My Journeys to Selçuk-Ephesus – A Guest Post by Francine Ney

Above: Roman aqueduct, Selçuk, Turkey. (Photo by F. Ney.)

Note: This past summer, Francine Ney wrote the following note to me regarding The Logos of Soul:

“When visiting my sister in November 2015, her partner Jock gave me The Logos of Soul off his bookshelf explaining that the story takes place exactly in the area that I had been visiting and that maybe it was my destiny to have the book.

The books’ easy storytelling caught my interest right away, but it was not until I was on vacation in Selçuk, Turkey, in May that I had the chance to read it in full. It was fun to be reading about Ephesus and the Artemis temple and then on my daily walks pass the actual places described in the book.

The descriptions of space and time correlated with the real physical location, so I felt like I was reading a true story and part of the secret. Instead of visiting with my friends I kept sneaking away to lose myself in the adventure.

The day before I left I purposely finished the book so that I could leave it. Giving it a kiss, I put it on the airbnb bookshelf and grinned thinking about the next person to stumble onto the book and think, ‘Hey, this place is right here. What a coincidence.’”

In the course of my email exchanges with Francine, I began to see how energized by the Selçuk region she was, and I became intrigued by the possibility of traveling there myself. She allowed me to imagine how easy going there would be, and so I invited her to write the following guest article:

My Journeys to Selçuk-Ephesus

View of the agricultural around Selcuk, taken from the castle,
View of the agricultural around Selcuk, taken from the castle. (Photo by F. Ney.)

In 2014, Turkey ranked as the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world, with residents from Germany, Russia, and Great Britain being the top three nations providing the most tourists. Americans were tenth on the list and made up only four percent of the total tourists.

I made my first visit, traveling solo, in September of 2014 and spent one week on the Mediterranean Coast and one week in Istanbul. On the coast I stayed at small pensions/hotels ranging from $20-$30 a night, which included dinner. The towns I chose were Antalya, Patara Beach, Kabak (Olive Garden), and Dalyan (mud baths), moving every two days by mini bus. In Istanbul I stayed in a “#bunk” hostel, which was $70 a night for a private room.

Everyone was very helpful at the bus stations, and I quickly maneuvered like a pro. At first I had my guard up, but soon it was obvious that people genuinely wanted to help me. I would write the town I wanted to go to on a 4×2 index card and show it to the bus operators, who would assist in getting me on the correct bus. Riding the bus was a great way to view the scenery and was very safe and clean.

Before flying to Istanbul from Izmir, I took a commercial bus to Selçuk for a three-night stay. Selçuk is the home of the ancient Greek city Ephesus, one of Turkey’s major tourist attractions. Little is left of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that historically drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Ephesus also attracted Christian settlers (Greeks and Jews), including St. Paul who lived in Ephesus for three years. There is a tradition that St. John settled here with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also wrote his gospel here. One can visit the Virgin Mary’s house, which is located on the mountain above Ephesus.

I liked Selçuk immediately. I discovered La Tulip Art Gallery and purchased many locally made items such as handmade leather shoes, Turkish ceramics, and jewelry. Since rent is less in the small towns, it is best to get the shopping finished before going to Istanbul.

For me in Selçuk, there is such a feeling of being at the same crossroads as many seekers before me. Selçuk-Ephesus, the island of Samos (birth place of Pythagoras), and the city of Konya (resting place of Rumi) are lined up close to each other on the 37th parallel north.

I have returned to Selçuk four times since that first visit, and I am now on my way to relocating near there this fall. I am going in on the 90-day visitor visa and hoping for the best. Since 2014 I have learned a lot about the current politics, and tourism has drastically changed due to conflicts within Turkey, but that does not really change the history that has already happened in this location and my attraction to it. Also I plan to stay part of the time in Samos, Greece, at the end of my 90 days, to see if between the two locations I will feel the contentment of being in the right place at the right time.

My current flight ($600 round trip) is from Washington DC to Athens, Greece, and from there I will fly to Izmir. The recent conflicts have been in Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara. Since I have an extended-stay visa (easily obtained online for twenty dollars), I do not want to miss my return flight due to any future political unrest in Istanbul.

I feel safe in Selçuk, however. Most of the travel advisories are for the southern part of Turkey near the Syrian border, and that is far away. Turkey is about the size of Utah, Colorado, and Kansas combined. Figuratively, Selçuk would be on the western edge of Utah and the travel-warning areas would be at the southeastern bottom of Kansas.

The food is fresh, local, and seasonal. When I am there I start with the Saturday market to get fresh vegetables and fruit at about thirty cents a pound. There is a wide variety of local cheese and organic meat. The majority of people make their own olive oil and brine-cure olives, and there is always way too much for their family alone. Often they give jugs full of oil and olives to their neighbors–sort of like zucchini is in the States. If you’ve made acquaintances there, you could be one of these lucky recipients. For some reason even the nuts are fresher and saltier than I can find in the States. My daily meal is a huge salad with lots of olive oil and crumbled cheese and peanuts on top. For cooked food, I would rather go out for a three-dollar pizza or delicious chicken kebabs for five dollars.

Women making gozleme (Turkish flatbread) at a restaurant called Koy Sofrasi in Kirazli Village.
Women making pide (Turkish flatbread) at a restaurant called Koy Sofrasi in Kirazli Village. (Photo by F. Ney.)

Ninety-nine percent of the Turkish population is Muslim, which I have experienced as a culture that is very kind, patient, and welcoming to guests. There are plenty of tourists along the coast and in Istanbul, so western clothes do not stand out, and there is no need to cover shoulders unless in a mosque. As a person travels more inland, I am told that the clothes become more conservative. For Muslims the consumption of any intoxicates is forbidden in the Quran, so at night the men sit around drinking black tea and playing a tile game named Okey. Of course there are bars but alcohol, being expensive and frowned upon, makes a cultural difference.

I am happy that I was one of the four percent of Americans that traveled to Turkey in 2014 and look forward to making it my part-time home.

Interview with Kathryn Gabriel Loving

Q. Kathryn, you’ve written a number of non-fiction books on a range of topics that include archaeology, travel, history, and mythology. What influence did these books have on your novel, The Logos of Soul?

A. I have always been interested in the profound similarities of beliefs that span temporal and geographical boundaries. For instance my book, Gambler Way, revealed parallel gambling mythologies between Navajos and Hindus that stand for spiritual renewal. With The Logos of Soul my intention was to explore and share something more deeply personal, something that has given me much peace and opportunity for inner growth. The reader will find elements of archaeology, history, theology in the novel.

Q. What type of fiction would you say influenced your writing?

A. I grew up in the era of James Michener whose epic historical novels, such as The Source, crossed generations of people. We might also include Leon Uris’ Exodus and Gore Vidal’s Creation in that category. I enjoyed Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novels, such as Time Enough for Love and Stranger in a Strange Land. As I grew older, my reading became more geared toward the mystical, although all these books have that theme in common.

Q. The contemporary heroine in your novel, Alyson Sego, asks if a person can be judged by the books on their shelves?

A. Alyson, a newspaper columnist by trade, asks that question because she is highly self-conscious of her progression from compulsive book junkie to frustrated spiritual seeker. She says her shelves are lined with the “exoskeletons of ideas she has donned and as quickly shed.” Her search begins by trying to ease the pain of losing her family, and to that end she scours the libraries and bookstores, rotating first through fiction of all genre. Once she realizes she is living vicariously through the characters, she decides she is really a seeker of spirituality and begins to read what I call pop metaphysical books. When she acknowledges she is also living a vicarious spiritual life through these books, she decides to launch a search for a spiritual path of her own. Mary Magdalene, the other heroine in the novel, essentially embarks on a similar search of scholarly works that exist during Hellenistic Greek times. She records her findings in a papyrus codex, which Alyson inherits from her aunt two thousand years later. The difference is that Mary Magdalene already has a spiritual path, and is instead discovering the universality of that path. Of course, it is Alyson’s hope that Mary Magdalene’s notebook will somehow ignite her own latent spirituality.

Q. Did the biblical figure Mary Magdalene inspire you to write The Logos of Soul?

A. I was inspired by the mystery. Jesus told his disciples that to them it would be given the Mysteries, and for two thousand years people have been trying to figure out exactly what those Mysteries were, because everything that was included in the New Testament, as well as those texts and gospels that were excluded from it, was written in code. Although Mary Magdalene’s stature as an evolved student of Master Jesus is indeed inspiring, I was even more inspired by the close correlation of Jesus’ teachings to those that are known today as the Light and Sound. Could these ancient teachings lead to the Mysteries?

Q. Are you suggesting that the Mysteries Jesus spoke of are the Light and Sound Teachings, or are they a New Age invention you superimposed on stories of the Bible?

A. Light and Sound is a modern term for what is otherwise as old as humanity and lies at the root of all religions. In India, for instance, the teachings are called Surat Shabda Yoga, which in Sanskrit means the union of the soul with the essence of the Absolute. That essence is the Sound Current or the Audible Life Stream, the creative life energy sent forth from the Absolute that moves through all inhabitants of Creation. The path in India has been ongoing since the mid-19th century, but masters of the Light and Sound teach that Jesus was also a Master of this eternal path, along with Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, and perhaps some of the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament as well.

Q. If the New Testament was written in code, then how do you know that Jesus taught about the Light and Sound?

A. An important clue is the Greek word “logos” and its role in the Gospel of John. The various interpretations behind the logos is what intrigues Mary Magdalene in the novel. Logos, in the Christian vernacular means Word, Message, or Wisdom of God, as seen in the first verse of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), the Word was with God, and nothing existed but the Word. This interpretation of the Word is actually a Jewish concept derived from the Aramaic word Memra, meaning the Voice or Utterance. However, the Christian religion that sprung up and evolved in Jesus’ stead was more Greek-oriented than Jewish, and “memra” was translated into the Greek word “logos,” which means reason or rationality. But from the Greek point of view, logos had a different meaning. Greek philosophers had long referred to the Logos as being the overriding rational principle that governs the universe, and not necessarily as the Word of God, for they did not yet have a concept of a single all-powerful God that the Jews had. So the Word in the New Testament is actually a blend of both the Jewish and the Greek concepts, although neither accurately describes what Jesus really meant.

Q. What was Jesus’ interpretation of the Word?

A. Jesus likened the Word to the Living Water. To the Jewish people, the so-called “living water” that ran through the channels of the Second Temple in Jerusalem was used by priests to purify the devoted. Before Jesus became a spiritual master, John the Baptist tried to show that a devotee did not have to be dipped in the temple water to be purified; nature provided ample opportunity for such purification. But Jesus took the water metaphor to new heights. He told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Whoever drinks of this water will never thirst.” Jesus transmuted water into wine during a wedding in Cana, suggesting that this Living Water is not only transformative, it is also intoxicating. Later Christians baptized followers in the “spirit” of the resurrected Christ as best as they could understand the concept. But to Jesus, who said the Kingdom of Heaven lies within the physical being, the Living Water flowed through all beings, not just him. That Living Water is the Light and Sound, and initiates of this path indeed experience the Sound Current as a fountain or a vibration that can be felt, seen, and heard. The Sound is the channel and system by which the soul is returned to its origin.

Q. Does the story in your novel follow the passion play of the death and resurrection of Jesus and subsequent struggles by his apostles?

A. Yes and no. The New Testament was not written by disciples who lived, ate, slept, and meditated with Jesus. They were written by followers second or third hand, many of whom were Greek. Literate Greeks were accustomed to theatre, in which all the characters and plot points were metaphors for something political or religious – even their very names meant something. Outwardly, the crucifixion of the flesh is a call for eternal life after death, but esoterically the crucifixion represents the death of one’s own ego and resurrection of the soul as stages along the spiritual path. Even Mary Magdalene as a metaphor plays into the imagery of the soul subduing the unruly mind. This is not to say that the New Testament has no basis in the historical; most of the epistles of Paul are more or less authentic and part of the historical record. Yet even he distinguished between those who believed in the physicality of the crucifixion of the cross and those who believed in the symbolism, or what he called “the logos of the cross.”

Q. Since the year 2000, there have been dozens of novels and scholarly works written about Mary Magdalene. How is The Logos of Soul different from these other works?

A. This is the only novel to my knowledge that explores the Light and Sound as the root of Christianity. I began researching this novel before the advent of such books as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), and early versions of my novel started off in the same direction where the characters find historical evidence of hidden texts of impact to Christianity as we know it today. These hidden texts included the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and other Gnostic texts from the Nag Hammadi Library, first recovered in 1945 from the desert sands of Egypt, many of which were thought to be excluded from the New Testament. The Da Vinci Code was justifiably a global phenomenon because it offered an alternative ending to the story of Jesus and his disciples, namely his relationship with Mary Magdalene. It also emoted a sense of hope that the story didn’t just end 2,000 years ago. This has since captured the imagination of countless millions of people. So by the end of the novel the reader is left with, okay, Christianity is more than what convention has taught us, but then what are we to do with that information? My intention was to not only explore the original mysticism of Jesus, which is not unlike other Eastern paths, but to also show how we can partake of the mystical teachings in the modern world. In some ways, The Logos of Soul is more like Deepak Chopra’s novel, Jesus, Story of Enlightenment, although again it focuses specifically on the Light and Sound Teachings.

Q. Is The Logos of Soul a love story between Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

A. The romantic love I leave to the reader’s imagination. That is because in both the canonized and the Gnostic gospels Mary Magdalene is a formidable spiritual being in her own rite. This was not a status that was granted her merely because of her intimate relationship to Jesus. As one of the main characters in the novel, Mary Magdalene’s story is one of deep devotion to her chosen master and her own personal inner growth. So, yes, in way this is a love story.

Q. Many stories send Mary Magdalene to Europe or back to her hometown of Magdala after the crucifixion. In your novel, Mary Magdalene and her siblings go into exile in Ephesus on the western coast of modern day Turkey. Why Ephesus?

A. To the early Jesus movement, Ephesus was the most important Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch thanks to Paul of Tarsus, a self-appointed apostle of the resurrected Christ. Paul spent up to three years in Ephesus where he created quite a foothold for his mission and where he wrote several of his letters. He also burned books and instigated a riot among the silversmiths there. As a beautiful and populous Greco-Roman city, Ephesus was home to the famous temple of Artemis, which locals guarded jealously and did not take kindly to Paul’s interference. John, the beloved disciple, supposedly moved to Ephesus where he or his surrogates wrote his gospel. Ephesus was also the birthplace of the Greek concept of the Logos, first coined by the philosopher Hereclitus some five hundred years earlier. There is a legend that says Mary Magdalene lived in Ephesus, and if it is true that she, and not John, was the beloved disciple, and she may have been the one to author the Gospel of John as some modern scholars claim. This is the perfect setting for Mary Magdalene to explore the concept of the Logos and to also challenge Paul on his interpretation of Jesus’ teachings.

Q. What is the single most important point of the novel?

A. The Logos is more than the channeled word of God on paper. The Logos is both Divine Knowledge (Light) and Divine Love (Sound). The Logos is the means by which the Absolute draws the matured soul back to Itself. Furthermore, Masters of the Light and Sound say the Logos exists in every living being and is only awakened in an initiate by such a Master who is living today.

Q. What is your spiritual path?

A. I was raised a Catholic, and in my twenties I was drawn toward the so-called New Thought churches. Following a desire to deepen my search for personal enlightenment, I became an initiate in 1993 of one Light and Sound path called MasterPath, founded by Sri Gary Olsen. I have walked that Path ever since.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife and the Light and Sound Teachings

Update: On June 20, 2016, Harvard scholar Karen King reportedly told the Boston Globe that the papyrus fragment bearing some evidence that Jesus might have been married to a woman named Mary seems to have been a fabrication. This doesn’t change the point of my post, that a woman of Mary Magdalene’s stature did not have to be married to her spiritual teacher in order to pursue consciousness.

Original Post: An ancient papyrus has recently emerged that, for the first time, literally presents Jesus as a married man. The fourth-century fragment refers to a woman named Mary in the context of Jesus’ wife. In a paper to be published in the Harvard Theological Review, Harvard scholar Karen King suggests this Mary could be Mary Magdalene.

English translation of the GosJesWife papyrus fragment put forth by Harvard scholar Karen King.

Until now all surviving texts have been either ambiguous or silent on Jesus’ marital status. The Gospel of John makes several references to an anonymous beloved disciple that some venture to believe is Mary Magdalene. In the Gospel of Mary, the disciples complain that Jesus loved Mary more than other disciples, male or female. According to the Gospel of Phillip, Mary Magdalene was the koinônos of Jesus, but that word is vague and can mean companion, spouse, lover, or partner. At last, the latest fragment spells out Jesus’ wife in no uncertain terms.

Does the newly discovered papyrus mean Jesus and Mary Magdalene were actually married to each other? Sorry, no. King, the expert in Christian history who translated the fragment’s Coptic script, believes it to be a copy of a second-century Greek gospel. Because that gospel would have been written at least a hundred years after the death of Jesus, it doesn’t prove directly that Jesus was married, but it does strongly suggest that some early Christians believed he was.

The find is not without controversy. The grammar and syntax are all wrong for the dialect and period, the penmanship crude, and the edges of the business card-size fragment too tidy, leading some to suspect forgery. Given the context, however, King believes the fragment to be authentic, errors and all.

The script, which King calls the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, is a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which he is explaining the worthiness of discipleship. The disciples appear to be protesting Mary’s participation, as is the case in other gospels, but Jesus has found her worthy. Supposedly, the script also speaks to early Christian concerns of reconciling marriage and sexuality with spiritual devotion. King takes the translation a step further, suggesting it presents Jesus’ marital status as a metaphor for spiritual union in the vein of the gnostic Gospel of Phillip, but this can only be conjecture on her part.

Assuming that the fragment is authentic and the translation reasonably accurate, what would be the implication of such a document? Pop culture has grown used to the idea of a relationship between Jesus and Mary through novels and movies, and such a find would generate marginal interest. Fundamental Christians would hardly bat an eye, for after all they’ve rejected a pageantry of gnostic texts ever since the first century. Gnostic documents in general tend to look at the esoteric, metaphoric aspect of Jesus’ life, whereas fundamental Christians take the crucifixion literally. If Jesus were married, it would not fit the narrative of a divine being in the flesh.

Esotericists, particularly those following Light and Sound paths, view the ideal of the Son of Man/God differently. All beings are divine, but God realization isn’t bestowed automatically – it’s attained through a living master such as Jesus. Being married is inconsequential for either master or student; it’s all a matter of cultural and personal circumstances and the lessons to be learned from either abstinence or union.

What is consequential, according to the fragment, is that Jesus vetted all of his students, male and female. Despite thousands of centuries of inequality for women, Jesus welcomed them the same as any man. But apparently acceptance into discipleship was strict, and not all who were called were chosen. King says that the context of “worthiness” in the script reminded her of Luke 14:26-27 or Thomas 55: “Whoever does not hate father and mother cannot be my disciple, and whoever does not hate brothers and sisters and carry the cross as I do, will not be worthy of me.” In other words, to be accepted into discipleship, a person has to be in the throes of an existential crisis, no longer drawing identity and support from family and conventional religion. Moreover, a worthy disciple must be willing to take responsibility for one’s own karmic actions, while also being able to accept instruction from the Divine made flesh. These criteria are true of the ultimate spiritual path to God realization.

For the final two sentences of the fragment, King takes a leap in her translation from the mundane to the esoteric. Line 7 states: “As for me, I dwell with her in order to …,” and Line 8 says: “… an image ….” Although essential words are missing from these two lines, King makes some inferences based on the Gospel of Phillip. The word “image” often points to a symbolic paradigm, and therefore this single word signals that a symbolic translation can be given to the word “dwell” in the previous sentence. According to King, “dwell” not only implies that Jesus lived with his wife, but also that his marriage represents an archetypal union. Phillip comments extensively on marriage and sexuality in the context of the proverbial bridal chamber, which symbolizes the masculine/feminine duality of the cosmos as two halves of a continuum. Scholars have taken the sexual symbolism literally as descriptive of a ritual that might have existed when Gnostic Christianity was active. King opts for the metaphor rather than the literal. And so do I.

In the Light and Sound Teachings, the soul is considered to be feminine energy, while one’s master is masculine energy. A true, living master, or Sat Guru in Sanskrit, represents the Sound Current, the Logos, or the Word, the vibratory power that cascades from the Godhead through all inhabitants of Its creation and returns the soul back to It. Since the soul exists within the upper, inward echelons of one’s hierarchical being, so too does the magnetic essence of the Sound Current. God realization is a progression of the soul merging with the Sound Current in ever more refined stages, beginning in the bridal chamber at the third eye. A significant analogy to this process in the mundane, physical world is the union between the male and female forces.

Light and Sound is a modern term for the path of the Sound Current, which is otherwise as old as humanity and lies at the root of all religions. In India, for instance, the teachings are called Surat Shabda Yoga, which in Sanskrit means the union of the soul with the essence of the Absolute. Masters of the Light and Sound teach that Jesus was also a master of this eternal path, along with Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Rumi, among many others. The path has also been called Sant Mat, or Path of the Masters, a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of India from about the 13th century. A more contemporary path, called MasterPath, exists in America.

My book, The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound, is in part about Mary Magdalene’s standing among the disciples of Jesus. In the novel, Jesus leaves his ministry to Mary Magdalene. Masters typically pass the mantle on to male successors, but the Gnostic texts suggest that Jesus passed the mantle on to Mary. Though it is highly likely that Jesus and Mary were married, I didn’t make it so in the novel. That is because in both the canonized and the Gnostic gospels, Mary Magdalene is a formidable spiritual being in her own rite. As the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife demonstrates, her worthiness for discipleship was not a status that was granted her merely because of her intimate relationship with Jesus. As one of the main characters in the novel, Mary Magdalene’s story is one of deep devotion to her chosen master and her own personal inner growth. The romantic love I leave to the reader’s imagination.

Further Reading:
The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Updates by the Harvard School of Divinity

The Mystical Image of the Swan

Why is that scene in The Notebook where Noah rows Allie through a lake full of geese and swans so captivating to us? Besides their outward beauty, swans are the archetypal image for romance, for purity, grace, love, and devotion. Because this regal creature also symbolizes spiritual transcendency, we chose the swan for the cover of my book, The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound.

This novel is about the teachings of Jesus in the context of the ancient mystic system known today as the Light and Sound. Now, the swan was not necessarily a symbol embraced by Christianity, and that could be because the Jews viewed them to be unclean. But the Bible does hold some spiritual symbolism for birds. The traditional Jewish bible stories that became the Old Testament liken the release of the human spirit in death to a bird that has escaped the hunter’s snare. When John baptized Jesus, the Word of God descended from heaven like a dove upon his head.

Greek tradition, which also went into the development of Christianity along with the Jewish, was a bit more graphic and specific in seeing the swan as a creature that could freely cross the line between mortality and immortality. In mythology, Helen of Troy was conceived in a union between Leda, the Queen of Sparta, and Zeus, who had taken on the form of a swan. To me, the story shows the human yearning to merge with divinity, and perhaps because swans supposedly mate for life, the myth also conveys an element of devotion.

Plato wrote in 360 BCE that Socrates on death row likened himself to the prophecy of swans. Perceiving that they must die, and having sung all their lives, swans “sing more than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to the god whose servants they are … because they are sacred to Apollo and have the gift of prophecy and anticipate the good things of another world … .”

Other cultures also viewed swans as living on the precipice between life and death. In Norse mythology, two swans drink from a sacred well in Asgard, the home of the gods. The water of this well is so pure and holy that all things that touch it turn white. Conversely, in Finnish mythology, a swan swims a river located in the underworld realm of the dead, and whoever kills a swan will perish as well.

The Hindu revere swans on an even deeper spiritual level. The Sanskrit word for swan is hamsa or hansa, and those who have attained great spiritual heights are sometimes called Paramahamsa, the Great Swan, because of their grace and ability to travel the higher planes of consciousness. In the ancient Vedic texts, swans are said to summer on Lake Mansarovar, or the lake of the mind. The lake, mythologically created in the mind of Lord Brahma, is a real-world place of pilgrimage as the desolate mountaintop source for four of Asia’s greatest rivers. A person who drinks from the ripple-less lake is said to have their mind purified and will go to the abode of Lord Shiva after death.

In the Light and Sound Teachings, which predates Hinduism as well as Judaism and Christianity, the Lake of Mansarovar represents the juncture on the spiritual path where the soul, represented by the swan, is purified and merges with the Radiant Form of one’s chosen Master. This august event happens internally within the higher realms of one’s consciousness. Just as the swan’s feathers stay dry in water, the soul at this point is no longer attached to its own lower creations and floats above the mind. Within the teachings, this is known as self-realization.

Although swans do not figure in Christianity, water does. Jesus referred to the Living Water as the sustaining, purifying Word of God, which was translated into Logos in Greek. To the Samarian woman at the well, Jesus said, “Whoever shall drink from the well I give him shall never thirst. The water I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” To the Greeks, however, the Word, which they translated into Logos, had a different meaning. Rather than be the Word of God, Logos referred to the harmonious, overriding power of the universe. In the Light and Sound Teachings, the Word is considered to be the Audible Life Stream or Sound Current, the Shabda Dhun in Sanskrit. The Shabda not only encompasses both the Hebrew and Greek definitions, but It also provides the means of returning the soul to the Source, which bubbles up within oneself like an everlasting spring.

I love photographing swans, but my view of their earthly spirit is more grounded in reality. The particular swan on the cover of The Logos of Soul was a fellow who swam among ducks in a pond at the Albuquerque zoo. I visited him often. Mate-less, he was a fierce creature, completely attached to his territory. He would speedboat toward the wharf at the very sound of a quarter dropping into a bird food machine, raising his wings heavenward as he pierced the water to scoop up the pellets before the ducks got to them. Swans look serene when they effortlessly flow among the eddies with their mates, wings folded inwardly. However, when we see them in that classic pose, wings outstretched, they are in their least serene state, instinctively defending their territory. But that doesn’t make them any less spiritual. Swans may look like angels, but they are determined and focused, and to me these traits well serve the soul in its journey beyond the lake of the mind.

For more information on The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound Teachings, please go to SoulJourn Books.

The River Soul: An Essay on the Return Journey

The Rio de las Animas, the River of Souls, seeping through my sun-kilned valley is at first glance nearly barren. But it is far from infertile. So much of this river’s body deceptively flows beneath the surface, nourishing the Russian olives, cottonwoods, and salt cedars that grow in its margins. Whatever remains is siphoned off by the farmers and communities congregated along its edge. The great rivers in the East attract throngs of worshipers who bow down in the waters to bathe away all memory of action and suffering, but those few who have been lured by the low hum of these currents have nonetheless found succor along its peaceful banks.

On the mesa above the river live a people who for thousands of years danced by the waters for good hunting. They danced in their oneness with the spirit of the river and their place in the cosmos. When they learned to farm, they danced for rain and for resurrection of their harvested plants. They danced on the sun’s shortest day to ensure its return, and to ensure their own return through the sipapu, the gateway to the otherworld of their emergence. They named the river Grandmother, and their children never left her.

I live just downriver from the angostura, the narrowest part of the valley, where the stair-stepped mesas on one side nearly meet the indigo-stained mountain on the other. Centuries ago natives stood sentry here and ambushed foreign soldiers as they advanced on villages upriver. Only the occasional lone traveler, practiced quiet and still in nature, could pierce this geographical aperture and pass unnoticed to glory. The explorers on their Entrada into this strange land were then in search of the legendary golden grail and enslaved many natives on behalf of their mission. Some were actually religious refugees from their home continent—greed may have been their rudder, but spiritual freedom filled their sails. They named the river Nuestra Señora after the one who gave birth to the Word made flesh, an ascended Master of the River. Today their heirs live along the banks of the Eucharist, and they still worship statues of Our Lady aflame in her radiant form. Church bells still ring in these quiet towns, awakening to attention the prayers of dawn and dusk. They pray for everlasting life and reunion with the Divine through the fisheye of interconnecting worlds.

I have walked many a mile along the river’s edge, sometimes right on the dry sandbars within the river itself. A pageantry of color unfolds before me as the seasons turn and ignite the imagination. Migrating birds, even landfaring seagulls, transport the senses to the rain forest with their exotic song. The sheer physical comfort and beauty of this river would almost be enough—if it were merely sojourn I seek. But I yearn for the distant shore in the mists, the hidden inner worlds of heaven, and this river can never take me there. The river I see with two eyes is but a mere reflection of the unseen spiritual currents coursing beneath the surface.

A Spiritual Entrada

It is said that the voyage to the inner worlds of heaven is indeed possible via the Audible Life Stream that flows latently through every human being. This true River of Souls is the floodwater of divine Consciousness itself, far greater than the sum total of the world’s bodies of water, yet as subtle as the life-supporting currents beneath my own parched riverbed. The world and all that is in it was borne on the cascades of the River’s creation, and all life is faintly aware of the parent Audible Life Stream, the Sound Current that gives it form. Countless votives of light school endlessly downstream on this invisible waterway toward their place on the shore, each practicing one kind of homage or another to the River. One day, one lifetime, it happens that each Soul begins a search for the River’s source, sifting through every grain of sand and overturning every rock, all with frustrating results. This unrequited yearning makes them ready to begin their final journey home.

Just as a river guide reveals hidden trout to the fly fisher, a seeker on the spiritual path needs a nautical expert to reveal the River of Souls, and then to show them the hidden eddies and undercurrents within It. Under the Companion’s tutelage one learns to navigate toward a brilliant star, past orchards of light, past glowing sun and moon worlds, and beyond towering mountains to the spiritual headwaters of the Divine Sound Current. Passage to these inner worlds, though, is perilous and guarded. A devotee could climb the cloud-shrouded mountain of the mind and be no closer to the blue star on the firmament, no closer to the dawning sun. Only the inner spiritual river can carry one there, guided by the oarsman, the Companion, who gently nudges one, gently coaxes one toward their own angostura at the third eye, and through it to glory.

I no longer go down to the river alone, for I have met such a Guide.

Now walking with the Companion along the River, I hear sandal-footed Masters of yore discoursing on the tides, catch fleeting glimpses of dervish dancers twirling to the River’s rhythms, dream of consecration in its pure waters. One can lose oneself in the light playing on the water, in the lulling music lapping on the shore, in the pure harmony in motion. But the Companion says there’s much work to be done, much to clear away from the bridal path of Soul, the real Camino Real.

One cannot force one’s way upriver through the angostura, one must rise in consciousness and vibration and resonate with the river’s own pulses to do so. Simultaneously, the river Sound mercifully draws the sincere one in and up and closer to the goal, not in physical body or in mind, but in consciousness and attention—in Soul. Yet much of one’s own soul energy has been drained onto forgotten fields, inadvertently blocked by debris or diverted by ancient tree roots. I could roll up my sleeves and try to clear it myself, but the task is monumental, impossible, without the help of the Companion. Soul’s energy cannot be regained through knowledge, sheer will power, or by communing with the River alone, but by the spiritual practices the Companion can teach one.

The Chalice of Remembrance in Spiritual Practice

Before I came to the River Soul, I rummaged through the melted-down ruins at water’s edge for broken arrowheads and pottery shards and other clues to my existence. Knowledge, then, was the only means left me to find the true river—I had tried all others. Shortly after meeting the Companion, I walked with Him in a dream through a golden sandstone greathouse that was still standing and vibrant yet claustrophobic and hot. I picked up a pot shard and presented it to Him, proud of how much I knew about how it fit together with other pieces I had found. In them one could see the Pangaea break apart into separate continents and drift away from each other. One could hear the Word fragment into many languages, see the Path splinter into many byways, witness Humanity rainbow and migrate around the globe in search of the grail, some coming to my river. If only I could find the rest of the pieces, I had thought, my life would be complete.

The Companion took the shard from my small hand and turned it into a large ceramic pot, nondescript and unrelated to the residents of the ancient hall but indigenous to Spirit, beautifully crafted, cool, moist, and immediately functional. With this gesture He seemed to be saying: “Dispense with the search, with the need to excavate your life, the past. Your time is now, I am your now. You have everything you need within you. Fill this pot with the elixir of divinity, the intoxicating currents of love, and your Soul shall be free.”

The spiritual practice of sitting in contemplation is like filling the Companion’s dream pot to the brim with water from the formless River at the third eye. The challenge of balancing the weightless chalice on my head all day, while conducting my life, takes constant attention and remembrance. In return one is bathed in the vibration of its cherished contents, and is sometimes graced with sprinkles of its wisdom in negotiating one’s daily affairs. In time one’s own consciousness rises, drop by drop, until it merges with the river Sound. Eventually, nothing will dislodge the pot from my crown, and the floodgates will then open.

Meanwhile, the winds of karma challenge my resolve. Misdemeanors, emotional upheavals, pleasures, attachments, overmentalizations, or just plain lethargy distract my attention from the pot and cause its fall. The contents spill, sometimes just a few drops, sometimes all of it, and sometimes the pot itself appears to have shattered into a thousand pieces. I present a shard to the Companion, proud of how much I know about how it fits together with the other pieces. The Companion returns the pot to me in its pristeen wholeness as if to say that one is more than the composite of its parts. We are not the vessel, but its contents—River Guide, Sound, and Soul.

All I am required to do is to remember the River and return to Its outstretched arms. Genuflecting before It in humility, I am to immerse all tainted imagery in the waves and bathe them upon the glistening rock, then refill the vessel and raise it in surrender, opening to the unconditional love as it washes over one.

With spiritual equipoise reclaimed—by the grace of the Companion—I can now stand on the cliffs, look up and down the river undaunted and clearheaded and review the reason why the pot fell in the first place. I sometime see that I am not in the river consciousness at all, but in the slipstream of the mind and floating rapidly down a dangerous tributary. Only then can the Companion be invited in to dig out the root tendencies that caused the distraction so that I may be set afloat once again. Spiritual headway is inherent in the repetitive act of calming the ripples of the mind.

The Crucible of Divine Yearning

At times, though, I forget the River, or ignore It, despite the distant church bell seducing Soul back to Its shore. Having remained in the desert for long, one lays prostrate before the River, scorched and raped by mirages. Ironically, the mind in one, afraid of dying, will deny itself of water even as it dies of thirst. This is usually only a temportary condition, for once I see soul’s true reflection in the waters, I am reminded that the Sound Current is always here. One is never forsaken, only lethean and forgetful of Its love.

There is a story of two lovers who were separated by a truly mighty river. So strong was the young woman’s desire for her lover, so desperate was she to reach him, she attempted to paddle across the river in a large pitcher. Unbeknownst to her, a jealous relative had switched her makeshift boat for an unbaked ceramic jar. Halfway across the river the pitcher melted, and the young woman drowned.

Heartsick, this young woman had launched across the river without knowing how to swim, for no mere body of water will keep young lovers from returning to each other. Similarly the spiritual lover stops at nothing to return to the River, even if it may mean dying to the lower self. In so doing, one is submerged in universal love—and is taught how to swim. Seeing the student’s still demeanor, the River sees Itself and aches for that Soul’s return. Such two-way desire—Soul for Master and Master for Soul—is so intense, it is likened to a passionate love affair, though the love is not personal, but universal, Divine, the very vibration of the Rio Animas.

Don’t get me wrong; this Master/student relationship is not a romantic concept. A River Master will bring a student to near drowning to make it clear that gasping for truth is just as essential to the spiritual journey as air is to human survival. Such Masters are known for allowing a student’s own life to send shock waves that purposefully dislodge their equilibrium. Not out of punishment or power, but from the Companion’s own love for Soul and Its mission to return it, matured, to its origin.

One never denounces their relationships, possessions, or activities, one simply gives them appropriate and controlled tinctures of their precious Soul energy. One never drowns in the River Soul, one resonates and merges with it. One never loses the self, but discovers a Self that is far greater than its earthly shadow. Through these ordeals by water, the Artisan shapes and fires the crucible within the student in preparation for shooting the rapids Home.

Universal Love causes the drop to become the river, the river to become the ocean, the Soul to merge with the Companion, and thus to realize itself as God. Love tells the guardian of the angostura to cast its net elsewhere, for one’s home is now much higher.

A Soul that does not possess life and energy cannot reach the gate of love. And who is alive? Only those who have been initiated into Love. If the current of love rises into dead hearts, even they will receive life forever, and such a Soul never dies.

It is said there is really only one River Soul, and all are traveling it. If this is true, the waters must indeed wash away all memory of action and suffering between lifetimes so that all may assume a new sojourn, experience a different leg in the journey upon rebirth. A day comes, though, when Soul scents the faintly familiar breeze of its Homeland and yearns for its borders, thus beginning the process of remembrance and awakening.

All Souls have within them the holy grail of Consciousness, though downturned and deplete of its divine energy. It is the rare Soul that is willing and ready for the Companion to aright this chalice so that it will once again reverberate with the Sound Current. “This is your body and your blood,” as one River Master once said. “Take it and drink from it.”

My perspective of the River has changed, now that I go in it.

To learn more about my spiritual perspective, I invite you to visit the MasterPath Web site, at