By Joyce and Barry Vissell
“Our minds map out a neat, perfect little road for life and we hate to have it changed in any way. Yet that perfect little road may completely by-pass our goal of God-realization.” (sic)
–Barry and Joyce Vissell, The Shared Heart: Relationship Initiations & Celebrations
We have written before about the importance of taking risks to follow inner guidance, to listen to those sometimes subtle promptings that can change our lives. If it were up to us, we might never take these risks. If we want to follow the higher path of life, we need to not only listen, but act on these inner promptings. They may make no sense to our minds, yet they will make sense to our hearts. This is a story about a risk I took many years ago that completely changed the course of our lives.
In 1974, we were finishing a pilgrimage that lasted two years. Together we traveled the world, always searching for spiritual teachers. A highlight was a whole summer studying Sufism with Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, at a camp high in the French Alps.
In the fall, we stayed in Santa Cruz, CA, and made the decision to move back up to Oregon. Shortly before leaving, we were told that Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan was leading a weekend retreat in San Francisco, an hour and a half north, and therefore on our way to Oregon. (Editor’s note: Due to space constraints, I need to shorten this to just Pir from now on.)
We were happy to spend time with this Sufi master. At the end of the retreat, Pir shared his vision of The Cosmic Mass, a celebration of the unity of the world’s major religions, which would involve a theater in the round, with five stages simultaneously portraying some of the major events in five of the world’s major religions. In the center would be a seven level stage, corresponding to the seven levels of heaven. It was to be a spectacular pageant, at a major theater in the Bay Area – in three months!
Joyce and I looked at each other sadly. We were leaving the following morning.
Pir asked for all the men in the audience who wanted a role in the Cosmic Mass to come onto the stage. Without thinking, I stood up and walked toward the stage. I remember Joyce calling out, “Barry, what are you doing? We’re leaving tomorrow morning!”
I couldn’t explain the pull to walk up on that stage. However, when I got there, I started to feel foolish, my mind kicked in, and I thought, “This is ridiculous!”
There were probably 100 men crowded on the stage, with Pir sitting on a stool on the edge of the stage, eyes closed, face tilted upward, perhaps meditating on the different roles he envisioned. I quickly hid behind all the men, embarrassed, hoping he wouldn’t see me.
An agonizingly long time passed. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I peeked out from behind some heads until I could see Pir, and at that instant he opened his eyes and looked directly at me. He pointed his finger at me, and announced, “Jesus!”
I had just been cast in one of the major roles of the Cosmic Mass; talk about a change of plans!
After Pir finished casting the men, I went back to my seat. Joyce had every right to be annoyed with me; after all, I didn’t consult with her before casting our plans to the wind, and going onstage. She didn’t know what happened onstage. I told her Pir chose me to be Jesus!
She smiled warmly, yet didn’t have time to say anything; Pir called up all the women who wanted parts, and she stood up and walked to the stage.
Pir chose Joyce to be the Mother of the World, to sit on the highest level of the stage, and veiled together with the Father of the World, meditate, sending out waves of peace from the highest heaven.
We returned to Santa Cruz and rented a house. We didn’t want to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area. So the Cosmic Mass is the reason we live near Santa Cruz to this day. Life-changing? Yes!
It was the rehearsing that really changed both of our lives. There was the outer rehearsing, practicing for the actual performance, and there was the inner rehearsing. Pir was very clear with us. “Your full-time job,” he said, “is to fully immerse yourself in the life and being of Jesus. You are to become Jesus, feel what he feels, do what he does.” He told Joyce, “You are to become the Mother of the World, the female aspect of God. Let every meditation be an act of compassion for the world.”
This was a tall order. Indeed; those three months launched Joyce and I into a profound spiritual practice. I was raised Jewish, so there was much I needed to learn about Jesus. I read everything I could, from the Bible to The Aquarian Gospel. Along with being a doctor, learning about and being Jesus became my other full-time job. It’s not that I became a Christian; my current spirituality embraces practices from many traditions. For three months, I became Jesus, which has truly changed my life.
Then came the evening of the performances, three of them in one evening, with massive crowds, including the governor of California at the time, Jerry Brown. As long as I live, I will never forget that evening! The first and second performances, although beautiful, I was still aware of playing the part of Jesus. The third performance, I was no longer aware of playing a part; the energy of Jesus came through me, and was sublime! In the final scene, my ascension, I climbed up the seven level stage in the center, and approached Joyce, yet it wasn’t Joyce. Instead, through the thin veil, I beheld Divine Mother, the highest aspect of the feminine. In one glorious moment, I was united with Joyce, as divine beings, in the highest moment of our lives!
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple, near Santa Cruz, CA, are regarded as among the world's experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of six books. Visit their website at: SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their schedule, books, and inspiring articles on many topics.