Sitting Down With: Marianne Williamson
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Written by Felicia M. Tomasko, RN   

Turning On The Light

Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is known for her work teaching, interpreting and discussing the spiritual work A Course in Miracles and is the author of a number of best-selling books, including A Return to Love and most recently – The Age of Miracles, Embracing the New Midlife. She is currently lecturing every Tuesday night in Los Angeles and is hosting Sister Giant, a conference for empowering women, at the end of February. One of the primary messages in A Course in Miracles is the importance of choosing love over fear, a subject that began our conversation.

Felicia M. Tomasko: There seems to be an increasing prevalence in messages of fear today. How can people choose love over fear in the face of this?

Marianne Williamson: There is an intensification of fear on the planet today, but there also is an intensification of love. We feel the death throes of an order that is on its way out, and we feel the labor pangs of an order that’s just being born. Obviously both are difficult, but we need to keep giving birth to the new. No matter who we are or what we do, we need to participate in whatever way we can to a great wave of love that’s rising up and trying to make itself felt now.

The only way to cast out darkness is to turn on light, and similarly the only way to cast out fear is to turn on love. We’re driving through a dark patch here, and it’s time for all of us to turn on our brights.

Serious lovers need to be seriously talking now. We spend God knows how much money trying to kill terrorists, but for a fraction of that money we could be feeding, clothing, educating and housing the millions of children who are otherwise bound to be tomorrow’s terrorists no matter how many terrorists we get rid of today. Large groups of desperate people are our greatest national security risk, and if we organized the world according to compassion rather than economics, we wouldn’t even need to be reminded of that. More than anything else, we need to look at the world in a different way. We need to make love, not money, our bottom line. We need a humanitarian-industrial complex.

Since all minds are joined, any effort that any of us make to put more love into our own lives serves the larger effort of global transformation. If you look at your own life – relationships, community, career, health and family – and realize that your wattage is sometimes less than it might be, turn it up.

We are living in an extraordinary moment. There is danger and peril that didn’t used to be there, but we also have tools to deal with them that we didn’t used to have. There is a powerful alternative consciousness in the air. Our society has gone from a place where spirituality was a fringe movement, to where it’s now a mainstream conversation. We’ve reached a tipping point, I think, and there’s a strong enough field of people who ‘get’ the basic evolutionary message. Everyone has read the same books and listened to the same tapes.

Now the question is whether or not we’ll truly stand on what we know. The era of data collection is over. The issue is whether or not we’ll act according to what we know.

People don’t go to lectures such as mine so much to hear something they don’t already know so much as to experience the field of possibility that exists when more and more people are thinking the same thought. What matters now is that we come to embody more fully what we believe. As A Course in Miracles says, enlightenment begins as an intellectual construct and then has to trickle down from the head to the heart. Just being smart or spiritually well-informed is not enough. Freud said that intelligence will be used in the service of the neurosis. We need to address the nitty gritty issues now, moving from where we just believe in love to where we’re willing to actually stand behind it.

It’s not enough to love your own children, for instance. Of course you love your children. But there were slaveowners who loved their children. There were Nazi guards who loved their children. With 17,000 children dying every day on this earth of hunger, the issue is whether we can expand our love to embrace children on the other side of the world. We must expand our capacity to love beyond what’s comfortable.

I have learned so much by taking a deeper look at my mother. She adored my father, and devoted her life to taking care of him, their children and their home. But I grew up as a child of the 60s and 70s, thinking I could do something more meaningful with my life than my mother had done with hers. I wanted to go out and be in the big world. It took me decades to understand the spiritual principle that there is no “world;” there really is no “in here” or “out there” because the world is a projection of our thoughts. My mother’s life wasn’t less meaningful because it was mainly lived in one place; it’s the amount of love she created – and she created a lot of it – that was her huge success.

Secondly, the feminine archetype of homemaker is the same whether you’re working out in the world or inside the home. It is a woman’s place to take care of the home, the hearth, the children. The issue now is to see that this planet is our home and every child is one of our children!

There is an awakening going on, and we can all feel it. But it takes years to integrate all this new understanding emotionally and psychologically. We have to go from an intellectual understanding to deep personal conviction, or else it’s like we have a fabulous lamp but we’re not yet turning it on.

A Course in Miracles says that miracles rise from conviction. Conviction is everything now. It’s not enough to be educated, or informed; we need to be convicted. If you want to see conviction, watch the terrorists. I can’t imagine a “kind of, sort of, sometimes, casually, when it’s convenient” committed terrorist. Those people are horrifyingly committed. Hatred in fact has a perverse kind of courage. On the other hand I know a lot of people – who among us hasn’t been there? –who are “kind of, sort of, sometimes, casually, when it’s convenient” committed to love. I think there are far more lovers than haters on this planet, but human evolution is being held hostage by a relatively few haters. And that’s for the simple reason that they hate with conviction and real intent. When we begin to love with greater conviction and real intent, then things will change.

People are getting intentional about global transformation in a whole new way and it’s fabulous to see, whether it’s people working within the environmental movement, animal rights, hunger, poverty, social justice, economic or political change. Whether it’s forgiving a friend, learning to meditate, making amends for an error, volunteering for a political campaign or mentoring a child, there is work to do on all levels. And I see it happening.

The point is to lift the vibrational frequency of our thought forms – from blame to blessing, from fear to love – in whatever ways we can. When there’s enough higher vibration of thought, then lower vibrations will simply fall on their own dead weight. And there is historical evidence to back this up. From the abolitionist movement to women’s suffrage to the Indian independence movement, we see examples of people with practically no material power who defeated entrenched and wealthy institutional forces. Why? Because they carried in their hearts a more life-sustaining idea, and they stood on that idea with unwavering intent.

FMT: Understanding the light and living with conviction must go from being an intellectual exercise to being embodied. It’s easy to say that people need to step up, but how do you suggest people move from intellectualization to embodiment?

MW: Most of us need to live more contemplative, reflective lives. We need to spend more time in deep thought, basically. The most useful thing is a serious spiritual practice that includes meditation. Whether it’s Transcendental Meditation, Buddhist meditation, Vedic meditation or the Workbook of A Course in Miracles…there are many different forms; the form is not what matters. But when you meditate, when you quiet your mind on that level, then you literally emit different brain waves. A lot of people do some form of deep relaxation and think they are meditating, but a serious meditation practice is like a serious Yoga practice. You don’t just make it up. There are moves established by deep, ancient knowledge that take your body and your mind past the walls of mortal illusion. Most of us would do well to find a serious meditation practice and stick with it.

FMT: And we have to stick with it; just because we did it yesterday doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it again today.

MW: You nailed something really important there. You never get to go to the gym one day and say, “I love how my body looks now, so I don’t need to exercise anymore.” Of course not. If you stop exercising, your muscles will fall back down. It’s the same with attitudinal, energetic and spiritual musculature. If you’re not working at keeping your thought forms up, they’re headed down. You might have meditated yesterday, but don’t forget to meditate today.

FMT: Related to this, you make the point that we continue to face challenges, even greater challenges on the spiritual path, because sometimes people think that once they have practiced enough, everything will be easy.

MW: The higher consciousness community came up with this silly storyline about how the spiritual journey is happy happy happy all the time. But boy, is that junk science. All the great religious and spiritual systems hold a space for the meaning of suffering – Buddha left his father’s house and saw suffering for the first time, Jesus died a painful death on the cross, the Israelites were enslaved before being led out of Egypt by Moses and the list goes on.

The shadow side of the higher consciousness community has been a denial of the shadow. Sometimes people think, “All I have to do is pour pink paint over all my circumstances and things will be fine.” But the truth of the matter is that a psychic descent is a fundamental part of everyone’s journey. It does happen; it will happen. Understanding the resistance of the ego mind to the thinking of love is part of what gives a spiritual journey its depth. We are lured by love and we are lured by fear in a constant contest. But love does win.

Life humbles everyone, and you come to realize that your humbling – your descent into your own psychic darkness – was your personal Armageddon. The born-again Christians talk about Armageddon as this great battle that will occur. Sometimes the higher consciousness community likes to read the great spiritual literature very selectively – we take what we like and we leave aside what we don’t like. But the real task is to see the deeper metaphysical meaning in these primal archetypes. Armageddon is actually
a profound symbol for the great battle during which the darkness meets the light head-on.

For one person cancer was their Armageddon, for another person bankruptcy was their Armageddon, for another, drug addiction was their Armageddon. The point is that if enough of us learn what we need to learn from our personal Armageddons, then we won’t have to manifest a collective one.

When you’ve been through a personal Armageddon, you’ve been humbled. And humility is probably the most important factor needed now. A tremendous power emerges when we realize that we aren’t as smart as we thought we were…that there is a power greater than we are that can do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. If you look at the world with just the rational mind, the probability factors are dire now; they would point toward some manifestation of Armageddon, whether it’s a nuclear catastrophe or an environmental one. Our job from a spiritual perspective is to shift from a probability vector to a possibility vector, and deference to a Higher Power is key to that.

FMT: The world seems to get getting worse every day but there is a malleability of everything.

MW: Just a change of thought.

FMT: But there is a lot of thought going in the other direction.

MW: If you turn on your television, that’s what you hear about certainly: Violence, mayhem, disaster, fear. But nobody on television tells you about how many people fell in love today. Nobody on television tells you how many people forgave someone today or reached out a hand to help someone today. How many people on the planet do you think have made fantastic love since sunrise?

FMT: Those are the things they don’t put on the news. And you would think with twenty-four-hour news channels there would be some room for all of it.

MW: I don’t think any of us want cameras everywhere.

FMT: What do you do personally to keep your course on track?

MW: I am a student of A Course in Miracles, I do Yoga, I go to therapy and I think that more than anything else I have learned to take full advantage of the love in my life – to really drink in support and kindness – and I don’t take that for granted. Not that I stay on track all the time. I love Los Angeles. I joke that LA is the upside of narcissism. Everyone is so busy doing their own thing that they’re not stopping to spend a lot of time gossiping about what you are doing and whether or not you should be doing it. This city gave me my career, and I’ve always felt it saying to me, “You go girl.” We thrive around people who wish us well. I’m very grateful to LA.

FMT: Is that part of the reason why you came back to Los Angeles?

MW: Yes. I have very close friends here.

FMT: I spent some time with my family recently and I don’t watch television but they do, so it brought up for us some discussions around the fear and sensationalism on television.

MW: If you turn on the TV today, you think, “I don’t know how the world is going to survive.”

FMT: You turn on any channel and everyone is pointing fingers at each other.

MW: Yes, but disagreement is not of itself negative. There’s nothing negative about yelling “Fire!” if the house is burning. Sometimes in the higher consciousness community, any level of forthright political debate and honest conversation is deemed negative or judgmental. What’s negative is the complacency with which we allow certain things to happen in our midst.

FMT: It seems to me that there’s a place for righteous indignation and there’s a place for discernment. There is a negative connotation to the word “judgment.”

MW: What one person might call judgment someone else might call description or discernment. I was saying to someone recently that I was disappointed in both political parties for their entrenched, institutionalized servitude to corporate interests. People started jumping up and down, like how could I be so judgmental? But to me, that’s not a judgment; it’s a description.

FMT: This brings me back to what you just said about complacency. Are we sitting back or are we actually participating?

MW: Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Your life begins to end on the day when you stop talking about things that matter most.” With all the unnecessary suffering in the world today, this is not the time to keep your mouth shut. A common characteristic of every mammal that survives and thrives is the fierce behavior on the part of the adult female when she senses a threat to her cubs. The lioness, tigress, mama bear all grow angry if she senses someone is messing with her cubs. We wouldn’t call that angry or strident; we call it behavior that makes the survival of their species sustainable.

Adult female hyenas encircle feeding cubs and will not let the adult male hyenas anywhere near the food until the cubs have been fed. Surely, the women of America can do better than the hyenas. But it can be difficult for women because when we start discussing certain things, we’re often deemed angry, judgmental, negative-the misogynistic view that “we’re not being nice girls.” We have a cellular memory of witch burning, I think. We’ll be talking about at the upcoming Sister Giant Conference.

FMT: This relates to the point you made about loving not only our own children but all children.

MW: Only twenty percent of the population of the planet lives in countries where people have access to direct governmental influence. So those of us living in developed countries such as ours have even more of a responsibility to take care of those with much less power to take care of themselves.

The first thing we’re going to do at the Sister Giant conference is watch a film made by the Canadian Film Board called The Burning Times. The witch-burnings were a systematic effort by the early church to eradicate the passionate free-thinking woman. The passionate free-thinking woman is liable to raise passionate free-thinking children, who grow up to be passionate free-thinking adults who are then very difficult to manipulate and almost impossible to control. The early church, seeking to dominate the thought forms of Western civilization, set out to destroy all remnants of pagan culture. The burning of hundreds of thousands of women for being so-called “witches” was a female holocaust, for which the last Pope did apologize, by the way.

Among other things, this horror was the beginning of our current environmental crisis, because pagan priestesses – or wise women – performed the ceremonies and rituals that kept people in a sense of sacred communion with sky, Earth, trees, water and so forth. The early church introduced the concept that man had the right to dominate nature, replacing the pagan belief that humanity was to live in divine harmony with nature. This was one of the many ways Western civilization has psychically violated itself by the suppression of the female voice.

For over three centuries, generation after generation of people with daughters knew that if a little girl was too passionate, too outspoken – if she had a powerful intuition, if she was just a little “too much” – then she might literally be dragged away some day, tortured to get her to confess that she’d had sex with the devil, and then based on her “confession,” legally burned at the stake. People began to train their daughters to be beige, to be quiet, to be subtle. These are the kinds of internal disentanglements we’ll be dealing with at Sister Giant – not just external chains that have bound us, but internal ones as well.

Lincoln could eradicate an evil institution (slavery) with the stroke of a Presidential pen, but he could not eradicate by external means the racism that caused it. In fact, racism burrowed deep underground after the Civil War. So even though we no longer burn women at the stake, I don’t think that we’ve yet, even today, fully eradicated from Western consciousness the suspicion of a powerful woman. Sometimes I think we’ve just changed the consonant from “w” to “b.”

Then we’re going to watch an HBO special starring Hillary Swank called Iron-Jawed Angels, about the women’s suffrage movement. Too many people in this country don’t know the history of that movement, and what women sacrificed to make us equal citizens. It’s mind-blowing and fascinating, and every woman needs the information in order to be truly empowered.

The last film we’re going to watch is Pray the Devil Back to Hell; you finish that and you think, “What are we doing??” It’s our turn, now, in this generation, to make a major mark on human history. We’re working with an organization called Results, a premier anti-poverty and anti-hunger citizen lobbying group who brought Mohammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, to this country.

Every woman will leave Sister Giant knowing she can make a difference, and hopefully with some insight regarding what has held her back in the past. Some women will feel more drawn to domestic activism, some more drawn to the international piece, some more to the internal work – but it’s all the same work, really, bringing more love to our world. I just want people at Sister Giant to come out of the weekend feeling more empowered. We need a more holistic activism now, where we address the psychological, emotional and spiritual issues – as well as the political and social ones – that are holding the world back.

FMT: When we think about the women’s suffrage movement, how women in this country fought for the right to vote, it’s amazing to me how few women actually vote now – how we don’t fully use that legacy.

MW: Isn’t that the truth. It’s tragic.

FMT: Questioning rather than believing everything at face value is also important.

MW: Especially given how politics are marketed now. I was recently in Europe and I noticed, watching television, how much easier it is – at least in England and France – for the average person to watch the news each day and actually know what’s going on.

FMT: In LA YOGA, our mission is to encourage people to question and to wake up.

MW: And good for you. Everyone has a different project, but it is all part of one important movement towards planetary change. There are many different facets to this extraordinary diamond. It’s very exciting because I do feel that the diamond is getting brighter and brighter. And don’t even get me started about Avatar.

FMT: What do you see as the focus for your Tuesday evening talks?

MW: Well, most importantly I’ll be discussing universal spiritual principle. And you never know what might come out of that. When I was doing my lectures here in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Project Angel Food emerged from the group. Who knows what might happen now. My job is to simply hold a space for the deeper conversation. I’ll just try my best. For some, the Tuesday night lectures will be a lovely battery charge every once in a while; for others, it will provide a more solid and continuous sense of spiritual community.

FMT: What do you see as the importance of people coming together in community?

MW: A Course in Miracles says, “An idea grows stronger when it is shared.” There is some magnification, a powerful vibration that moves through the room, when people come together with more loving thoughts.

FMT: Not that I want to focus on terrorists, but you were using them as an example of people coming together.

MW: We know what groups of haters can do. It’s time to demonstrate what groups of lovers can do.

FMT: I think that’s why people go to Yoga class – you keep going to class because there’s that power of being in the room full of people. Or people go to group meditations or people who go to sanghas, church or synagogue.

MW: Yes, you are meeting other people sharing the same frame of mind.

FMT: What would you suggest to be the one most important thing that people can do every day?

MW: Forgive somebody. A Course in Miracles says you can have a grievance or a miracle, but you cannot have both.

For more information about Marianne Williamson’s books, Tuesday evening talks or the Sister Giant Conference, visit:


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