one I idolized so. I got the part and began preparing the role. The baritone I was replacing, Calvin Marsh, was a Met baritone with a huge voice, beautiful color, commanding range, and a veteran. He was a tough act to follow. My voice was much different than his, darker, almost a bass-baritone compared to his, yet more lyrical because of youth. My old college teacher, Ted Harris, was to sing the bass part of the villain, Eliakim, one of the chief priests (a fictitious character), who conspires with Judas to capture Jesus. I was going to get to see two dreams come true, to sing with my teacher and my idol.

Over the years I continued with the Hines company. Jerry and I became close friends and he became my mentor in opera. The last time I sang with him, he was 75 and still had a strong voice. In his last years he would call me up and talk about singing. He wanted an assurance that he had made a mark with his life’s work. Really, that is all that any of us want, just to know that we have helped others in our lives. How many people did Jerome Hines affect? He was set in place in my life, that is for sure, and I love him for being there♥♥♥♥♥

The stream of ages flows

The stream of ages flows and in it is all that is of love. You and I are one bubble in that stream. Could we but see the world truly, the flow is all we would see. All love is the same. In every place and in every one you have experienced it, it is part of that stream of ages. I sit here now with my companion, Blanche, and we are one love in two silly bodies. The flow comes into and through the heart. Here we live and move and have our very being. We are Love’s Presence:) We are the magnificent radiance of God!♥♥♥ Could we but know that and stay in the flow, the world we think we see would disappear and all separations removed. Love is and we are its manifestations. We are the bubbles in the stream and the rocks over which it flows. We are source and the end. We Love therefore we are, not as separate bodies, but as One. We are the breath of the wind through the trees; we are the cat’s purr; we are the happiness of two becoming one; we are the birds that fly through the air and the fish that swim through the creeks; we are the Love that holds all things together as One; and we are here NOW, not in time, but in this moment of Love realized and fear vanquished. We are the tears that stream down our faces; we are the arms that embrace us; we are Love’s Presence, and there is nothing to do. No ambitions can stand in Love’s Presence. Consciousness itself cannot stand in Love’s Presence. From deep within the unconscious flow of the stream of ages, I know that I Love you.♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

We stand here today, in Love’s Presence

We stand here today, in Love’s Presence, in higher dimensions, because of the beauty and peace our brothers have laid. We stand on shoulders so strong and can see the distant land so clearly because of those who came before us and cared. They raised us up and now we must do our part. We must find new levels of inspiration to lift up our brothers and sisters, to stand on one plane together. At Heaven’s Gate there is a plane for us to share. Just one tiny footstep it is into the Ocean of God. The tiniest film, no thicker than a soap bubble, stands between us there and the Fullness of the Father. We are here thanks to our brothers and sisters who came before us and paved the way with their honesty and truth. They saw the promised land, and they shall not fail to enter into it with all of us. God’s children– humans, animals, flowers, rocks and trees, every grain of sand–are all going back into the Father from which they appeared to emanate. In Truth, we have never left Heaven. We traveled but in dreams while safe at Home. And God’s Son has always been One and with His Father still. Rejoice! The Light of remembrance has come! Lift up your heads for God’s Son returns to His Father!♥♥♥♥♥

A change has come over me

A change has come over me as I have prepared this whole year to re-visit John of God. I live now in the presence of God. I still walk through this world but I sense only God’s Presence. I had a vision a few months ago in which I found myself at the top of all dimensions, in a space that was not a space, and I was right next to the Ocean of God. The only thing that separated me was the thinnest film, no thicker than a soap bubble. I knew that I could walk through it and into that ocean any time I wanted to. That thin soap bubble represents the tiny little illusion that we have made with the tiny mad idea that we could break off from God and observe the Whole. It was an absurd idea. It has not changed God one bit, nor could this Ocean of Love ever be “angry” at us. There is nothing but eternal Love in that Ocean which is our true and only home. But our tiny mad idea has created this soap bubble of separation, which is an illusion as mad as the tiny mad idea itself. We are in that Ocean right now, you and I, and you, and you, and you over there, you the skeptic, and you the unbeliever, you the Catholic, you the Baptist, you the Hindu, Buddhist, you the Islamic, you who are angry and you who know something of Love. We are all there as one, not as EGO’s, thank God, or we would have to suffer evil and good for eternity, but as spirit, ONE Spirit. ACIM calls this One Spirit, the Son of God. Jesus is a part of that Son, but so are you and I and every sensory byte of information in this illusory universe. Let go of all your little hates today and just see the Love that is in all things. Stay up in the Love and sooner than you imagine, the universe will disappear and we will find ourselves in the Ocean of God. That Ocean is unconscious eternal Love and it is an Ocean which has no shore, nor an end. Don’t be afraid to give up the little conscious “you.” Every loving thought, every loving deed you have done, has been perfectly remembered in the Mind of God. None of your unloving thoughts and deeds have been remembered because they were all unreal. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”

Happiness is a sign that Love’s Presence has been felt

Happiness is a sign that Love’s Presence has been felt. Blockages have been removed and Love’s Presence has come into awareness. In this dualistic world people search for happiness in all sorts of unproductive ways: acquisition of stuff, money, fame, other people, and none of these things work to bring happiness. You would have to find something that has no opposite to become happy, wouldn’t you? Everything that has an opposite is temporary and subject to change. Now I could step forward and tell you that real Love is that which has no opposite because it is eternal and carries God’s nature, but will that help you to experience it? Probably not. But let’s say for the moment that we can agree that if you found this Love which is all encompassing and has no opposite you would also be happy. So happiness is no longer the issue. Love is the issue, but not as the world knows it. That is attachment and subject to time and change. So then you would surely ask me how you can find this Love and I would tell you that you must look inside you. That may mean nothing to you. You may think I mean for you to examine the body! I could step forward then and ask you if you have ever seen behind your eyeballs, or bitten your own teeth? You would think I am either mad or obscure and you would walk out the door. But as you leave you will see very beautiful trees with just a whisper of wind in their top branches. You would see my garden where bees frolic among the flowers and earthworms trundle through the soil. You would smell the fragrance of the flowers. The chatter of your mind would stop and you would be still. In that stillness there are no blockages to the awareness of Love’s Presence. You would feel yourself to be a part of some whole. You would soon see that you are not a body, and just as quickly you would sense yourself to be the immensity of my garden. The branches of the trees are a part of you. The flowers, the bees, the worms, are all a part of you. And just so you will really get it, a hummingbird glides in and hovers right in front of you. He hovers and waits until you finally feel this experience as Love’s Presence and your eternal Self. Now the whole experience of the whole has given you the experience of Love which has no opposite. It does not come from doing anything. It is your natural inheritance, while all along you thought you were a body full of mostly water! You will laugh now at the silly idea that you could somehow be limited! You will sense your immensity and within that is true happiness. It will follow you wherever you go. People will ask you what is different about you. They will ask you to be their guru. You just smile and bless them. They will find their own immensity in time. But now you know that happiness was never the issue of your search. You needed to know who you ARE. That’s all that matters, just to know who you ARE. Until you get it, life’s lessons will continue, as long as you need them. They were made for you.♥♥♥♥

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear, buried under the deepest level of repression, is that love will fail us in some way! We do not yet firmly realize that nothing real can be threatened. We still carry around this haunting, debilitating fear that either we are inherently unlovable or that love will suddenly turn on us and become hate. This fear is the biggest gun in the arsenal of the ego and at some time our repression mechanism will indeed fail us and we will have to confront this, the deepest of all our fears. That one person you love more than anyone else in the world will be the subject of the ego’s next little story it tries to create in your mind. S/he will fail you in this story. S/he will turn on you and say she/he never really loved you, or worse yet, that you are too old, too fat, too ugly, too this or that to merit her/his love. And in this story you will be devastated, left with nothing to hold on to and no future to look forward to. We still do not realize that we help to create this holographic reality by entertaining this, the worst of all stories. We will play out various ends to the story a hundred times, see ourselves homeless, destitute and loveless, or see our suicide which we will commit as one last act of anger against such lovelessness. You will see yourself asking a thousand times, “Why didn’t s/he love me? I loved her/him so deeply. How could she/he fail me? How could God fail me?” That is the deepest pit in this fear, the belief that God is not enough. In your story you will suffer without God’s intervention. God is powerless to change your story! Is this not the deepest despair? That is where the ego wants to take us and that is where we cannot go. As any soul who has done it will tell you, suicide will not change things. You will just be a despairing soul without a body. The ego believes there is no way out of this despair except to change the “other” person. “Make her/him love me, God! Change her/him!” And you really know that the “other” person is not going to change! She is NOT going to change her mind and marry you! He is NOT going to come back and tell you he loves you!! We have set up the story too well!!! At some point–take as long as you like–we are going to have to surrender our despair! We are going to have to trust God again!! We are going to have to hear the music and ignore the little stories!! We CAN create a world based on love instead of fear! We can! Love is our natural inheritance. We can find the way!! Though the path be dark, because we have tried to extinguish the light, we can find the way. And as we do, look to your left and right and see you are not alone. We are all on this journey together. We have all lived in the same world of fear. In our minds, love has let us all down a thousand times and made fools of our passion. To me, the first step in turning on the lights, is to have compassion for our brothers and sisters in this journey with us. In this journey, someone you may not know well, will say to you, “I love you.” It will surprise the hell out of you and you will react with fear. You will come up with a thousand things to say to make him/her go away. Let me hand out one little piece of advice. When someone says, “I love you” to you, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Precious few people will say those words to you in this life!! Don’t jump into a lecture about how s/he is simply obsessed or needy or experiencing attachment! You might just say a simple “thank you” and smile, and if the spirit leads you to, you might even want to know that person a little better. This is a good first step out of the hologram of fear that we recreate daily. S/he might indeed really love you! Wouldn’t that spoil your story?

A Grand Process

We all know how potent evil seems. If you dare to call it unreal, it just may kick you in the butt. That bus coming towards you is unreal too (just a hologram) but it will still flatten you as flat as a flitter if you walk out in front of it. Every plane of existence seems to have its own rules. You can fly in the Astral Plane but if you try to fly here….well, you will only try once. It may be comforting to know that evil only shows up on the earth plane and the lower Astral. In all higher planes it is unknown; it does not exist. Many esoterics claim that there are seven planes before we merge into the One…into the Ocean of God, where all individuality merges with the Divine and where only unconditional Love and Truth exists. Maybe it is seven or maybe 70. What we know is that we are on a journey back into God…not the god of the Bible who is a person, but the real God who is spirit and knows only all-encompassing unconditional Love that is changeless and eternal. We are a part of Her (:) I just love calling ‘him’ Her) We are a chip off the old block, a part of the Divine Mind, Spirit, Light and Truth. We took a little detour into fear and miscreated this fake universe and split everything into opposites, including ourselves. Now we are awakening to the Truth of who we are. We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder, ascending upwards through the various planes which correspond to various stages of awakening. This low level of the earth plane is our self-constructed theatre where we learn our lessons by overcoming. It is a Grand Process. It is Divine, and that includes you and me, and every poor soul on the earth and Astral plane who believes they are evil or can control others through magic. They are just lost in illusions and are acting out. Look upwards beloved brothers and sisters! The Light of God is streaming down on to you this day, even as you are embroiled in a situation that seems to have you fighting for your life. Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with Good, the Good that is beyond the little category we have socially made of good and evil; the GOOD that is your true awakened Self, spirit, not a body; Loving not conflicted; eternal not dying and being reborn. We are the radiance, the glow, the Light of God. Just knowing that will lift you up today. Selah!!!

Joining with your non-human brother.

Joining with your non-human brother.

“The Holy Spirit’s function is to take the broken picture of the Son of God and put the pieces into place again. This holy picture, healed entirely, does He hold out to every separate piece that thinks it is a picture in itself. To each he offers his Identity, Which the whole picture represents, instead of just a little, broken bit that he insisted was himself. And when he sees this picture he will recognise himself. If you share not your brother’s evil dream, this is the picture that the miracle will place within the little gap, left clean of all the seeds of sickness and of sin. And here the Father will receive His Son, because His Son was gracious to himself.

“I thank You, Father, knowing You will come to close each little gap that lies between the broken pieces of Your holy Son. Your holiness, complete and perfect, lies in every one of them. And they are joined because what is in one is in them all. How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognised as being part of the completed picture of God’s Son! The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing. For the whole is in each one. And every aspect of the Son of God is just the same as every other part.” (T28.IV)

The Course is very clear that every piece of sensory data in the universe is a part of the Sonship. When the Son dreamed his dream of separation, believed the ego’s version of the event, He ran out of his mind and projected a universe in which to hide from His Father. In doing so, he split into billions and zillions of pieces. This passage above is very clear that each piece, regardless of the form it takes, is a hologram of the whole. “How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognised as being part of the completed picture of God’s Son! The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing. For the whole is in each one. And every aspect of the Son of God is just the same as every other part.” (T28.IV)

There are many implications to that. We know that God’s function for us is to be a light in the world by offering forgiveness. Those who are into the Course know very well how to forgive their brother who is a human. But how do we forgive each grain of sand, each speck of stardust, each animal, each tree, or each river,etc.? As we forgive more and more of our human brothers, we begin to see what the Course calls, “The Real World.” This is the view of the world which the Holy Spirit gives to you in place of the sinful, guilty world you knew before forgiveness. The Real World shows you a reflection of Heaven. In this Real World you can see that God is in all things: every blade of grass, every worm, every cat and dog, every river, every mountain. You won’t want to abuse nature anymore. You won’t look on animals as being lower to humans. You will see God’s reflection in everything. It will not take you seven years, sitting on the bank of the Ganges to reach this high. Where you are now is the Mecca, the Ganges, the New Jerusalem. There is no need to go anywhere!

Now surely when you see God’s reflection in all things you will treat the world differently! You will reflect God’s love for each separate part of God’s Son: God’s cat, God’s dog, God’s whole animal kingdom, God’s whole nature, God’s stars and universe. Think how your attitudes and actions will change. Minds awaken to God’s compassion for all things. What a new world is waiting for us with just a change of perception. Love an animal more today. Hug a tree. Luck at a beautiful duck and say ‘thank you.’ See the immense sky and know you are a part of it. How happy God will be to see that His Son, lost in dreams, is now awakening.

Baby and I

Forgiving our Faults

Forgiving our Faults

Very few of us can totally embody all of the truth that comes to us in life. The body was not made to hold truth. When truth comes to you, you feel responsible to speak for it even if you cannot fully actualize it in your life. That sets up an insecure state of mind. You become afraid that people will think you are a fake and judge you accordingly. Often people set up holy images of themselves in public according to what they think they SHOULD embody. Eventually the image breaks and the person’s life is publicly damaged, like big-haired preachers caught in a love sting! They tearfully repent in public and thereafter accept a lesser role for themselves. This is all unnecessary. We can and should admit to one another that we are not the embodiment of all the truth that has come to us in life. Truth is eternal and changeless. The body is temporal and subject to change and apparent death. We must learn to forgive our brothers. But it is just as important to learn to forgive ourselves. We all think we are a body. We all think we are separate from one another and God. If we no longer believed that we would not be here. The universe would disappear, as one day it will. But for now we think we are egos, housed in bags of flesh, subject to change, error, bad judgment and death. I am just learning to go easy on myself. I cannot infallibly embody all the truth that has come to me. I still believe I am an ego. I have been given many gifts in this life. If you judge me you may think you could have made more of them than I did. I am just learning not to judge myself that way. Many of you may practice the spiritual system called A Course in Miracles. You make know the story of Helen Schucman receiving and scribing this system from Jesus. You might make a judgment that Helen was therefore, an embodied actualization of the principles in A Course in Miracles. After all, her mind was in contact with Jesus. But the truth is that Helen considered herself an atheist and was in terrible conflict with A Course in Miracles. She could not embody it. In her last years she was terribly depressed. But that does not diminish the work she did in taking down the Course. We need to give each other a break. We will if we learn love. If we keep our eyes on Jesus we will be less prone to making hero idols out of our brothers. All idols must fall. Think how difficult it must be for your brother when you view him as a holy ego who embodies something you value. Instead of putting him on a pedestal, can you not see him as connected to you, as part of the One Mind you both share?

Let me tell you a little story that will illustrate what I have been trying to say. While I was a student at one of my higher education institutions, I had classes with a professor of theology who was beloved by all. We idolized him. We considered him the embodiment of truth. But then tragedy struck his house and one of his family members was killed. He did not properly grieve. Perhaps he didn’t feel he had permission to grieve. A few years later, this wonderful professor began to act in ways totally out of character for him. The school was shocked to hear that he was luring female students to his office to have sex with them. At first the school tried to ignore it. But he made his behavior such a campaign to lure in all the girls he could that it could not be ignored. But school officials acted out of love rather than judgment. They recognized that his unreleased grief was impelling him to act in destructive ways. He was released from his teaching but they got him psychological help and help for the girls he abused. In a few years he was stable again and was teaching theology in another institution. It would have been easy to have judged him, thrown him out, black-balled him and ruined the rest of his life. What prevented that from happening was the love the school felt for him, and they felt love for him just as he had given so much love to everyone over the years. Our mistakes do not define us.

I cannot yet embody all the truth that has come to me. Forgive me please.

Learning from Others

For some reason—I shall have to discover why–I closed my third eye last night. I awoke feeling empty, like an unpacked suitcase. I had no purpose. I was shut off from creating. It felt like I had been kicked out of the Kingdom of God. (Some of my Baptist friends would argue that anyway ) For a medium to be unable to see into spirit felt like a strange form of death…no angels talking to me, no sight of them, no glorious music playing in my head. I was a dead piece of meat! At least that is how it felt. Horrified I quickly re-opened it and my spirit world came right gloriously back. My third eye has been open a long, long, time….since I was a boy! So this experience gave me some insights into others. Maybe that’s why I did it, to find more compassion for others. People often come to me to work on their chakras and/or life problems associated with closed or damaged chakras. I recall one girl who came to me for one problem—she was always choosing men who would reject her–and we found the reason was that as a child she had been abused by her father and had shut down her Crown chakra. Since that cut her off from all divine information, her third eye and throat chakra were also closed, and the heart chakra showed damage. The sacral and the solar plexus chakras were also closed. I got a sense of how she felt of course. I can feel as well as see people. But I don’t think I got it until today how lost she felt and how bound she was to the material world. She did not know any spirit world existed for she was not a part of it. We did some talk therapy and then I opened all her chakras. She was beginning to fire on all cylinders when she left me to go back to the States. But she backslid. It was too much a change. She closed down her crown chakra and third eye again and lives now only in the material world. I have learned from that experience to advise people to come back to me in a couple of days over a week to ten days, so we can gradually teach them new feelings of living in a new world. Today, I understood more of what she feels like. I will work harder and better on those who come to me now. Namaste!

I Am Blessed As A Part of God

When you first look at the state of the world and of mankind you cannot see anything Holy in it. Nothing in it is of God. The Divine Spiritual Universe which God created in which to extend His Love, seems infinitely far away. But I have looked on the world again and seen in it a reflection of Heaven. I thank it and bless it for showing the world of Heaven to my forgetful mind. It has taken me some time to acquire this vision and I will not let it go. I may seem like an elitist intellectual to some, but I came by it the very hard way.

I was born and raised in the Ozarks of Missouri. My family were hill people, country people and clannish. We visited relatives weekly. Some of their houses had only a sub floor and wooden frame house. An old out house stood in the back yard and a pump brought in water to the house. As a child I was terrified of this poverty and ignorance, for they both went together. Most of the family had very limited education. My grandfather had gotten to the eighth grade. Most had not gotten that far. The rules of a clan are always tight: “You can’t be different from us. You have to be just like us.” As a child this terrified me. It was a sentence they were pronouncing on me, that I, too, would never be different. I could not see anything good in their world of poverty and religion, for though they had little of much they possessed the old time religion with excess. Grandpa Shore was a Baptist preacher and the unspoken head of the clan. We went to church whenever the doors were opened. Their world of religion terrified me as much as their world of poverty and ignorance. I sought escape in school. I became a good student and believed education was my ticket out of the hills. I became the first member of my family to have a college education. I had to develop the logical mind, although that meant it took me a while to understand and develop the spiritual gifting I had received. I journeyed a long way from the Ozark hills to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, sing for Senators, Congressmen and diplomats. I even sang to the full Soviet mission to the U.N. at a time when the cold war was still raging. I journeyed a long way from the Baptists to discover that I had mediumistic abilities. I have spent a long time now, forgiving the earth for the shortcomings I projected upon it. And though I still hate poverty and ignorance I no longer hate the poor and the ignorant. The earth looks different now. She shines as a reflection of Heaven, now so close I know I can walk into it at any time. Now I know that my mind is a part of God’s. I am very holy, along with you and every other person, plant or animal. My holiness envelops everything I see. My holiness blesses the world. There is nothing my holiness cannot do. My holiness is my salvation. I am blessed as a part of God, and Heaven’s gate is but a small step away.

Our relationship with nature

Our relationship with nature has gone through quite an evolution…at least for some. We have come from Sportsmen, to Naturalists, to Spiritualists. The Sportsmen looks on nature with the Christian view of the Bible in mind. To them God made all the animals for our benefit. They are ours to eat. The Sportsman gets a lot of pleasure out of feeling he is at the top of the food chain. The professional bass angler pulls up that big bass and says “thank you Lord.” To him, the bass is something to play with and eat. The Naturalist looks on the natural world as full of interest and knowledge. He is interested in observing how the bass evolved and how it lives in its eco-structure. The Spiritualist knows the quantum reality. The bass and I are One! He looks on nature as divine and every animal in it is God in disguise. He knows the animals are his brothers, no less than his humankind. He doesn’t see himself at the top of any food chain with rights possessed only by him! He sees himself as part of the Immensity which includes nature. This immensity is the Divine. It is all-encompassing Love manifesting as nature. You may call this God as long as you don’t mean the god of the Bible who is a person and purports to create separate things. This God is the Tao, the Pleroma, The Beloved, manifesting as the billions of sensory data within a multiverse. And the Beloved is your One True Self. The fish are your brothers. The deer, the horses, the dogs, the wolves, the cows, pigs, sheep…they are all part of One Self that we share. In the deepest sense they are a part of You. Now, instead of heading down to the lake with the intention of tricking fish into biting a hook, go to the lake to visit with your larger Self. Open you heart to see the Divine everywhere. Let nature charm you and change you. You only need to pierce the veil once and see The Beloved for your life to be forever changed.

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A Bit More About Angels…

A bit more about angels……..Angels are active symbols of God’s Love. An active symbol participates in the reality it symbolizes. As such, angels are active within the mind of the sonship. They work with our mind to unlearn illusions and remember the Love that we are in truth. If you put form to an angel, feathers, wings, or whatever, that form is just as illusory as any other byte of sensory data in this dream universe. I have just today been brought into contact with the primary angel whose message I have been channeling on facebook for the last two years. She is an angel of Peace and she worked very hard in Fatima. I have felt and known her in my love of nature and particularly in my love of Burnaby Lake. She IS “The Beloved” that I have felt so strongly there and written about here with passion. I am so blessed by Her and so grateful that she has graced me with Her Presence and her Truth. When I have talked about Love’s Presence, it is HER presence I have felt. And yet she points to God’s Love as the only reality. She has no personal reality of her own. There is no competition nor individuality among angels. If you give them different forms in your mind, you are creating distinctions that are not real. Making angelology real is as false as any other illusion. Her message has taken over my life. Only God’s Love is real and it has no opposite. It is all encompassing. Therefore there is no place outside of the Whole. There is no observer. There is no consciousness in Truth. Consciousness is the dream of separation, that we could somehow be different from our Father. The Beloved comes to me with that Truth as I am in nature. I do not see the ducks and geese as separate entities. I see them as part of my larger Self, along with the Lake and the moonlight that shines on it. It is The Beloved that I see in everything and when I see Her, I know Her and feel only Love. That is why God does not and cannot know about this dream world we are in. Were He to know about it, it would become real, and that it never can be. God knows that His Son is dreaming but He cannot know the dream, for it is unreal. But His angels are taught by the Holy Spirit and see our illusions a little while so they might lead us out of them. They work with the principle of Atonement and thus are under Jesus, the Head of the Atonement. Atonement is not “at-one-ment” as is often said. It is the “undoing” of illusions, the awareness of Love’s Presence by the removal of obstacles we have miscreated in our fear. Today I am thankful that THE BELOVED has made herself known to me so grandly and lovingly. Thank you my Beloved Angel. Thank you Father. Your son remembers a little more of you today and in the distance I can almost see Home. Selah!!