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Excerpt from "Beyond the River's Gate"

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Law, no part of this book may be reprinted, reproduced, transmitted, or utilized in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying, microfilming, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.

This book is for travelers everywhere:
Fighting illness, suffering
And straining to reach Higher.

May a ladder of Light
Be extended, lifting you up,
Far beyond tears, pain and sadness.


Religion may be compared

To a great river that feeds the land.

The river winds its way as a mighty force

And smaller tributaries are formed

To serve the distant regions.

Some travelers are satisfied

To drink of the smaller stream

And forget they must travel

The river to its Source.

Beyond the river’s gate,

The Ocean is waiting.


Note to Reader

First, I’d like to present a few thoughts on why I was inspired to write this book and share the messages contained here with a wider audience.

In my life, I often behaved as if godliness was next to idleness. Most often I sought time away by myself to contemplate how spiritual I was. I truly believed salvation was to be found, away from others, meditating upon profound thoughts.

And when I traveled a little further, I realized ‘contemplating my navel’ was the antithesis of what the Path was about. As Saadi taught, so many years ago, “The Path is in human service. It is none other than this.” This is still true today.

When a hand is extended to help another, the human soul reaches toward the heavens. Service that is free of personal interest is one of the highest forms of human existence.

And so I present this work as a form of service to my fellow humans here on Earth, most of who are spiritual travelers, just like me.

And now, a few notes about the format of this book. In literary works readers have come to expect material to follow a basic, familiar structure. Usually this format includes the following:

· The writing has a clear beginning, middle and end. The use of chapters allows similar material to be grouped together

· There is a central theme or set of ideas that is discernible, flowing and developing through sections and chapters.

· Through the writer’s expertise, the reader is brought to reach their own conclusions rather than being told what the conclusion should be.

Spiritual writing often does not adhere to the structure described above. This type of writing is designed to impact on an inner level, using a scatter approach and a different set of underlying principles. It works on a conscious, subconscious and spiritual level. Sometimes the synergy of understanding takes months or years to achieve.

is divided into two sections. Part I is a collection of 99 question and answers that cover a range of spiritual topics. Part II presents stories, verses, sayings and observations that enrich this material.

Collectively, this writing explores basic concerns that people have about the spiritual journey and its connection to world problems. Many of us have had a religious upbringing but we may lack an inner connection to what we learned, and wonder what to do with this early learning in our day-to-day lives.

Further, this material focuses on making that inner spiritual connection; most importantly that connection is the point at which religion and spirituality meet. For millennia, the wise have claimed on an inner level, all the religions are one. By shining a Light on spiritual learning and mystery traditions which have long been hidden, it is intended that the information presented will stimulate and push the reader further to seek their own questions and answers.

So here our questioning, rational mind is represented by each question and higher consciousness or spirit is its answer. While these questions may appear at times random and unconnected, this is in fact the way higher consciousness or spiritual learning takes place. At times our thoughts and questions are all over the place. Yet another part of our awareness, which is deeply hidden, works to integrate and provide balance and direction.

Most often, the answer to questions is openly stated and provides a grounding framework for the reader. You do not have to wonder what the author is trying to say. This is done so that you might react and learn. The ability to observe our reactions and master our responses is one of the goals of the spiritual journey.

In this regard may this writing be of service and may your journey be filled with Light.

Finally, as you travel through these pages, may you take this information and reach toward the ultimate question and answer: understanding who you are and creating your own, individual destiny.


Part 1: Questions & Answers

Who or what is God?

God is the Light of the universe and is the mother and father of us all. God is present in everything and is the underlying unity of all things. God is the life force and binds together the worlds. God is all loving and merciful, and a piece of God, a spark of energy called the Heart, is in everyone.

God is greater than all creation and exists beyond the universe. While we may know and experience God, many aspects of God are beyond our experience and remain a mystery.

In our age, science has defined God as a supra-energy force that is part of everything and connects all things. Mystics have perceived this reality and used it for countless centuries: bringing Light to the spiritual darkness.

For some, the word / name “God” has many negative connotations; if this is true for you, substitute the word, “Light.” This may help you travel through these pages; remember it is the Light which dissipates spiritual darkness.

Why did God create man & woman?

Man and woman were created as God’s representatives on earth. A human being is the meeting of the spiritual, mental, psychic (emotional) and physical realms. Man is destined to reign in kingship, believe it or not, in this realm along with God as a co-creator of reality. The traveler who has mastered himself and reigns supreme in his own kingdom, is master of all worlds.

Man and woman are reflections of all the different expressions of God.

Why was I born?

We take on the physical form so we might better know God, create our own reality, and serve God. Here in the earth phase, we can learn, create and experience many beautiful and wonderful things and accelerate our spiritual journey back to God. The contrast between the earthly and spiritual provides a friction that pushes us to question our existence and the meaning of life. This friction increases our learning and understanding.

Why are there so many religions? Which one is really “right?”

God is One.

However, the many religions exist because people and cultures are different; these differences in religious form exist to help people better understand who they are and where they came from.

In this matter there is both an internal and external reality. The internal reality is the spiritual experience of God and, for all religious forms; the closer you get to God, the more this experience is the same. Externally religious forms differ; religion puts on “different clothes,” so to speak, because the social climate and people’s needs vary.

Imagine religion as a beautiful woman. One day she travels to a land where it is cold. By necessity she puts on a fur garment to keep warm. The next week, as circumstances dictate, she travels to another land where it is much hotter. In order to adjust, she sheds the fur and adorns a cotton dress.

Depending upon the day you met her; you would describe her outward appearance differently. Yet beneath the clothing, she is the same, beautiful woman and any difference in appearance is superficial.

It is like this with religion. People get caught up with the externals, argue about the clothing and forget about the core truths.

Why does the world as we know it exist?

The world is a magnificent cornucopia, filled with wondrous and delightful items. Here we can find exactly what we are looking for. If we seek enjoyment of the senses, there are many opportunities. Similarly if we seek to learn and draw closer to our higher self, this opportunity exists as well.

In part, the earth phase of our existence is an opportunity to learn, create and experience all the parts of self and grow closer to that which we wish to become.

What is mysticism?

Mysticism is the process by which one studies or learns about the mysteries or mystery traditions. Within each of the great faiths, there is an inner, hidden teaching that is transcendent and unifying. The reason this teaching is hidden is that in order to study it, a number of factors have to be in place. Until recently, these factors were not publicly stated or no attempts have been made to make them publicly understood.

When viewed from a distance, these criteria are applicable to any human endeavor. Suppose we want to learn about fly-fishing. We would have to find out what time the class is starting, where it is being held, who is teaching the class and what preparations / materials are necessary. Is the class for beginners or more advanced students?

It is the same with mystical studies, however, one other additional factor is operating. This is termed “sincerity” and relates to the intention of the student. If the student wishes to align with Truth, not for individual gain, but for its own sake; these are the students who attain knowledge, and it is this sincerity the teacher is drawn to and recognizes in the student. Because of this inner condition, traditionally the teacher finds the student. Together they unlock the mysteries of the spiritual path.

Do we really have free will? If there is an ultimate destiny that we are supposed to get closer to God, why do we have choices other than those that will bring us there?

Each person has the ability to choose and create. This is what sets us apart from other creatures. We can choose and create our own reality every moment of the day; and influence our life and world as co-creator.

Within ourselves we have a magic wand and can turn each day into a beautiful or frightening experience. Our imagination and ability to make thoughts come true is the magical element. Through our consciousness, we can create all sorts of things and must be careful to make useful and wise decisions.

Choices that are in front of us are just that – choices. On a Higher Level, there is really no such thing as a good or bad choice; only choices that bring us closer to God or further away from God.

On a day to day level, people can and do make bad choices all the time. Or make choices because it may serve a personal need. Such as doing what your boss wants you to do which may not serve the greater good but preserves your job and income for your family.

Deep down inside, we know what will result from the choices we make. The skill lies in being able to tap that knowledge that already exists and use it for a Higher Purpose.

What is prayer? Does it really work?

Prayer is a song that arises from our heart and tells the sweet tale of love. Not love as we have ever experienced it, but a deep, transcendent love that spans the ages. It is a whisper that comes from the depth of our soul and a melody through which we can share secrets, weaknesses, dreams and desires with God.

In prayer there must be no compulsion; it is not something that can be forced or taught. Real prayer is as natural as breathing; it is a song, an expression of our eternal self. Most of us learn through our religious upbringing that prayer is done by rote. We memorize our prayers and say them every night before bed. Then we can ask God to give us something we really want, and he will listen. Yet, this is not the higher prayer; the higher prayer is helping and praying for others, as God’s servant.

If you can learn to make your life a prayer, every moment you can sing the song of creation. Yes, prayer used in this form can assist us in co-creation of our reality with God. It works.

Part 2: Stories, Verses & Observations

The Theologian

There is a much repeated story about a Servant of God, and how he set aside traditional religious training to follow his mystical teacher and reach spiritual completion. And by under taking this journey, the world benefited.

One day, a Doctor of Theology was seated beside a water fountain, outside the university where he taught. Beside him on the fountain, were many books of religious law that had been passed down to him by his father, who in his time was a renowned theologian. As the doctor read through one of the books and memorized a passage, along came a desert wanderer. As was customary this fellow was dressed in a patched robe, with hair in disarray and a wild, far away look in his eye.

Before the Doctor of Theology fully noticed, the wanderer rushed forward and grabbed all of the doctor’s books, including the one he was reading and tossed them into the water fountain.

Surprised and astonished at this behavior, the doctor called out, “Why did you do that? These books are filled with great wisdom and are priceless!”

The desert wanderer, stared at the doctor, then replied, “If you wish to learn something really useful; wisdom that is not found in your books then follow me.” Then the wild desert wanderer turned and walked away.

Stunned and unable to move, the Doctor of Theology considered what to do.

Decidedly he left the books that had been passed down to him in the fountain and for three years followed this wild man of the desert. In time this doctor passed beyond knowledge of religion, into knowledge of self and spirit; becoming a sun whose rays still shine until this day. After their time together, nothing was ever heard again of the wild mystical teacher from the desert.

Today this Doctor of Theology, Jalaluddin Rumi, is widely recognized as one of the greatest mystical teachers and poets of all time.

Accepting God

Why do people
Have so much trouble accepting
We came into this world
To grow closer to God?

While our time in this world
Serves a multitude of purposes,
In some respect, it will have been wasted
Unless we come to understand and accept this unifying principle.

The River

Traveler: There is only One God, or Light,
Yet there are many paths and religions,
Why is this?

Master: Each traveler finds God / Light
In a different way.
One traveler may seek salvation
As a loving spouse and parent
And another may find God’s Face
On a distant shore.

Each traveler is a universe
And in this vast expanse
It is easy to go astray.
Only the Light’s Grace
Leads the traveler home.

Religion may be compared
To a great river that feeds the land.
The river winds its way as a mighty force
And smaller tributaries are formed
To serve the distant regions.
Some travelers are satisfied
To drink of the smaller stream
And forget they must travel
The river to its Source.

Beyond the river’s gate,
The Ocean is waiting.

Traveler: Where is the boat
To journey the river
For I am ready to depart?

Master: O little one, you are so eager;
Yet you are already assail
And your soul is the vessel.
Your heart is the compass
And the Light’s Mercy
Is the breeze at your back.

If you bow in prayer to the Light,
The Light Will provide all you need
And Guide you to the Ocean.

Giant Bazaar

The world is a giant bazaar.
A market place
Where you will find
Exactly what you seek.

If you seek garbage, it is there.
Similarly if you desire sweets
There are many vendors.

Fortunate is the traveler
Who knows what to seek.
Most leave without making
The right choice.

The World

Traveler: What of the world?

Master: All things in this universe
Are Created for an appointed term.
The sun, the moon,
And you and I
Are here for a brief afternoon
In the timeless eternity.

The Beloved is the Eternal Reality.
God was here
Before the sun and moon
And will be
Long after they are a memory.
This world is Created
For a fixed period
And when the hour arrives
It too will pass on.
Only God Remains.

Traveler: If this life is temporary
Why must I participate
In the every day affairs of the world?

Master: Little one, you were Created
To serve God’s Purpose.
Each traveler has a job to do
And each must contribute
To the benefit of all.
You will not serve the Creator
By sitting on a mountain
And praying for your own salvation.
We must participate in the world
And work for the benefit of all.

All of us cannot sit on mountains;
Who will do the work to feed humanity?
The secret is to remain separate,
Immersed in the Holy Name,
Yet participate in every day affairs.

Ask the Beloved
And God Will Teach you
The secrets of the world
And how to love His / Her service.

World as Canvas

The canvas is the world.
You are the artist.

Pick up the brush;
Create your own life.

Freedom To Choose

As spiritual travelers, we participate in the same design. We are born; we live and then die; traveling onto the next place. Yet within this pattern there is tremendous variability and much freedom to choose.

In the main how we live our lives is up to us.


Traveler: Holy One, speak to me of prayer.

Master: As the robin serenades the morning
And offers thanks for another day,
In this way, prayer is a song
That arises from the heart.
As the mother caresses the babe
And her heart swells with love,
In this way, prayer is sweeter
Than the rarest wine.

As the sun travels the heavens
And heralds the morning,
In this way, prayer is the work
That we must do.
Prayer takes endless forms
And many times we are confined
To the ritual of praying.
True prayer is performing
All the tasks of the day as God’s servant.

Remember we pray to the Beloved
Because we need God.
The Most High
Does not need our prayers.

Beyond Knowledge

Beyond words
And beyond experience
There is knowledge.

Beyond knowledge
There is God.
Here the seeker
And goal are united.

Be Not Shy

Beyond the mountains
God is waiting. Calling to the Heart
In sweet whispers.
Beckoning with a caress.
Come forward my lovers.
Be not shy of my Kiss.
Come forward and join me
In peaceful surrender.
Take one step toward me
And I shall fill you
With the Secrets of Eternity.
One tear from your heart
Longing for me
Shall lead you to the garden.
One sigh from your soul
Imploring my grace and mercy
Shall place you at my side.
One hand extended to another
In my Name
Shall raise the cup to your lips.

One life devoted to my service
Shall fill humanity with the rarest wine.

Bird Cage

Like a captive bird
The soul sings,
Remembering its home.

It is precisely
For this song,
The bird is caged.


Dr. Stewart Bitkoff is an avid student of Sufi Mysticism. Professionally, specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment; he holds a doctorate in education and served on the faculties of six colleges and universities.

Read my new book: Beyond The River’s Gate. Book is available on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle format or local bookstore.

To Order Your Copy Visit Amazon: http://bit.ly/bitkoffriver

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