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"The Essential Shifts" Interview Series Audio Set

Essential Shifts Interview: Michael Bernard Beckwith

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Essential Shifts Interview: Michael Bernard Beckwith

Visionary: Michael Bernard Beckwith

As a leader for a congregation numbering over 10,000, Michael Beckwith of Agape International has a unique perspective on how to build communities with an inclusive spiritual consciousness. In this interview, he turns the spotlight on the root assumptions of scarcity and fear that underpin war, sustainability, and other collective crises. The key to transforming them is spiritual practice that unravels the "lies that have become laws" in our deeper psyche. We have the opportunity to meld the best of indigenous community with modern thought and global spirituality to create a new "beloved community" that allows us to release our sacred talents. He shares his insights into community building, leadership and spiritual living through connecting to a larger source of intelligence, abundance, and healing.

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Institute of Noetic Sciences: I want to welcome everyone to the program. We are very fortunate to have with us today the Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith, who is the founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center—which has become almost a mega-church at this point, but is focused very much on new thought and trans-religious perspectives, really an extraordinary mix of ideas. He is also the author of several books, including 40 Day Mind Fast Soul Feast and A Manifesto of Peace: Light on the Path of an Emissary of Peace. He does workshops, teaches all over the country, and rubs shoulders with a lot of interesting folks like the Dalai Lama or Arun Gandhi. So, welcome to the show, Michael!

Michael Bernard Beckwith: Hey, it's my joy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

IONS: Oh it's a real pleasure. So what we're doing, folks, is trying to get some insight and wisdom on the big shifts of the time that we're in. We're starting with the big picture question: How do you see our current global situation right now?

MBB: I look out at the global situation and see from the surface much of the nuclear arms race; you see the devastation of our environment; you see an endless war on terrorism; you see a tremendous upheaval in a lot of our structures, governmental structures in our own country and in other countries, that aren't really serving as they once did. From the surface it looks tremendously that we are teetering on the brink of destruction. And that's how I see it from the surface.

When I step back and feel with it intuitively and look at the same thing, I see we are in a moment of the opportunity to really birth something, to allow for our culture and humanity to evolve to another level of consciousness, another level of being on this planet. When all of the structures are seeming to fail us, whether they are as simple as our governmental structures—hospitals, school systems, things of that particular nature—it seems to me to be a tremendous opportunity for spiritual leadership to now rise up and to begin to articulate a vision of a world that works for everyone, begin to articulate a vision of how humanity can work with each other and to begin to download what is called the "Kingdom of Heaven" or the "Realm of Ever-Expanding Good" or whatever language wants to be used there.

I'm probably an eternal optimist, based on the visions that I've had and the inner feelings that I carry that we are in a profound shift—and the media, which is generally tied into the status quo, will give us tremendous pictures of negativity. I believe that we're on the verge of a shift of something very major taking place in our lifetime. As I said earlier, I think this is the time in history where spiritual leadership is rising up—those who are not necessarily tied into governmental politics, but who can really articulate some of the things that are beginning to emerge in consciousness and develop a community that will begin to resonate with I call the next step of human evolution.

IONS: I love some of the phrases you used there, like "download the Kingdom of Heaven"—that's classic! And I'm curious, as you are articulating this emerging culture and really painting the picture and helping draw it in your own community, what does it look like?

MBB: Well, I think it's a combination of some of the things that we love about the indigenous cultures in terms of community. And I love the word community rather than church, because community speaks of individuals maturing and giving their spiritual gifts to a larger body, and community also speaks about the community honoring the individual and reminding them who they are that they can release their gifts. And so when I think about the "Realm of Ever-Expanding Good"—which is another name for Heaven, or the Kingdom of Heaven, or the World that works for everyone, or as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it, the "World House," or the "Beloved Community"—I see where individuals have a much more planetary viewpoint rather than an egocentric mindset or even an ethnocentric mindset. They are carrying a more of a planetary spiritual mindset, and the community is everyone on the planet, not just one nation or one city or one state or a very myopic point of view.

And I see the global brain which is our internet, our computers, our telephones, and all of those things that make the world smaller, now morphing into more of a global heart where individuals are beginning to feel that they are part of a larger community—even with the earth, and a lot of the things that are going on on the planet, with the ecological damage that we've done over the last hundred years. When I think about the evolving consciousness I think about people actually beginning to feel and to see that the earth is alive—it's not just dead matter; it's not just dirt—that we are actually co-existing on a planet that's living. And I think with these kinds of shifts in points of view and insights and mindsets you're looking at the birth of another way of being on the planet. I wouldn't say a new way; I would say an ancient way that has an evolutionary twist to it. So it's the best of the indigenous cultures (which I don't idealize), combined with the best of our technology at this point.

IONS: I love that. It's really a time of integrating the best of all the different cultures and traditions.

MBB: Absolutely.

IONS: I wonder if you could speak more about how you've done a unique job of articulating this global kind of spirituality and then writing a context in which people can grow into that or revel in that. How have you been able to build the extended community you have. I think there's 10,000 people in it now?

MBB: We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this November, as a matter of fact, and now people travel here almost like a Mecca-experience from all over the world to be a part of our conferences, or even some people come just for our Sunday or Wednesday service. And I think that we put a tremendous amount of emphasis on spiritual transformation and people taking responsibility for their own spiritual growth and development and unfoldment. And so I very much teach meditation, affirmative prayer, service, fellowship, and study as a kind of a five-pronged approach for the community to take back their own power and begin to become candidates for insight and revelation that take us beyond theory, beyond the latest hypothesis of the day. But when a person really engages their life in a way of life that includes meditation, prayer, service, fellowship, and study, they become available to have a real genuine insight into the nature of reality. They are beginning to eliminate the static that would prevent one from hearing the still small voice, or their intuition, or the higher mind, or the higher self, or the oversoul— whatever language one is comfortable with there.

The average person has a tremendous amount of static that prevents him from hearing something that's always guiding and speaking and pulling us to the next level of our evolution. And that static includes fear, doubt, worry, a sense of separation, a feeling that there is not enough time, a feeling that there are not enough resources, that we live in some kind of lack in some way. That static allows us then to see the world from a very narrow paradigm, and when you see something from a very narrow point of view, you have a tendency to experience what you see! And so then you end up flailing around in a reality that you are creating yourself from your own perception.

So in moving into a way of life—not just a lifestyle, but a way of living that invites insight and revelation, or invites growth—I live to become more myself. We live to grow, develop and unfold; we live to release our sacred talents and gifts; we live in a progressive universe. Something is always unfolding. When one wakes up to that and begins to develop a way of life that embraces that, that individual then is privy to insights that come without even a process of reasoning. You start to know something without even knowing how you know it.

IONS: As you said before, you download it.

MBB: Yeah, you download it. Your way of life then can be strong enough to hold the energy, to hold the insight, to hold the revelation. I contend that people every single day of their lives have insights and revelations, but they don't know what to do with them because their way of life is not built to carry them, to hold them, to use them, to embody them—much like an individual that wants to catch the big wave for surfing and is traveling all around the world to surf, but along the way never practices surfing. So when the big wave finally hits, they get wiped out, because they haven't been practicing along the way. So in a spiritual community you are invited to have a way of living that makes you a candidate for insight, so when insight hits and revelation hits it fits into your way of life.

You are able to hold the energy much like a light bulb that is hit with a certain degree of wattage but can't really hold that wattage because it's too small. If your way of life is not about spiritual growth, development, unfoldment, or awaking consciousness, or service or whatever your entry point is, the insight has become like fleeting thoughts. You know, I had a good thought the other day but I didn't move on it because I had to watch American Idol. [laughs] Not than I am denigrating the television show, but people are really wasting away in that way.

IONS: So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how somebody who that identifies and really resonates with the kind of perspectives that you are offering can build their own strong community like you have. Say you're in Kansas and you're like, "Wow, there's an extraordinary thing that's happening in this Agape down there. How can I do that locally?"

MBB: That's interesting. Actually there are two levels—there is the formal and the informal. The formal way is to find somebody that you resonate with, a teacher that you feel is in integrity with the path that you want to walk on, that is not only speaking the language, not only speaking the sacred principles of living, but at some level is embodying and practicing it. You enter into a field of study, you get into a field of practice that builds insight and revelation so that you begin to build up a certain energy within yourself, and when that energy builds up that energy is not neutral. It draws people and it drives people away. When you know something, you no longer are a neutral person. You don't fit in. You stand out in a certain way energetically. And from that space, you can formally become a teacher of whatever it is that you're seeking to study.
Now the informal way would be to do the same thing in terms of your study, your spiritual practice of a meditation that resonates with you, and begin to have a place of forum where there's conversation going on, where there's dialog regarding these insights, with practice. Not just sitting together with talking heads saying, "Isn't this sweet?," but encoding some kind of practice along with the dialog. And what has a tendency to happen is that people would start to generate that kind of field. You start off with three or four, you end up with 12 and then it's 15, and then it grows. And then you are going to have to deal with paying the devil his due when it comes to organization. [laughs]

IONS: I can hardly imagine what it'd be like organizing 10,000 people.

MBB: Hey, it's more than a notion on a regular basis every single day, responding to the manifest needs and responding to the inner calling and having to deal with the structure at the same time. It's all a part of the learning.

IONS: Are there particular principles that you find that are really applicable in some of the major challenges that we've got—war, and we've got sustainability challenges—some of the core spiritual principles that might help illumine how to address some of those problems?

MBB: Well when you speak about either one that you just mentioned—when you speak about war, when you speak about sustainability of our planet—a lot of times people are looking through the lens of lack, like there's just not enough of whatever it is to go around. There's not enough resources, there's not enough money, there's not enough whatever. So people have a tendency, when there's not enough, to operate from a fear-based reality, and decisions that are made from a fear-based reality are basically exclusive, can be dominating and manipulating and controlling, because you're operating from a belief that there's not enough to go around. And so if an individual has not yet evolved to another level of awareness, and they are operating from that fear-based consciousness, then you have situations of war, you have situations of destroying our environment. And so one spiritual principle is that—whatever we want to call this: the present, God, love, I call it the loving intelligence that governs the universe, divine supply—it's everywhere, and it never runs out. There is no lack in the universe.
So when one begins to pierce the lens of that spiritual principle, accompanied with practice, the decisions that you make are different than the decisions that you would make if you believe that there is a limitation.

Greed, selfishness, jealously, envy, avarice—these particular mindsets arise from a belief that there's not enough good to go around. When you confront that lie with spiritual practice, you really have a bona fide insight that there is enough to go around; there's enough energy; there's enough supplies. What there is is a lack of imagination; there's a lack of applying creative imagination; so one falls prey to domination, manipulation and control, disempowerment or over-powerment, rather than empowerment. And I think that the nations of the world, as spiritual leadership begins to get into the right places, you're going to shift the paradigm from over-powerment to empowerment. What would it be like if, just as individuals are beginning to learn that their neighbor is their self, if a national sentiment were to evolve to the point where individuals will see other nations as neighbors, and not only neighbors but dimensions of their own self, with gifts and talents to give, and we seek to empower rather than overpower. All of that, of course, comes from a spiritual paradigm that there is more than enough to go around. If I think there's not enough to go around I may pillage your environment, or manipulate you or exploit you in some what to get your goods. But if I'm aware that there really is more than enough to go around, not just intellectually, then the way I approach that is totally different.

IONS: So some of the way we dwell on the problems can reinforce that fear that there is not enough, so we're solidifying that belief rather than releasing it.

MBB: Absolutely. That belief becomes coagulated, very thick; it becomes business as usual; it becomes a prevailing point of view; and then it becomes almost like "Well, this is the truth," because it has been going on for so long. As I teach, a lie, if believed, acts as law until neutralized. So if someone has believing a lie, it becomes a law of their life, the law of a nation, or a law of a group of people, until it's confronted and neutralized. So spiritual practice and spiritual principles assist in the neutralization of lies.

IONS: I like that. It's a really helpful perspective. So the third question we've been asking folks is having to do with your current work and passions and how that fits within this larger context of the shifts that we are talking about, in society and the spiritual system. Where is the juice for you right now?

MBB: Ah, I have so much juice! [laughs] Well, again, maintaining and growing the spiritual community. I said from the beginning, over 20 years ago, that Agape International was to be an example of the next stage of human evolution. And so in community itself as we are working together, serving together, going to class together, this type of thing, we are seeking to hear and participate in the next stage of evolution of society as a community. So it transcends traditional church models. That's why we call it a trans-denominational spiritual community, because the presence itself is too large to fit into a denomination. It is the presence.

So on a community level my juice is to continue to allow that to unfold and to evolve. And one of the things that I indicated was that we would be the community that would give more than it receives, which was a very bold statement 20 years ago, because it almost does not square with facts. How can you give more than you get? However, you understand that we are dealing with different dimensions of reality and that there are dimensions of love, dimensions of supply, dimensions of good that you cannot see with your senses, but that are here nevertheless, simultaneously operating right here where you are. We are seeking to be a place that transmutes the higher dimensions into reality here, so we want to give more than we get. So we're morphing into not only a global community, a movement of educational opportunity, but we're looking to be a philosophical organization as well. So we are making inroads into certain business ventures and things like that, bringing the best practices of business with the spiritual community, so that we are able to give more than we would get on many levels. So that's juicing me at this point.

Then there's some outreach now in terms of television and that type of thing that's unfolding for us now. Right now most people do not go to spiritual communities. Most people go to the movies or watch tv, and so that's the new shrine, that's the new sanctuary, that's the new synagogue, where ideas are shared, and so we are going to allow ourselves to play in that field as well.

IONS: So you're not judging your just like "Ok, new shrine—let's go and bring the best fare."

MBB: It's a neutral medium. It's just who's controlling it that determines whether it's evil or not. You put some inspiring, healing, uplifting educational material rolling through there, and if a child is watching the fact that they can heal themselves, by the time that they are an adult that becomes law for them. Rather than a fancy thought about miracles or other-worldly situations, it becomes law, just as it is for many people. So we've had a lot of juice around that.

And I'm also noticing that what has picked up in our community is a lot of healing. There are situations where people are being faced with almost impossible odds that come into the field that's been generated here, and amazing things occur—kidneys regenerated, liver regenerated, cancers dissolving, things of that particular nature—so there is a strong healing field, or I call it a revelatory field, in terms of the fact that healing is not really happening, but it's a revelation of the underlying harmony that's there all the time and needs to be uncovered. So we are really juiced about noticing that on the increase in our community over the last few years.

IONS: Wow! I gotta get down there.

MBB: [laughs] You don't have to actually be here to get it.

IONS: Maybe I can get a little hit just from this conversation.

MBB: You can get a hit, right.

IONS: Well what we'd like to close with is personal recommendations, practical tips, for folks who want to align their lives with this deeper shift of consciousness and become a catalyst for positive change in the world.

MBB: Well, for me it always comes back to practice. The beliefs that we hold become a basis for spiritual practice. And the practice becomes a basis for insight and revelation, embodiment of the truth that makes us free. Just merely having a belief about these principles is not good enough any more. We want to do away with believers, and we want people to step into a greater embodiment through practice.

So the tip would be—here's the statement that I've used over the years—that God suffers a stillbirth until one acts by the good that they know. And so I would say to everyone—everyone is reading, and I would encourage them to read the next book to stay on the edge of greater discovery—but don't let that overshadow practicing the good you already know. Everyone listening knows at least one spiritual principle Most people that are listening to this kind of conversation probably know more than one.

The idea is to say to yourself at the end of the day, "How have I practiced the good that I already know?" If I throw myself into practice, now I'm making myself available, a candidate for greater insight, greater embodiment, and I continue to become more and never less than my true self, living up to the true meaning of my incarnation, which is to release life energy, to release sacred gifts and talents, capacities that I chose to release before I came here (which is another conversation). So the tip would be: find a spiritual practice that fits you and absolutely practice it, and then you will notice that you'll move from being merely a believer into actually having some real knowledge through the activity of your awareness.

IONS: That's very good advice. So in closing what's the best way for folks to find out more about workshops, books, offerings of Agape?

MBB: They can go to our website at, and then there is an information number (310) 348 1260, and the website basically will keep them informed. If they go to the website they can also get information about how to be in our weekly e-bulletin giving information about our conferences, music, symposiums, and festivals that we have every year as well as—we just completed a tremendous transformational conference, probably the most powerful one that we have done in our 20 years just happened—and we do that every year. So there are some wonderful things that go on here, and the website will keep them informed about that.

IONS: Great! All right. Well, is there anything else you'd like to close with or is that about it?

MBB: I would just say that life is good, because there is only one life that is absolutely involved in everything from the mineral kingdom through the natural kingdom through the human kingdom. This is one life moved through us all. And we are at the stage of our evolution where we get to think about what we think about, and we get to expand our awareness to actually have a choice to grow, and I think that would make us like gods.

IONS: Thank you so much. This has really been rich and enlivening and insightful—a great conversation with you.

MBB: Hey, my joy.

IONS: So thank you very much, and I'll look forward to hearing more from you soon.

MBB: Peace and blessings. Thank you. Bye bye.

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