SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AND FOLLOWERSHIP IN TIMES OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE – PART 2

“Don’t judge Religious Science by Religious Scientists.”

~ (the late) Rev. Dr. William Taliaferro

If you read Part 1 (LINK) of this series, and the two recent posts from Harvey Bishop’s Blog, entitled “Don’t Look Behind the Curtain,” (LINK to Part 1) (LINK to Part 2), you know that these series were initiated based on how some Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) spiritual leaders have treated practitioners who were unwilling or unable to meet requirements set for them, usually about financial giving. If you have not already, you might want to catch up on those posts before you continue.

While Bishop has focused on the treatment of some practitioners using unskillful, even shaming leadership tactics, my focus as also included the aspect of good followership – the accountability of members of a spiritual community, particularly people in positions such as staff ministers or practitioners to both the leadership and the community as a whole. I see followership not in any diminished sense, but in the realization that every organization needs both leaders and followers who are as healthy and accountable as possible. In CSL, staff ministers and practitioners are actually in both roles, serving in followership to the spiritual leader(s) and in secondary leadership to the membership.

 

I have also focused in Part 1 of this series on issues that so many bring into their roles – psychological and/or emotional issues from earlier in life, issues which have not been resolved and which affect current thinking and behaviors. When we have unresolved issues, we are often incapable of being our best, particularly when we feel under pressure or in fear. This might show up as taking an unskillful approach when confronting a practitioner about being out of integrity with some agreement (financial or otherwise). It might equally show up as feeling a burning sense of shame when reminded by the spiritual leader that one is out of integrity with an agreed upon expectation, even when that reminder is skillfully expressed in an appropriate manner.

Naturally, the higher the position of authority one has, the more accountable one is for one’s behaviors. But we are all accountable for our own behaviors, are we not? Now, I am in no way saying that the stories shared in Bishop’s blog are inaccurate. As described, they reflect a failure of appropriate leadership at a minimum. They seem to illustrate a lack of emotional intelligence, which almost always results in failed interpersonal communications.

 

But I wonder.

I wonder how many of those practitioners approached the spiritual leader(s) of their community and shared that they would be unable to meet the expected level of giving? Or did they leave it for someone else to discover? I wonder whether the spiritual leaders communicated the policy regarding giving to the practitioners AND had they created an atmosphere in which it felt safe for practitioners to let the leaders know if and when they were unable (or unwilling) to meet the expectations in the policy?

In my time as a spiritual leader, we usually had giving expectations which were both clear and flexible; and I had situations where practitioners or others on the leadership team did not meet the expectations. Some told me about it as it unfolded, others did not. While I can understand their embarrassment, I cannot approve of their lack of accountability in not approaching me for that conversation when I had encouraged them to do just that. Of course, their lack of accountability did not give me permission to be unskillful or to shame them – it also did not give me permission to ignore the problem.

Perhaps we are talking about two different things here (although they are often intertwined). One is how often those of us in spiritual leadership fail to be the best version of ourselves when we feel pressured (and how easy it can be for us to feel pressured); indeed, how many in spiritual leadership lack necessary temperament and competencies for their positions. The second thing is the too-frequent breakdown of an atmosphere of accountability and support among the leadership teams of our spiritual communities, usually due to failure to address issues proactively.

So-What-Am-I-Supposed-to-Do-HEADER

AND: what are WE supposed to do?

“Not responding is a response –

we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.”

~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Deep-seated personal issues on which we have not done deep spiritual work are unlikely to be resolved until we engage with that work; this is true for both leaders and followers. However, there are some things that leaders can initiate to create an environment of trust, safety, and accountability.

  1. Have you explored the pros and cons of having required giving expectations? Why or why not? What are the costs and benefits, both financially and to the culture of the spiritual community? What does having such a policy say about prosperity consciousness (or lack thereof)? And if you have such a policy, how and when is it communicated? Is it written into bylaws or policy manuals? If not, why not?

  2. Leaders should promote the overall mental and spiritual health of the leadership team and the spiritual community. Have the conversation often: state expectations clearly (put them in writing where appropriate); speak about openness and accountability; create space for people to share what is bothering them – either in groups or one-on-one. Make it safe to have personal problems or concerns about policies. Do this with your board and your ministerial/practitioner teams regularly.

  3. Ask people how things are going and do so when there is the opportunity to respond truthfully – not during fellowship time or in other inappropriate situations.

  4. Leaders – show your own vulnerability from time to time. This is healthy. It can, however, become unhealthy if it becomes your default way of being. If you are a leader, you have the accountability to lead and to set an example of integrity and compassion. Finding the proper balance is a sign of emotional intelligence.

  5. Followers – you can best support your leaders by being honest and open with them. Being an accountable follower means that you are supportive, but not in lockstep with the leader(s). It does not mean always getting your way or never disagreeing, but it may mean supporting an approved policy with which you do not agree. If leaders are not open to hearing you, or if they are toxic (LINK), you must protect yourself; do not remain in an unhealthy situation – if you can’t influence it in a positive direction and it is toxic, your best option may be to leave.

  6. If there are ethical violations occurring, use the ethics process. Ethical standards and procedures for Centers for Spiritual Living are described in Section 7.1 & 7.2 of the Policies and Procedures Manual. It is advisable to review this before making a formal complaint if you are a minister or practitioner. If you are not, you probably do not have easy access to that document. The contact information for ethics complaints is below. I am sure that Unity has a similar set of policies and procedures.

Centers for Spiritual Living
Rev. Barbara Bue, Licensing and Credentialing Manager
Email: bbue@CSL.org Phone:  +1 (720) 279-1634
573 Park Point Drive Golden, CO 80401, USA

These are particularly challenging times for leaders of all kinds. We are facing tectonic shifts in cultural evolution and issues such as the worsening climate crisis, among many others. As Nora Bateson has written:

“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 think it is obvious that leaders facing these kinds of transformational challenges which affect the very nature of leadership itself must improve their ability to have positive interpersonal relationships with everyone, especially those in their inner circles. New Thought Organizations can only do so much for spiritual leaders in this regard – perhaps better psychological testing at entry level and better support for those in service, but spiritual leaders have to be open to such interventions, and that has too often not been the case. Additionally, no one wants a heavy-handed organization intervening too often. Most issues are best resolved at the local community level – and taking personal accountability is a significant and necessary first step.

The organizations do need to improve their ability and knowledge to develop and support healthy and competent spiritual leaders – focusing on emotional and spiritual intelligence as understood today would be a good start. Many issues within a spiritual community do not rise to the level of ethics violations but are extremely destructive. Blaming the larger organization usually misses the point – accountability lies with each of us to be in the highest and best integrity in our roles, regardless of the behaviors of others.

There may be more to come on this topic but let me close this post with a quote from a distinguished citizen of my new hometown, Lyon, France. I think that Ernest Holmes would agree.

“You must begin by assuming responsibility. And you alone are responsible for every moment of your life, for every one of your acts.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

 

 

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SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP AND FOLLOWERSHIP IN TIMES OF TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE – PART 1

“Contradictions, whether personal or social, that could once remain hidden are coming unstoppably to light. It is getting harder to uphold a divided self….The trend toward transparency that is happening on the systems level is also happening in our personal relationships and within ourselves. Invisible inconsistencies, hiding, pretense, and self-deception show themselves as the light of attention turns inward….The exposure and clearing of hidden contradictions brings us to a higher degree of integrity, and frees up prodigious amounts of energy that had been consumed in the maintenance of illusions. What will our society be capable of, when we are no longer wallowing in pretense?”

~ Charles Eisenstein

A blog post by Harv Bishop (LINK) this week brought up a very significant question about leadership and shadow in New Thought organizations and spiritual communities. The Eisenstein quote above came to mind as I thought about the dynamics of the question – it is ultimately one of integrity.

The topic of the post is about how some practitioners (trained spiritual prayer partners) in Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) spiritual communities have become alienated due to rigid requirements about financial support to their spiritual community and unfeeling/unskilled leaders essentially failing to see their humanity.

I believe that the issue goes much deeper and has a number of “tentacles” – some organizational and some psychological – which have led to this moment when this issue is being addressed out loud (at least in the blogosphere and on some social media). This is more complex than it might seem at first glance, both for leadership and for followership. Let’s examine a couple here.

One organizational issue is the structure of the Practitioner system in Centers for Spiritual Living. Bishop writes, “These highly trained professionals pray for and help people change their thinking. They can be thought of as the special forces of the New Thought movement. Practitioners serve as prayer volunteers within churches and do not receive a salary from their sponsoring churches. They can charge clients for their services if they start a private spiritual counseling practice. Becoming a practitioner is also a first step to ministerial studies.” To become a licensed practitioner takes about 4 years of study with testing along the way. Once licensed, there are requirements for ongoing education, etc. Practitioners serve “at the pleasure” of the spiritual leader of a spiritual community.

Holmes - Young

Dr. Ernest Holmes

The original idea of Ernest Holmes in the 1920’s was to teach and license practitioners who would go into private practice, generally following the successful model of Christian Science at the time (Holmes studied Christian Science briefly). This was before the idea of churches or spiritual communities had been introduced into Religious Science (Now CSL). The 6-week course at the Institute in Los Angeles resulted in a license to be a Practitioner of Religious Science and do Spiritual Mind Treatment for clients.

Well, so far so good. However, it was soon learned that some of the folks who became licensed were doing all kinds of things under their license which were not at all related to being a Practitioner of Religious Science. No need to go into detail, but the Institute and Dr. Holmes came to see that they could not enforce policies on these independent actors. So, after grappling with a number of alternatives, it was reluctantly decided to start churches with ministers to whom the practitioners would be assigned. The ministers would oversee the practitioners, who were still thought to be professionals who would earn their main living from being a practitioner.

Jump ahead nine decades, and we have thousands of practitioners around the globe, with perhaps a small handful (if any) making a living from their efforts; most practitioners today barely make enough to cover their license renewal fee, if we are to be candid. An increasing number do not charge for their services at all.

The organizational issue is that the practitioner program as it operates today is very different than the Founder’s vision, yet the basic structure and expectations have changed very little since 1930. The only significant change is that the 6 week program has been expanded to at least 4 years. Spiritual leaders feel compelled to perpetuate the idea of the Founder, at least to a degree, and thus find themselves in a very difficult position in terms of setting expectations. So, a major issue involved in Harv’s post is this:

CSL is perpetuating an obsolete model with expectations based on past practices which do not reflect how the modern practitioner functions.

“For us to remain relevant and contemporary we will have to slay some sacred cows.”

~ Edward Viljoen

While organizational and structural issues such as this put leaders and followers at a disadvantage, we are each accountable for our own responses to conditions. If I am approached by my spiritual leader and questioned about my financial giving (assuming there has been an agreement regarding expectations in advance), and I feel shamed because my current conditions include insufficient funds to keep my agreement, then is the spiritual leader the cause of my feelings? Even if the spiritual leader is unskilled at having a compassionate conversation, am I not accountable for my emotional reactions? And if I would respond to such a question with a feeling of shame, does that mean that it never should have been asked? I am wondering about the desirability of having developed a sense of spiritual grit or resilience – is that not something one might expect of a practitioner after all of their study and practice? One quality of good followership is personal accountability, another is emotional intelligence, both are tied to integrity.

This is not to say that the leader(s) have no accountability, of course they do – but it comes down to a very basic issue – am I my own authority? Is it reasonable for others to expect me to meet my obligations or, if I am unable to do so, to reach out and have the necessary conversations with those who are counting on me? If the answer is no, where does that leave us?

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

~ Carlos Castaneda

That first “tentacle” is unique to CSL, as is the practitioner program they utilize (although other organizations may have similar issues structurally). The second tentacle is more general and has to do with the underlying psychological factors which affect us all, particularly in relation to how leaders lead and how followers follow.

“A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create the conditions under which other people must live and move and have their being, conditions that can be either as illuminating as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her own self, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”

~ Parker Palmer,

quoted in CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY by Jim Lockard

No organizational system can fully overcome psychological (mental and emotional) issues. This is why employees and especially leaders are often subjected to psychological screening and developmental training over time. We all bring our unresolved childhood issues with us into the workplace, into our spiritual community, and elsewhere. We then project them onto others, unconsciously seeking healing through the process of mirroring and modeling. When we remain unaware of this process and its dynamics, we generally do not heal; we perpetuate the dysfunctions of ourselves and others within the group. We cannot be in integrity with our true selves because we have created barriers to that very connection,.

“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

The difference between the workplace and spiritual community is that we should be able to expect the latter to be a place where compassion and healing are prized and available. But as humans insufficiently aware of our own unresolved issues, we are limited in our capacities to express these positive qualities. When someone’s behavior strays too close to one of my shadow (repressed) issues, I will lash out in some fashion – perhaps by invoking my “authority” as spiritual leader or by relying on the most rigid interpretation of rules and policies as a means of protecting myself from being too vulnerable in that moment. And, it is likely that the practitioner, or staff member, or congregant with whom I am engaged will be doing their version of the same thing. The results of such dynamics often include shame, guilt, frustration, anger, etc. But that is not the end – then the blaming has to start, finding a scapegoat (the individual, the organization, the teaching) and having that repetitive inner dialogue about how I have been harmed through no fault of my own, and so on. This may lead to triangulation, gossip, withholding of presence and support, and the like. Sound familiar?

“The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one.”

~ C.G. Jung, CW 9ii

“It is much easier to deny, blame others, project elsewhere, or bury it and just keep on rolling.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

On top of all of this, what it means to be in spiritual leadership has changed since the time of the Founder; indeed, it has changed since this 21st Century began and continues to evolve. Mew Thought spiritual organizations, like most others, have not been sufficiently responsive to these evolutionary processes to substantially uplevel how leaders are trained (much less to have effective and coherent programs to re-train leaders already in the system). We will muddle along, doing our best (which is often enough in the moment, but generally insufficient for the transformational times we are in), making our mistakes and hopefully learning from them. The reality of massive tectonic cultural and whole-system changes – cultural evolution (LINK), climate disruption, political unrest, economic unfairness and uncertainty, massive human resettlement, global health issues – means that we have to develop different ways of leading, new models of ministry, new healing modalities, understanding living systems (LINK), and more. And, we have to be as graceful and compassionate as possible in the face of these challenges and the inner transformations they demand of us.

As I reach this point, I realize that there will have to be a Part 2 to this post – Part 1 describes that it’s raining, so Part 2 will be necessary to try and explain how to build an ark. There may be more after that – it is a rich vein of leadership awareness we are opening. I hope that this adds to the important conversation which Harv Bishop has started.

 “Mistakes are not just opportunities for learning; they are, in an important sense, the only opportunity for learning or making something truly new. Before there can be learning, there must be learners. There are only two non-miraculous ways for learners to come into existence: they must either evolve or be designed and built by learners that evolved. Biological evolution proceeds by a grand, inexorable process of trial and error — and without the errors the trials wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

 ~ Daniel C. Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

 

As always, your comments are welcomed!

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

My book speaks to this topic – a great gift for your spiritual leader and for yourself!

IN THESE TIMES, DOUBLE-DOWN ON YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

~ Zen Saying

We westerners have two significant challenges today – one is that we are too busy. There are a million things to do! The other is that we and our societies are going through seismic shifts, from what we were to what we are to be next, and this transitional period is very turbulent, chaotic, and disruptive.

While our attention and intention are needed to help us to move through these times successfully and to contribute to the greater good, many of us are too busy to do that effectively. Our calendars are full, we have lots of possessions to buy and maintain, then to get rid of, and there are many social and work demands on us all the time.

“Being too busy has this result: that an individual very, very rarely is permitted to form a heart; on the other hand, the thinker, the poet, or the religious personality who actually has formed his heart, will never be popular, not because he is difficult, but because it demands quiet and prolonged working with oneself and intimate knowledge of oneself as well as a certain isolation.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard 

Meditation Ocean

And there is more happening – we are being driven from WITHIN as well. Evolution is the action of the soul’s longing to move forward with the expression of life. The reality of this inner evolutionary response to the changing outer environment is a dance as the inner and outer seek to merge. The turbulence of the world is both being generated by the human need to evolve and being distorted by the presence of so few who are READY to evolve. The heart described by Kierkegaard is the wisdom and love of the intuitive self coming to the fore and being available to us as a default aspect of ourselves. Those who depend on a static world where traditional practices or intellectual analysis will solve our problems are being left behind.

The increasingly rapid rate of change which is unfolding now is human-driven (what else is speeding up? – not the rest of Nature) and seems to have the largely unconscious purpose of increasing the speed of our development toward greater capacities for complexity and healing. Learning to match our heartbeats to this faster and more complex pace is our current calling, perhaps leading to new evolutionary breakthroughs. Our spiritual practices can equip us to master this transformation and to thrive as we move through the turbulence, even as others resist it and push back against forces which are ultimately irresistible.

“It’s a recognition that reality as we know it is being animated by an evolutionary current. This is true on the cosmological large-scale structure of the universe. It’s true biologically. But it’s true on a human level, too. The great mystery is living and wanting to transcend itself through us toward greater expressions of beauty, truth and goodness. And so evolutionary spirituality says that, for lack of a better word, God is implicate, intrinsic to that evolutionary push.”

~ Rev. Bruce Sanguin

Evolution is the mechanism for all forward movement in this universe. Nothing in the universe is untouched by it. Amazingly, human beings are now in a time when we are capable of directing evolution consciously. 14 billion years of the evolutionary process being unconscious and now a new era dawns – and we must prepare ourselves to take dominion of our minds. It is time to double-down on our spiritual practices and on our positivity. As some great minds have written about evolution:

“It seems that this higher order is entropy. Evolution is entropy. It requires disorder in order to jump to a higher order.” ~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

“We are moving from unconscious evolution through natural selection to conscious evolution by choice.”  ~ Barbara Marx Hubbard

 “Evolution is in part a self-transcending process.” ~ Ken Wilber

 “Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

 “We may be sure that the whole aim of evolution is to produce innumerable selves which are all consciously centered in the Universal Self.” ~ Ernest Holmes

 The cure for being “too busy” is to learn to set priorities and focus – with intention and attention – on the important priorities while minimizing distractions. If your priorities are what you are passionate about, this will be fairly easy. If not, you may have set the wrong priorities. We should be passionate about our priorities.

Awakening to and encouraging our evolutionary nature is to come into alignment with our true nature. We are evolutionary beings, designed to develop and unfold from within in response to outer and inner stimuli – we evolve to adapt to our environment, which we also have a hand in designing. This is a critical thing to understand for all of us today.

ELP Butterfly

By doubling-down on spiritual practices you bring yourself toward a greater expression of life, toward being who you came into this incarnation to be. Doubling down is a gambling term for what you do when things have begun to go your way – you increase your wager, your commitment. Doing that with spiritual practices means increasing both the breath and depth of your practice. You may not double the time you meditate, but you do increase it; and you find ways to go deeper into your meditation. You may not double your prayer-treatments, but you increase them and you go deeper into the feeling tone of love and connection with the Divine. By doing these things with all of your spiritual practices, you integrate your higher self and transform your life.

Spiritual practices, done with purpose, passion, and discipline, are transformational. We all profess to know this, but not all of us have experienced it to the degree possible – but we all can! Sit and do your practices without fail, without distraction, staying positive and using positive emotions to set your intentions deeply into your subconscious mind. Find your evolutionary core and bring it forward and you will never be “too busy” or too fatigued by change again. You will be a master of time and space.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

~ Lao Tzu

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

Announcing:

THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP IN CHANGING TIMES

With Rev. Dr. Jim Lockard
A Summer Webinar on Zoom
Dates: 6 Fridays – June 14,21; July 12,19,26; Aug 2

For additional info or to register – email me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net

Leadership Class - Summer 2019

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/ 

Online Marketing Piece 1

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