|Like everything else inside this book, the fact that I’m the one writing the foreword surprised me at first. I’m not a scholar or an acknowledged “expert” in some lofty academic field of study. But as the author pointed out, I’m an expert on “him” and how his quest for Truth is affecting his life—and mine. If what he’s written on these pages isn’t put into action in his own life, he’s|
failed. In sharing these ideas with you, he puts himself under the microscope. He asked me to “set it up and pull no punches.” Here goes.
The content of this book has been the topic of many passionate and exhausting dinnertime and “over morning coffee” discussions in my home. I’ve known the author for 37 years and have witnessed the evolution of the material shared in these essays as it manifests in his own life. I’m delighted to see these insights finally take on an “essay” form in this book. If you read them, digest them and take them to heart, these insights could change your life, too. That’s up
to you, though. We all live in freedom.
“Everyday life” usually gets in the way of our best growth opportunities. Whatever hits us quickly gets our attention. That’s why this is a skinny little book. It’s a quick read. But don’t be fooled. What you’re holding in your hands is actually a really BIG book.
The author’s curiousity and his passion for self-growth has made him a relentless lifelong seeker and student. I first met him at work 37 years ago. He was in his latetwenties, kinda cute and had a “New York swagger” about him that belied his many inner insecurities. And he had some very unusal ideas about life. To a naïve young woman living in the midwest, he was “exotic.” He was a student of Gurdjieff’s work and actually used some of Swedenborg’s ideas about eternal married love to woo me. How could I not be smitten?
We met in November and were married the following May. Whirlwind courtship? Probably. A week before the wedding, a mutual friend told me it would not last three years. What a lousy thing to say! That made me mad enough to hang in there at least three years, no
matter what. In retrospect, it was probably the most constructive thing that anyone could have told me, because it made me “look beneath the surface” and examine my motives (as well as Ed’s) continually through the years. It’s been well worth the hassle.
As Ed shared all kinds of ideas I had never heard anywhere else before, I knew he was going to do something important someday. Or maybe something just plain crazy. He lives these ideas 24/7/365. It’s his passion—his mission—to share what he has learned. And some of it sounds pretty weird at first blush.
Through the years, he has “met the requirements of life”—earning a living, raising a loving family, and living sustainably on a piece of land that is healthier and more vibrant now than when we first bought it some 30 years ago. All fine worldly accomplishments. But honestly, none of that has ever been his first love. He did these things because he knew it was what one is
“supposed to do” in this world. And sometimes it made him so miserable he took it out on everyone around him. I hung in there anyway, sensing that there was some greater purpose for all the conflict. Viewing difficult situations objectively and through the lens of Swedenborg’s writings and Gurdjieff’s work, we could both see that things seemed to “happen” for reasons greater than ourselves. So we’d work through things together. And we kept having wedding anniversaries.
36 years later, Ed is becoming a humble, wise man, but it wasn’t always like that. There were some pretty rough years in there as he struggled with his inner demons, often letting them spill out into his interactions with other people. I was raised in a very traditional, peaceful and loving home and completely unaccustomed to the special brand of angst and drama that comes with
what he calls “working on one’s self.” But we both felt there was “something there” worth striving for. We hung on for dear life and pretty much “saved” each other along the way. To this day, we’re still very much a work in progress.
What most people never get to see is that he lives this process of “working on one’s self” every waking hour of his life. He constantly “looks inside.” His detractors have attacked him as being arrogant, egotistical, lazy, even cruel. Usually, because they are “uncomfortable” with something he has written. Or mad that he has not posted their snarky comment on his blog. (You would not believe some of the vicious comments that come to his blog. It amazes me how much venom otherwise “nice” people spew forth at each other on the internet. He does filter the worst of it for the sake of his readers.)
On the other hand, he has engaged in intense, lengthy discussions with passionate priests, ministers, and laypeople; atheists and agnostics; Anglicans, Swedenborgians, Catholics and Jews; even scientists and card-carrying skeptics. And Swedenborg’s and Gurdjieff’s ideas continue to stand up under all the scrutiny. Best of all, most are genuinely grateful for what he shares so willingly.
Ed has always had a burning, heartfelt desire to observe and uncover the unsavory qualities in himself in order to try to change himself for the better. In many ways he’s a walking lab experiment of the soul. His goal is to improve himself in this earthly life in order to have a better shot at an eternal place in heaven. It’s a pretty unique way to approach every day. How can you
not stay with someone like that and hope for the best?
I have actually learned a lot of coping skills along the way that have helped me make sense of my own life and allowed me to experience an inner peace that comes from understanding what really matters and what really doesn’t. Seems to me that most of us focus most of our energy on a lot of the wrong stuff in life. In putting up with Ed’s crap, I have hopefully begun to make some bit of progress on my own self. But there’s still much work to be done—he puts up with a lot from me, too—and uses that to “work on himself.” (Being offended or angry is really easy. Truly forgiving isn’t!)
Even in his darkest times, there has always been an underlying passion for the insights he receives through study and reflection on the writings and teachings of Swedenborg and Gurdjieff. They seem to help us both make sense of the insanity of living in this terrestrial world. Before he started writing books, he would keep me up all night sometimes, sharing thoughts and ideas with me. (Sometimes talking “at” me, rather than “with” me, because he was so filled with things he needed to “put out there.” He was like a fire hydrant pouring forth amazing ideas and insights.) Ed is a nonconformist, married to the queen of conformists. It has been a heck of an adventure for us both. (Some days I wish it was a little more boring!) To this day, I don’t know for sure if we have “met in the middle” or if he’s simply “coming into his own” and bringing me along for the ride. But we seem to be “becoming one.”
In these essays he takes “the organized church” and “work groups” to task. Some will take offense at this. But he’s not doing it to be “mean” or “disrespectful.” These ideas have changed his life for the better and he has a deep desire to give back what he has received.
It’s up to each of us to look beyond the surface, just like when my friend told me my marriage was destined to fail. If you let something offend you, that’s really just your reaction. You can choose not to be offended, because when you think about it, being offended is really just your own ego getting in your way.
You can choose to wallow in self-righteous negativity and change nothing. Or you can also make the choice to look inside yourself and examine what it is about what you’re hearing that’s really making you uncomfortable. And as much as it pains “non-confrontational me” to say this, sometimes your own personal discomfort can be beneficial if you’re open to observing your own reactions and learning something useful from the situation.
Neither of us was raised in the Swedenborgian church. We chose Swedenborg as adults because his writings resonated with us. Ed was attracted to Gurdjieff’s work for the same reason. The two “schools of thought” really complement each other. We’re not in church every Sunday morning, but when we are, the decision to go is made consciously and not out of habit. Ed is the only person I know who actually “gears up” for attending a Sunday service. When we get there, he doesn’t sing the hymns and often seems to be in deep thought rather than participating in the service rituals. In reality, he’s taking it all in very differently than the
rest of us.
Ed’s not a “small-talk” guy. But he loves nothing more than to dig into a God-focused conversation topic. If he connects with someone in a deep discussion, he’ll hang in there as long as his conversation partner is willing to stick around. The exchange of ideas brings him to life. On a “good day,” attending church can easily consume the entire Sunday for us. He is the only person I’ve ever met who will actually leave church exhausted.
For decades, he’s been actively working on becoming a better person. On the other hand, I go busily through the motions of everyday life, making my daily commute and thinking little of flipping off the guy who just cut me off in traffic. All the while, it never occurs to me that I’m not a nice person. Hmm... that’s rather scary. Ed actually walks the talk, applying these ideas to his own life every day. While he sometimes seems gruff or insensitive on the outside, he’s actually much kinder to others from the heart than I am. I’ve known him long enough and well enough to witness true transformation taking place. Swedenborg’s and Gurdjieff’s ideas are having a profound effect in him. Since he’s been embracing this path and writing his books, I’ve seen him become more patient with people—and on those occasions when he does lose it, he catches himself and apologizes. He sincerely worries about people he can’t “help” and prays for those who are in conflict with him.
He’s the most generous, honest person I have ever met. His true life’s work is to nudge people toward Truth. And sometimes Truth is not easy for us to hear. All this stuff has been refining itself inside him through most of his adult life. Scary and humbling as it’s been for him sometimes, he’s embracing a lot of personal changes as a result. And like it or not, life continues to serve up new “challenges” every time we conquer the last one.
With this book, his fire hydrant of spiritual insights is definitely open and flowing! Grab a bucket and drink in the wisdom, even though some of it isn’t flattering. These essays are short, but potent. They might make you uncomfortable. Actually, that’s what he hopes will happen—for your own ultimate eternal benefit. The fragrant rose smells that much sweeter once you have
conquered its thorns.
This little book is his heart on his sleeve. Hopefully you will find what you need here!