There's a new little book on spirituality with a special claim -- its authors are spirits.
Compiled by Stanford-trained urologist and author Dr. David Cumes and Santa Barbara educator Maryellen Flynn Kelley, the handsomely designed, pocket-sized book confirms that its real authors were no longer living when they composed its contents.
Messages from the Ancestors -- Wisdom for the Way "celebrates the wisdom available to us from the other side of the veil between the worlds," says the introduction, "and how we as sentient beings can benefit from spirit guides or ancestors."
"Spirit guides are not subject to time or space as are we. They are always around but not always to be known, always within call but not always to be heard, always present but not always to be sensed, always holding us but not always to be felt." -- Messages from the Ancestors - Wisdom for the Way
When I interviewed the living people behind the creation of the book a few days ago at a restaurant on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf, Cumes described his spiritual inspiration in a very 21st-century way.
"Ancestors are your app," he said, "to help you find and follow your way."
Kelley added: "While the messages contain and express universal insights, they speak to individuals in personally resonating ways."
"The ancestors cannot save but simply alert, advise and warn and only according to your openness and willingness. They cannot change or deter you from your own insistency no matter to what it's due. Only you can choose to change. Such is the design of free will." -- Messages from the Ancestors
Kelley says the book focuses on joy and gratitude, love and compassion -- expressing "the oneness though not the sameness of us all." Culled from a "huge collection" of messages received over 10 years of dreams, the emphasis is on "fulfilling one's destiny through love -- love for self, love for one's fellow and love for all creation."
According to Kelley, the messages offer encouragement and guidance for whatever is our task.
"Are you nibbling on the apples of the tree of knowledge or are you nurturing whatever proud plant or humble weed is your present entrustment? It is that which you are to make glorious. " - Messages from the Ancestors
The story of how the book came into existence may strain some readers' credulity, but for me it tells the compelling tale of two people brought together by dreams. The book explains:
"Dave, a surgeon frustrated by the limitations of allopathic medicine, had been on a journey of self-discovery to find an alternative healing paradigm. Maryellen was a long-time educator with a local college... At the turn of the millennium, Dave began an initiation with an elderly Zulu sangoma (indigenous healer) in Swaziland that lasted over two years. A crucial part of that training involved engaging in dreams from the ancestors... Soon after Maryellen and Dave met, she began to get dreams with messages for him from various ancestral persons whom she did not know. Some of these messages comprise the contents of this book. Ancestors are very practical and will use the most accessible channel so that most of these dreams have been imparted to Maryellen because of her unusual receptivity... The array of personalities coming into her dreams was staggering -- Hebrew, African, Celtic, animal, mythical and otherwise. At first the nature of the information as well as its delivery system made for a strained, sometimes incomprehensible and often questioning relationship between Maryellen and Dave in spite of his sangoma training where ancestors are believed to script one's dreams... "
Dr. Cumes was in fact skeptical. What happened next changed his mind.
"In the beginning, they [the ancestors] would send messages in Afrikaans, Zulu and Hebrew that Maryellen could not understand but would write down phonetically. For the most part Dave could translate the words [he is a native South African] but on occasion he had to consult other sources for help especially with the Hebrew and Zulu. This reassured him that the dreams must be coming from a source outside Maryellen's psyche. She was indeed receiving what the sangomas call 'instructional' dreams.'"
I asked Cumes and Kelley how people might get personal and practical benefits from the messages in the book. "The messages stand as messages, koans to be pondered and savored, whether you believe in the ancestors or not," said Cumes.
"Bestow blessings, refuse burdens. What makes you beholden enslaves you. What makes you grateful blesses you. What you touch, touches you. What you let touch you, enhances or diminishes." -- Messages from the Ancestors
"It doesn't matter if you call it the field or God or the collective unconscious," Cumes added. "The ancestors are there whether or not you feel or see them."
His Zulu mentor P.H. Mtshali said to him early on in his training, "The trouble with you white people is that you have lost the way. You are like papers blowing in the wind. You are not supported in life without your ancestors."
"Our connection with the spirit guides is a relationship," Cumes said. "It thrives or withers depending on how much attention we give it. The more you talk to the ancestors, the more you honor them, the more they come into your life."
"The most needful time for spiritual practice is when you feel you have no time." -- Messages from the Ancestors
Both Cumes and Kelley emphasized that the spirit guides they connect with are not necessarily recent blood relatives or blood relatives at all. In fact, some of them go back to ancient times. In a sense, "everybody is your ancestor," says Cumes. "It's anyone who loved you or cared for you in a past lifetime."
"Be grateful and you will be happy. Happiness leads to great empowerment. Attend to your well-being, especially to happiness, the cause for which is sometime found in hidden recesses, always in gratitude." -- Messages from the Ancestors
More information can be found at Dr. David Cumes' website.