In today’s challenging times, where many are seeking answers to life’s mysteries, the question arises whether there is more to life then what we’ve been taught to believe. The search for the existence of God and truth occurs as one explores these perplexing enigmas. There is an ancient adage that says: “When the student is ready, the Master will appear. And when the Master approaches, you will know his footsteps.” But is it really possible to have a personal relationship with God? There are those who believe in its probability–whether a Christian, Muslim, ECKist, or followers of other religious or spiritual paths. Many also believe in the popular statement that we are simply spiritual beings having a human experience.
Yet, not one of us receives a pass from life’s adversities that can oftentimes knock us to our knees. When faced with such overwhelming hardships some have found it easier to give up on life and just check out through self-destruction and other means. It’s been said that dying is easy. The hard part is living. There are many who affirm they can’t do it by themselves and there’s a Higher Power that helps them get through their “dark night of soul.” They have found a way to develop their own connection to God that’s designed for their consciousness and say it is working for them. Such folks believe that God can reach any individual and that a one-on-one relationship can happen. You can find a witness to testify how God has the power to penetrate even the coldest and hardest wall within, provided that one is sincere and seeks with an open heart and mind.
Jazz guitarist, Rodney Jones, 61, profoundly agrees. Jones is a faculty member at the world-renowned Juilliard School in New York City. He has traveled the world and worked with such prominent musical talents as Dizzy Gillespie and Lena Horne. As a cleric of Eckankar, his spiritual path, he has lectured and conducted spiritual workshops on continents that include Africa, Europe, and Australia. He is a firm believer that one can experience God for themselves and says it is not only possible but your birthright.
Here, Jones shares his spiritual journey with 50BOLD and explains why he believes that regardless of one’s religion or spiritual conviction, we can all have a divine connection and experience God for ourselves.
50BOLD: Do you believe there is more to life than what one has been taught to believe?
Jones: I don’t know what each person is taught to believe so I cannot answer this in a general sense. I can say that for me, life holds infinite possibilities to unfold and grow in love and service. Experiencing the wonders and mysteries of God is the adventure of a lifetime.
50BOLD: Many people wonder if God is real. What is your take on that question? Why do you believe in God?
Jones: This is a question that everyone has to, and has the right to, decide for themselves. I do not “believe” in God. I know that God is an always-present reality in my life each day. I recognize this through the activity of the Holy Spirit which I experience in all of life’s events and with each moment.
50BOLD: Were you ever a Christian?
Jones: My father, Dr. Lawrence N. Jones was an AME minister and the Dean of Chapel at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. He later became the Dean at The Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the Dean at The Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. So yes! I was raised as a Christian and was guided each step of the way by an amazing father who was living the Christian Life.
50BOLD: How do you feel about Christianity?
Jones: I honor any Christian that is seeking to embody the qualities that Jesus embodied and who seeks to discern divine will through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. I never judge a religion by the people who follow it. I view it through the lens of love and service. Does it open the hearts of its followers to a deeper love of and for God? My father was a Christian, and I have known no finer man than him.
50BOLD: How do you worship–within the confines of a building, do you have an altar in your home, in a quiet place somewhere?
Jones: I worship everywhere–whether on a city street or in nature, a church, or at an office building, my life is in a constant state of worship. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes each place holy ground. God is everywhere and in everything. I seek to witness the miracles of God day by day and to align and act in accordance with his will moment by moment.
50BOLD: How has creativity impacted you spiritually in your professional life?
Jones: I have found that being aware of the presence and activity of divine spirit is about opening the heart and listening to the heart. Creativity at its highest levels requires the same skills. The imagination in man is a divine faculty that allows us to manifest a greater portion of God’s love whether through music or the written word.
50BOLD: Can you tell us the name of the spiritual path you follow? How long have you been on this path and what’s the core of its teachings?
Jones: I discovered the path of Eckankar in 1968 and I am an ECKist. The textbook description of an ECKist is a person who is a member of Eckankar. To many, I suppose it sounds strange, a name they have not heard before, unknown terms like Light and Sound, and Mahanta. I won’t share here what Eckankar is in an academic sense, rather, I will share what it means to me, what my experience of almost 40 years has been. For me, the core teaching of Eckankar is love. God’s love for me, the reason for my very existence, and how I can accept a greater portion of it—awakening my love for God and living with that emblazoned upon my heart. My goal each day is to be a channel for divine love, to be a conscious participant in the miracle that is life, and to serve my fellow man with an open heart and willing hand.
I always believed I am Soul, a child of God. Eckankar gave me tools to experience this. There are no words to describe the feeling and awareness of this. For me, it is to live an authentic, genuine life filled with integrity and purpose; to honor God within and without myself, and within and without every other living soul (this includes animals too).
I look for the good within my fellow man which leads to seeing, “The God” in them. Like hearing your own name spoken in love, it is a gift to see someone as they truly are, a radiant spark of God. For many, it is the first time they have ever been seen that way. It has led me to many sacred moments shared in timeless recognition of the beauty that each of us is when we peel back the layers, the masks we wear and assume.
50BOLD: How does your family feel about your belief system?
Jones: My father encouraged me to seek my own experience with God and to be an instrument of God’s love in this world through serving my fellow man. He always used to say to me, “Is there any word from the Lord for you today?” This has been a guiding principle for me in my life, to hear God’s voice and call each day, and to follow it through service and love. They accepted my spiritual beliefs as my beliefs have always been centered on the principles of love and service.
50BOLD: How are you received amongst Christians?
Jones: Wonderfully. I have dear and close friends of many religions, Christian, Islam, Buddhists etc. as well as Atheists. I know who you are by what you do and how you show up in the world not by what you say that you believe. The difference in what a person says they believe and what they actually believe, is what they do and how they show up in the world!
50BOLD: Are you raising your children to share your beliefs?
Jones: I have raised my children in the full awareness of what I believe. More importantly, they have been able to see me seek to live a life centered in God. They have learned from my journey of success and failure. They each have their own spiritual journey which I support and honor.
50BOLD: Do you believe in a heaven and hell?
Jones: I believe in heaven and hell of our own making. Through the choices that each of us makes in our lives, through those lessons that we learn or do not learn, through the love that we give or do not give, we create a reality of heaven and hell that is of our own making. When we die, we carry that reality, that truth, into the afterlife. Eventually, we release that reality and experience a fuller expression of God’s love as the souls that we are.
50BOLD: Do you ever doubt the spiritual road you’ve taken?
Jones: Doubt is a natural part of the spiritual journey and so it has been with me. Early in my life, doubt has taught me to seek deeper answers and deeper love. I no longer have any doubts about the life I live or the life’s journey that I am taking.
50BOLD: How do you address the Higher Power? Do you pray, chant, or just converse?
Jones: I chant a sacred and ancient name for God, HU (pronounced Hue). This word is known in most world cultures. This word/vibration opens my heart and consciousness to the presence of the Holy Spirit and facilitates awareness, healing, and guidance beyond anything I could describe in words. I also contemplate God in silence. Most of my spiritual practice is in listening to God’s voice and opening my heart to Divine Spirit so that I may be transformed into a clearer instrument of God’s love.
50BOLD: Have there been spiritual teachers who have guided you in your quest for God?
Jones: I have had many teachers who have taught me what they know, musically, spiritually. It was when I met the ECK Masters, Agents, and channels for God’s love, that I found this wellspring of divine love and wisdom opening up within me. They helped me to remember who I am, why I am here, and to find my path. They honor my personal life, my private space, always. Upon invitation, they offer counsel, and wisdom beyond measure. The Mahanta, the personal embodiment of God’s love within my heart, is my constant companion. That is God’s love in a timeless eternal expression, yet, like the warmest friend or a cozy fire.
50BOLD: What have you learned from this spiritual path?
Jones: I have learned to listen more loudly to Spirit’s voice, to act more quickly upon the guidance received, and to know the “why of life.” Why my life is, as it is. This includes my karma, past life relationships, life preferences, and dreams. Eckankar has given me the tools to truly know what my life all means. I am an eternal soul, learning, and growing in love and service, working with the spiritual laws of this world, and growing my heart into a magnet of love.
I know that whatever I could say here is insufficient to share what Eckankar means to me. For me, it is a way of life. It is a beautiful way to live my life with more love and grace, to accept and honor the spiritual journey of others, and to learn the life lessons that I need to learn in order to take my next step in love and service and to help others do the same.
For those whose spirits might be in need of repair, Rodney shares a few of his spiritual gems to fuel you:
“There is a personal guiding force, a presence that has been with you all of your life. This guiding force unifies past lives, dreams, synchronicities, intuition, Soul Travel, prayer, coincidences, blessings, challenges. It shows us how to gain the most spiritually from each life experience and thereby, introduces us to a world of greater light, love, wisdom, power, and freedom.”
“Each Soul has a destiny to fulfill. Each Soul’s journey is sacred. Many do not know this because it is an unrealized truth in their lives. There are some, who like the richest soil, nurture their relationship with God. They have come to know that help is available in all areas and at all times to help them succeed and fulfill their spiritual mission.”
“It is in daily life that the seeds of love must be planted where they will grow and yield a harvest that will feed not only you but others who are hungry for God’s love.”
“Today when you pray, meditate, contemplate, chant; when you give your love to God, don’t take it back tomorrow. Follow the river to its end. Let the waters take you for they lead to God’s ocean of love and mercy.”
“Picture your life ahead as a blank canvas and you are the artist.”