I’m old enough to remember the 1984 Wendy’s commercial that featured the three little old ladies and the stick-in-your-head catch phrase, “Where’s the beef?” Sure, the commercial was meant to sell Wendy’s bigger hamburger patties. But the catch phrase went deeper than that. It quickly became a cultural metaphor for something that was “all talk, no action.” Something without real substance.

Many spiritual teachers are interested in selling you books about how to “raise your consciousness” and “seek wisdom” and be “one with all Creation.” These books are full of platitudes and cliches, and they remind me a lot of the big fluffy bun that’s being parodied in the Wendy’s commercial. The bun looks impressive from the outside, but when you bite into it, you discover there’s precious little substance inside. There’s just the same old mystery teachings that have been taught by cult leaders for . . . oh . . . for at least five thousand years now.

We are all One. Blah, blah, blah. Your soul is a spark of the Divine. Blah, blah, blah. Your physical body and your physical mind are drenched in evil and must be transcended. Blah, blah, blah. Specially chosen spiritual leaders have consented to descend into this corrupt world to lead the forces of light against the forces of evil. Blah, blah, blah. You can help in this great battle. Blah, blah, blah. The time is at hand when human beings will rise to a new, never before seen level of consciousness and enlightenment. Blah, blah, blah. In order to reach this new level, you must surrender yourself, let go of yourself, live in the moment, let go of attachments, let go of illusion. Blah, blah, blah. Only then can you know the bliss, peace, and joy of oneness with the Divine.

At the beginning of Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling 1997 book The Power of Now (Vancouver: Namaste Publishing, 1997), he describes an episode of spiritual awakening that took place after a “dark night of the soul” when he was 29. For five months, he “lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss” (page 2). He then “spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy. But even the most beautiful experiences come and go.”

Really? They come and go? Because that hasn’t been my experience. My experience has been that if you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing on the Spiral Path, and if you ground your spiritual journey in reality instead of in ancient mystical gobbledygook, you can get up every morning and go to bed at night and live every moment of your ordinary, ho-hum day in a state of profound trust and companionship with God.

This makes every ho-hum day anything but ho-hum.

If you see what I’m getting at here.

This amphora, found in Etruria and dated 540-535 BCE, depicts Herakles killing the Nemean lion – the first of the twelve labours of Herakles. The spiritual journey shouldn’t make you feel as if you’re reinventing Herakles terrible struggles. (Amphora on display at Royal Ontario Museum, photo credit JAT 2017)

 Eckhart Tolle and his mystical predecessors are always talking about escape — escape from the body, escape from suffering, escape from illusion, escape from evil forces, and (in the most extreme form) escape from death. They’re missing the point. The Spiral Path has never been about escape. The Spiral Path has always been about forgiveness, healing, and redemption.*

If you want to feel deep peace and joy every day (and this is possible, believe it or not), your ongoing goal is to HEAL yourself, not escape yourself.

In order to heal yourself (and perhaps others, too), you need to understand at a conscious level what’s going on inside your biological body as you struggle to make sense of your spiritual journey. In order to do this, you need more than ancient myths to guide you. You need science.

There are no exceptions to this general statement. Every mystic in every faith tradition in every country of the world needs science. There is no ethical mysticism without ethical scientific exploration.

There is no science in The Power of Now. There’s a great deal of mystical speculation, but there’s no science. Put plain and simple, I don’t trust any spiritual teacher who’s afraid to look science in the eye.

There is no need to postulate, as Tolle did, the existence of a “negative energy field” (called an emotional “pain-body”) whose job it is to control your thoughts and your mind like some sort of “invisible entity” (page 29). This sounds little different than demon-possession as it was formerly understood. It’s an irresponsible and scientifically insupportable claim. It confuses and frightens people.

Furthermore, it relies entirely on the author’s own authority as mystic and prophet. It starts with Tolle’s personal assumptions about the interface between mind, body, soul, and brain. From there he builds a pyramid of guesswork. My question in response to his thesis is . . . where’s the beef? Where’s the science combined with the heart? Don’t talk to me about a corrupting “pain-body.” Talk to me — scholar to scholar — about neurotransmitters and glial cells and underactive sections of the brain and seizure disorders and over-activation of the pain-pleasure circuitry (to barely scratch the surface of the neurophysiology that’s involved). I don’t mind if you use some analogies and even some mythical archetypes to explain brain chemistry to a lay audience, but if you yourself don’t understand your spiritual journey in scientific terms, then you’re not saying anything different than Plato said to a vulnerable audience 2,400 years ago. It’s pure myth. And it’s pure crap.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not true that human beings can somehow separate the spiritual journey or the spiritual brain from the everyday science of everyday life. You cannot find God by sitting on park benches for two long years. (You’ll find something on those park benches, but it won’t be enlightenment.) You can only find God in a lasting way by making lasting choices in your life — choices that will slowly heal your biological brain and your biological body, and allow you to live each day as an angel-in-human-form. Your spiritual task is not to become less yourself. It’s to become more yourself — more and more like the soul you really are.

This depends, of course, on a belief in the soul. If you don’t believe you were born with a soul — a pure, amazing, unique soul that always is and always will be a pure, amazing, unique soul — then you and I have no common ground for discussion. Everything I’ve learned from God the Mother and God the Father, and everything I’ve learned from the angel who once lived as Jesus, begins with the core integrity of the soul. Everything I’ve learned about healing and redemption revolves around the full integration of your immortal soul with your very mortal human body.

Everything I’ve learned about healing and redemption revolves around the balance of body, mind, soul, and heart. Around the balance (NOT the pyramidal, step-wise hierarchy) of Maslow’s physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, and self esteem needs. Around the balance of physical joy, mental joy, spiritual joy, and emotional joy. Around the balance of work, play, extroverted relationships, and introverted downtime. Around using the whole brain, not just parts of the brain.

Whole Brain Thinking is the only way to find the Spiral Path, understand the Spiral Path, and persevere on the Spiral Path.

There. That’s the Ancient Mystery in a nutshell: you have to use your whole brain — your whole central nervous system — in a consistently balanced, healthy, emotionally mature way. When you do, you can easily hear God’s voice, because God’s voice is as balanced and emotionally mature as can be.

And guess what? You don’t have to take my word for it! You can research all the ways to have a happy, healthy, fully functioning brain, and you’ll come up with essentially the same ideas I’ve presented here!

Science and spirituality together on the same page. Now we’re cooking with gas.

* On the last text page of The Power of Now, Tolle reveals that “the whole concept of forgiveness then becomes unnecessary (page 193).” Needless to say, Tolle and I couldn’t disagree more.