YOUR SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY ISN’T AN ORGANIZATION – IT’S A LIVING SYSTEM

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

 ~ Pablo Picasso

“Dysfunctional systems will fall under their own weight. Let them.”

~ Bashar

These are dangerous quotes. Dangerous in the sense that they can be interpreted in different ways by people with different perspectives (or even by the same person on different days). Quotes such as these need to be seen from a relatively balanced perspective, meaning that one may believe one way or another, but has an open mind to other possibilities. The Picasso quote I use to suggest that sometimes, what we call “good sense” is only leftover prejudices from the past; of course, sometimes, “good sense” actually is good sense, so we must allow for that possibility. And “dysfunctional systems” are often in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. But it is healthy to note when something’s time has passed so that something new can be encouraged, or at least allowed, to emerge.

The times in which we find ourselves are growing ever more complex at ever faster rates. Old solutions increasingly fail to resolve current challenges; old leadership is increasingly ineffective. It is time to learn new ways of being. What is needed is a whole system change, and spiritual organization is not exempt. We are called to adapt by changing at depth.

“There can be no doubt that we are in a change of eras, as systems crumble around us struggling to hold onto their old ways and new ones seek the patterns and practices that will take us into a future that we can feel emerging but not yet describe in words. We are in what systems thinkers would call a chaos point, a moment where the old systems no longer work but the new are not mature enough to take over the helm. Painful on many fronts.”

~ Peter Merry, Blog Post (LINK)

The old ways of seeing organization are no longer adequate. Our spiritual communities are living systems, with all the complexity that implies. And we do not know what will work in the emerging future – there are no examples for us to follow; we are in uncharted territory. This is both comforting and terrifying: exhilarating!

We might begin with understanding the difference between complexity and being complicated.

“I want to say that short circuiting complexity is never a good idea. It makes life complicated. Complicated and complex are not the same thing. Complex looks like an ocean; whole and alive with a vitality that is generated through interrelational, interdependent processes.”

~ Nora Bateson

Complexity and Chaos

My work as a blogger, author, speaker, coach, and consultant has been focused on the issue of complexity for some time now. I have been urging spiritual leaders of every kind to recognize the increasing complexity which is a result of cultural evolution – the tendency of human culture to grow more complex, necessitating that individuals and groups adapt internally, through the emergence of greater capacities, to come into coherence with increasingly complex living conditions. Some of this emergence is natural and some will come into conflict with our attachments to old and existing structures and forms which cannot continue forward.

In other words – our world, our human world, grows more complex, mostly because of our own doing, and the evolution of greater capacities already within us. When we adapt, we can successfully navigate our newly complex surroundings. When we fail to adapt, life gets more complicated. Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use in understanding this process. As new levels of complexity unfold, we must adapt and change. If we do not, we suffer due to our inability to successfully navigate new living conditions of greater complexity.

“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

I have blogged about liminal spaces (LINK) before – the spaces in-between the places where we feel grounded in the known. The chaos point described above by Peter Merry is an example of a liminal space. Newly emerging leadership must be systemically different than what came before. In other words, trying to imitate your teacher(s) who successfully built a spiritual community in the past is futile. If they were here today, and did the same things they did then, they would not be successful the way they were in their time. It is a different world now. Nora Bateson describes growing complexity beautifully, recognizing that a poetic approach is the only way to begin to grasp what is unfolding.

“Part of the problem is that, globally, nationally and personally, we face crises that can be described as ‘complex’ or ‘wicked’ problems. Complexity is recognizable in situations which have multiple variables in ever shifting contexts of interdependency. Some examples of complex living systems are oceans, cities, families, economic systems, culture, the health of our own bodies, and the medical systems we expect to support them. In each of these systems, vitality is produced by multiple processes in contextual interaction. To study a jungle is to recognize that the jungle itself is not an isolated “thing” but instead exists in the interrelationship between soil, foliage, animals, weather patterns, bacteria and so on. The same contextual linkings can be found in all living systems; approaching the system without an understanding of this holism will create short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences. Making sense of the vitality of a complex system is an inquiry into its way of making contact. A study of the relational patterns gives entirely different understanding of the way in which a system is cohering.”

~ Nora Bateson from her blog (LINK)

A spiritual community is more than an organization; it is a living system which can only be partially understood at best. There are too many aspects, most invisible, which are instrumental it its expression. Nora Bateson mentions “short circuits in the complexity and countless unintended consequences”; how many of those have shown up in your ministry? Yet, we will never grasp it all – we are, at best, able to comprehend a sense of direction and somehow, steer the living system forward toward its highest expression. This, of course, requires much more than a skillset – it involves a well-developed intuitive sense, along with a capacity for living in the mystery. Control freaks need not apply!

Holmes & Bateson

“Do not adopt the letter of my teaching, but the spirit, and you will find, as I did, that you will begin to formulate a system that is true for you. I learned for me, and you must learn for yourself that you must develop your own faith and confidence in your own interpretation of God, humanity, and the universe.”

~ Ernest Holmes

Here, Dr. Holmes encourages us to absorb the principles of The Science of Mind and then, think for ourselves. An important thing to know here is the degree of your own willingness to be dishonest with yourself. Are you holding yourself to a sufficiently high standard of practice and self-honesty? That is a high bar, and many of us fail to reach it. We must develop a clear connection with our intuitive knowing – our heart-wisdom – and be radically self-honest if we are to achieve the level of self-mastery needed for these times and the future.

“One of the greatest stumbling blocks in (anyone’s) spiritual advancement is dishonesty; the refusal to honestly face an idea if that idea happens not to please (them).  This comes in part from the human tendency to take the line of least resistance, whether it be in our physical endeavors or in the operation of our mind.  Confronted with an idea that repudiates one we have held for years, we go far out of our way, entirely around the idea, to keep from being compelled to analyze and possibly to absorb it.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “It’s Up to You!”

This is neither an easy nor a casual undertaking. It is a whole-self endeavor, but isn’t that the fullest way to live? To be fully engaged with developing yourself to face big challenges and to bring the highest and best of yourself to creating #aworldthatworksforeveryone and #TheBelovedCommunity?

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

If you are incarnated on Earth at this time, you are faced with huge challenges and huge opportunities. You are called to bring forth the best of yourself, over and over again. You are called to find ways of doing this and still living a rewarding life! You are called to step up to a daily spiritual practice which allows the emergence of your hidden splendor into actualized expression. Your spiritual community can be a vehicle for supporting its members in doing just that – for we are more likely to express our inner greatness with the support of a strong spiritual community – a living system of beings interconnected for a higher purpose, each bringing his or her unique genius to the process of becoming. But we must realize that there is no finish line in this work. Complexity is here, it is growing, and it is speeding up. We are called to bring our best selves to all the challenges this brings. New Thought gives us the tools and the perspective to do this – we must study and practice daily to be the fullest possible expression of our spiritual potential. And, we must release what no longer serves the realization of these aims. That is our work – we are the generation.

“The generation that breaks the cycle will be tasked with tending to the generations that couldn’t. It doesn’t seem fair to give that kind of love and care to those who withheld the nourishment we needed. But who are we if we don’t? So, we do.”

~ Nora Bateson 

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Thank you for reading! Feel free to share this post with others who may find it of value.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I am very gratified to have begun a relationship with AGNT as a guest blogger on a semi-monthly basis. Here is the link to my first post: https://www.agnt.today/blog

And grateful to Harv Bishop of HarvBishom.com for having me as a guest blogger last week. Here is the link to that post: http://www.harvbishop.com/?p=1378

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NEW GUEST BLOGGER AT AGNT – ME

I am very pleased to announce that as of today, I will be a regular contributor to the blog page for AGNT – the Association for Global New Thought. This is a wonderful opportunity to have a wider voice in the New Thought community and beyond. And, this blog, NewThoughtEvolutionary, will continue as well. I will be writing unique posts for both. I am very grateful to Barbara Fields and the AGNT leadership for this opportunity – I hope that you will take this opportunity to join the AGNT mailing list AND join AGNT, a key New Thought organization promoting cutting edge expression of New Thought principles.

AGNT Banner JL

 

Here is AGNT’s statement:

AGNT has invited Jim Lockard to be a regular contributor to the AGNT blog page. His support of AGNT in this way is most welcome because, as a student and teacher of its principles for 30 years, Jim has something to say about how New Thought can be expressed in the world. In these posts, which will appear every two weeks or so, he will attempt to engage you, the reader, with a view of New Thought as a practical and effective teaching for the fast changing world in which we find ourselves. Jim’s writing centers on the notion that our minds are infinite, and the FULL capacities of our infinite minds are increasingly required as we deal with the complex challenges of humanity. 

Our heart-wisdom is also infinite, and the sacred, wise, intuitive, and mystical aspects of our hearts are also increasingly important for all of us. Jim sees New Thought as a weaving together of mind and heart, of “working with the Law” and “courting the Beloved.” 

AGNT is looking forward to beginning a conversation with you through Jim’s writing STARTING JUNE 4TH. We strongly encourage you to join the conversation by making your own comments if you are moved to do so.

I look forward to this association with AGNT, and hope that you will engage with that blog and post comments. And, I look forward to regularly posting here – my next post, in a few days, will speak to my experiences at the Integral European Conference in Hungary last week.

Here is the link to the blog site: https://www.agnt.today/blog

And to my book at Amazon.com (also at Amazon.ca .co.uk, and .eu):

 

 

 

 

EMMA CURTIS HOPKINS – NEW THOUGHT PIONEER

I will be in Budapest for the next two weeks, attending and presenting (LINK) at the Integral Europe Conference 2018, so this will very likely be my last post until I return. When I do return, I will have exciting news about a collaboration I will be doing with the Association for Global New Thought (AGNT – LINK). For now, amidst all the crisis fatigue that many of us share, let’s visit a New Thought pioneer, Emma Curtis Hopkins (September 2, 1849 – April 8, 1925).

“All your affairs, as you now look at them, represent your former way of thinking. They are held together by the glue of your former ideas. Now if you withdraw that glue, what can you expect, but that your affairs will all fall to pieces to let new affairs, representing your new way of thinking establish themselves.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma 2

Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma Curtis Hopkins (LINK) was known as the “teacher of teachers” in New Thought, for she had connections with many, if not most of the founders of the various New Thought denominations. A former protégé of Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science, Hopkins went out on her own and began a seminary in Chicago to teach New Thought principles and spiritual healing. She firmly believed in the power of the mind to heal any condition, and her writing clearly states that conviction. I find it helpful to revisit her work often to reacquaint myself with the strength of her consciousness.

“The world will persist in exhibiting before you what you persist in affirming the world is. ‘The man who molds the vital ethers of omnipresence by right thoughts about its bounty brings forth bountifully.’”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Overcoming fear and doubt is the key to the development of a consciousness powerful enough to manifest whatever we seek in life. What we persist in affirming (positive or negative) brings our consciousness to a state of acceptance for that thing, and we attract it into our life by the Law of Mind. There are no exceptions to this Law.

“If the Truth makes free when it is told, and we are not free, then the Truth has not been told. The Truth that the Good belongs to us is greater than the idea that we might give our time, our labor, our life, and all we are to the Good, and still never satisfy it. To tell how impossible it is for us to give enough to God breeds rebellion at existing orders. To tell that the Good asks nothing of us but to receive its substance, will rest and comfort the people.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma was not one to affirm a victim consciousness, because she knew that such a consciousness was voluntary and, when affirmed with powerful emotion, just as creative as a consciousness of empowerment. Regardless of circumstances, she instructed her students and readers to think positive, empowering, and uplifting thoughts – no excuses!

“All realization of Good externalizes as Good.” 

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

If the Law works perfectly, and we teach that it does, then why do we often fail to trust it? If you want your car to go forward, do you not put the transmission into Drive, trusting that the car will move forward? It would be ridiculous to put it into Reverse out of a lack of trust. How is it that we often do not put the same degree of trust into the Law of Mind, which we have seen work over and over again? Can we not trust the Law of Mind to the same extent that we trust an automobile transmission? Of course we can!

“While true understanding brings power, it brings humility. There is no feeling of mastery one over another, only over error. True words are all of love, and if I speak any other words I do not speak at all, for they are not the utterance of truth. We do not speak true words until the mortal is put quite away-hushed.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

In other words, when we think or speak anything but the truth, we are wasting our time, and, quite possibly, doing damage to ourselves and others. Let us pay more attention to the teachings of Emma Curtis Hopkins and be more in tune with our Truth, activating the great Law of Mind in our favor!

Back in a couple of weeks!

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 2

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

THIS IS NOT A TEST: BECOMING A SPIRITUAL ADULT

“The universe is never testing you, it’s simply giving you an opportunity to practice all that you say you are.”

~ Maryam Hasnaa

The United States and much of the western (developed) world is in the midst of a temper tantrum. The last two times there were big temper tantrums, we had World Wars I&II, so this is serious business. There is a backlash from many who have been left behind by the increasingly rapid rate of cultural change unfolding across humanity. It is not all that surprising for those who are centered lower on the spiral to be reacting in an immature fashion, but we also have many centered higher on the spiral who are also behaving badly.

VMEMEs Simplified

The temper tantrum of the present has been elected into governments across the west, and more mature voices have been loudly criticized. Social media provides a platform for much of this behavior – the treatment of Senator John McCain and his family as he nears death is a good example. Immature and disdainful comments come from across social media and within the White House and no one there tries to silence them. We are institutionalizing immaturity.

To a significant degree this trend in our politics comes as an angry backlash to two things: the failure of political leaders to affect either the rapid rate of change or to find ways for those who do not adapt to that change to feel better about themselves (both impossible tasks); and, more pointedly, the clear disdain shown by many higher on the spiral for those who are centered at lower levels (“Deplorables” anyone?). When immaturity reigns across the spectrum, we cannot fulfill our potential. Maturity is staying balanced, focused, and, above all, compassionate despite the dissonance around you.

“What was overwhelming to the child can be borne by the adult if he or she has grown in consciousness.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

A critically important part of the process of learning and applying New Thought principles in one’s life is the realization of a more spiritually mature self. As Cindy Wigglesworth (LINK) and others have shown, spiritual maturity is built upon emotional maturity. Both are essential to heal human systems, whether at the national political level or at the spiritual community level.

SQ21 Intelligences Pyramid

From DEEPCHANGE.com

Spiritual maturity reveals itself at each developmental (spiral) level, but always includes a capacity for kindness and an acceptance of ambiguity. As James Hollis says:

“The test of a psychologically mature person, and therefore spiritually mature, will be found in his or her capacity to handle what one might call the Triple A’s: anxiety, ambiguity and ambivalence.”

~ James Hollis

This “test” is not an exam from the universe – it is simply the out-picturing of one’s consciousness – we are either in the range of spiritual maturity or we have not yet reached it. A spiritually mature person can face the realities of being human, which include anxiety, ambiguity, and ambivalence, while staying in balance. Perhaps spiritual maturity/intelligence is in part the capacity to experience sadness without turning it into resentment.

We are not, by ourselves, going to heal humanity or fix the world – we can, however, learn how to live in this world in a spiritually mature way and by doing that, ripples of influence are generated and added to the overall consciousness of humanity. We can become positive influencers by cultivating a presence of love, kindness, compassion, and personal accountability.

“If you’re looking at the world and not grieving…then you’re not Conscious. But if you’re looking at the world and not rejoicing in the miraculous possibilities for healing it…then you’re Spiritually Immature.”

~ Marianne Williamson

compassionate-heart-cloud

The spiritually mature person does not see life as a test, nor the world as a classroom, nor Spirit as some divine test proctor. Our lives are our reality, and we are designed to naturally learn and grow toward a fuller realization of our human capacities. These capacities are significant, and it takes a level of maturity to govern and express them with wisdom and compassion. New Thought principles are the best guides I have ever found for this journey of life, but we must practice them in increasingly expansive ways, for we are expansive beings. Our potential for growth is unending.

We are at choice in every moment – including every moment watching the news or scrolling through our social media feeds. How to receive information and how to respond are both choices which require some workvisualizing, affirming, meditating – to create our consciousness of being from which our reaction come. I want my reactions to be from the highest level of emotional and spiritual maturity which I can manage. Don’t you?

The only choice we have as we mature
is how we inhabit our vulnerability,
how we become larger and more courageous
and more compassionate
through our intimacy with disappearance.

~ David Whyte

Beautiful Beginnings

Until we can look upon our fellow humans (and ourselves) through eyes of love, compassion, and acceptance, we are not spiritually mature. If we make them “other” we lose our awareness of connection, and with it, our capacity for compassion. Seeing oneness means being exposed to sadness, but also to a mature version of hope – one which resonates heart to heart and mind to mind.

I am reflected in you and you in me. We share a universe which is beyond our capacity to know fully. May we bring the best of ourselves to each interaction, to every thought, action, and reaction. May Peace prevail on earth. #TheBelovedCommunity

‎”You are a child of innocence, born to wonder all your days. Do not believe it to be a gift that you lost somewhere along the way, as if the hurts you have done or that were done to you could steal its light from the center of your soul. Innocence is not the absence of pain, but the ability to face truth as an adult while still seeing with the eyes of a child. Innocence is hope. It is vision. It is love. God grant that each of us, for all the darkness we have endured, will always have the grace of innocence: the belief that what is to come will be better than what has been.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston 

Your comments are appreciated. Thank you for reading. If you know of someone else who may find value in this post, or others on this blog, please feel free to share it with them.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 2

“Racism and spiritual bypassing are harmful in and of themselves, and their combination compounds the harm. Add gaslighting (LINK), and you’ve got an exponentially toxic brew. In this case, the manipulative elements and dizzying doublespeak were staggering. There were acknowledgements that racism had in fact occurred, followed by denials that it did, round and round. There were fauxpologies followed by defending, round and round. There were expressions of caring for those who had been hurt, immediately followed by not-so-subtle digs at them, round and round.”

~ Camille Williams,

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK)

GASLIGHT - American Poster 6

The term GASLIGHTING comes from this film.

In Part 1 of this series (LINK), we explored the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and its effect on individuals and groups. I referenced the article by Robert Augustus Masters, PhDSpiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag (LINK). I encourage you to read Part 1 and the Masters’ article before reading this post, which follows up on ideas already presented.

The focus of my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK), and of much of this blog, is to promote healthy spiritual leadership in New Thought (and other) spiritual communities, in part by writing about the difficult, often overlooked areas which deeply affect how spiritual leaders operate, and how followers perceive leadership. For a spiritual community to be in alignment with the creation of #TheBelovedCommunity, it must have both healthy leadership and healthy followership.

The second article referenced in Part 1 is a powerful one by Camille Williams, a blogger and essayist. In When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK), she takes a dive into some of the most difficult places in spiritual communityracism and Gaslighting, as affected by spiritual bypassing. Her article focuses on an online exchange on spirituality, but one can easily see the same dynamics in a spiritual community of any denomination. Note that all of these negative issues arise from a lack of emotional and spiritual intelligence in one or more of the parties involved. Healing is needed and involves deep personal work, both individually and within the community.

“Willingness to push past our discomfort in these situations (spiritual bypassing & racism) is literally the rock bottom least of our responsibilities, considering the risks, abuses and indignities black and brown people and other marginalized groups live with on a daily basis. I think it helps to give some thought beforehand to different ways we might respond, so that when it happens we can think on our feet and not freeze in deer-in-the-headlights fashion.”

~ Camille Williams

When you read Ms. Williams article, note the many resources at the bottom. She also writes:

“If spirituality is an important part of your life (as it is for me), and/or if you place a high value on positive thinking, and especially if you’re a Law of Attraction enthusiast, please read about spiritual bypassing beyond the paragraph definition. . .. We need to understand the nature of this thing so we can actively avoid it, especially if the thing being bypassed, denied or oversimplified is the reality of systemic oppression and how it impacts people from marginalized groups. Side benefit: understanding this can help us deal with everything else in our own lives more skillfully, too”

~ Camille Williams

Those of us in New Thought can be particularly susceptible to spiritual bypassing for a few reasons.

  1. Our emphasis on positive thinking and how our thoughts create our experience of reality can lead us to fail to recognize unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. It’s easy to live in denial by saying things like “It’s ALL Good!
  2. Our unconscious biases can easily overlook the experience of those outside our race, gender, or class. Privilege exists in the unconscious and often manifests in New Thought as a failure to take into consideration anything beyond one’s thoughts as cause to their experience. Instead of, or in addition to, the common question, “What about a baby born with a disease?” we might also ask, “What about someone born as an oppressed person, or into a subculture with no access to New Thought principles?” To fail to consider this is to diminish the experience of many people, triggering feelings of guilt and shame and perhaps “otherness.” It might help to explain why New Thought is less diverse than it could be.
  3. In New Thought curricula (as far as I have experienced) we do not teach opposing points of view, except perhaps to denigrate them. A prescient post by Harriet Hawkins speaks to this (LINK). Unlike, say, the Jesuits, we are not taught to be critical thinkers regarding our teaching(s) as they relate to other worldviews. This can lead us to become unquestioning and refuse to see the limits of some aspects of our philosophy.
  4. We want everyone to feel good all the time, so we often refuse to acknowledge issues and experiences which do not reflect that desire. We tend to have a high tolerance for dysfunction and a low tolerance for ambivalence and we tend to want to see all worldviews as equally valid, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

None of this is to say that all spiritual bypassing leads to serious dysfunction, although it is produced by dysfunction. But, serious dysfunction will rarely occur in an atmosphere of spiritual authenticity. The reasons above make many of us more open to spiritual bypassing to avoid what is unpleasant or difficult. It can also reinforce our unconscious biases, leading to behaviors which marginalize othersracism, sexism, or “otherness.” These are very often major factors when spiritual communities go into crisis or decline.

“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.”

~ Richard Rohr

 

“One way of measuring ego-strength and maturity of personality is to assess a person’s capacity to tolerate ambivalence. This capacity is closely related to the ability to feel empathy. It is all about tolerating otherness.”

~ Heidi M. Kolb

All of this comes together as a self-perpetuating system of unconscious behaviors, limiting our ability to really see ourselves and others, to feel empathy and express compassion, to be deeply present for others in our spiritual community and elsewhere.

SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL – SPIRITUAL BYPASSING – NEED FOR CERTAINTY – EXCLUSION OF OTHERS – DENIAL – SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL . . .  THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

Until we interrupt it.

While this must begin within each person, it is also a systemic issue – our culture is weighted with limited thinking and spiritual bypassing. It is time to face this and begin the process of leaving this particular set of limitations behind us. We will never be perfect at this, but we will get better at it. We know that we have no fear of a greater Truth being revealed – we welcome the healing potential of spiritual disruption!

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 1

“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag

“There are people who have an amazing knowledge of themselves…. But even those people wouldn’t be capable of knowing what is going on in their unconscious.”

~ C.G. Jung

I offer two maxims to guide the reader through this series of posts, which will cover some difficult and uncomfortable terrain.

  1. We are more driven by unconscious patterns and impulses than we realize.
  2. Spiritual Bypassing is common in New Thought spiritual communities.

The first maxim is one which can be seen as limiting some of what we are often taught in New Thought – that we can bring everything to conscious awareness and direct (or re-direct) any aspect of our lives using positive thinking. While our ability to change our unconscious mind is real, it is not an absolute; that is, we cannot empty our unconscious of its contents. The unconscious is too vast to bring fully into conscious awareness, and aspects of our inner psyche which affect everything from our perception to our decision-making, will remain beyond our awareness. At best, we can bring up what most needs to be healed and make the needed changes to develop a consciousness which is more of a representation of our best selves.

This brings up the idea of free will, and the degree to which we are completely free to perceive and decide, with no unconscious conditioning or biases affecting our seeming freedom to choose (LINK to Scientific American Article). As the most recent research shows (LINK), our unconscious conditioning has a greater effect on us than we realize – and must be considered as we do our spiritual and psychological practices. We must look deeper and more closely at ourselves or we miss the evidence of our unconscious conditioning and biases.

“Consciousness, no matter how extensive it may be, must always remain the smaller circle within the greater circle of the unconscious, an island surrounded by the sea; and, like the sea itself, the unconscious yields an endless and self-replenishing abundance of living creatures, a wealth beyond our fathoming. ”

~ Carl Jung, Psychology of the Transference

Ernest Holmes emphasizes the importance of using our conscious mind to program our unconscious, because the objective (conscious) reflects the subjective (unconscious) mind.

“The objective form to which we give our attention is created from the very attention which we give it. The objective is but the reflection of the subject state of thought. Life is a blackboard upon which we consciously or unconsciously write those messages which govern us. We hold the chalk and the eraser in our hand but are ignorant of this fact.”

~ Ernest Holmes

The first maxim is important in helping us to both understand the essence of the second maxim and to create a practice of compassion around our approach to it. Almost all spiritual bypassing is unconsciously driven; bringing this to the awareness of someone engaging in bypassing must be done compassionately to have the best chance of meeting a willingness to change within that person or persons. As we begin to address the second maxim, I encourage the reader to hold this in mind.

Regarding the second maxim, I am guided here, at least in part, by two articles which awakened something within me – some of which I was aware, and some of which I was unaware. In other words, more of my blind spots (LINK) became apparent. I think they are worth addressing here, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those who read this, so an increased level of awareness may result. They are (both titles are hotlinks):

Spiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag by Robert Augustus Masters, PhD (he also authored a book with the same title)

and

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting, by Camille Williams – this article will be the focus of Part 2 of this series.

“Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

With this definition of spiritual bypassing in hand, we can begin to explore how it manifests within a New Thought setting. It is helpful here to have some knowledge of Spiral Dynamics, especially the Green Level of Existence (LINK). Although bypassing can occur at any stage on the spiral, Green, because of its feelings-based nature, is particularly prone to several of the manifestations noted in Masters’ quote above, especially “overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries.”

So, spiritual bypassing is the opposite of authenticity. It is the often-unconscious desire to have everything appear to be what one desires at the expense of dealing with inner and outer realities. It can be used to stifle conflict or differing viewpoints (as in calling a group to prayer-treatment at the first sign of conflict); to deny realities such as financial lack or a decline in the capabilities of aging leaders; to maintain unconscious patterns of discrimination; or to create a false sense of security so that one or a group does not have to face a difficult reality or decision.

At its core, however, spiritual bypassing is a refusal to do the deep work necessary for true spirituality to express in a person or community. We are all, to one degree or another, terrified of the power within us. Bringing it forth in a more complete and authentic way, which most of us claim to desire, would also cause chaos in the order of our present lives. Nothing would be safe. Those in spiritual leadership are not free of this fear, nor are they necessarily more spiritually authentic than anyone else (LINK). In fact, much of what goes on in spiritual community is going through the motions of a surface piety to some theological principles while being careful not to upset the comfort zones of ourselves and others.

“True spirituality is not a high, not a rush, not an altered state. It has been fine to romance it for a while, but our times call for something far more real, grounded, and responsible; something radically alive and naturally integral; something that shakes us to our very core until we stop treating spiritual deepening as a something to dabble in here and there. Authentic spirituality is not some little flicker or buzz of knowingness, not a psychedelic blast-through or a mellow hanging-out on some exalted plane of consciousness, not a bubble of immunity, but a vast fire of liberation, an exquisitely fitting crucible and sanctuary, providing both heat and light for what must be done. Most of the time when we’re immersed in spiritual bypassing, we like the light but not the heat, doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from the flames.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

To be sure, everyone in a spiritual community is unlikely to want to live at that level. There are lots of reasons for this and finding even a handful of people who are willing to go deep into themselves and stir up shadow selves is a challenge. A spiritual community which can accommodate that smaller group within its larger community will have a source of richness missing in most communities. To do this requires attuned leadership who have credibility with those on a deeper and more authentic spiritual pathway. Such leaders are also rare.

“Is not the shadow of a group more than the sum of individual shadows, and might it not create a whole new dimension of unconsciousness?”

~ James Hollis, Author & Jungian Analyst

What is important to gain from this post is that spiritual bypass is common, it is mostly unconscious, and it is a big turn-off to those who seek authenticity in their spiritual leaders and spiritual community. It is also an obstacle to achieving significant mission-centric expression. Here is where we get to utilize our free will to direct ourselves in a more authentic direction. Leaders can empower their members to speak up when they suspect spiritual bypass, and train themselves and others how to compassionately respond when others are not being authentic. This approach will go a long way toward aligning a spiritual community to create #TheBelovedCommunity.

“To truly outgrow spiritual bypassing—which in part means releasing spirituality (and everything else!) from the obligation to make us feel better or more secure or more whole—we must not only see it for what it is and cease engaging in it but also view it with genuine compassion, however fiery that might be or need to be. The spiritual bypasser in us needs not censure nor shaming but rather to be consciously and caringly included in our awareness without being allowed to run the show. Becoming intimate with our own capacity for spiritual bypassing allows us to keep it in healthy perspective.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD

“The more ‘enlightened’ we believe ourselves to be, the vaster we discover that which remains unconscious.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at the more destructive elements of spiritual bypassing, the things which can tear a spiritual community apart.

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

WHEN THE TRUTH GETS REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE

“If the Truth makes free when it is told, and we are not free, then the Truth has not been told. The Truth that the Good belongs to us is greater than the idea that we might give our time, our labor, our life, and all we are to the Good, and still never satisfy it. To tell how impossible it is for us to give enough to God breeds rebellion at existing orders. To tell that the Good asks nothing of us but to receive its substance, will rest and comfort the people.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice

1a Michelle Wolf

Michelle Wolf – NYTimes photo

The uproar over comedian Michelle Wolf’s appearance at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner the other night is the latest example of how our differing worldviews (NYTimes – LINK) (RedState -LINK) and our insecurity about them can mushroom into something both ugly and filled with potential. Our idea of truth is always influenced, if not wholly determined, by the worldview which we bring to any situation (as can be seen in the articles in the links above). This is something that we usually ignore or deny. We have had many such moments of contested “truth” across the globe in this time of disruption – this time of movement along the Spiral where the upward movement is driven by the creation of increasingly complex systems of technology and social structures. The concepts and worldviews we bring into changing times are insufficient to carry us through those times. We must adapt, creatively and, ideally, in healthy ways.

“One prerequisite for originality is clearly that a person shall not be inclined to impose his preconceptions on the fact as he sees it. Rather, he must be able to learn something new, even if this means that the ideas and notions that are comfortable or dear to him may be overturned.”

~ David Bohm

The usual responses from the political left and right emerged quickly on social and regular media, with many in the press being caught in the middle, fearing a further erosion of trust in them and their institutions. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion and no one has room for a different opinion than his or her own. The details of the situation are less important than how the incident reflects on the national and international mood these days – we are in a culture war, and a few shooting wars as well, and every position must be defended with volume and righteousness, despite the lack of evidence of many minds being changed on any side.

The complexity of life is an essential part of the evolutionary processes by which we, and the entire universe, develop. Complexity is a sign of growth, something to be nurtured, adapted to, and embraced. It is not to be confused with being complicated, which is something else altogether.

“I want to say that short circuiting complexity is never a good idea. It makes life complicated. Complicated and complex are not the same thing. Complex looks like an ocean; whole and alive with a vitality that is generated through interrelational, interdependent processes.”

~ Nora Bateson

Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on my own worldview(s) and to notice my reactions to things said and done, whether in actuality or on social media. This advice applies no matter my position on any issue, by the way. We could all do with a bit more honest introspection about our beliefs as well as our sensitivities to dissonance and discomfort. The world around us is struggling to grow toward a greater capability to support humanity on this planet, and this will require expanded capacities from us.

“You can get sympathy, or you can get better, but you can’t get both. You can be in your comfort zone or you can have growth, but you can’t have both. You can be interested, or you can be sold-out-committed, but you can’t entertain both. You can have excuses or have results, but you can’t do both. Choose the path that develops your visceral fortitude.”

~ Mario Cortes

Here, Cortes hits the nail on the proverbial head. We all design our response systems – the ways that we automatically react to behaviors and ideas – and we too seldom examine whether these systems are working for or against us. Once we have programmed our habitual ways of reacting, we are at the mercy of what we experience – the locus of control shifts from within to without – and we are at risk of continual disruption of our power to act wisely. We do this, mostly unconsciously, as a way of avoiding fear and discomfort – natural things to want to avoid. But in doing so, we often redesign our response system to avoid growth, because nothing new grows from comfort. Comfort is overrated.

“The invitation to accept the diamond of life is not an invitation to safety and comfort. It is an invitation to live life fully and completely, which is never safe and is often uncomfortable…’If I am safe enough, then I can relax.’ I am talking about recognizing that you can relax right now, even though you aren’t completely safe, and you never will be.”

~ Gangaji

Spirituality is not an invitation AWAY from life, it is an invitation TOWARD life. And the fullness of life is messy, glorious, uncomfortable, joyful, terrifying, and challenging. We are designed to adapt upward along the Spiral (LINK) toward greater and greater capacities for living fully in a complex world. There are, of course, times when we need to retreat for a time, to heal or to rest, but such times are the exception, not the norm. Thriving requires alignment of mind, heart, and action toward the greatest possible expression of personal potential. We serve creation by living fully, creatively, and with courage.

I Affirm

My affirming statement regarding this is:

I am free of the need and the capacity to be knocked off balance by the comments or actions of others. I see the need for all kinds of expression by those who are on their own path, or who may be trapped by unconscious biases. I help where I can but take no responsibility for the behaviors of others. My life is an unfolding affirmation of possibility. I do not react with fear, I respond with love. I am comfortable with who I am and willing to be uncomfortable in the fact of what I do not understand. I know that my good is not affected by the limitations of others unless I give them that power. I hold my power within, I continually scan my responses to ensure my consciousness is one of love, power, peace, and compassion.

Make your own version of this and repeat as needed. We who are on a spiritual pathway are called to be part of the ongoing resolution of humanity’s growing pains. We recognize the struggles of birth and know that they are a natural part of our experience. We resist nothing and accept only the good. All is well. Incidents such as Michelle Wolf’s comedy need not do anything other that lead us to take a deeper look within ourselves to see where we can express greater compassion.

Let us use our spiritual communities as places where we affirm all of this for ourselves. Let us put our energies into creating spaces of care, love, compassion – but also courage, strength, and engagement. Let us learn to be examples of how to be in the face of fear, fake news, narcissism, greed, and other examples of human frailties. Let us make a difference for good in some way, every day.

“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

As always, your comments are welcome!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

THE PERILS OF NEW THOUGHT

“My New Thought heritage carries a tradition of ‘seeing no evil’ and only ‘holding the High Watch.’ My professional status requires me to offer hope and consolation to those who suffer. My personal self is exhausted.

“What tires me most, is being afraid of ‘your’ judgment, and not being able to express my experience with violence in my country and my own hopes for it. Could I be alone in this feeling?”

~ Rev. John McLean

Poster - Holmes - New Thought

We in New Thought like things to be neat and tidy. We prefer that people be calm rather than upset. We see negativity, illness, bad relationships as a failure to think properly – but we often resist pointing that out to those who so suffer. We can at times seem like old-fashioned “church ladies,” wanting everyone conform to what is desirable, yet being afraid to upset those who do not. We forget that life is messy and that there is little that we can do about that particular fact.

“I like messy people; people who don’t fit in a box or stay between the lines, but who’s integrity is greater than any rule book and who’s loyalty is stronger than blood.”

~ Jim Wern

Cartoon - Peanuts Messy

Too often, we flee one set of rigid outmoded rules and the people who enforce them only to find a New Thought spiritual community and recreate the same thing from which we fled. We create communities where people who are suffering decide not to show up and be judged for improper thinking. We create cliques and levels of acceptance and speak of being open and affirming while erecting very visible barriers for those who do not fit in. (LINK to Spiral Dynamics description)

We want harmony, a conflict-free environment; we want nothing to disturb us or remind us of our own failings. We tolerate dysfunction, especially in our spiritual leaders (LINK). Too often, we hide the dysfunction until it cannot be contained any more and it explodes, embarrassing and wounding people, poisoning the well of possibility in our spiritual communities. The wounded are then left to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. They try to make it perfect again like they imagine it was in some previous form – but that is a fantasy. We cling to the idea that if all is not well there must be something wrong with us.

“Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”

~ Hugh Mackay

All of this happens because we are dealing with very powerful spiritual and psychological principles. When these principles are used without an appropriate degree of depth and practice, they can be very disruptive, even dangerous. It is, in a way, like when an amateur tries to handle professional-level fireworks. New Thought principles are not for those who do not approach them with sufficient respect and diligence.

The spiritual master knows that life is messy. She knows that perfection is but a dream from which nothing can be made. She knows that people will fail, the best intentions will often miss the mark, the best relationships dissolve. Yet she persists.

“The need for approval, the need to control things, and the need for external power are needs that are based on fear. This kind of power is not the power of pure potentiality . . . or REAL power. When we experience the power of the Self, there is an absence of fear, there is no compulsion to control, and no struggle for approval or external power.”

~ Deepak Chopra

The spiritual master recognizes that potentiality arises into form through the cracks in our illusions of control. He knows that chaos is the field of creation. He knows the seed must break apart for the tree to grow.  he encourages the chaos, the upsets, the mystery – but within an atmosphere of Love, Compassion, and holding harmless. He knows that the true struggle is always within.

“The master understands that the universe is forever out of control.” ~ Lao Tzu

“What can I do to transform this quaking mess into the mind of the true mystic?” ~ Alan Watts

“Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, canceled, made nothing dipped in oblivion? If not, you will never really change.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Spiritual Mastery

If we choose the path of mastery, we must face a few truths. One is that our lives will become more challenging as we challenge ourselves to greater levels of realization. Another is that we will have to shed some ideas, habits, and practices which no longer serve us, if they ever did. And we must give up the need to be conditionally accepted by others based upon whether we please them. We must give up the idea that mastery is a competitive concept – one seeks mastery over oneself, not over others; mastery is ultimately about service. Oh, and we must give up on the notion that developing mastery means no more problems. In fact, mastery means sacrificing oneself to the bigger challenges which await at the higher levels of realization.

The Perils of New Thought include the decision whether to seek mastery or to have some other way of being in New Thought – something more casual, shall we say? Whichever pathway we take has its own set of challenges and rewards. Mastery offers the greater opportunity to be of meaningful contribution and service to creation.

“All masters were once foolish apprentices and to know the process that mastery requires is to also know that self-esteem is not found in perfection but in the fundamental belief that with practice, the learner will improve.” 

~ Elizabeth Napp

As always, your comments are welcome!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: The new book SPIRAL DYNAMICS IN ACTION is out and available at Amazon.com!

And, of course, my book is there as well!