“Every day people are straying away from the Church and going back to God.”
~ Lenny Bruce

My last post (LINK) was generated by ChatGPT (LINK), a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The point was to notice what it could and could not do – it could do some research (not fully up to date, however); it could not duplicate my writing voice, although that was the instruction given. This and other forms of AI are trending now and will have significant influence on how we live in the future, especially as they get better. A skill to develop is how to recognize AI-generated images and text, as we will be easily fooled if we do not.

The essence of the post was on the decline in worship attendance, which has been going on for some time, and which I have written about many times in the past (LINK to Sample). This decline is universal in the wealthier western nations, but it is not evenly distributed. The safest thing to say is that the trend is accelerating, and that the COVID Pandemic is a cause of this trend speeding up, especially among younger people (LINK).

“We have an opportunity in this moment of our great transformation. We can approach this time as survivors, desperately clinging to our structures and ways of being. Or we can see ourselves as pioneers, setting out in the face of the unknown to discover new ways to live faith-filled lives. The inevitable decline of our structures gives us the chance to let go of what might hold us back from that adventure. Nothing today will be the same ten years from now. Why not architect the kind of faith movement we want to see twenty-to-fifty years from now? What do we have to lose?”
~ Cameron Trimble, 
Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight

What is happening is part of a larger phenomenon – the deconstruction of institutions and structures from the old order. In Spiral Dynamics terms, this means that the Blue/Orange structures are being abandoned, collapsing, or falling into a state of decline, despite efforts to bolster them. I have written about this topic many times here and in my books (LINK). We are in changing, liminal times, where the old stability is no longer present. What the future holds is not fully known, but it seems reasonable to say that a new stability is not part of the equation which is emerging.

“The church of yesterday cannot meet the needs of today, nor be prepared to adapt to the needs of tomorrow. ‘The past is the past…,’ no matter how wonderful. Precious memories are just that…precious and memories. We must look to the future if we are to continue to be faithful to our calling.”

~ Grant Lynn Ford, MCC Minister

In a sense, I am writing this to you from your future. I am in France, the most secular nation on earth at this time. Regular worship attendance here averages around 1% of the population. The great cathedrals are owned by the state and tax supported as historic structures; the Church is allowed to use them. Other churches and church buildings have been repurposed for secular uses. Throughout Europe, the average weekly worship attendance is around 5%.

What caused this? The effect of two world wars here, where millions were killed, despite the prayers and entreaties to God and the saints drove many from the Church. Then, several decades of scandals, mostly in the Catholic Church drove more away; an example: the Republic of Ireland voting overwhelmingly for marriage equality and abortion rights despite strong opposition from the Church.

But organized religion is not the only institution affected by these evolutionary cultural shifts – trust in government, big business, the media, and other big institutions has plummeted. One effect of this is the politicizing of just about everything into opposing camps who grow farther and farther apart. This also affects how we are in spiritual community together.

“In a world of siloed, self-selected information flow and knee-jerk willingness to attribute irredeemable stupidity and bad motives to opponents, the inclination to assume the worst is no surprise. Information – or pseudo-information – is trusted when it clicks neatly into our preconceptions.”

~ Ruth Marcus, Tuscon Star

Further, the changes affecting mainstream denominations (LINK) are not fully the same as what is affecting New Thought spiritual communities. Most mainstream denominations and communities are facing an exodus of people reaching Modernist-Orange and some reaching Postmodernist-Green on the spiral because they are evolving beyond the values and beliefs of traditional religion – they no longer find the church teachings relevant. New Thought was founded as a bridge from Traditionalist-Blue to an Orange spirituality, one that offered individual growth and self-realization not offered in the herd mentality of Blue.

As New Thought’s center of gravity shifted to the more complex Green and its values system, the dominant values became less and less appealing to those at Orange. When spiritual communities moved more and more into Green, many who remained at Orange, or who were new and just entering Orange, did not like the changes. Conversely, where some individuals evolved to Green, or came into communities at Green, but the center of gravity of the spiritual community remained at Orange, the folks who moved into Green felt unwelcome. The values are different enough to lead to stressful relationships among these levels on the spiral.

Also, the principles of New Thought were being taught differently as Green emerged. There was a movement away from the “absolutist” language which often taught that everyone was 100% responsible for everything that happened in their lives. At Orange, there had been no room for recognition of differences in background or whether people came from privilege or poverty; whether they had genetically derived illnesses or not, and so on.

As people evolve into Green they are less likely to support authoritarian leadership, especially if that leadership is abusive or perceived as inauthentic or hypocritical. While many centered at Orange still wanted (and want) the focus to be on prosperity, finding the perfect mate, and personal success, those at Green seek communal connection, diversity and inclusion, and ways to practically apply their principles for the greater good.

The changes we are seeing are speeding up – we are in for some turbulent times. Developing a consciousness of being comfortable in times of change is increasingly important. The principles of New Thought are valid and timeless, but we must recognize that they will be taught and interpreted according to one’s stage on the spiral, and in light of one’s background and culture. Where there is a diversity of spiral levels present, there will be differences both in terms of what people want to receive from the teachings and community and in terms of how they receive the teachings. This makes leadership more complex and challenging. But what else is new?

Tomorrow, Dorianne and I are off to the Integral European Conference where these topics will be discussed. I look forward to connecting with hundreds of very interesting people. We will both be presenting at the conference (me on the Green vMEME!). I will report back.

“I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn’t easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can.”

~ Kristin Armstrong

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE: Reflecting on the Decline in Church Attendance

Be sure to read the NOTE at the end of the post after you finish.

In recent years, an undeniable shift has occurred in the realm of religious practice. Churches, once the cornerstone of communities, are facing a significant decline in attendance. This phenomenon begs the question: What factors are contributing to this shift, and what does it mean for the future of organized religion?

Understanding the Trend: According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the United States has witnessed a gradual decrease in religious affiliation over the past decade. The study reveals that the percentage of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has risen from 16% in 2007 to 26% in 2019 (LINK). This shift is particularly prominent among younger generations who are less likely to participate in organized religious activities.

The Rise of Individual Spirituality: One possible explanation for this decline is the increasing trend of individualized spirituality. Many individuals now seek personal connections with the divine outside the boundaries of traditional religious institutions. This shift reflects a desire for more flexible and personalized approaches to spiritual fulfillment.

“Many people are still searching for spiritual experiences, but they are looking outside the realm of organized religion”
~ Eckhart Tolle, Author & Spiritual Teacher

Websites and platforms dedicated to alternative spiritual practices, such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, have gained popularity among those seeking spiritual growth without the confines of traditional religious dogma.

Changing Societal Dynamics: It is essential to recognize that the decline in church attendance is not solely driven by shifts in personal beliefs. Societal changes, including increased mobility, multiculturalism, and changing family structures, have also played a significant role in shaping religious practices.

“Americans are less likely to be religiously active today because they have more diverse opportunities for civic and social engagement”
~ Robert Putnam, Sociologist

Individuals are now finding community and social support in various spheres, such as sports clubs, social media groups, and volunteer organizations, diminishing the exclusive role once held by religious institutions.

Conclusion: The decline in church attendance signals a broader transformation in religious and spiritual landscapes. While organized religion continues to hold significance for many, it is crucial to acknowledge the evolving needs and preferences of individuals seeking alternative avenues for spiritual fulfillment.

As we navigate this changing landscape, it is essential to foster open dialogue and promote inclusivity within religious institutions. By embracing diversity and adapting to the evolving spiritual needs of the community, churches can remain relevant and offer valuable contributions to society.

NOTE: this post was produced by the artificial intelligence (AI) program ChatbotGPT from the following prompt:

Write a 300 word blog post on the topic of a reduction in church attendance in the style of https://newthoughtevolutionary.wordpress.com/. Include relevant quotes and references to websites with appropriate data.

I did this exercise to give you an idea of what this rapidly emerging technology can do as of now. While this post did not (in my opinion) fully capture my voice, it did a credible job of researching and writing that took less than 30 seconds. We are, as I have been noting for a number of years, in a rapidly changing world with groundbreaking technologies emerging which will change significant aspects of our lives. At the same time, we are facing massive challenges, such as climate change, which will also change significant aspects of our lives. Change is coming more rapidly and in larger waves. We would do well to learn to thrive in such a climate.

As always, your comments are welcomed.


I’ll be visiting the US twice this summer for speaking and consulting engagements. Here is a list:

Weekend of June 24-25 – Center for Spiritual Living Midtown (Atlanta)

June 27-30 – Keynote speaker at Unity Convention, Overland Park, KS

Weekend of August 5-6 – Center for Spiritual Living San Jose

August 8-11 – CSL SOAR Conference at Asilomar, Pacific Grove, CA

Weekend of August 12-13 – Unity of Houston

More specifics and info about online connection to come.


“A new you can still emerge from the old you.”
~ Bamigboye Olurotimi

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
~ W. Edwards Deming

Emergence is the process of something new emerging from something which already exists. It is an essential concept in understanding both evolution and psychology. In biological evolution, new expressions (mutations) arise from within the biological processes of plants and animals; in psychology, new capacities arise from within the human psyche.

Cultural evolution is the application of evolutionary theory to cultural and psychological development. It applies to both individual and group development. The Spiral Dynamics™ Model (LINK) is one model of cultural evolution and its processes. It says that as our Living Conditions become more complex, human beings are triggered to adapt through the emergence of a greater capacity for complexity. This greater capacity is latent within us as a potential. That potential is actualized when we adapt.

“This is exactly the position that modern philosophers take; it is called the theory of emergent evolution, which means that when nature needs something, it demands it of itself, and out of itself makes it. So, in the evolution of the human being, when it was necessary (…) to grasp, fingers were produced. When, then, if it is necessary for you and me to know something we do not know, can we not — according to this theory of emergence — demand the information of ourselves and have it come to be known? The Bible says: ‘There is a spirit in (humans): and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.’ Science, philosophy, metaphysics, and religion, viewed from the universal viewpoint, are all of much the same opinion.’”
~ Ernest Holmes,
excerpt from Science of Mind Magazine, July 2011

Here, Dr. Holmes expresses the concept of emergence from a spiritual/psychological perspective. In these developmental processes, the greater possibilities of who we are and what we can be are already within us awaiting activation. Our growth toward greater spiritual awareness and realization happens via the emergence of greater possibilities latent within us.

This is why it is so often said that we are not to seek our good from outside of ourselves. While our relationships with people and circumstances can trigger emergence, the externalities of our lives can only be responded to from our current level of development, they are not the source of growth. We can only truly possess and enjoy something for which the consciousness of the thing has emerged from within us.

“Big History has a number of trajectories. The work of Professor Clare W. Graves (Spiral Dynamics) is one of the first to track the bio-psycho-social historical developments that lay out in evolutionary political, economic, religious, and social surface-level manifestations. These lie at the core of geopolitical conflicts, racial and ethnic stereotypes and doom and gloom forecasts. Using the (Spiral Dynamics) approach, it is now time for the next major paradigm to emerge. We are going back to the future and forward to the past in the same generation.”
~ Don E. Beck

Graves’ work, expanded upon by Don Beck and Chris Cowen, has mapped the process of emergence across human cultures. The process of human development, individual and collective, is always via emergence. What I seek is within me. What I seek is the capacity to relate to the experiences of life in ways that allow me to grow. None of us can manifest the kind of life we desire unless we grow an inner acceptance and ownership of our capacities by the emergence of greater potential from within.

“The spiral of life is upward. Evolution carries us forward, not backward. Eternal and progressive expansion is its law and there are no breaks in its continuity. It seems to me that our evolution is the result of an unfolding consciousness of that which already is, and needs but to be realized to become a fact of everyday life.”
~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, page 387

Evolution tends to move toward greater complexity. This can be seen in the development of the Universe itself. Our human cultures also tend to evolve to greater complexity. Our spiritual development is also an evolutionary process to develop the complexity necessary to truly understand simplicity – which is a paradox, and a degree of complexity is necessary to understand and accept the reality of paradox. Simplistic views of spirituality result in idolatry and fundamentalism rather than in spiritual realization.

“According to this conception we do ourselves a disservice by arguing whether (human) nature is good or bad, active or reactive, mechanical or teleological. (Human) nature is emergent. What (a human) is cannot be seen before. We can see it only insofar as it has been revealed to us by his movement through the levels of human existence. And, what has been revealed to us, so far, is that in some way or another (our) nature is all of these and more. Our very conception envisages that new aspects of (humans) are now before us which were not seen before, and that the (person) that (we) now (are) will go on proliferating into new forms if the conditions for human existence continue to improve.”
~ Clare W. Graves
*(changes to be gender inclusive)

Evolutionary processes bring something forward which has not been before. On the cosmic scale, first there were no planets and stars, then there were planets and stars; first there was no solar system, then there was a solar system; first there was no life on earth, then there was life on earth; and so on.

On a personal scale, we can see a similar path of newness emerging as we develop physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Culturally, the need for greater complexity continues to grow as cultural evolution speeds up and carries us forward – or leaves us behind if we fail to adapt.

“We are the crossover generation from one phase of evolution to the next. … The signs of our emergence are a powerful, irresistible passion to unite with Spirit within, and to join with others to co-create a world equal to our love and our capacities.”
~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

We are a crossover generation – actually several generations – from periods of more stability to a future with little stability as we know it. The cultural evolutionary process speeds up and our inner potentials are called forth more rapidly. If we are to survive and thrive, we must align ourselves with the emergence of these potentials and come to understand our true nature – to adapt, to become, to realize more of our divine potentials.

“A butterfly that emerges from a cocoon lives by a very different set of laws than a caterpillar.”
~ Marion Woodman

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard   


“The spiritual journey is not glamorous, despite what New Age shops tell us, with their dolphins, incense and sunsets. Like Jacob at the ford, we are forced to wrestle with the angel as we attempt to cross the river of life to a new landscape.”
~ David Tacey

Even the most optimistic among us will acknowledge that we humans face some unprecedented challenges to our ways of living and even to our continued existence on this planet. To encounter these challenges with a reasonable chance of coming through them intact and perhaps even thriving will take great spiritual strength. For we must not only confront the effects of our ignorance and lack of wisdom in the way we have treated our environment and one another. We must confront significant numbers of people who believe that we should continue to act to jeopardize the sustainability of humanity.

New Thought teachings tell us that we have within us everything we need to create a good and healthy life for ourselves. This must be true collectively as well. In order to realize our potential and to share the good with others, we must first realize the power within us and allow it to emerge. We must develop our innate spiritual muscle, meaning the consciousness of strength, love, and compassion to work passionately and diligently toward the realization of greater good.

Spiritual muscle is strength bound by love. It is the development of the authentic self to a degree which opens us to the emergence of the hero within. It is the willingness to put ourselves, our feelings, our beliefs at risk in order to experience a larger reality.

“We are on the hero’s journey when we submit to the deep processes of life and allow them to affect us and bore their necessities into us. We are the hero when we take on the challenges and go through our initiations and transformations, enduring loss and gain, feeling happy and sad, making progress and falling back. The hero is engaged in life The hero is not the one who displays force and muscle without deep insight or the courage to be. The hero may not look heroic from the outside but may go through powerful developments in a quiet way. The difference is that the real hero engages life and reflects on it. She becomes more and more what he or she is destined to be.”
~ Thomas Moore

Whether the challenge is taking the difficult steps necessary to heal our planet, or standing with those who are oppressed and threatened, the hero calls on inner resources developed in the fires of self-honesty and self-development. The hero is not free of fear but uses fear as a call to strength. The hero’s journey takes you through the field of challenge and fear and you come out the other side stronger and more aware; you emerge as a different version of yourself.

Coming to terms with our own fears, inadequacies, challenges and failings is an essential part of the spiritual journey. It is mirrored in Jung’s path of individuation, which describes coming into alignment with our soul’s agenda, to be the best version of ourselves.

“But it does take making friends with yourself. It does take coming to know your anger, coming to know your self-deprecation, coming to know your craving and wanting, coming to know your boredom, and making friends with those things.”
~ Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape

If New Thought communities are to be a force for good in the world, co-creating the idea of #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone, the individuals in those communities will have to do the heroic work of self individuation. The role of the community in this process is to become a container for that development to occur, a safe space to experience the discomfort of the journey to self-realization.

We have seen enough of where fear leads us. We are seeing it now in restrictive and cruel laws being passed which will do harm to people of color, to women, to the LGBTQIA+ communities (especially transgender individuals), and more. Fear constricts and concretizes; love expands and softens. Our human systems, political, spiritual, educational, business, and more, need more love and less fear.

“If the spirit is not being fed properly, with wisdom that has been cultivated with sensitivity and intelligence, it will devour fast food and eat junk. That is what fundamentalism is, in one respect: the junk food of the spirit.”
~ David Tacey

For some, this will require a significant change in how spiritual community is done and what it means. Many are fond of sayings like “no mud, no lotus,” but few are willing to teach, set the example of, and live that reality.

No discomfort, no growth.

No deep personal work, no transformation.

No radical self-honesty, no wisdom.

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard


This post is from invited guest blogger, Rev. Dr. David Alexander, who is known in New Thought circles and beyond as a prophetic voice for social justice. Here Dr. David addresses being transgender, including a look at the current political situation in the United States.

“Whoever you are be proud, you are a Divine Idea in the Mind of God.”
~ Ernest Holmes

The rights and basic personhood of transgender folks are under attack all over the United States right now. In Georgia it’s gender-affirming care that is in the crosshairs, in South Carolina, there are, as of this writing 16 bills in consideration that run the gamut from restricting what can be taught in schools on gender diversity to outlawing gender-affirming healthcare. In Tennessee it’s drag shows that seem to be the biggest concern, yes, the state that has more Dolly Parton imitators than anywhere else is seeking to outlaw drag shows.

And in Florida, the state was according to Gov. DeSantis “Wokeness goes to die” they are seeking to criminalize gender-affirming care to the point where you may lose custody of your child if you seek to support them in their journey of authentic identity. (Source LINK) As the political world positions itself for the 2024 presidential campaign, extreme ideology is heating up.  At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, a right-wing blogger and commentator called for the complete elimination of transgenderism (which, by the way, is not a thing).

Currently, there are over 380 bills in state legislatures that seek to limit, outlaw and criminalize transgender lifestyle, education, healthcare, and access to basic civil rights. 

But why? 

To listen to the voices on the political and religious right – we’d hear that it is because we have to protect children from dangerous “woke Ideology” that will do irreversible harm to their innocent lives and bodies. But this rhetoric is little more than sensationalized talking points engineered to stir up moral outrage. Statistically speaking, our children are in far more danger from politicians’ refusal to act on responsible gun legislation than gender-affirming care. Further, there are standards of care that are closely monitored and reviewed, that protect children and parents both mental and physical well-being as they navigate the very personal journey. As for men dressed as women, well, the men in drag known as vestments in the Catholic Church have proven more dangerous to children than Mrs. Doubtfire’s reading hour at the local library. 

Why such irrational fear? Well, most fears are irrational, but that’s never stopped them from running amok in either the individual or collective consciousness. For many, this topic is “scary” and little understood. Why would someone want to be something different than what “God made them?”  Why would we allow minors to get life-altering medical care?  What if they change their mind later in life?  The vast majority of Americans are not educated in the particularities of philological, mental, and emotional aspects of gender dysphoria*

You may not know much about transgender healthcare. After all, most of us grew up in a binary world construct of black and white, right and wrong. Or so we thought. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to understand the complicated dynamics of human biology, sexuality, and gender identity to enlist your compassion and support for their rights. If personal-related experience were a prerequisite to compassion, empathy, and advocacy then our world and shared humanity would look much different. Yet this is exactly the premise on which those writing this anti-trans legislation do their bidding.  They are counting on stirring up the “fear of the unknown” to deliver votes and support for their inhumane attack on civil liberties. 

“It’s not about bathrooms, as it was never about water fountains.”
~ George Takei, Actor and Activist

Here’s the thing, your capacity to understand what you may not be familiar with may be more natural than you previously thought. Rev. Linda Herzer in her work, The Transgender Experience and the Bible (LINK), explains that there has always been space for the “in-between” of binary constructs. She points out that we are told in Genesis, “That god created day and night (binary construct). But is not also true that we have dawn and dusk?  We are told that god created land and water, but is it not true that we also have beaches and marshland?” 

The truth is the world is not as binary (or polarized) as we’ve been asked to believe. But we are asked to believe it, over and over again. And for “good reason” – It is a common conservative politics ploy: gin up a culture war to keep people locked in a polarized battle and meanwhile, implement economic policies that strip power from the middle class, deregulate and remove consumer protections, and line the pockets of the wealthy elite. Without exception in the history of modern American politics, culture wars are always a means to an end, rather than the ends themselves.  I write more about how this is currently playing out here: (LINK)

The protection of human dignity cannot be entrusted to the dynamics of liberal vs conservative politics; rather it must be entrusted to each of us as human beings. While rights can be enshrined through our civic political participation, and they most certainly can be stripped away through our apathy or unconscious bias, the responsibility for them remains as central to our being as the air we breathe. When we forget or abdicate this responsibility is when we lose our footing in our capacity to create a world that works for everyone. 

We cannot afford to stand by and quietly calculate how speaking up may impact our communities, as too many in New Thought have done on other issues.  Speaking up comes with a cost, but it’s not a cost calculated from the offering plate or attendance. The cost to be considered is not derived from what happens after we speak out, it comes from what happens if we do not. That cost will be paid by all of us.  Remember, it bears repeating that just this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a far-right commentator said “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life completely.” (LINK)

And anyone who thinks that it will stop there is fooling themselves. 

Therefore, here is what you, whether black, white, red, blue, liberal, or conservative need to know. Members of our family are under attack.  It’s an attack that feigns concern for the well-being of our children while putting those same children and their families in grave physical danger. The medical community has robust standards of care that already protect and provide both mental and physical healthcare to those who need it when it comes to transgender concerns. It’s an attack that plays on the fear of the unknown. The goal is to exploit human weakness so that it may leverage power and control in ways that don’t even pretend to benefit those who do its bidding. It’s a game where everyone loses.

The right to be your authentic self and have access to the support you require for that must be a sacred protected right for all, without exception. The Human Rights Campaign provides tremendous educational resources that help to demystify transgender topics, from youth sports to school education to medical procedures.  (LINK) (LINK to video)

The role of the prophetic voice in spiritual communities is not to “take sides” on “political topics” but rather to cut through the fake and divisive narrative and call humanity back to its senses. As seekers of higher consciousness through the practice of New Thought principles, ours is to snatch from the jaws of political cannibalism the subjects of human dignity, justice, and equality and place them back on the altar of humanity where they belong. 

“God said “Whosoever” that means Transgender people too.”
~ Rev. Bobbie Jean Baker (1964-2014)

Trans-rights community activist.

*Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life. (National Health Service, United Kingdom)

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard

Rev. Dr. David Alexander is a husband, father, justice advocate, and pastor of Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta.  You may find his writings on Medium.com https://medium.com/@davidalexander as well as a monthly column “Philosophy in Action” in Science of Mind magazine https://scienceofmind.com



“There is a lack of spiritual leadership in the world right now so we shouldn’t be concerned what the world thinks of us. We have a religious concept that will revolutionize the world and we just need to stick with it.
Persistence will bring success but it is a positive persistence that keeps affirming spiritual reality in spite of material effect. This means continually using ‘constructive rather than destructive conversation,’ seeing the Divine in every person and surrendering the mind in complete abandonment to the idea of success regardless of relative condition or opinion.”
~ Ernest Holmes, 1933 Commentaries: Lesson Seven

We continue to make the path by walking it. Spiritual leadership is, among other things, the inner strength to move forward, adhering rigorously to timeless spiritual principles, while at the same time letting go of forms which no longer serve. Our times call for new ways of being and doing. The path we must follow is through untraveled ground. It is no longer sufficient to follow our teacher’s ways. But it is essential to adhere to the principles they taught.

If you have been a reader of this blog and/or my books (LINK), you know that I have been an advocate for finding new ways, enshrouded in fog as they may be. New Thought, as Dr. Holmes wrote, has valued and timeless concepts or principles which, when developed in generation after generation, can serve all of humanity in working toward a future world that works for everyone. But we are losing ground or becoming buried in the quicksand of our resistance to change. We are trying to lead using the old tools, honoring traditions which have dry-rotted, and bolstering failing institutions while expecting things to return to an old “normal” that we cherished, or at least found comfortable.

We are trying to follow a pathway that has reached a dead end, not because it was inadequate, but because, like everything, it could not be viable indefinitely. A new path is demanded by an evolving humanity and an evolving New Thought community – a path that we continue to make by walking it, just as our founders did over a century ago.

“Leadership for this era is not a role or a set of traits; it is a zone of interrelational process. Step in, step out.”
~ Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles

The world has grown too complex for the old leadership styles. No one person can possibly know all the questions or answers, or even where to look for them. Interrelationship, collaboration, and collective work are needed along with humility, emotional and spiritual intelligence, and a willingness to live in the mystery. This requires leaders who are healthy mentally and emotionally, who bring a mature sense of themselves to their work, and whose priority is the ministry and those it serves, not the leader’s own unmet needs. This is not a time for fragile egos.

The times are indeed changing, and we are riding a wave of evolutionary transformation as we try to stay afloat. A focus is to foster healing within and without so that those on the pathway are their best selves. Nothing less will do.

“Whatever leadership used to be — it used to be. Now, it has to be something different. Now, we all have to be more than we were. The kind of leadership that I want to explore may not be identifiable as leadership at all.  I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the well-being of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals, but rather between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions or institutions, but rather between them. I have called it Liminal Leadership to highlight the relational characteristics.”
~ Nora Bateson

Liminal times such as these – times between periods of relative stability – are the creative incubators of what is to come. We are the ones in this space, which means that the work is ours to do. Leaders of spiritual organizations, local communities, and ministries, must transform and teach others how to transform, moving into the discomfort of not knowing, fully embracing and sharing the experience with kindred souls. We are all pioneers now.

The view of those in leadership must be increasing future-oriented, even though that future is largely unknown. The culture of our communities and organizations shifts toward a future orientation with the intention of carrying the timeless principles into new forms. Culture resists change unless change is held as a cultural norm and a core value. The culture evolves through emergence of the natural next thing from within those who make up the culture. Evolutionary leaders encourage this process, intentionally building culture and reminding others of what that culture is.

“The ability to shift from reacting against the past to leaning into and presencing an emerging future is probably the single most important leadership capacity today. It is a capacity that is critical in situations of disruptive change, not only for institutions and systems, but also for teams and individuals.
~ C. Otto Scharmer,

We are called to transform how we lead and how we teach and  practice our spiritual principles today. We in New Thought are uniquely positioned to accomplish this, because our principles include the transformational capacities of human beings to develop and to realize their spiritual nature. We have grown too attached to a system that is based in the past. We are the learners.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
~ Eric Hoffer

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard



Join me for an 8-session course introducing Spiral Dynamics as a powerful and useful model in ministry. The class will be on Zoom and meet live on Tuesdays (March 7, 14, 21, 28 & April 4) & Fridays (March 10, 17 & 24). Times: 8-10am Pacific, 11am-1pm Eastern, 5-7pm Central European. All sessions will be recorded and made available.

Cost: This is being offered on a love-offering basis. Suggested value is $200. The first session is open to all so that you can see if you want to join for the rest. Here is the Zoom link for Session One on March 7th: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86766032357

Spiral Dynamics is a powerful and useful model about the evolutionary nature of human thinking and development – it says that human intelligence is evolving and developing within the context of the world in which we live. This development is the key to how we perceive and interact with the world around us and the people in it. When you understand and apply this model in ministry, the dynamics of human relations are made clear – you come to understand people and their motivations better. How we view ourselves and others is affected by these evolutionary dynamics. Dr. Jim Lockard is a certified presenter of Spiral Dynamics and had been working with the model professionally for over 20 years.

Future classes in the MODELS FOR MINISTRY SERIES will include Theory U, The Edgewalkers Model, and more.


“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
~ John Cage

“You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.”
~ Pearl S. Buck

We are in turbulent, uncertain, rapidly changing times. The changes in how people relate to and “consume” spiritual community and religion were rapidly changing before the onset of the Covid Pandemic, and the rate of change has vastly increased in the past 3 years. No one is unaffected by this “Great Reset,” which is a speeding up of what was already underway and driving a rapidly changing environment.

Spiritual leaders at the local and organizational levels are under increasing pressure to adapt to and to transcend the problems, challenges, and issues which are arising because of the current cultural and environmental changes. We are in a process of redefining leadership and at the same time we are redefining what spiritual community is and will become. We are doing this without a compass, without clear models, and without a clear direction forward. We are also doing this with dwindling resources in many cases.

“Leading innovation is not about setting direction and saying to your colleagues, ‘Follow me’. They don’t want to follow you to the future; they want to co-create it with you.”
~ Linda A. Hill

Even if some are content to let the leaders do all the work, there is an increasing sense of moving from the old styles of leadership to new ways of being in leadership. This includes a greater sense of collaboration and new skills are required to shepherd New Thought spirituality into the future.

In a blog post in 2019, I wrote: Our ministerial education continues to teach future spiritual leaders a model that is clearly in decline, paying little or no attention to the skill sets needed in a rapidly changing world if we are to develop new forms of spiritual community. We need to teach skills relating to innovation, community building, non-traditional forms of communication, mastery of evolving technologies, social engagement, and more. The days of a fixed curriculum are over, we need to be nimble if we are to ride the crest of the wave of cultural change and not fall further behind. (LINK)

I am hopeful that things have gotten better in ministerial training and education since that post, but I am seeing very little in the way of transferable innovation emerging in New Thought. I do note that Unity is making efforts to bring concepts of evolutionary leadership and The Beloved Community to their leaders. What I am seeing for the most part is a great deal of stress, suffering, frustration, and pain among spiritual leaders and a great deal of confusion among congregation membership. We need new ideas, we need them now and in the future, or . . .

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right person’s brow.”
~ Charles Brower

What I propose is a method to foster the creation, expression, and sharing of innovative ideas, programs, and operational activities among spiritual communities and organizations. We are late to the game in fostering innovation as a core value when our times clearly call for this. The organizations of New Thought are well-advised to invest in innovation at both the organizational and local community levels, and to ensure the communication of successful projects to all ministries.

Such an “Exemplary Projects” model has been used before in other organizations. When a local community creates a successful project or program it is studied to see if it is transferable. Materials for implementation by other communities are developed and made available to all communities. Ideally, these are shared among the organizations themselves as well. This fosters the spread of successful ideas at a relatively low cost. To accomplish this, a change in attitude and expectations are in order.

“So what you can do on a personal level is let go of your attachment to the known. Sell off all stocks you’ve invested in your conditioned mental patterning and begin doing the hard inner work necessary to embrace the unknown and unknowable. Begin surprising yourself and opening doors to allow life to surprise you. Take chances on new and unpredictable situations instead of taking refuge in the known and the familiar. Give less and less interest and attention to your conditioned, looping mental narratives and more and more to the uncontrollable present moment in which literally anything can be born.” 
~ Caitlin Johnstone

The fact that this is not already happening as a matter of course speaks volumes. Faced with dwindling revenues and attendance, New Thought is facing a dim future. The essence of our organizations’ mission is healthy ministries. That is where investment ought to be directed. We have the spiritual and psychological tools to create a different future, but will we?

“Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”
~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore 

Copyright 2023 – Jim Lockard


“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
~ Mark Twain

As noted in Part 1 (LINK), our brains and egos want things to be simple and expedient. We tend to resist a more complex approach if a simpler one looks possible. As noted in Part 2 (LINK), at the less complex stages on the spiral, our capability to understand complexity is less developed and our values systems tend to be more rigid in an either/or fashion. Complexity understood takes us into gray areas, areas of paradox, mystery, and relativism. A complex world demands more of me. If my capacity for complexity has not evolved beyond a lower level, I will constantly find myself falling behind and grow resentful and angry.


SIMPLE = Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukkah – celebrating my own tradition (especially if it is the dominant one in my society)

COMPLEX = Happy Holidays – because there are multiple traditions celebrating at this time of year.

Those centered at Postmodernist-Green on the spiral are very complex thinkers, but being at 1st Tier, fear is still integral to their way of being (this fear is largely dispelled when one moves to Integral-Yellow which is the initial 2nd Tier stage). Green wants the world to be connected, intimate, egalitarian, and fair. Green is very connected to feelings – no one should be made to feel bad because of who they are. So, “political correctness” or “wokeness” (LINK) at Green means that we should not say or do things which cause people to feel diminished because of their identities – race, ethnicity, gender, etc.; or any physical or mental differences they may have – ableism, mental issues (LINK), etc. Green is strongly in the “Happy Holidays” celebrating all cultural expressions camp and will insist that everyone else should be there as well.

Being feelings-based, Green often expresses a positive desire for people to support one another more widely, which can make it difficult for some at Green to request or require accountability from others. The fear of upsetting someone can extend to include all aspects of upsetting or disappointing others. Where there is no accountability demanded, those with underdeveloped emotional intelligence can cause problems in families, groups, and organizations. This failure to demand accountability is an unhealthy expression of Green.

Green also tends to have a blind spot to Red impulsiveness and lack of conscience, so someone at Red (or unhealthy Orange, which expresses like Red in some ways) can create a good deal of havoc when those at Green are in charge. Additionally, those higher on the spiral who may have issues such as narcissism or sociopathy – both of which lack the capacity to feel remorse for harming others – will need healthy boundaries to be established and enforced by leadership.

“Sociopaths do not care about other people, and so do not miss them when they are alienated or gone, except as one might regret the absence of a useful appliance that one has somehow lost. . . . It is not that [the sociopath] fails to grasp the difference between good and bad; it is that the distinction fails to limit their behavior.”
~ Martha Stout (LINK)

The absence of feelings of intimacy and remorse which is intrinsic to Egotistic-Red and remains in those with sociopathy and/or narcissistic personality disorder often does not register with feelings-based Green. The main difference between someone centered at Red and someone higher on the spiral who is a sociopath is that the sociopath has a greater capacity for complexity of thought. Narcissists and sociopath often attain positions of leadership – on boards and in ministry – because they know how to manipulate the emotions of others. Those centered at Green, especially if they are insecure, are particularly prone to such manipulation.

“We are required to accept that there is no parent to lead the way, no guru, no ideology to save us from the complexity and ambiguity of life.”
~ James Hollis, Jungian Therapist

Highly complex Green often has difficulty communicating in both directions with those lower on the spiral. They may use complex descriptions of already complex ideas to get points across. These are not fully understood, and those hearing them grow frustrated. Likewise, when someone at a less complex level on the spiral describes a desire or a problem, Green may see it as overly simplistic.

The key to successful communications within the spiral is to know where others exist in terms of complexity first, and values systems second. The best way to do this is to speak with people and find out the “whys” of their motivation. People centered at different levels on the spiral may exhibit the same behaviors, but for different reasons. So, behavior alone is not an ideal way to learn someone’s level of complexity.

With greater complexity comes the realization that things are more connected than our senses might indicate; that there are systems in play in nature and in our own psyches; and that things impact one another in ways that simplicity cannot describe. Yet, to reach some, we need to simplify our language to make it accessible. This can be done by speaking and writing with greater brevity, greater clarity, and by breaking systems into more discrete elements.

As I have noted elsewhere, when I was a spiritual leader, I used to send out different request for donation letters based upon my awareness of where individuals were on the spiral. For those whom I had no awareness of their level of complexity, I sent a letter that covered all of the main stages present, Blue, Orange, and Green.

Briefly, if I knew that you had a strong Blue values component, the letter was a simple and direct request, usually for a specific amount. Those at Blue tend to obey authority and prefer to be told what to do in many situations.

If I knew you to be at Orange, the letter was more complex in nature and appealed to how you might personally profit from donating. Programs like “pillars of the church” where givers are listed according to the amount they give are appealing to those at Orange (and horrify those at Green).

If I knew you to be at Green, the appeal was very complex as to how the money would be used to enhance the programs and people in the spiritual community and was very non-specific as to amount. Green values egalitarianism and wants every voice to be heard, but no one to feel bad because they can give less than others.

This brief example shows how spiral awareness can enhance the ability to communicate effectively and how developing a capacity for complexity also affects one’s values. I have focused more on the Postmodern-Green stage because that is where the majority of New Thought spiritual leadership is centered. There are also, of course, many centered at Modernist-Orange, but they are no longer a majority. Blue values are present (and a good thing, because Blue ethics are essential as we move up the spiral), but few are centered there anymore. The reason? New Thought teachings encourage self-development and self-development leads to greater complexity as we evolve.

We need to include greater spiral awareness in our resources for leadership. I will be conducting an online course in Spiral Dynamics for Spiritual Leaders in 2023, which will be announced here and on the usual social media sources soon.

“Chapter 1. Notes and Commentary.
“WE do not claim that more complexity is better than less; that less simplicity is better than more. We are simply reporting on the apparent transformation to greater complexity that appears to characterize the human experience.”
~ Don Edward Beck and Graham Linscott

THE CRUCIBLE. Third printing 2014

This concludes this series of posts, as always, your comments are welcomed.

Copyright 2022 – Jim Lockard


“Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.”
~ Woody Allen

“The Scriptures have little use to those who understand them literally.”
~ Origen (184 -253 AD)

When you think about it, much of human progress is a matter of understanding things in more complex ways. We now know that trees are communal beings, connecting and communicating in their root systems while cooperating for sunlight in their canopies. We know that elephants have very complex social lives, including rites relating to death, and that they are cooperative with other species for resources. We know that ecosystems are interrelated systems within Nature, each part playing critical roles in the thriving of the whole.

We know that people are complex in every way imaginable – physically, psychologically, mentally, socially – while spiritually, we are simpler (not in how we worship, but in our spiritual natures). We are learning that we have underestimated just about every life form on earth by oversimplifying our definitions, classifications, and projecting our own needs onto them.

“If you understand, things are just as they are.
If you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
~ Zen Proverb

As noted in Part 1 (LINK), our brains and egos want things to be simple and expedient. We tend to resist a more complex approach if a simpler one looks possible. At the less complex stages on the spiral, we are less capable of understanding complexity and our values systems tend to be more rigid in an either/or fashion. Complexity understood takes us into gray areas, areas of paradox, mystery, and relativism. A complex world demands more of us.

Why is there so much resistance to and criticism of efforts to allow people to feel more comfortable about who they are and to eliminate discrimination and harmful jokes and other methods of diminishment? I used the topic of gender to illustrate this in Part 1, and, as promised, here is a look at how each of the first seven levels on the spiral might view an expansion of the definitions relating to gender. Note that these are necessarily simplistic given that this is a blog post.

INSTINCTUAL-BEIGE: Very simplistic, survival mode, little sense of self. Beige would not be able to comprehend anything complex and, if an adult, would look at gender as a means of procreation or sizing up someone with whom to hunt or forage.

TRIBALIST-PURPLE: Still simplistic, but capable of existing in a community of up to 125 or so, everything filled with spirits, tribal chieftain is the authority, the tribe comes first. Purple would follow the rules of the tribal chieftain or elders and in some cases those who express as homosexual or non-binary may be given a status which allows them to survive or not be banished.

EGOTISTIC RED: Individualistic, no sense of conscience, impulsive, saving face is paramount. Red is more complex than Purple, but still simplistic. How one is seen is very important, so if homosexual or non-binary folks are known, they will be treated according to how the boss views himself (almost never a female boss) in the larger social context. This is generally not a good place for anyone seen as “different.”

TRADITIONALIST-BLUE: Communal, bureaucratic, absolutist, obeys authority, complex enough so cities and nations can exist. At Blue, there are complete sets of rigidly applied laws, written down, and likely court systems which are religious or secular in nature. Bound by interpretations of scriptures by authority figures (kings, dictators). Strict binary definitions of gender are almost universal here, with deviance seen as sinful and/or illegal. Able to organize politically to fight progressive laws relating to sexuality and gender.

MODERNIST-ORANGE: Individualistic, complex, self-centered (“what’s in it for me?), competitive, entrepreneurial, high-level technology. At Orange, the old beliefs from Blue may still dominate but with an “it’s business” laissez-faire attitude about rules and regulations. Orange will generally do business with anyone but will likely harbor prejudices against those who are seen as different or inferior. At Orange, there is sufficient complexity to understand the nuances of gender, but the values system is not yet at a place valuing egalitarian acceptance, other than as a business opportunity or from a “live and let live (but leave me alone) perspective. Someone at Orange can become a supporter of greater inclusion if someone they personally care about is affected.

POSTMODERNIST-GREEN: Communal, egalitarian, very complex, capable of systems thinking, feelings based (it must feel right), and protective of diversity (no one should be criticized, made fun of, or be discriminated against for being who they are). Green is the source of the movement toward a more complete concept of gender, sexual orientation, and expression. Those at Green can become absolutist about certain values, and this is often the case with gender issues and trans rights. Green seeks to heal past wrongs across cultures and societies and often comes into conflict with other Values Systems who place more value in seeing the past as positive (Blue) or in ignoring past crimes or excesses for the sake of keeping the economy going (Orange).

INTEGRAL-YELLOW (2nd Tier): Individualistic, little to no energy toward ego defense, highly complicated, able to recognize the value in all 1st Tier systems. The combination of immense complexity of thought and minimized energy going toward ego defenses opens a range of possibilities unavailable at 1st Tier. Systems thinking combined with capabilities to see beyond the linear, obvious connections to a deeper level, for one. What is also needed is sufficient social intelligence to communicate the complexity and values to those centered at 1st Tier without alienating them. At Yellow, the complexity of gender is not a challenge and someone centered here may be best suited to explain it in terms acceptable to Blue and below.

“What I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of old, lower-order behavior systems to new, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”
~ Clare Graves

While each stage has its own version of “political correctness,” today there is a focus on the political correctness of Green, also termed being “Woke” (LINK). Being woke involves seeing diversity of backgrounds, gender fluidity, racial and ethnic heritage, degrees of ability, and more as something to be accepted and celebrated. Hence, no ethnic, ableist, or body-shaming jokes for example. Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is another example. As noted earlier and in Part 1, acceptance of these viewpoints is difficult for many at Blue and below due to the complexity of thought involved, and at all levels below Green due to conflicts within the dominant values systems.

When one does not have knowledge of the spiral or cultural evolutionary theories, one is likely to view other stages as deficient or corrupt versions of one’s own values system rather than as different systems with an internal logic of their own. This results in conflict, most of which is unnecessary. When those at Green do not understand Spiral Dynamics, they waste a lot of time trying to convince people with arguments that do not translate because of too much complexity and/or values conflicts.

In Part 3, I will explore some ways to communicate egalitarian Green values in ways that may be accepted by other Values Systems on the spiral.

As always, your comments are welcomed.

Copyright 2022 – Jim Lockard