COMPASSION MEANS EXTENDING THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

“We need to strengthen such inner values as contentment, patience and tolerance, as well as compassion for others. Keeping in mind that it is expressions of affection rather than money and power that attract real friends, compassion is the key to ensuring our own well-being.”

~ Dalai Lama XIV 

 The Dalai Lama’s statement is true at both the individual and collective levels. If we are to move forward as humanity, we will have to find ways to be together which are life-affirming, sustainable, and imbued with wisdom. Finding our way forward in the face of so many challenges (climate collapse, racism, sexism, nationalism, slavery, rogue capitalism, and so on) seems daunting as people harden their worldviews and so often demonize those who see things differently. Polarization is increasing in many places resulting in greater difficulties in connecting across divisions of value systems.

What separates us is our fear and ignorance – of ourselves and of one another. What separates us is our response to our woundedness and the sensitive emotional (and sometimes physical) scar tissue which we have developed, too often making us blind defenders of our worldviews. We so often fail to see that our knowledge is always limited and at least a little bit misinformed, and this is true of those with opposite worldviews as well. At a minimum, we need more self-awareness so that we can at least see others more clearly and less as reflections of our own repressed energies.

To have compassion is to see from Oneness, to feel genuine empathy for others, to practice ongoing forgiveness of self and others, to hold others harmless and to wish them well, despite our disagreements. It does not mean that we let others harm us, in fact, people who are self-compassionate do not abuse others and they REFUSE TO BE ABUSED themselves. Until we develop self-compassion, our sense of connection to others will be but a projection from a wounded self – and not very substantial.

“You have to do the work to develop real empathy. There’s a cost to evolving: if you want your soul to cross the line, there’s no way around emotional work. Face that deep pain, and you gain tremendous compassion for yourself. You feel compassion for those who have hurt you because they were hurt themselves. To really make yourself available to consciously create a new future, you have to do that work.”

~ Bruce Sanguin

I am currently in the final month of a nine-month program, teaching a group of private students what I call “metaphysical psychology.” A key element of the program is a deep dive into Shadow and emotional work. There is no coming to consciousness without this kind of work. Sorry, but that is the case. Deep spiritual work is essential to deal with our inevitable sense of being wounded in our lives. Until we heal our emotional selves, we will project our fears, hurt, and anger onto others, making compassion impossible and prolonging our state of human conflict. Giving the benefit of the doubt does not release one from accountability, it simply acknowledges our humanness.

Forgiveness is an essential element for developing compassion. Ongoing, daily, moment-by-moment forgiveness of self and others is a practice worth pursuing. Again, this does not mean a denial of accountability, but it does mean a refusal to diminish self or others with guilt and shame. Being at our best means being in a state of forgiveness. Otherwise, we continue to project our woundedness onto others.

Forgive Stone

We are not, at base, malevolent creatures, although when wounded, or when our sense of desperation exceeds our understanding of our true nature, we can act in malevolent ways. When we are healed and when we are compassionate, malevolent actions are impossible. The saying “hurt people hurt people” rings very true in this regard. We can do our best to express love and compassion to all, and we can learn to be unattached to how they respond. True compassion is never conditional. It is our natural way of being, given freely, without regard to its acceptance. The work is getting back to that primal state which exists within us, just below the scar tissue. It awaits us patiently as we do our work. It is the process of remembering who we really are and our true nature.

Have compassion for everyone you meet
even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.

~ Miller Williams, “Compassion in The Ways We Touch”

 Developing the awareness that human dysfunction is not a natural state, but the result of fear, ignorance, and wounding is a rare quality in today’s world. It is, of course, also a way that we are given opportunities to learn and grow – but we must respond positively to those opportunities. Most people see behavior as a direct indication of who a person is, rather than the result of how the person has integrated their experiences into a personality. When we KNOW that there is a compassionate being in there beneath the fear and wounding, we can more easily be empathetic ourselves. Once we have developed true compassion, we will do this automatically and speak to the compassionate being inside the other person. This may be disconcerting to them, and it may also influence that aspect of the other person to come closer to the surface.

“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers.”

~ Susan Sontag

Acting from compassion, even when automatic, can be frightening. Compassion leads us places where the guarded and comfortable will not go. It sees through appearances of fear and ignorance more easily, and it calls us to action rather than to complacency. It requires regular practices to keep it in mind and heart.

Chaos Compassion Bubble

To be godlike, to imitate Christ, to express Buddha consciousness, to be true to Islamic principles, and to embody the Science of Mind all require one to develop compassion. It is both the root and the destination of all spiritual practices across faith traditions. It is also the goal of the atheist. It is our ultimate destination as human beings. Today, humanity is calling out for compassion, but mostly unknowingly. We arm our nations’ militaries and reinforce our personal inner departments of defense (anger, hatred, buying weapons) when what we really want is to live in compassionate societies. In our ignorance and fear, we so often do exactly the opposite from what we need to do. If we really want #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone, we must do better.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

~ Dalai Lama XIV

Only those with the awareness of these truths will seek out their expression. So, if you are aware, you have an assignment – find your compassion, first for yourself and then for others. Do your spiritual work, daily and minute-by-minute. This is not just to be happy, but to be happy, fulfilled, and a contributor to the greater good. Become who you came into this incarnation to be and be a true force for expanded love and compassion in our world. Spirit has your back.

“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

~ Pema Chödrön

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Register now for this great conference in Geneva this August!

Embracing Change:

A Pathway to Growth and Transformation

Lisa Ferraro and I are keynote presenters and there will be wonderful workshops from international presenters all in a gorgeous setting on Lake Geneva in view of the Alps!

LINK to info and registration:  https://www.icsl-geneva.com/ 

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JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 4 – THE RETURN

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.” 

~ Joseph Campbell 

 In Parts 1 (LINK), 2 (LINK) and 3 (LINK) of this series, we explored the first three major components of the Hero’s JourneyThe Call, The Initiation, and The Abyss. In this final part, we explore The Return, where the hero returns to where she left and brings a new version of herself to her old community.

Heroes Journey Graphic

“The return is seeing the radiance everywhere. The main problem is changing the location of your mind. The town you come back to is the one you left, otherwise the journey is not complete. You give yourself to life, by leaving temporality behind. Desire for mortal gains and fear of loss hold you back from giving yourself to life.”

~ Joseph Campbell

The Return represents a most important aspect of the journey – coming home as a transformed being in some way. If the journey is coming out as gay, the return is telling family and friends who may not have known; if the journey is entering the military, it is coming home as a warrior; if the journey is entering university, it is returning with some very different ideas; if the journey is a spiritual awakening, it is returning to your community of origin as an awakened version of yourself.

‎”I asked myself, ‘What is the myth you are living?’ and found that I did not know. So… I took it upon myself to get to know ‘my’ myth and regarded this as the task of tasks…I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me.”

~ C.G. Jung

One does not have to return to a specific location or situation, but there is a return – and upon returning, one is either accepted or rejected by those to whom one returns. The family may not accept a gay son or lesbian daughter; a spouse may not accept the soldier returning from combat; the university graduate may be seen as too alien for the friends and family of youth; the awakened person may not be accepted by the more conservative members of her community.

Wizard of Oz - The Return

But – and this is critical – to the hero, it is not critical whether or not he or she is accepted. It is known that a greater self has emerged and that is sufficient. There is, of course, sorrow when family ties and friendships are strained or broken, but the value of the Jewel – the greater self is realized as worthwhile by the hero.

“Medieval heroes had to slay their dragons; modern heroes have to take their dragons back home to integrate into their own personality.”

~ Robert A. Johnson, Jungian analyst, Owning Your Own Shadow

Dragon.jpg

So, the integration is within, and after that is accomplished, the integration leads to a new life, whether in the same place and with the same people or not. Often, The Return from a significant Hero’s Journey is the launching pad for a new form of life – vocation, relationships, the whole thing. Ideally, whether this is the case or not, friends and family will embrace the returning hero, being willing to set aside their preferences for a new reality – his or her new way of being. That would be ideal.

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
Walk mindfully, well loved one,
Walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
Be always coming home.

~ Ursula K. LeGuin

THE LESSONS OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY

The Hero’s Journey is such a prominent motif in mythology and story telling because it speaks to a universal theme of human development. Hero’s are known by their actions – but the true journey is within, to find that heretofore hidden aspect of a person which must be brought forth for her to express her True Self. Our lives are a constant stream of opportunities to grow, to realize something more about ourselves, to find out who we are and who we came to this lifetime to be.

When we heed The Call, survive The Initiation, enter and rise from The Abyss, and Return a transformed being, we serve ourselves and humanity in powerful ways. It is those who have failed along the hero’s path in some way who become destructive and wounded souls who often wreak havoc in society. Self-destructive and destructive of others, they carry their wounds and resist the rigors of the inner journey.

New Thought teachings equip us to undertake our Hero’s Journey again and again, deepening and growing each time, becoming our best selves, actualizing our potentials. We know the power of our mind and emotions, of intention and attention; we know that we must hospice what is ready to be released in our lives and midwife what is ready to be born. We know that courage is only possible where fear is present. We know that fear is merely the edge of our known reality. We are the heroes.

As always, your comments are welcomed. What are your Hero’s Journey experiences?

Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

 

I am honored to be presenting at the ICSL Geneva Summer Retreat: EMBRACING CHANGE – A Pathway to Growth and Transformation in August. Won’t you join us at the beautiful Chateau de Bossey for a powerful weekend of personal growth and spiritual connection?

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JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 3 – THE ABYSS

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center. You find the jewel and it draws you off.”

~ Joseph Campbell

In Parts 1 (LINK) & 2 (LINK) of this series, I wrote about the first two stages of the Hero’s JourneyThe Call and The Initiation. In this post, I address The Abyss, where we Find the Jewel for which the first two stages have been a preparation.

Abyss - botticelli_hel

The Abyss of Hell by Sandro Botticelli

The Abyss is the dark place of limited consciousness which must be traversed in order to find the Jewel, which is the higher consciousness within you. The Jewel can be called Christ Consciousness or Buddha Mind. It is what the Holy Grail represented in the Arthurian Legends and in the Indiana Jones movies. It is that most perilous part of the journey, where the most is asked of you, and where it is easy to fail. The legendary stories are metaphors for an inner psychological and spiritual journey.

“Most heroic journeys involve going through a dark place – through mountain caverns, the underworld, or labyrinthine passages to emerge, finally, into the light.”

~ Jean Shinoda Bolen

These metaphors are guides to the Hero’s Journey. In our culture, we have lost much of our ability to understand symbols and metaphors, but they are there in the epic stories and legends of the past and present. Perhaps the great demand for the comic book heroes in cinema today is a longing for the true heroes of the stories of the past, not the wounded heroes so prevalent in our modern literature. The deep work of personal transformation requires a positive sense of the hero as an aspect of self which can strengthen you through the challenges of the journey. After all, what is at the center of the Jewel is your own destiny, a greater idea of yourself which is ready to express in your life.

“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

Sometimes, a Hero’s Journey can happen while you sit in a beach chair over a weekend in deep contemplation. Or it can be at a spiritual retreat where a process helps to crack you open emotionally and make something deeper available to you. Or it can be a decades-long struggle with addiction or poor self-concept which goes through many forms of The Abyss experience. There is no single version of the journey.

“The purpose of the journey is compassion. When you have come past the pairs of opposites, you have reached compassion.”

~ Joseph Campbell

I have written about compassion (LINK) before, and it comes up in Campbell’s motif of the Hero’s Journey as well. Remember that true compassion requires a consciousness of Oneness where you see the other as being one with you. So, moving beyond the “pairs of opposites” is an essential step of the journey. And it is always possible to expand our acceptance of Oneness, so there is always more of the true self to express. This means that we have more than one Hero’s Journey on our agenda.

Patanjali Quote - Pairs of Opposites

Moving beyond the pairs of opposites means moving beyond our own limited beliefs, which are guarded by our ego’s fear-based emotional system. So, there is a fight to break through those guardians of the gate to our true self. Of course, all of this happens within us. We may give up, fail to gain the Jewel, slide back into our lives without the benefits of the journey. This simply means what we will have another Call, another opportunity to grow, but we may not answer that Call after the defeat in this experience.

The legends and stories tell us that entering the Abyss is the greatest challenge, and that our experience in the Wasteland with our teachers, positive and negative, have prepared us for this moment. However, we may still fall back. There is no escaping the need to stand strong in confronting our demons – the beliefs which hold us in bondage and necessitate the Hero’s Journey to begin with.

Heroes Journey Graphic

What we seek is already within us. What we seek is some aspect of ourselves which we have not yet expressed and is being called forth by some aspect of ourselves to face some challenge or to heal some condition. We are ALWAYS up to the challenge in potential because everything we require is always already within us. We do well to remember that basic truth.

“The hero’s main feat is to overcome darkness; it is only the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious.”

~ C.G. Jung

In Part 4 of this series, I will cover The Return, the final critical stage in The Hero’s Journey.

Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

 

I will be presenting an online program in the Spiral Dynamics™ Model beginning in May. SD1 covers the basics of the model; SD2 leads to certification to use the model in teaching and consulting. The basic info is in this graphic. For more information and to register, email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net and I will send you the complete information.

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JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 2 – THE INITIATION

 ‎”I asked myself, ‘What is the myth you are living?’ and found that I did not know. So… I took it upon myself to get to know ‘my’ myth and regarded this as the task of tasks…I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me.”

~ C.G. Jung

 Here, Carl Jung writes about entering the Hero’s Journey voluntarily, answering The Call (LINK to Part 1) as a choice. That is often the way it happens, and once the call is answered affirmatively (or there is no choice but to continue), we cross the barrier between what is known and what is unknown. This second leg of the Hero’s Journey is often called The Initiation, or the place of challenges and temptations.

Heroes Journey Graphic

“Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he/she must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he/she met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he/she here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him/her in this superhuman passage.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Here, after crossing the threshold, we are in the unknown, within and without. We must find our way in unfamiliar territory – think of the recruit entering boot camp or the student entering the university for the first time; the young person who has just come out regarding sexual identity; the pilgrim entering the first day of the pilgrimage. We will meet guides, some of them positive, some negative and we must learn to make our way forward. We will be tempted to go back to our comfort zone, tempted to take side journeys off of our pathway, and tempted to lose ourselves to various distractions and addictions.

Indeed, we must find our way forward by developing our inner wisdom and strength to stay true to our journey. We must discern how we are being guided and resist the temptations to give up or to sidestep the process. We must identify our teachers as such and learn whether they are positive or negative examples.

“The journey of the hero is about the courage to seek the depths; the image of creative rebirth; the eternal cycle of change within us; the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know. The hero journey is a symbol that binds, in the original sense of the word, two distant ideas, the spiritual quest of the ancients with the modern search for identity, always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelously constant story that we find.” 

~ Phil Cousineau

 

Both Jesus and Buddha have stories of initiation – Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted by Satan with super powers and earthly delights; Buddha is tempted with pleasures of the sensual self – of fear and desire. Neither succumb to the temptations. They continue their journeys as examples of the courage it takes to stay true. An initiation is a rite of passage from one stage of consciousness to another. Without this passage, we remain immature and we are not up to the increasing demands of life; life expects us to mature, to grow. When we do not, we suffer personally, and we are diminished in our abilities to express our inner gifts to the world. Most of the traditional rites of initiation are gone or have become very tepid, offering no real challenge to transformation.

“The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.
But there’s also the possibility of bliss.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

When we leave the known and cross the barrier into the unknown, we have to develop our inner wisdom to recognize what in the outer environment can help us. We must learn the lessons, positive and negative, on the journey so that we can put ourselves into position for the great challenge ahead of us. Often, on our Hero’s Journey we meet people who are corrupt in some way. False leaders, spiritual and secular abound, however, each has something to teach us about ourselves. Our lessons may include experience such as betrayal, illness, and being victimized. We may go through a series of negative relationships as we try to find our authentic center and realize that we bring something valuable to others and deserve value in return. But we will also encounter positive teachers who encourage and support us. The Hero’s Journey is always a process of loss and gain, of release and acceptance.

 

‎”I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious (spiritual) outlook on life.”

~ C.G. Jung

Jung’s reference is to those who have failed to heed The Call or who have failed to learn the lessons of Initiation on their Hero’s Journeys. Sometimes, the hero is called to perform a deed, but more often the journey is about spiritual development. We seek to find our way through the Initiation phase by learning to relate properly to our teachers and guides. Perhaps along the way we learn when to trust and when to be wary; when to surrender and when to resist the urge to give up; how to read people better to see what people are really saying to us. It is important that one not turn back here. The purpose of the Initiation phase is to prepare us for the great quest or challenge that is coming – the finding of the jewel of inner consciousness which is the heart of the Hero’s Journey. I will cover that in Part 3 of this series.

 “There is a certain typical hero sequence of actions, which can be detected in stories from all over the world, and from many, many periods of history. And I think it’s essentially, you might say, the one deed done by many, many different people. There are two types of deed. One is the physical deed; the hero who has performed a war act or a physical act of heroism. Saving a life, that’s a hero act. Giving himself, sacrificing himself to another. And the other kind is the spiritual hero, who has learned or found a mode of experiencing the supernormal range of human spiritual life and has then come back and communicated it. It’s a cycle. It’s a going and a return that the hero cycle represents.”

~ Joseph Campbell

 As always, your comments are appreciated below – feel free to share this post with others and, if you are so inclined, Follow this blog by entering your email in the Follow section.

 Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

 

JOSEPH CAMPBELL – THE HERO’S JOURNEY, PART 1 – THE CALL

The mythological motif called The Hero’s Journey represents a significant passage in human consciousness and experience – from one place to another; from one way of being to another; from one sense of self to another. In his classic book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES (LINK) (LINK to PDF) Joseph Campbell (LINK) describes this almost universal motif across several of the world’s mythic traditions.

It is always an inner journey, and often as outer one as well. Hero’s Journeys can last a lifetime or a weekend. There are a number of stages to the journey, represented in this graphic:

Heroes Journey Graphic

The Call is the first step – we are enticed, encouraged, coerced, even kidnapped into a new experience. In some cases, we have no choice, in others we can accept or deny the call. When we deny the call, we also deny the treasure – the form of higher consciousness – which awaits us when we are successful in moving through the journey. We are called away from our comfort zone and deeper within to realize something that has not been called forth from within us before. It may be a whisper from within that it’s time for a new job or to alter a relationship; it may be leaving home for the first time to attend college or for a job; it may be being conscripted into the military or getting a diagnosis of cancer. There are many versions of The Call to the Hero’s Journey. We may be involved in several at once. Campbell writes of The Call as the moment of choice when the gods call us forward to a greater expression of ourselves. “Yes” means we begin the journey, “no” means that we stagnate, and perhaps putrefy.

“The hero’s journey has been compared to a birth: it starts with being warm and snug in a safe place; then comes a signal, growing more insistent, that it is time to leave. To stay beyond your time is to putrefy. Without the blood & tearing and pain, there is no new life.”

~ Joseph Campbell

 

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.” 

~ Joseph Campbell 

 

“If a person has had the sense of ‘the Call’ – the feeling that there’s an adventure for him — and if he doesn’t follow that but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to a condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder and found that it’s against the wrong wall.
If you have the guts to follow the risk, however, life opens, opens, opens up all along the line. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in spiritual magic, you might say. If one follows what I call one’s bliss — the thing that really gets you deep in your gut and that you feel is your life – doors will open up. They do!”

~ Joseph Campbell

The Call is frightening at first. After we have been through the cycle a few times, we may come to welcome The Call, but it always signals a time of trial and deep learning. Our egos fear this process, as the role of the ego is to support the current worldview, the current consciousness. When we announce that we are changing, or are thrown into change, we upset the ego which resists the change process. How we deal with this resistance is a sign of our emotional and spiritual intelligence.

“Resistance blooms naturally in the presence of change. You will encounter resistance in attempts at ascendance, physical or spiritual. … Remember, though, that resistance is also a good omen. It means you’re close to something important, something vital for your soul’s work here, something worthy of you. … The degree of resistance … is probably proportionate to the amount of power waiting to be unleashed and the satisfaction to be experienced once the ‘no’ breaks through to ‘yes’ and the call is followed.”

~ Gregg Levoy

 The Hero’s Journey, when completed, is nothing short of transformational. The ego is right to fear it, for comfort and security are going to be set aside for exploration and the chance of personal growth and deep realization. There are any number of places along the way where you might choose to leave the pathway, the most critical being with the first step, The Call. Fear is the edge of your known reality, so taking leave of that reality is going to be scary and disturbing, even terrifying.

“In becoming a hero or heroine, we undertake the extraordinary task of dying to our current, local selves and being reborn to our eternal selves. And then we continue to travel deeper still until we reach the eternal place of sourcing and resourcing.
“There are two great works for heroes and heroines to perform. The first is to withdraw from everyday life and open ourselves to the inner creative life through which lie our only means of reaching the Source. The second work is to return to everyday life, carrying the knowledge we have gained in the depths and putting it to use to redeem time and society.”

~ Jean Houston

 

When we open to the journey, we align with the forces – the gods – seeking to drive us forward in our development. Our soul wants to experience the fullness of life, to be fulfilled in terms of experience and meaning in our lives. It is this inner urge which calls forth the Hero’s Journey, often unconsciously until the moment that The Call comes to our awareness. The motif of the journey will constantly arise in your life – in fact, the trajectory of your entire life can be seen as a Hero’s Journey. When we come into awareness and alignment with the dynamics of this motif, our pathways to self-development open to us. Saying “YES” begins the journey.

In Part 2, we will explore the second major leg of the journey – The Wasteland – Challenges & Temptations.

“Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” 

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

heros-journey girl

As always, your comments are welcomed. Feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

 

Copyright – Jim Lockard 2019

HUMANITY’S IMMUNE SYSTEM IS EMERGING

“Transformational evolutionary times make the status quo shake and fracture. Those wedded to the status quo shout the loudest. It can be jarring, but it’s not surprising.”

~ Jim Lockard

 “Everything changes when you start to emit your own frequency rather than absorbing the frequencies around you, when you start imprinting your intent on the universe rather than receiving an imprint from existence.”

~ Barbara Marciniak  

“What looks like the end of the world today is often divine intelligence prodding us to incubate (to cocoon) to change ourselves from the inside out and emerge the butterfly. Don’t fight it.”

~ Nathalie Wynn Pace

 These opening quotes speak to the evolutionary process of emergence, which is, quite simply, the way that everything new comes into being and everything old ceases to be dominant. This is true in the physical realm and in the realm of human and cultural development, which is our main concern here.

We can look within human systems to the methods which aid and abet evolution’s determined path toward the new and more complex. Systems within all of creation assist in this process, whether by creating biological “mutations” which alter the direction of a species or cultural “awakenings” which alter the direction of a society. The massive youth marches for climate policy on March 15th can be seen as a bunch of young people deciding to get a day off from school, or, more correctly I think, as a collective action arising from some inner urge to cleanse the human system of destructive, outdated behavior. As Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish teen who has been the inspirational spark for the movement said: ”This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice.”

 

 

These youths, taken collectively, can be seen as a kind of immune system for humanity, attacking sclerotic belief systems and paving the way for the emergence of what is next for humanity in a positive way. They are imaginal cells in consciousness; just as the imaginal cells which transform the caterpillar into the butterfly. And, the belief systems supporting the status quo will try to kill off this new consciousness, because that is what existing systems do – they try to perpetuate themselves despite their growing obsolescence.

“If we look with cynical eyes, we see a truncated vision, bereft of hope. . . It is with sacred eyes that we can see the larger, more realistic, picture. Sacred eyes can penetrate through the opaqueness of materialism and reductionism, can penetrate the opacity of materialism and reductionism, and can sort through the chaos of our current time to see the emerging values of the 21st century.”

~ Robert Keck, Sacred Eyes

 These emerging values are just that – newly emerging values systems which are evolutionary in nature. Evolution is a relentless, unpredictable, emergent process which seeks greater adaptation through increased complexity. It is at work in our DNA, our subconscious mind, and in the collective subconscious of humanity and all other occupants of this universe, organic and inorganic. If humanity is to come to a place where we choose to create a more equitable, sustainable, and survivable experience on earth, it will be because of emergent newness which is both heeded and acted upon.

“Because we are moving into a new mythic age, it is little wonder that a kind of mutation is taking place in the entire earth-human order. A new paradigm of what it is to be human is emerging.”

~ Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth

Beautiful Earth with Clouds

The youth who marched on March 15th and who will continue to march represent the natural tendency of a living system to heal itself from destructive environments and/or behaviors. It is a natural and normal emergent property of living in this universe. Our lack of awareness of this most important process may result in our collective doom as a species. Of course, that will not deter the universe, our planet included, from evolving forward, but it would be a tragedy for humanity. This kind of whole systems viewpoint is becoming increasingly important if we are going to have a positive influence on climate change and other issues as our world grows more complex.

When we are confronted with something beyond our ability to comprehend, we turn to the artists and the poets for guidance and awareness.

“The poetry of creation is necessarily incomplete — always unobtainable. It is emerging, dying, defining boundaries, and breaking them, contracting and expanding in controlled chaos, or chaotic control. This is the uncrackable code of evolution.”

~ Nora Bateson

 We are part of a fluid, messy, living system with linear and non-linear properties all subject to the emergence of the new and the obsolescence of the old. Some, particularly in the social sciences, are beginning to see this truth and the immense potentials we carry within us – if we can only learn to come into congruence with the principal of emergence as the prime channel of creativity.

“Our blind spot, from a person or people point of view, keeps us from seeing that we do indeed have greatly enhanced direct access to the deeper sources of creativity and commitment, both as individuals and as communities. It is one of our most hopeful sources of confidence because we can access a deeper presence, power, and purpose from within. From a structural point of view, the societal blind spot deals with the lack of these cross-sector action groups that intentionally operate from a future that wants to emerge. Instead, we see only special interest groups and three types of fundamentalism, each trying to solve our current mess in a single-minded way.” 

~ C. Otto Scharmer, Theory U

It can be frightening to see the collective need for a “human immune system” and to realize that our existence can be so fragile, and to further realize that it may come to an end (or at least be very miserable) due to our own fear and ignorance. Yet this is what the modern spiritual warrior must face. The courage of the youths who are stepping forward – in every nation, for every cause – is heartening and should be encouraged. We must hospice what is read to die in our culture and midwife what is being born. This takes both courage and some degree of complex thinking – the ability to see that things are connected in mostly invisible ways. And then to trust in those connections and in the collective intelligence of evolutionary processes and to do nothing to obstruct what wants to unfold. It is, admittedly, a tall order, but we have put ourselves into this position, have we not?

I may sound like a doomsayer, although I am not. I think I am an Apocaloptimist (thanks to Nora Bateson for the term), someone who recognized the possibility of a human apocalypse but is optimistic that we will find an alternative. We cannot close our eyes to either possibility and be truly effective.

I believe that there are deep living systems at work, with our self-awareness at the surface. These deep systems operate by evolution, a fluid system of change through adaptation to greater complexity. These systems are self-healing but are not concerned with the forms at the surface, which are continually renewed and improved, or set aside as they become obsolete or unable to adapt.

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

 Nature is, indeed, careless of the single life, no matter how important we humans think we are, we are one among many aspects of huge living systems. Here is an analogy: while you may love every cell of your body, how “careful” are you of each one? Don’t you unconsciously slough them off without caring about them individually? Why? Because it is the way of things at the human level – why would it be any different at the universal level?

As we mature spiritually, we come to terms with these difficult ideas and we learn to trust the wisdom of deep living systems of which we are a part. New life arises and old life expires, new forms arise and old forms dissolve; all along the Universal living systems flow and grow. When we are in tune with our immune systems at every level, we can facilitate the healing of ourselves and our communities. Let us awaken to emergence, recognize it, celebrate it, and come into a deep harmony with it.

“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.”

~ Ernest Holmes

 As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please share this post with others who may be interested. Thank you!

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 4

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

In Parts 1, 2 & 3 (LINK) (LINK) (LINK), I explored the issue of diversity & inclusion in New Thought spiritual communities from society-wide and local spiritual community cultural viewpoints. This final post is about how our individual psychology, if not properly understood, can create unintended barriers to creating successful programs. And no, spiritual communities where there is diversity and inclusion are not impossible – even in the suburbs!

 

beloved-community-i-have-a-dream

There is a concept described by the Spiral Dynamics Model (and in other places) called transcend and include. This means that as we develop to more complex levels of thought and values, we transcend our former levels, but they are included within us. This is true of any developmental perspective of human growth. We are all familiar with the Inner Child concept – where the unresolved issues of our past remain active in our subconscious and cause us to act from that unhealed perspective if not continually, at least from time to time.

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

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

We have within us the vestiges of thousands of years of humans living in tribes – groups of less than 100 people making their way in the world, some as nomads, some settled in place, but all with a fierce loyalty to the tribe and fear and suspicion of anyone not a part of the tribe. This tribal consciousness, identified as Purple in the Spiral Dynamics Model, is not only part of our collective past, but is also a stage in our individual human development. We have tribal relations with our family, our schools, etc., and this remains true in varying degrees for much of our lives. Spiritual community can bring forth tribal feelings of connections and being unique from other groups. It can unconsciously activate our desire for intimacy, protection, and safety among trusted companions. Centered around a teaching and/or a teacher/leader, spiritual community can carry many aspects of a tribal culture.

This unconscious aspect can act in a variety of ways on individuals, ways that may well result in subtle or not-so-subtle resistance to different people showing up to join the tribe. Even though at a conscious level, we may recognize the value of diversity, our subconscious may resist being truly welcoming and inviting diverse people into the heart of the community.

 

Such a response to diversity, or to the idea of diversity, may not even be at the level of conscious awareness. There may well be a sense of “why aren’t we more diverse?” or “Why don’t others stay around long?” But, if you ask a newcomer who is different from the other members, say someone of color or LGBTQIA, you may be surprised by what they are experiencing. It often takes some deep personal exploration of one’s unconscious patternsbiases and fears – before we allow ourselves to see these repressed aspects. While there are certainly people who are consciously biased and bigoted, it is likely that most of us simply have not done the personal work necessary to dislodge old tribal patterns of thought and therefore harbor impulses and fears which lead to behaviors signaling that we are not open and affirming to those outside of the tribe. When this is the case, we simply do not pay attention to the issue at a deep level, for our repressed aspects tend to control our perception – we don’t see what others see.

This tribal consciousness, combined with a human tendency to accept whatever goes on when we are children as “normal,” has led to an American culture where things such as white privilege can exist for centuries. Our innate biases tend to make us (white people) reject the idea of such a concept when we hear about it (LINK). Accepting that such things are real and are the result of conscious cultural behaviors can be very difficult, but necessary steps in our cultural awakening.

“Stark honesty, however painful, is needed on this journey toward the Self; the unconscious will not tolerate anything less. One must be willing to face many cruel truths, those we keep hidden from the light of day, and those we keep hidden from ourselves.”

~ Marion Woodman

 

 

The repression of both negative and positive instincts and feelings into the unconscious causes them to inhabit a shadow realm. While ego attempts to continue to censor the shadow impulses-the very pressure that repression causes is rather like a bubble in sidewall of a tire.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

These quotes strike at the heart of the issue that we face. No matter how willing we say that we are to open our communities to different people, our dominant consciousness will determine our behaviors. Putting up a rainbow flag but not being comfortable about LGBTIA people communicates a mixed message – and a mixed message is not a welcoming message. There is a learning curve across some differences in personal and cultural backgrounds which is much more difficult to traverse if we are bound by unconscious biases and fears.

Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own inner work – its degree, its depth, its sincerity. Certainly, spiritual leaders can and should be encouraging such work – and doing their own work in this regard. The culture of the local spiritual community, as described in Part 3 of this series, can have a significant effect on the personal spiritual and psychological development of its individual members. Is deep personal inquiry actually valued here – or just given lip service – or ignored completely?

Is spiritual leadership aware of the larger macro trends and dynamics affecting all aspects of spiritual community including diversity and inclusion, as described in Part 2 of this series? And if so, how is that awareness being integrated into the local spiritual community’s activities, planning, and ways of being?

And finally, if diversity is present in the community, or if it is a currently unrealized goal of the community, are there concrete ways of including diverse people in the heart of the spiritual community? If not, why not? A good beginning might be a very frank conversation among the community members and leadership about this issue and what may be getting in the way. There are consultants who can assist with this process, and there are programs within the New Thought organizations to provide guidance, support, and assistance.

Transformative change is never a painless process. But clear intentions and people who are doing deep work can work what would otherwise appear to be miracles.

“Only people with petty minds indulge in racial hatreds and distinctions. God’s perfect idea of man is the basis for every living soul, and we must believe this and act as though it were so. When we dislike people and groups, we are bearing witness to our small and limited viewpoints. The people in whom we fail to find good are born of the same Mind, operate under the same Law, and express the same Life as we do. Our inability to see their divine origin is our self-created stumbling block. Often, we are held back by our petty dislikes of other people.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “Guide to Richer Living”

 I have asked Tracy Brown, author of the recently published book, STAINED GLASS SPIRIT (LINK), to be a guest blogger here and to add her inspired thinking to the conversation. Look for that post in the near future.

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

I am pleased to announce that my two books, SACRED THINKING, and CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY will soon be available in Spanish. I owe thanks for this to a number of people who I will mention in the near future.

 

 

 

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 3

“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In Parts 1 & 2 (LINK) (LINK), we explored the overall idea of diversity and inclusion and a macro view, the larger cultural patterns which got us where we are and which we must recognize if we are to be effective in expanding diversity and bringing inclusion to our New Thought spiritual communities. In Part 3, I explore how the culture and values of the local spiritual community affects these efforts.

Cartoon - Diversity - my-kinda-church_2

The culture of the spiritual community is perhaps the most critical element because it determines every aspect of the behaviors and expectations of its members. Whether or not a spiritual community is even open to greater diversity is determined by its culture. Think of the group culture as a combination of the individual belief systems present and the historically encultured traditions and values of the spiritual community. This embodied culture is what greets the newcomer and lets the long-time member recognize the community even though there has been a lot of turnover in membership. This culture is both conscious and unconscious; it is somewhat fluid but also generally stable in nature. New members are taught about the culture informally and perhaps formally in New Member Classes.

One thing which is evident by looking at most New Thought spiritual communities – the local cultures tend to lead to little or no diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+, and even age. The fact that this is the reality means that the culture, most likely unconsciously, has simply continued to support a cultural belief in sameness. While me must consider macro and demographic factors as noted in Part 2 (LINK) of this series, it is very likely that any desire for diversity has not been matched by a change in the cultural consciousness.

Cartoon - Church Diversity

As we will see in Part 4 with individual consciousness, group cultures benefit by having a strong conscious awareness of what the culture consists of. Otherwise, people may feel unwelcome at the same time that community members are trying to welcome them. A newcomer’s experience of a spiritual community will be a combination of her experience of the collective culture as expressed AND the individuals she encounters who express their own consciousness, some of which will reflect the collective culture and some of which may not.

Some things to consider: Is there a strong inner circle in your spiritual community who create barriers to “outsiders”? Are the social functions geared toward one particular group? What about age-consciousness in your community? Are young people respected for what they think or treated like children? Are LGBTQIA+ or cis-gendered people made to feel like outsiders? Does the spiritual leader show preferences in terms of which social activities are attended and which affinity groups are visited? Are there efforts to have diversity on the platform and on important committees in the spiritual community?

I was once a spiritual leader of a center in a rather wealthy area. I met a man socially and after we had a discussion on spirituality, invited him to attend one Sunday. He did. I entered the auditorium that next Sunday and saw him sitting in a seat next to a woman, a long-time member of the community, who had her arm around him and told me, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this one!” Needless to say, we never saw him again at our center. The woman, who understood what should be done to make people feel welcomed, ignored that understanding for some reason. So, in that case, while the collective culture may have been a good fit for the man, at least one individual he encountered led him to decide to avoid our spiritual community from that point forward.

 

These kinds of individual incidents will happen under the best circumstances, but hopefully, they become teachable moments for leadership. The path to greater diversity and inclusion can be a long one for some communities. There must be both an openness to the idea and follow-through with cultural changes, which can and do take time.

“We are not summoned to perfection; that is the realm of the gods; we are summoned to mindfulness, to such fields of divine reference with sensitivity, respect, and humility.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst,

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Being mindful of creating sacred space in spiritual community should be at the top of the list for spiritual leadership in establishing the atmosphere in which people show up and are welcomed. While we can never do this perfectly, a regular reinforcement of the principles of mindful community should be expressed and exemplified by spiritual leadership, both ministers and lay leaders. Otherwise, the community becomes more of a social club with all of the unconscious aspects and biases of that kind of life. Conscious awareness of the sacred nature of the spiritual community, its activities, and of service in that community are essential. Sacred service, rather than volunteering, should be the norm, and sacred service implies that service is a spiritual practice.

No matter how well-meaning we may be, we bring our biases to spiritual community. Unconscious attitudes have a way of showing up and all too frequently, can lead to those who would bring diversity to a spiritual community feeling diminished or separated from the group. I had a young adult tell me once that he no longer attended the New Thought center he loved because older people treated him like their grandson, even pinching his cheek (!) – he was nearly 30 years old. I am certain that that act was both well-meaning and unconscious – and it drove him away. When we unconsciously project our own needs onto others, we do not see them for who they are, rather for who we need or want them to be. This will be described in greater depth in Part 4.

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

~ William Sloan Coffin, Jr.

 

“Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them onto others is the source of most quarrels, and the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution will not easily die out.”

~ C.G. Jung, “Depth Psychology and Self-Knowledge”

 We learn in New Thought that nothing changes on the outside until something changes on the inside. The idea that a spiritual community which is lacking in diversity can simply announce that it is open and welcoming and that diversity will manifest is contrary to the principles of New Thought. For an outer change to manifest, an inner change must occur. If diversity is not present, and could be present, then a change in consciousness which removes the invisible barrier to the new manifestation must occur.

diversity

The work of creating a meaningful invitation to diversity is difficult and can be painful. Confronting one’s biases always is. And it is only the first step, for when diverse people start showing up, how will they be included? Tokenism serves no one. Forced inclusion may be necessary at first, however, that is a sign that deeper spiritual work is needed. The culture of the spiritual community must be genuinely open to the work necessary to make this shift from the limited past to a more open future. There is one level of collective culture which may be open to diversity, but a higher level of openness may be needed to establish true inclusion.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

Inclusion-strategy

In Part 4, I will explore the individual element – how our own biases can sabotage our best efforts to bring greater diversity and inclusion – and how to heal those issues.

“We are continuously being drawn into situations or circumstances, sometimes against our objective will, but seldom against our unconscious willing. Most of our mental imagery is unconscious. It comes either from previous experiences or the experiences of the race. There is much in the subconscious of which the intellect is not aware, but one thing is certain, our subjective or unconscious thought patterns can be changed. We have created them and we can change them.” 

~ Ernest Holmes, The Art of Life

As always, your comments along the way are encouraged! As are stories of success or lack of success in doing this work in your own spiritual communities. Please share this post with others who may find it of interest.

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

 

MY BOOK ON AMAZON:

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 2

‎”Diversity … is not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.”

~ William Chase

I begin Part 2 (LINK to Part 1) this exploration of diversity and inclusion in spiritual community with the macro, or societal level – the grand scale of things, if you will. There are broad and deep patterns in our society and cultures which carry values and tradition like a kind of cultural DNA, resulting in patterns of behavior at a larger scale which affect the experiences of both local spiritual communities and individuals. Statements such as the opening quote from William Chase, which may seem to be valid on their face, may be easily dismissed or rejected due to these deep cultural values.

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use to look at these values, and we will do a bit of that in this post. Since most New Thought spiritual communities are in the United States, let us use that nation as an example of how these broad cultural DNA patterns show up. The dominant values systems (vMEMEs in Spiral Dynamics terms), are different today than they were 50 or more years ago, and new systems continue to emerge as older systems fade. In the developed world, where Modernist-Orange and Postmodernist-Green are on the rise, people are making choices about being in community (or not) differently than when Traditionalist-Blue was more present in the mix. At Blue, you seek conformity, membership, authority, and obedience. Your parents and/or grandparents probably went to church because they were supposed to, and that values system was strongly supported by the family and the larger culture. All that began to change with the rise of Modernist -Orange in the mid-20th Century and Postmodernist-Green in the late-20th and early 21st Centuries. Orange is individualistic, believes in scientific rationalism, and is entrepreneurial, seeking to escape the “herd mentality” of Blue. Those centered at Orange are more comfortable in a secular society, or one in which religion is on the sidelines.

The emergence of Green brings a return to a communal values system, but one very different from Blue. Green wants intimacy and is very relativistic (“Who is to say what is right?” – Blue’s response, “We are!”). Green values diversity, whereas Blue values conformity. Orange will do business with anyone but will tend to associate with those who have similar values. Those at Green view Blue as stodgy, rigid, and old-fashioned; those at Blue tend to view Green as ‘woo-woo” and untethered to proper authority and values.

Spiral-staircase

‎”We should NEVER mistake conformity for harmony…uniformity for synthesis…(we should) know that for all men (and women) to be ALIKE is the death of LIFE in man, and yet perceive HARMONY that transcends ALL diversities and in which diversity finds it’s richness and significance.”

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

Each nation and the regions within nations have their own mixture of these vMEMEs or values systems. In the United States, as a general rule, the east and west coasts tend to have more Green and less Blue; the center of the country more Blue and less Green. Cities tend to be higher on the spiral than rural areas, which makes sense because, after all, spiral stages are based on complexity of Living Conditions. Big cities tend to be more complex than rural areas and small towns. Orange has a bit heavier presence in urban areas but is present everywhere that commerce and science are important. These are generalizations and there will be pockets where the relationships are a bit different.

There are other factors as well, including demographics – where people live and the racial, ethnic, chronological, and cultural makeup of different places. Some areas have a significant known LGBTQ population, some do not; some have higher percentages of certain racial and ethnic groups than others. All of these factors have an effect on a spiritual community which is trying to become more diverse. Again, urban spiritual communities will tend to be more diverse because cities tend to have more diverse populations than suburban and rural areas. More people in the Green vMEME in urban areas, fewer in suburban, where Orange dominates, and rural areas where there is more Blue.

diversity_2 (1)

“He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I was the spiritual leader at CSL Simi Valley, California (2008-2015), a suburban bedroom community for Los Angeles with a population at the time of about 130,000 people, the racial makeup of the city was 92% white, 7% Hispanic, and 1% other, according to census records. Our chances of growing beyond the 3 African-American members already there were rather slim. The Hispanic population was very Catholic. A small population of Indian-Americans (almost all recruited from India to work at large tech and financial companies in the area) mostly attended the two mosques in town or did not attend services. There was one New Thought community (us); two mosques, one synagogue, 13 Mormon stakes (500 to a stake), two Catholic churches, six mainline Protestant Churches, and 140 fundamentalist Christian congregations in the city at the time. There were 0 organized and visible LGBTQ groups.

We did make efforts to be more diverse, but with little success from a demographic standpoint. We were able to expand membership and add more young adults by live streaming and other activities. When I left, there were still 3 African-American members. I was replaced by an African-American minister, but the demographics of the city and the center have not changed dramatically. Demographics matter.

This does not mean that you give up, but it does mean that spiritual leadership needs to be aware of how to prioritize resources and energy regarding what is achievable. The US suburbs are, after all, the result of a system from the mid-20th Century based on racism. There was a huge migration of white populations out of cities, enabled by the automobile, the G.I. Bill, and practices of red-lining by realtors, banks, and insurance companies, to ensure that minority populations could not move to the suburbs in large numbers. While some things have changed over time, the overwhelming whiteness of most of America’s suburbs has not.

I am not saying that these items are excuses. But they are factors in the makeup of spiritual communities. And, as we will see in the next two posts, there are other factors, within our spiritual communities themselves, and within us as individuals, which make it even more difficult to effectively invite greater diversity. All of these factors must be acknowledged and included in the plans and strategies which emerge from our visioning and planning about greater diversity and inclusion in our spiritual communities.

“The range of our possibilities at the present time does not extend far beyond the range of our present concepts. As we bring ourselves to a greater vision, we induce a greater concept and thereby demonstrate more in our experience. In this way there is a continuous growth and unfoldment taking place.”

~ Ernest Holmes

 

Understanding the area demographics and the larger societal patterns are important. There is a wealth of easily accessible data on trends and patterns in worship attendance and religious affiliation. All of it shows that we are in a time of decreasing participation in organized religious activities. The Orange vMEME is often the place where people leave traditional religion and become secular or not affiliated. It is also the stage where they become open to New Thought. New Thought principles tend to appeal to those at Orange and Green on the spiral. There can be differences in how the spiral values systems exist within various populations within a community – and to me, having a broad representation of vMEMEs in a spiritual community is another form of diversity, one which is rarely examined. Also, different groups within a larger community can be at different stages on the spiral – this is especially true of recent immigrants from places where the dominant spiral values are different from those in the US. Many recent immigrants from places other than Canada, Europe, and Australia will be more comfortable in a traditional congregation of some sort. Research shows that the Catholic Church in the US is stagnant in overall growth – it is only not shrinking because of immigration from Latin American countries.

If Orange and Green are interested in New Thought spirituality and are growing in numbers, why isn’t New Thought growing in attendance and number of communities? I believe that there are two main reasons for this (and recognize that some local communities are growing and thriving, but the overall trends are stagnant or downward). One reason is the overall patterns toward secularization are very strong – there is little societal motivation to join another church after leaving one’s church of origin. There is not much which can be done about that pattern. The second reason has more to do with New Thought itself.

In the early 20th Century, when New Thought was growing and expanding, with new branches and churches opening in pretty significant numbers, the overall population was just beginning to move from a Traditionalist-Blue Values System into a Modernist-Orange Values System. There was still a significant societal value regarding attending worship services. Adopting Christian imagery and terms (church, ministry, sanctuary, hymn, prayer, etc.) helped to make the transition to New Thought less threatening for those leaving more traditional denominations. And remember, most of the New Thought founders, including Holmes and the Fillmores, considered themselves to be Christian. Additionally, those with a Jewish heritage flocked to New Thought communities in many places.

By the late 20th Century, the Blue vMEME had faded quite a bit. Orange was the dominant vMEME and Orange valued scientific rationalism over religious doctrine. Societal pressure to attend worship had faded significantly. Sundays rapidly became secular days, with the sacred time for worship no longer protected. Stores were open, youth league games were scheduled, and the standard Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 workday became the exception rather than the rule. The emergence of the Green vMEME made the Christian imagery and terms even less appealing to many. In much of the US, as in much of Europe, worship attendance is not only not supported by the larger culture, it is increasingly frowned upon.

Because of these factors, New Thought’s Christian trappings have gone from an overall asset to a liability over the last century. This was made clear in research done in 2007 & 2008 by the two Religious Science organizations during the re-branding process (LINK) that led to the name Centers for Spiritual Living. That research led to some changes, but has been largely ignored in recent times, the branding has not been updated and more research has not been conducted. But there is no question that the larger patterns and trends continue to change toward greater secularization in the general population, particularly those centered at Orange and Green on the spiral.

All of this shows, I hope, that there are many moving parts in today’s society which impact how diversity and inclusion programs can be developed and integrated into spiritual communities.

In Part 3, we will explore factors in the cultures of local spiritual communities which affect diversity and inclusion.

“In our time we have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins. It is the time where we partner Creation in the creation of ourselves, in the restoration of the biosphere, the regenesis of society and in the assuming of a new type of culture; the Culture of Kindness. Herein, we live daily life reconnected and recharged by the Source, so as to become liberated and engaged in the world and in our tasks.”

~ Jean Houston

As always, your comments are welcomed. Please share this blog post with others who may find it of value. Thank you!

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard