Marianne Deborah Williamson (born July 8, 1952) is an American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer. She has published ten books, including four New York Times number one bestsellers. She is the founder of Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area, and the co-founder of The Peace Alliance, a grass roots campaign supporting legislation to establish a United States Department of Peace. She serves on the Board of Directors of the RESULTS organization, which works to end poverty in the United States and around the world. Williamson is also the force behind Sister Giant, a series of seminars and teaching sessions that provides women with the information and tools needed to be political candidates. Through these seminars, she encourages women to run for office and align their politics with their spiritual values.
She has been a guest on television programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose and Real Time with Bill Maher. In December 2006, a Newsweek magazine poll named her one of the fifty most influential baby boomers. According to Time magazine, “Yoga, the Cabala and Marianne Williamson have been taken up by those seeking a relationship with God that is not strictly tethered to Christianity.” Williamson bases her teaching and writing on a set of books called A Course in Miracles, a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy, based on universal spiritual themes.
A paragraph from one of her books, A Return to Love, has become one of the most popular inspirational quotes ever:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The paragraph is frequently mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela but in fact was neither written nor quoted by the late South African President.
At the forefront of what has been called “a revolution in consciousness”, Williamson weaves the traditional mystic’s themes of the unity of creation into a social and political worldview that has growing appeal in this age. An excerpt from an article of hers, published in a Huffington Post blog, illuminates this sentiment clearly:
“What is the Revolution of Consciousness, in a nutshell? Like all great movements in human history, it is based on a single insight: in this case, that we are not separate from one another. We are not material beings limited to the physical body, but beings of consciousness limited by nothing. Like waves in the ocean or sunbeams to the sun, there is actually nowhere where one of us stops and another one starts. On the level of bodies, we’re all separate of course. But on the level of consciousness, we are one.
What that means, of course, is that what I do to you, I do to myself. That makes the Golden Rule very, very good advice. Do unto others what you would have others do unto you — because they will, or someone else will.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, affects all indirectly.” That understanding is not metaphor or symbol; it’s a description of an ultimate Reality shoved from our awareness by an obsolete scientific worldview. To reclaim that understanding is not blind but visionary. King was not just a movement leader but also a spiritual one, proclaiming that the human condition would not fundamentally change until our hearts were changed. Until that change occurs within us, every time we cut off the head of a monster three more will take its place.
Anything we do to anyone else will ultimately come back at us, whether as individuals or as nations. Once we know that, we cannot un-know it. It changes everything, including our hearts. How can we not change how we see each other, once we realize that we are each other?”
In her book Everyday Grace, Marianne Williamson elaborates on her own sense of personal mysticism:
“The seeker in us is always seeking more Truth, knowing that the search goes on forever. The mystic in us, on the other hand, is trying to practice what we’ve learned of it: right here, in this moment, whatever we are doing. The mystic is a spiritual practitioner, seeking not merely to understand the principles of spiritual awareness, but to embody them as best he or she can. We embrace the idea — advanced by both ancient philosophers and modern physicists — that the world is one. Everything connects to everything; therefore, as we change, the world cannot but change with us.
Modern mystics form a kind of spiritual underground in the world today, seeking to transform everything. We are everywhere, as mystics have always been everywhere; we come from every religion, as mystics have always come from every religion; and some of us relate to no religion at all. The mystical realm lies beyond all dogma and beyond the evidence of the physical senses. The mystic has been called to an inner journey, through the darkened entanglements of human existence to the radical love at the heart of God.
I have written this book as a traveling companion for the modern mystic, who goes through his day with the deepest desire to be in the world but not of the world-to be walking with her feet planted firmly on the ground, but thinking with her head soaring powerfully through the sky. To live solidly grounded, but from a spiritual foundation, integrating within ourselves the consciousness of earth and the consciousness of heaven-such is the mystic’s longing. And that longing is not for ourselves alone. For as any one of us finds our wings, the entire world is lifted.
The mystical path is not always easy, and my hope is that this book might be a bit of a map through some of its thorniest passages. I do not write as someone who has mastered the way, but as someone who has been walking it, though often clumsily, for several decades of my life. There are bits of information I’ve discovered on my way, pieces of knowledge and understanding that have made their way to me, as they’ve made their way to mystic travelers for generations. I have seen darkness, but I have glimpsed a little light as well.”
“The mystic path is a journey of personal transformation, and while the goal of the journey is to become our true selves, we can only do this by letting go of who we are not. If we wish to experience the fullness of life, we must cut through layers of illusion that hide the truth of who we really are. The mystical path runs through a very deep forest-the forest of our own psyche-and we need our supplies in order to walk through it.
We meet monsters and demons on the inner path. We meet humiliation in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to humiliation; we meet rejection in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to the pain of rejection; we meet the pangs of deep regret in order to grow to the point where our behavior would not lead to regret. We meet the monsters in order to slay them. The only way to rid ourselves of darkness is by bringing it to light.
Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work. The universe is holographic, which means the whole is present in every piece. Therefore, as we address the shadow within us, we are addressing the shadow of the world. The mystic does not deny the darkness, in ourselves or in the world, but affirms a light that lies beyond it. And we have faith the light will prevail because we have faith that light is our true identity. Our task is to remember that. We invoke the light by actively acknowledging it is there, standing as Harry Potter stood on platform 93Z4, knowing the door would reveal itself because of the nature of who we truly are. Being magic, Harry lives in a magical world. And, being magic, so do we.
The mystical realm arises from a different mode of perception than the one we are used to. The human race now stands on the brink of a historic transformation, with new eyes, new ears, new minds, and new hearts emerging from the cosmic drama of human evolution. As an embryo becomes a baby, we are becoming a new, more spiritualized version of ourselves. We are growing mystical wings as we evolve, as any species does, in the direction that supports our survival. We are moving now toward a universal compassion because, if we do not, we will cause our own extinction. To be a mystic is to choose rebirth, for ourselves and for the human race. We are participating in a collective quantum leap forward, in which our species will experience a fundamentally new chapter in our history.
Fundamental change is not a casual occurrence. We cannot casually commit to the process of spiritual transformation. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, I think I’ll be a mystic this year.” Mysticism is not a trend. Our entire being is called to the task, for the journey from density to light involves every aspect of who we are. Whether we are angry at the dry cleaners because they’ve ruined our favorite sweater, upset with a friend who has broken a promise, or frightened at the diagnosis of cancer in the breast of a best friend; whether we’re worried about the state of our marriage, looking for a new job, or anxious about nuclear bombs and terrorists in our midst, we see that everything we go through is a step along the path. We are taking the mystical journey as a way of transforming the world by transforming ourselves. Only by finding the love within us can we provide the love that will save the world.
Each of us carries, in the depths of our consciousness, a boxful of mystical tools. And central to our tool kit is the magical wand. A wand is not just silliness from children’s literature. Fairy tales are rife with archetypal truths that teach not only children, but open-minded adults as well, deep and fundamental truths about the nature of our reality. A wand is a medium of power, not just for wizards, but also for you and me. A wand is essentially a principle, an intention, a focused thought. When focused thought is negative, it creates ill. And when focused thought is loving and enlightened, it creates miraculous breakthroughs. A mystical wand is the illumined power that emanates from the mind when it is married to the heart.
Most of us love, to be sure. Yet far too often our love is passive; we must be proactive in our love in order for it to change our lives. Spiritual laziness has no place on the path. First, we must outgrow the myth of neutrality. For in fact there is no neutral thought; all thought leads to love or to its absence. One who is not committed to love is surrendered to that which opposes it, opening up the door to fear as surely as one who consciously welcomes that fear.
There is so much love in the human heart, yet hatred threatens our planet. And why? Because hatred is currently more committed than love. In the words of philosopher Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.” Indeed, the forces of fear in this world are more disciplined, more courageous in a perverse kind of way, than are the forces of love. For hatred, as we know all too well, has no problem announcing itself and its intentions to the world. Our response should not just be that we oppose hate; our response must be that we love the world. Then and only then will love truly triumph: when the children of God don’t just feel our love, but express our love.
Our task then is to harness the energies of love — to actualize its enormous power in practical and meaningful ways. Love too must announce its intentions to the world, with all the passion born of a compassionate heart. We are a species that has everything, yet what we lack is what only we can give: conviction. It is the conviction to love that gives birth to miracles.
In the words of the French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, ‘One day, after we have mastered the winds and the waves, gravity and the tides, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in human history, mankind will have discovered fire.’”
The above excerpt, as well as extensive quotes from other writings by Marianne, can be found online here:
More quotes from Marianne Williamson:
“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong’.”
“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”
“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”
“And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.”
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”
“We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.”
“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
“Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.”
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. ”
“In the absence of love, we began slowly but surely to fall apart.”
“Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we’re frantic, life will be frantic. If we’re peaceful, life will be peaceful. And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace.”
“Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.”
“Whenever we feel lost, or insane, or afraid, all we have to do is ask for His help. The help might not come in the form we expected, or even thought we desired, but it will come, and we will recognize it by how we feel. In spite of everything, we will feel at peace.”
“Just like a sunbeam can’t separate itself from the sun, and a wave can’t separate itself from the ocean, we can’t separate ourselves from one another. We are all part of a vast sea of love, one indivisible divine mind.”
“Rather than accepting that we are the loving beings that He created, we have arrogantly thought that we could create ourselves, and then create God. Because we are angry and judgmental, we have projected those characteristics onto Him. We have made up a God in our image. But God remains who He is and always has been: the energy, the thought of unconditional love.”
“Usually, when we think of power, we think of external power. And we think of powerful people as those who have made it in the world. A powerful woman isn’t necessarily someone who has money, but we think of her as someone with a boldness or a spark that makes her manifest in a dramatic way. When we think of a powerful man, we think of his ability to manifest abundance, usually money, in the world.
Most people say that a powerful woman does best with a powerful man, that she needs someone who understands the bigness of her situation, a man who can meet her at the same or even greater level of power in the world.
Now this is true, if power is defined as material abundance. A woman often faces cultural prejudice when she makes more money than a man, as does he. A woman who defines power by worldly standards can rarely feel totally relaxed in the arms of a man who doesn’t have it.
If power is seen as an internal matter, then the situation changes drastically. Internal power has less to do with money and worldly position, and more to do than with emotional expansiveness, spirituality and conscious living…
I used to think I needed a powerful man, someone who could protect me from the harshness and evils of the world. What I have come to realize is that…the powerful man I was looking for would be foremost, someone who supported me in keeping myself on track spiritually, and in so maintaining clarity within myself, that life would present fewer problems. When it did get rough, he would help me forgive.
I no longer wanted somebody who would say to me, “Don’t worry honey, if they’re mean to you I’ll beat them up or buy them out.” Instead, I want someone who prays and meditates with me regularly so that fewer monsters from the outer world disturb me, and who when they do, helps me look within my own consciousness for answers, instead of looking to false power to combat false power.”
“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different. And there’s room in the garden for every flower. You didn’t have to struggle to make your face different than anyone else’s on earth. It just is. You are unique because you were created that way. Look at little children in kindergarten. They’re all different without trying to be. As long as they’re unselfconsciously being themselves, they can’t help but shine. It’s only later, when children are taught to compete, to strive to be better than others, that their natural light becomes distorted.”
“Spiritual progress is like a detoxification.”
“Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work.”
“Can the purpose of a relationship be to trigger our wounds? In a way, yes, because that is how healing happens; darkness must be exposed before it can be transformed. The purpose of an intimate relationship is not that it be a place where we can hide from our weaknesses, but rather where we can safely let them go. It takes strength of character to truly delve into the mystery of an intimate relationship, because it takes the strength to endure a kind of psychic surgery, an emotional and psychological and even spiritual initiation into the higher Self. Only then can we know an enchantment that lasts.”
“Nothing binds you except your thoughts; nothing limits you except your fear; and nothing controls you except your beliefs.”
“We must relinquish our passive observation of the world outside; we can open the door to the world we want. In understanding ourselves, we come to understand the world. In allowing ourselves to heal, we become the healers of the world. In praying for peace, we become bringers of peace. Thus we actualize the power within us to remedy the psychic wounds of humanity.”
“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”
“Spiritual growth involves giving up the stories of your past so the universe can write a new one.”
“We can’t look to the world to restore our worth; we’re here to restore our worth to the world. The world outside us can reflect our glory, but it cannot create it. It cannot crown us. Only God can crown us, and he already has.”
“If our emotional stability is based on what other people do or do not do, then we have no stability. If our emotional stability is based on love that is changeless and unalterable, then we attain the stability of God.”
“The only thing missing in any situation is that in which you are not giving.”
“People hear you on the level you speak to them from. Speak from your heart, and they will hear with theirs.”
“In that Holy Place where you tell Him everything and he understands; there are angels who stand in wait to hear his every command. How may they serve you and increase your joy?”
“We all make mistakes, we all have fears, and we all have weaknesses. Behind all that is our essential self. When our essential self has made contact with another, the light is dazzling and would fill the universe. The challenge of enchantment is to remain faithful to that light, to believe in it when it is not so apparent. Then that light becomes an incandescent glow and it wraps itself around everything.”
“We’re hallucinating. And that’s what this world is: a mass hallucination, where fear seems more real than love. Fear is an illusion. Our craziness, paranoia, anxiety and trauma are literally all imagined.”
“Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.”
“The highest prize we can receive for creative work is the joy of being creative. Creative effort spent for any other reason than the joy of being in that light filled space, love, god, whatever we want to call it, is lacking in integrity. . .”
“From a mind filled with infinite love comes the power to create infinite possibilities. We have the power to think in ways that reflect and attract all the love in the world. Such thinking is called enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a process we work toward, but a choice available to us in any instant.”
“The only way to gain power in a world that is moving too fast is to learn to slow down. And the only way to spread one’s influence wide to learn how to go deep. The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed but rather from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it.”
“Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of heaven. Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell.”
“I believe that the most urgent need of parents today is to instill in our children a moral vision: what does it mean to be a good person, an excellent neighbor, a compassionate heart? What does it mean to say that God exits, that He loves us and He cares for us? What does it mean to love and forgive each other? Parents and caregivers of children must play a primary role in returning our society to a healthy sense of the sacred. We must commit to feeding our children’s souls in the same way we commit to feeding their bodies.”
“Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.”
“There is, inside all our heads, the ego’s rabid attack dog. It is purely vicious toward others and toward ourselves as well. Learning to control that dog, and ultimately to end its life, is the process and purpose of enlightened relationships.”
“…you’re on this earth with a divine purpose: to rise to the level of your highest creative possibility, expressing all that you are intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically in order to make the universe a more beautiful place.”
“Our triumph over sorrow is not that we can avoid it but that we can endure it. And therein lies our hope; that in spirit we might become bigger than the problems we face.”
“Love makes us wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose and a flow of creative ideas. Love floods our nervous system with positive energy, making us far more attractive to prospective employers, clients, and creative partners. Love fills us with powerful charisma, enabling us to produce new ideas and new projects, even within circumstances that seem to be limited. Love leads us to atone for our errors and clean up the mess when we’ve made mistakes. Love leads us to act with impeccability, integrity, and excellence. Love leads us to serve, to forgive, and to hope. Those things are the opposite of a poverty consciousness; they’re the stuff of spiritual wealth creation.”
“You have tremendous gifts to give; God sent them with you when you came to this earth. And while you might forget them, or doubt they exist, God does not forget and He will show them to you. As soon as your gifts are dedicated to His work, they will blossom. Chains that might have held you back for years will dissolve. And you will feel free. You will learn that your spirit is bigger than your circumstances, as soon as you put your spirit first.”
“Our self-perception determines our behavior. If we think we’re small, limited, inadequate creatures, then we tend to behave that way, and the energy we radiate reflects those thoughts no matter what we do. If we think we’re magnificent creatures with an infinite abundance of love and power to give, then we tend to behave that way. Once again, the energy around us reflects our state of awareness.”
“There is nowhere you need go to find God, for God is within you. There is no one you need ask if you are good enough, for He has already established He is exceedingly well pleased.”
“The miracle of love is expressed through other people. When a beloved is sent from God—and no one can tell you if they are, but the spirit within you—then they do hold the key to your soul’s liberation. God has given it to them.”
“Thought is Cause; experience is Effect. If you don’t like the effects in your life, you have to change the nature of your thinking.”
“The only path I am asked to monitor is my own. I resist all temptation today to judge how I think others should behave. I cannot know the deeper forces at work within anyone’s heart. My deliverance comes from accepting all people, not judging or controlling them. I pray that when I am tempted to speak or act without charity, that God’s spirit will correct my thoughts. I pray to be an instrument of love by which people are reminded of their innocence, not an instrument of blame that reminds them of their guilt. I do this for my own sake, that I too might be released from feelings of guilt that would otherwise bind me. It is not my job to monitor anyone’s journey, to know what’s right or wrong for others, or to try to control their behavior. My salvation lies in deep acceptance of people exactly as they are, that I might know the inner peace that such acceptance brings. Amen.”
“Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.” Spirit says, “Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.”
“Old Newtonian physics claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of them. Quantum physics, and particularly Elly Kleinman’s Principle, reveal that, as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes.”
“Negativity poisons my mind, and positivity restores it. I have a choice whether to join in the darkness of the world, its petty judgments, and constant blame. When I do so I inject my psyche with poison, and today I choose a healthy mind. I replace all negativity with a positive attitude, in which I seek to find, and to articulate, the good in every heart. If I disagree, I will disagree with honor. If I debate a point, I will debate with respect. If I need to draw a line for the sake of justice, I will do so with an honor for the dignity of all. I will no longer be careless with the working of my mind. Rather, I will use it as it was created by God to be used, as a conduit for love and a gateway to peace. May everyone, including myself, feel the tenderness of my approval and not the harshness of my unkindness.”
“Today I choose happiness. The circumstances of my life may go up and down, for the mortal world is changeable. The immortal world, however, is changeless, for there is only love. I build my house on the rock of the immortal world. Today I choose only immortal thoughts. I extend my perception beyond what my senses perceive, to what my heart knows is true. I withdraw my belief that I need anyone or anything to be other than what they are, in order for me to be secure. I know that whenever fear expresses itself, love will ultimately prevail. Therefore I need not fear, nor cry, nor despair. To the extent to which I see what is truly true, I see only cause for happiness. Happiness is the choice I make today. It does not rest on my circumstances, but on my frame of mind. I surrender to God any emotional habits that lead me down the path of unhappiness, and pray for guidance in shifting my thoughts. In cultivating the habits of happiness, I attract the people and situations that match its frequency. I smile more often, give praise more often, give thanks more often, and am glad more often. For such is my choice today.”
Linked here is an interesting profile of Marianne Williamson from the magazine Psychology Today, entitled “Marianne Williamson: Who Is She & Why Do We Need Her Now?”:
Marianne Williamson “Everyday Grace”: