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

DOES PROGRESSIVE SPIRITUALITY MEAN PROGRESSIVE POLITICS? Part 1

This past week saw the convergence of The Women’s March (LINK) in 600+ cities around the world and the presentation of Sunday lessons on Spiritual Living, the basic values of the Science of Mind, drawn from the organizations values statements in hundreds of Centers for Spiritual Living (LINK). I am sure that there are similar dynamics unfolding in Unity (LINK) and other New Thought denominations.

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Many in CSL participated in the women’s marches and rallies, some with groups from their spiritual communities; others felt that such participation, while okay for individuals, was an inappropriate political event in which an organization or center to participate. Some feel that our ministers should encourage members to do prayer-treatment work for the good of our nation and nothing further. For some, this position was based on their interpretations of the Science of Mind teachings; for others, it appeared to arise from their conservative political leanings.

I have recently had several conversations with a colleagues where the question “Why aren’t there more (political) conservatives in our movement?” came up.  Some who have conservative leanings say that they are not made welcome and felt that many, including ministers, speak too much about progressive politics and causes in spiritual community activities, making those with conservative viewpoints feel that their values are not honored. This is the very reason that some spiritual leaders refrain from any comments that may be seen as politically biased.

My response would be that New Thought spirituality, which does not condemn people for being different and does not believe in Hell as a reality, might be more likely to attract progressives than conservatives. The balance in much of New Thought, uneven as it clearly is, has to do with a lack of dogma and other absolutist and authoritarian positions that are found in more traditional religions. We can see in more fundamentalist denominations, there are very few progressives.

NTE Blog Illustration 1

After giving this matter quite a bit of thought throughout our long political season that led to the election of Donald Trump (and blogging about it along the way [LINK]), I thought I would speak to the issue of New Thought and the idea of engagement in politics. This is not to change any minds, but to bring some much-needed clarity to the conversation, which I am sure will be ongoing. My intention is not to convince anyone of anything, but to contribute to an important ongoing conversation in the New Thought Movement.

“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

I will begin with some definitions, which, hopefully, will add some clarity to the discussion. New Thought, in all of its forms, is a truly progressive spiritual philosophy. It is progressive in the sense that it takes the notion of ongoing change as a given, it brings forth the concept of Oneness as the basis of all existence, and it sees the seat of agency as the individual mind, which is an aspect of a Universal Mind. It also recognizes that human consciousness is evolving toward greater capacities for realization, and that we must remain open to new ways of understanding and living Principle.

Progressive politics are, in their purest form, about the common good – about the idea that each of us is in part responsible for all of us, and that society is best served by a government which works to create a better life for all. To my mind, progressive politics combines the best elements of what we know as liberalism with what we know as conservatism. By that I mean that it attempts to strike a balance between the rights of the individual and the well-being of the collective. Conservatism seeks to conserve the values and practices that bind a society. Liberalism seeks to expand the well-being of the collective (known as the common good) while encouraging the creativity of the individual.

Therefore, Conservatism is not the opposite of progressive politics; its opposite is regressive politics. Progressives recognize that the future involves change and greater complexity; regressives want to return to an often idealized past set of values and practices – in other words, they want to retreat to a non-existent or partially remembered past.

Neither of the two political parties in the United States today are truly progressive, truly liberal, or truly conservative. They have been driven to corrupted versions of these ideals, largely due to what we call special interests – narrowly focused groups and businesses to get their own interests met using government, usually by using money as an influencer; little pure political philosophy has survived this process.

“Patriotism is a beautiful thing; it is well for me to love my country, but why should I love my country more than I love all others? If I love my own and hate others, I then show my limitations, and my patriotism will stand the test not even for my own. If I love my country and in the same way love all other countries then I show the largeness of my nature, and a patriotism of this kind is noble and always to be relied upon.”

~ Ralph Waldo Trine, 1897

trine-ralph-waldoThis quote by the great Ralph Waldo Trine speaks to a global consciousness – something that is more compatible with a progressive mindset. The true progressive expands her consciousness to allow greater engagement with the world around her. She understands that cultures evolve, new ways of being emerge, and greater complexity is a result. She seeks to understand and thrive within a changing environment.

“Once a new social stage appears in a culture, it will spread its instructional codes and life-priority messages throughout that culture’s surface-level expressions: religion, economic and political arrangements, psychological and anthropological theories, and views of human nature, our future destiny, globalization, and even architectural patterns and sports preferences. We all live in flow states; there is always new wine, always old wineskins. We, indeed, find ourselves pursuing a neverending quest.”

~ Don Edward Beck

When we understand the nature of cultural evolution and the dynamics involved, we see that the evolutionary impulse of humanity cannot be altered to suit a desire for a return to the past. Regressivism is a dead-end generated by fear of change. Conservatism, on the other hand, along with true liberalism, are essential elements in the overall political atmosphere of any society.

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

~ Krishnamurti

If a society does not function to ensure the well-being of its citizens, how can someone in a progressive spirituality like New Thought remain silent? Some say the answer is that we pray and things will change – is that what our teaching says? Where is that exactly?

“But faith without works is dead. We should not only pray, we should act, each contributing the best he has to the common purpose, each willing to make any sacrifice necessary…one in a certain sense, a selfish one, for we all desire self-preservation, but the other in the greater sense that there can be no individual self-preservation without the preservation of all… .”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Essential Ernest 179.3

In Part 2 of this series, I will examine the spiritual principles which apply to how we act in the world as practitioners of a progressive spirituality.

Your comments are welcomed.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

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Here is where you can get CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership, in paperback or Kindle editions(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

IT’S 2017 – TIME TO UP YOUR GAME

“Grassroots spirituality involves a vaguely panentheistic ultimate that is indwelling, sometimes bodily, as the deepest self and accessed through not-strictly-rational means of self-transformation and group process that becomes the holistic organization for all of life”

~ Robert K. Forman

There are many who say that the founders of the New Thought Movement left us lessons to deal with any eventuality. While there is a huge treasure trove of wisdom in the writings and teachings of the Fillmores, Ernest Holmes, Mary Baker Eddy, Emma Curtis Hopkins, the Brooks sisters, and many others, it is no longer sufficient as a knowledge base in the 21st Century.

I’ll give you a minute to process that statement.

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Okay, regardless of your reaction/response to the statement, here is why I make it: human knowledge and experience has expanded greatly since the bulk of New Thought literature was published in the late 19th and first half of the 20th Century. We now know much more about human psychology than the founders did; we know more about science, especially neuroscience, as well. And, perhaps most importantly, our culture has shifted. The concept of evolution has been expanded beyond the field of biology to many other areas of cultural development. We even talk today of cultural evolution in several fields of study.

Ernest Holmes himself alluded to this idea late in his life:

“The moment you step out of the ordinary ranks, the moment you step out of the procession that moves endlessly down the aisle, you are in the spotlight of evolution. Your own choice has decided you, and you are no longer going to think as others. You are no longer going to lay your greatness at the feet of a person whom you recognize to be great. The moment a person steps out of the endless stream of humanity, he no longer goes by the norm that was set by the mass mind. He is a leader, he is a thinker. He is one who introduces new things to the world.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Beverly Hills Lectures

Dr. Holmes had a limited understanding of evolution, one consistent with the understanding of that dynamic during his lifetime. But evolutionary understanding has expanded greatly in the nearly 60 years since his death. But still, we have problems with it. One reason, the way we are culturally conditioned to see new things and ideas.

“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

~ Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

We all tend to want to see the world as we knew it yesterday. Even though we may be excited about new developments and technologies, we will tend to view them through our old mindsets.

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

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The increasing pace of change in our world is calling forth in us new ways of being and of seeing. We must consciously work to transcend our old, and even our current, ways of thinking and being, to encourage the new to emerge within us. There is no longer time to let this unfolding occur in a leisurely fashion; the world around us is speeding up too fast to allow that to work. In fact, we have seen a huge rejection of evolutionary thought in the recent elections in the U.S. and Great Britain. People want to return to an idealized concept of the past because they have not adapted to the emerging future. The problem with that view is this: the emerging future does not care about our comfort, it will continue to emerge and we must adapt. The irony is that this speeding up is our own doing; the planet itself is not getting more complex – human society is.

But the future will not wait for those who have not adapted to catch up; and attempts to take regressive actions by our nations will surely inhibit our ability to thrive in this rapidly changing, globally connected world in which we find ourselves. Those capable of evolutionary thought will need to step up and engage in society in the coming years.

Our wonderful heritage of New Thought wisdom must grow and, yes, even change to accommodate the increasing knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. The teachings of the founders must be supplemented by more up-to-date and comprehensive knowledge from the fields that I have mentioned above, and from other emerging fields of awareness. In short, we need to become leading-edge evolutionary thinkers in a modern context. We must do this both as individuals and in spiritual community.

If we pay attention, we can see that New Thought entered a time of stagnation some decades ago. We stopped developing the teachings beyond the expansion that occurred within the founders’ lifetimes – and we stopped being on the leading edge. It has taken half a century or more for that to really catch up with us in the form of so many struggling spiritual communities, but that is where we are. What used to work is no longer working – it is time to think and act differently. It is calling forth something new from us.

Will we heed that call?

 New Years - Past and Future

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

The next MINISTERIAL COACHING PROGRAM begins this month. It is open to all ministers and ministers-in-training. We have a maximum of 12 spaces and a few are already spoken for. Go to the website (LINK) for more information and to join our upcoming informational calls on January 13 and 17, 2017.

A TIME FOR HEROES!

So, you thought maybe the world would evolve and you wouldn’t have to change?

Welcome to the Waste Land!

While I know that each of us is processing things differently, here is my take on what we in New Thought (or anyone who studies and practices consciousness) can be focusing on as events unfold.

waste-land

“The Waste Land, let us say then, is any world in which (to state the problem pedagogically) force and not love, indoctrination, not education, authority, not experience, prevail in the ordering of lives, and where the myths and rites enforced and received are consequently unrelated to the actual inward realizations, needs, and potentialities of those upon whom they are impressed.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology

And so, we find ourselves at this point in time, individually and collectively, questioning ourselves and our intentions, and perhaps even our faith. There is a regressive mood across the land, and a lot of things are happening that will bother those with a progressive mindset – people like me. We are entering a Waste Land that may have been unavoidable in the grand scheme of things, but one that will ensure suffering for many (some of which may be the shifting of suffering from one group to another which changes in political power brings). It is clearly our time to find our best selves. It is time to answer the call to the hero’s journey.

Mythologically speaking, we are being placed into the fire, where we will either be lost or where the outer ignorance and fear will be burned away. This is true in ways more far-reaching than this election. The old order is ending and a new order is emerging on a larger scale than most imagine (LINK). I believe that many who voted for the victorious candidates in this election cycle are also in for a shock as major shifts occur globally and locally. An Integral understanding of cultural dynamics worldwide shows that seismic disruptive shifts are unfolding across the political, cultural, and economic landscapes. In other words, the challenges are much bigger and far reaching than we might expect.

And the way from here to there is via the route of the Hero.

“. . . 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 hero is not revealed in times of even relative comfort; the hero arises when we are challenged. That is the good news here. Nature has a way of making sure that we have opportunities to bring our best selves to bear on the challenges that arise in life. Whether we actually take advantage of those opportunities is another matter.

What won’t help to bring about positive change are things like:

  • Hiding & shutting oneself off from the news
  • Pretending that everything is normal or saying things like “it’s all good!”
  • Naive thinking such as thinking the new government will suddenly become more progressive once they take power
  • Lashing out in anger and creating even more separation

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The over-arching need is for each of us to come into alignment with our best selves. To find that inner core of strength, love, and wisdom and to let it express through us in the weeks and years ahead. Being loving does not mean laying down and letting others walk over you. It means finding your inner wisdom and love and having the strength to speak and act from that core with compassion (LINK), but firmness. If we are inadequate to that task, then regression will become the way of the future, for we live in a universe where the dominant consciousness expresses most fully.

“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

Having an awareness of the hero’s journey concept is very important in these times. If the inner work has not already been done, it is time to begin. You can tell by how you respond to events – do you run and hide or despair; do you lash out and meet anger with anger, insult with insult? Or do you find such news stirring some inner strength and calling it forth?

CHASTAIN

In competitive fields, such as professional sports, it is well known that practice is essential to high performance, but that it is in the actual game where one shows who he or she really is – not as essence (essence is always wise and loving), but to the degree which the best version of the self has been realized.

“The hero’s journey is one of the universal patterns through which (the) 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

call

These callings can be very unpleasant, as the current one is for many. We are already seeing the negative effects of those who see themselves as progressive who have not prepared for this eventuality – spewing the same level of fear, ignorance, and hatred as those they see as their enemies; giving ammunition to others to minimize their own damaging statements and actions when they could be held up to a bright light of compassion; forgetting that everyone thinks they are on the good side of any fight. Let us not forget that many who voted for Donald Trump did so thinking it was a way to save the lives of babies.

If I have not done my inner work and life throws me the inevitable curve ball, I am very likely to swing and miss.

“Hear this or not, as you will. Learn it now, or later — the world has time. Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony, ephemeracy, inconsequence, abstraction, disorder, boredom, angst, ennui — these are the true hero’s enemies, and make no mistake, they are fearsome indeed. For they are real.”

~ David Foster Wallace The Pale King 

We are called, many of us, to our next hero’s journey – or for some, this is a continuation of a journey that they have already begun. Failure to heed the call will make us unfit to be part of a healing and uplifting consciousness. Every challenge, every negative experience, is filled with potential for healing – but we must be able to respond effectively, with true compassion. As Joseph Campbell says, we must “Follow our Bliss.”

“Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital; your whole physical system knows that this is the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. There IS a track just waiting for each of us and once on it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Regardless of what is going on in the world around us, we are called to go on the hero’s journey repeatedly. Each time, we have the possibility of finding some other element of inner strength, wisdom, or compassion that is being called forth from us. Each time, we can claim that quality and bring it to the world around us. It takes the courage to accept the call and to meet the various challenges along the pathway; to live in the mystery as you go, and to accept your own good qualities when you find them.

If you are fortunate enough to have studied New Thought principles for a while, you can appreciate this statement by Jean Houston.

“And so I ask you to reflect on this: What would you be like if you started today to make the most of the rest of your life? If you turned a corner and awoke?”

~ Jean Houston

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The victory that we seek is peace, harmony, love, power, and wisdom expressed in human societies the world over. Nothing different will take us where we desire to go.

 Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

WHAT COMPASSION IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT

“The bottom line is that we are called to lives of compassion. We are called to the work of liberation through love. That calling is the only thing in life worth suffering for.”

~ Lynice Pinkard, “Dangerous Love”

As it happens, compassion is an element of this week’s theme in the Centers for Spiritual Living Global Vision schedule of topics. As they say, the Universe has great timing. I’ll be speaking to the topic at the Center for Spiritual Living Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Regardless of where you find yourself in relation to the U.S. elections this past week, I am going to take this opportunity to call you to compassion. And that begins with yourself.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

~ Siddhartha Gautama

Beautiful Angel Sculpture

Compassion is one of those words that can cause a visceral reaction in us, often an unpleasant one. Surrender is another such word. In both cases, it is because we have very likely been taught a limited or inaccurate definition of the word, one that does not include its metaphysical meaning. We tend to think that compassion means “being kind,” and while that may be an element of compassion, it is by no means the whole definition.

Compassion is seeing yourself and any other as one, and responding to anyone else’s needs from your deepest love and wisdom. (My definition)

As this chart from Cindy Wigglesworth’s Deep Change.com (LINK) shows, compassion sits atop other ways of being with yourself and others. It is a way of being that must be developed – true compassion is not something that everyone can express, or even understand. It must be developed as an element of one’s consciousness. True Compassion can be the basis for selfless service, for true love of self and others.

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“The principal of compassion is that which converts disillusionment into a participatory companionship. This is the basic love, the charity, that turns a critic into a human being who has something to give to – as well as to demand of – the world.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss

Compassion may well be kind, but it can also be harsh. Have you noticed that sometimes you do not respond well when people kindly suggest that you need to change in some way? That sometimes, you need a push? And sometimes, you just need to be left alone? And sometimes, you need a shoulder to cry on? The response to any of these can be expressions of compassion.

On the other hand, do you have anyone in your life whom you can count on to tell you the unvarnished truth as they see it? That takes two things – such a person must be in your life, AND you must give them permission to upset you when you are in need to some “consciousness raising.” And I will add another thing that must exist – that person must be capable of compassion. Otherwise, their words to you may just be a way of satisfying their own ego needs.

It gets complex.

“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

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

~ Pema Chödrön

With all the recriminations going on in relation to the elections – gloating, scapegoating, and placing blame – I am seeing little compassion. I am, however, seeing lots of spiritual bypass being recommended – “Everything is in perfect divine order!” – “It’s ALL GOOD!” – and other head-in-the-sand comments. Well meaning perhaps, but not compassionate. Every species that has gone extinct, every human killed in wars, every oppressive act can be (and often has been) lumped into the “perfect divine order” barrel at one point or another. While that may be metaphysically true, we still must make our way through this human life, for which the impersonal Universe cares very little if you look at the evidence. Sometimes, you just have to stand up to that which is not in integrity and speak up. Sometimes you have to say NO as a compassionate response to destructive behavior. Sometimes you have to realize that their is no safe space available, especially when different value systems are present, and you have to respond from a compassionate heart with courage (cour = heart).

“Having compassion does not mean indiscriminately accepting or going along with others’ actions regardless of the consequences to ourselves or the world. It is about being able to say no where we need to without putting the other out of our hearts, without making the other less of a fellow human being. There is a difference between discerning & sometimes even opposing harmful behavior & making the other wrong – less than we are, less a part of that presence that is greater than ourselves – in our own minds & hearts.”

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Ernest Holmes said and wrote over and over various versions of this idea – Spirit can only do for you what it can do through you. Pretending that everything is okay is not helping Spirit to do its best work. It is not compassion, which knows that everything is NOT OKAY, but can see a way forward, the way of love.

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 “Real compassion kicks butt and takes names, and it is not pleasant on certain days. If you are not ready for this fire, then find a new-age, sweetness-and-light, soft speaking, perpetually smiling teacher, and learn to relabel your ego with spiritual-sounding terms. But stay away from those who practice real compassion, because they will fry your ass, my friend. What most people mean by ‘compassion’ is: please be nice to my ego. Well, your ego is your own worst enemy, and anybody being nice to it is not being compassionate to you.”

~ Ken Wilber, One Taste

Wilber may be a step or two into hyperbole here, but his point is sound. Compassion can only arise and be expressed from a spiritual warrior’s consciousness – from one who has been tried by fire and found herself sound. Whether your candidate won or lost has nothing to do with your capacity for compassion. Ironically perhaps, having your candidate lose might do more to help you expand than capacity than having things go your way – that’s just the nature of how compassion develops. Compassion is an evolutionary and developmental aspect of being human.

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Perhaps this election experience and the way our collective future unfolds in the near term will ignite the fire that strengthens your consciousness so that you can step forward as a compassionate heart on this earththe spiritual warrior’s heart. We need all of them that we can get.

“May this suffering serve to awaken compassion.”

~ A traditional prayer to Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: A new Ministerial Coaching Program will begin after the first of the year. Private message me at DrJim-Lockard@att.net if you are a minister or ministerial student interested in participating.

THAT’S NOT FUNNY! – ORANGE AND GREEN IN NEW THOUGHT – Part 1

As I have written about in a number of previous posts (LINK), the postmodern-Green Level of Existence in the Spiral Dynamics™ Model represents the predominant “center of gravity” in many individuals and spiritual communities in the New Thought Movement. I am presenting an online class on the Spiral Dynamics™ Model beginning on March 7 if you are interested (LINK).

Spiral - Burn Your Old Ways of Thinking

Thanks to Said Dawlabani for the image.

 

The postmodern-Green level of existence has some wonderful characteristics. It is communal and self-sacrificing in nature; very complex; egalitarian and anti-hierarchical; ecologically and socially sensitive; puts feelings before outcomes, and will police language to ensure political correctness; seeks consensus; is collaborative. Leaders should serve the whole, be modest, and ensure that all voices are heard. Growth is not valued if it will diminish intimacy and emotional connections among the membership.

Green thinking has led us to seeing things as systems, such as the ecology of the earth; and in holistic ways, such as moving beyond mind-body to whole-human medicine. Green seeks harmony and recognizes that there are deep underlying connections linking systems, and, ultimately, all things.

Green vMEME

Other terms for those thinking at the Green level are Cultural Creatives (LINK) and postmodernists (although postmodern has a number of definitions). The place on the spiral is not defined by age, as many Millennials are centered at Green in their late teens and early twenties. Within many New Thought communities, there are a lot of people whose thinking is centered at the Green Level. In fact, it is likely the most common level from the Spiral Dynamics™ Model present in New Thought communities.

The other level with a high degree of presence in New Thought is modernist-Orange. That individualistic level is about scientific rationalism, individualism, and entrepreneurship; it is more about how to benefit self than how to help others; the world is rational and non-linear thinking is out of touch with reality; it is achievement-oriented, the winners get the perks; materialistic and status-conscious; leaders should show strength, make decisions, move forward; growth in members and income is very important.

Many New Thought communities are primarily a mix of those centered at Orange or Green, or who are in transition between those two levels. This means that they constitute the primary value systems present in these communities. The inherent conflicts between these systems have a lot to do with the experience of participating in the ministries where they predominate.

Orange vMEME

Orange values lead to a desire for material wealth, status, and a rational lens through which to see the world. Orange will have a high reject of traditionalist-Blue values, the level immediately preceding Orange, and the magical-mythical God of Blue. Orange thinking values strong leadership, quick decisions, being recognized for giving, the use of the latest technology, and tends to see spiritual community as a business.

Green values lead to a desire for close community, intimacy, the expression of feelings (heart-centered), egalitarian community, and a return to a love of ritual. Green will have a high reject of many Orange values, and is open to a return to aspects of the magical-mythical God from a more complex lens. Green thinking values leadership that is sensitive, politically correct, egalitarian, and process-oriented (every voice must be heard); likes to give privately, without showing off; uses technology if it facilitates greater connection, and tends to see spiritual community as family.

The idea of political correctness (meaning that you should avoid statements or jokes that may offend others) arises in Green out of a strong value to honor all people and to ensure that negative feelings are avoided as much as possible.

 “It is far more interesting and productive to discuss something about which different views are held.” ~ C.G. Jung, 1955

You might wonder how these two values systems can be contained in a single spiritual community. In fact, they rarely are – not because they cannot get along, but because so many spiritual leaders are not versed in Spiral Dynamics and other cultural evolutionary models. Many do not realize the nature of the dynamics of the spiral, so those who do not match the predominant value system in a community, including the spiritual leader, will often opt to depart, because there is little or no effort made to speak to them and include their values in the community dynamic.

In Part 2, I will explore ways to consciously create diversity in spiritual community from a cultural evolution standpoint.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

REALMS OF RELEVANCE: NEW THOUGHT IN THE WORLD – Part 3

Whether you call them “realms of relevance” or not, there are two basic areas of knowledge and experience, upon which New Thought philosophies are based. One is psychology, or the workings of the mind, and the other is spiritual awareness, or the realization of our divine nature.

In this series, I have called them the realm of human psychology and the realm of spiritual awareness. I also like the terms that Rev. Dr. Mark Vierra coined some years ago – working with the Law and courting the Beloved. In the prior posts (LINK) I have addressed the two realms in general and looked at the evolutionary influences on how those realms show up in New Thought over time.

Beautiful Bird - Flight Sky

Regardless of the names you use, these two realms form the basis of all things New Thought. Our metaphysics are contained in the realm of spiritual understanding. The realm of human psychology is the pathway to the metaphysics. For me, the motivation for this series was the need to recognize this truth and the equally important need to design how New Thought principles are taught to incorporate this truth in to our way of being. The essence of New Thought spiritual communities is the teaching of the relevant philosophy (CSL, Unity, etc.) from the perspective of the two realms.

Great strides have been made in the past century in understanding the human mind and the field of psychology has expanded and deepened greatly. We know much more about how people learn, how we process information, the importance of engagement through participation, and more. We are coming to understand the functioning of the brain and the role of emotions in learning. Indeed, many students of New Thought arrive with a good knowledge of things like positive thinking, visualization, emotional intelligence and more. Some of this has been incorporated into curricula, into Sunday lessons, and some has found its way into our conferences and conventions, but there is much more to be done.

I find it rather odd that there is no clear pathway, in the form of curricula offered, in most, if not all of our spiritual communities, toward a well-understood level of spiritual understanding. In fact, it is possible in communities affiliated with Centers for Spiritual Living for students attending different spiritual communities to never take the same course offerings until the reach practitioner level classes – an advanced level; and even then, each teacher may teach different content. There are a couple of “required courses” to enter that level, but only a couple. And for the majority of students, who will never seek licensing as a practitioner or minister, there is no clear curriculum set forth at all. I do not know if this is so in Unity, Divine Science, Universal Truth Centers, or Agape International Ministries – perhaps some from those organizations can comment to this blog post.

Beautiful Bird - Spectacled Spiderhunter

I find the lack of a well-defined pathway odd, because it reflects something about how we in New Thought see ourselves. Do we have something definitive to offer as a movement or as a teaching, or even as an organization or a ministry? If so, what is it? Or is our mission to offer general courses on self-awareness, spirituality, prosperity and the like to those interested?

“Let me repeat that ours is not an authoritative religion. We have a textbook, which is the accumulation of the greatest teachings of the ages but we haven’t any idea of becoming a closed system. We have two possibilities; we can become so narrow that we never grow or we can be so broad that we have no depth. It is up to us to find the place in between which gives freedom without giving the freedom to destroy the freedom which makes freedom possible!”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Seminar Lectures”

Finding this balance is the key. It would seem that we, at least in CSL, have drifted more toward the broad approach. And we have seen our growth cease – we are stagnant or even diminishing as an organization. Would New Thought in general have a greater response if each organization developed a clear pathway toward spiritual understanding via a specific series of classes or related experiences? When you think about it, that is how they all began. Ernest Holmes offered a 6 week class to become a practitioner of Religious Science beginning in the 1920’s.

Today, it takes a minimum of 3 ½ years to become eligible for licensing as a practitioner in Centers for Spiritual Living. I am not clear as to whether or not this results in a deeper level of spiritual understanding than the classes taught by Holmes and others in the 1920’s. It may seem to be logical that more classes over a longer period of time would lead to a greater degree of spiritual understanding. However, we do not know that to be so, nor do we know to what degree the quality of the teacher and the instruction affects the process of gaining in spiritual understanding. Nor do we have a meaningful way of measuring this, at least not at present.

Beautiful Dance

So what can we say about the evolution which has occurred of adding more class requirements over time and the changes in policy that moved those in Religious Science at least, from a set curriculum shared by all ministries to a much more eclectic and locally determined curriculum has accomplished? I don’t think that we can say much about it at all, as nothing has been measured1. There are, to be sure, many opinions out there, but no way to validate those opinions, as far as I can see.

 “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.”

~Galileo Galilei

But wait, there is hope! An entire body of knowledge exists that relates to content validation of course curricula. There is a science to it – and things can be measured, if imperfectly (we are, after all, talking about spiritual understanding here). This could be one part of a program to review New Thought curricula and determine if it does what we want it to do, namely educate people in the realms of human psychology and spiritual understanding at the basic levels and prepare more advanced students for licensure as practitioners and ministers.

Right now, we essentially have a series of opinions that determine what is taught for how long, and the eligibility requirements for advanced or professional level course work and the overall length of the whole program. These opinions of ministers, committees, staff and the like are not uninformed, but they are nevertheless opinions. They should not be discarded, but they should be held up to some kind of standards that come from research.

With a spiritual education system that is research-based and uses more informed opinions of those with the proper experience and expertise, we are more likely to deliver a more consistent level of performance and development in our students. That, in turn, would lead to greater support for our spiritual communities and other ministries. And using that as a platform, it is advisable for New Thought to re-focus on the deeper areas of the realm of spiritual awareness as the primary focus. Let us “court the Beloved” in earnest and evolve away from “McMindfullness” (LINK)  – once again moving to the leading edge of spirituality.

 

1 You can say that the exam and paneling of practitioners are forms of measurement, which would be true. However, there is a great deal of subjectivity in the panel process and we do not know the relationship between what the students took in their training and how they perform on the test and in the panels, much less how they perform once licensed. This is because there is no content validity process for the course curriculum.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

REALMS OF RELEVANCE: NEW THOUGHT IN THE WORLD – Part 2

The idea of two realms of key relevance to New Thought philosophies is nothing new. It is a simple idea really – through the use of the realm of psychological knowledge, one can learn to access the realm of spiritual understanding (LINK TO PART 1).

Meditation Ocean

Now it gets a bit more complex.

We find ourselves in the latter part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st Century in a position where the two essential realms that make New Thought what it is, which actually began on divergent paths and came together in New Thought in the late 19th Century, have once again diverged after about a century of more or less parallel tracking.

What I mean by this, is that there is a dual dynamicpsychological understanding, co-developed in a very real sense by New Thought’s early practitioners and the pioneer western psychologists – has largely moved into the mainstream of general knowledge; and true spiritual understanding has remained elusive to the vast majority of people. The world around us has in many cases caught up to New Thought’s psychological understanding, while those interested in doing the deep and regular personal work necessary to achieve true spiritual understanding remain a small percentage of the population.

Realms of New Thought Image

The questions that arise from this in my mind are:

  1. Should New Thought clarify the way the two realms are presented to students and others in the various ministries?
  2. Should New Thought ministries up-level the way that psychological concepts and techniques are taught?
  3. Given the movement of the realm of human psychology into the area of general knowledge, is the next logical step in the evolution of New Thought to be a greater emphasis on the realm of spiritual understanding?

New Thought headThe psychological awakening of which New Thought was a major factor is essentially the liberation of the concept of the self. After centuries of being seen as at worst the source of evil in the individual and at best subservient to the larger society, now the self was being seen as being of inherent worth, and even as being essential to spiritual development. That radical idea found many receptive ears in the early 20th Century. The use of our expanding understanding of the mind and of techniques to alter our belief systems, became the stuff of New Thought and of the emerging field of western psychology.

Another layer of complexity emerges from the overlay of cultural evolutionary patterns of development over this dynamic. Spiral Dynamics™ shows us how the transition from traditionalist-Blue to modernist-Orange to postmodernist-Green has led to an expansion of psychological knowledge in the general population – mostly from a scientific-rational (Orange) approach. Even with the emergence of the Green values system in a significant New Thought population, the translation of scientific psychology into a clear pathway to mystical spirituality is a challenge. This means that transformational spirituality is more difficult to foster, in part due to the more scientific-rational understanding of psychology and the mind that has been so much of our training and experience.

Mystical realization is different at each level of the spiral. Tribal-Purple and egotist-Red see everything as imbued by spirits (Animism) and where ritual is a significant aspect of everyday life; Blue is the domain of the magical/mythical deities and saints and obedience to authority; Orange is the secular realm of scientific rationalism and individualism; Green can foster the re-emergence of the sacred, including the love of ritual from Purple, through the re-emergence of mysticism, but how those at Green see our psychological mechanisms has been altered during the passage through the Orange values system. Those centered at Orange seek tangible results from New Thought – prosperity, good relationships, physical health – all fine in and of themselves, but their pursuit can lead to, in a word, McMindfulness.

“McMindfulness is the commodified, marketized and reductionist version of mindfulness practice which consists in the construction of courses, ‘apps,’ books, and other items for sale to the public.  McMindfulness techniques fully satisfy Ritzer’s original model of McDonaldization – the commodification of all aspects of life through standardization, calculability and control in the relentless capitalist pursuit of profits – and are distinguished by their denaturing and reductionism of basic practices and the divorcing of these from their ethical groundings in contemplative Buddhist traditions.” ~ Terry Hyland (LINK)

This secularization and commodification did not begin with New Thought, but was probably unconsciously adopted following the models of people like Anthony Robins, Wayne Dyer, and others on the self-help/spiritual author/speaking circuits, whose audiences were at Orange and possibly moving toward Green. After the secularizing effect of moving through Orange, the re-engagement of the mystical at Green is made difficult because of the “de-enchantment” of the mind that occurred as Orange became the primary holder of the realm of psychological knowledge. In other words, it became all about getting stuff – McMindfulness.

I say this not to be critical. Given the nature of the modernist-Orange value system, it was inevitable that the values of secularism and scientific rationalism would have a significant influence on how people received New Thought or any other teaching. People do not skip stages of development. And, there are distinct benefits to the scientific-rational approach.

Many New Thought teachers, particularly in Religious Science, speak of the “science” as being the psychology and the techniques used to train the mind. This makes the mysticalthe realm of spiritual understanding – seem separate and distinct from the realm of psychological knowledge. Add to this the dynamics of having different value systems present in a spiritual community, and we can see some reasons for the lack of growth of New Thought communities over the past several decades.

One answer may be to add more from the Jungian perspective into the mix. Jungian psychology contains a powerful blending of the mystical, dream interpretation, the arts, the shadow, and depth psychology that tend to enhance the spiritual pathway. It is about the process of individuation, Jung’s term for coming into alignment with the authentic self. Of course, there is the fact that few New Thought teachers are qualified to teach Jungian psychology at this moment in time to be considered. However, it could be made a middle-term goal and incorporated into the ministerial education process as a start.

Jung Spirituality

Jung’s Psychology is Infused with Spirituality

I am speaking of two dynamics here: the first dynamic is the shift of the realm of human psychology into mainstream awareness that has removed New Thought from the leading edge of that realm and the continued elusiveness of the realm of spiritual understanding to those who do not engage in deep practice over time.

The second dynamic is the emerging value systems via cultural evolution as described in the Spiral Dynamics model. One effect of evolving value systems is the de-enchantment of things psychological and the creation of a separation between working with the individual mind and developing the mystical side of life.

The confusion that I speak of is due, I believe, to the fact that most teachers of New Thought principles and those who develop curricula do not view the teaching as the interplay between the two realms (psychological knowledge and spiritual understanding). If they did, it would make more sense to instruct students first in the psychological principles and techniques (ideally from a Jungian perspective) necessary to generate a spiritual consciousness, and then go on to focus on the spiritual principles that make up such a consciousness. There is also the issue, as noted above, that the kind of psychological concepts and techniques taught are predominately from the self-image psychology area, and focus on the mind as a mechanical thing – a “see it and receive it, or a “McMindfullness” kind of thing.

When we begin the learning process by teaching spiritual principles, the student with an untrained mind who is subject to the raft of personal psychological and emotional issues that most people bring into adulthood with them, will tend to simply overlay the principles on top of those issues. This limits the amount of progress that can be made, and further confuses the student who tries to apply the principles in life. In some cases, the student’s dysfunctional patterns are, in effect, interwoven with what is being learned, and the benefits are severely limited. It is like painting a porch without first scraping off the old paint – you just cover what is already there, with all of its imperfections, and they show through.

The response to this within many New Thought communities has been to expand what is taught into more varied materials rather than to change how the principles are taught. There are now dozens of classes using a variety of materials as sources. All of this is well and good, but can you find a clearly identifiable pathway in all of that curricula toward deep spiritual realization? Is there an identifiable set of courses and experiences in New Thought today? Or are we more like a loose grouping of spiritual communities, each providing its own set of learning experiences, its own plan or lack thereof?

Future-1024x936

The current reality is, I think, that the concept of operating within the realm of human psychology and the realm of spiritual understanding (which are, of course, my terms), is barely recognizable in New Thought today. We will take a look a few ideas to change that for the better in Part 3.

Of course, your comments are always welcome.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

SPIRAL DYNAMICS™ WORKSHOP IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA

An announcement:

I will be conducting an INTRODUCTION TO SPIRAL DYNAMICS™ WORKSHOP in Burbank, CA on Saturday, February 27th from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The workshop will be held at the SpiritWorks Center at 260 Pass Avenue in Burbank. Anyone in the Greater LA/Ventura/Orange County Area who is interested in attending – simply show up at SpiritWorks before 9:30 am on the 27th. The investment is $60 for the full day.

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

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind, page 387

The all-day workshop will provide a thorough introduction to the Spiral Dynamics Model with a focus on using it in spiritual community and spiritual leadership.

By attending, you will become aware of the meaning behind cultural changes in you, your spiritual community, and the world around us.

AND, you will gain tools to use to help you to integrate these changes in effective ways. What you gain here you will find useful beyond the walls of your spiritual community as well.

We will explore the model developed by Clare Graves and further developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. I have been certified as a presenter of Spiral Dynamics since 2004, and followers of this blog will know that I reference Spiral Dynamics often.

Flyer - SpiritWorks 2-27

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Clergy and other leaders in faith communities.
  • Anyone who wants more effective communication with leaders, volunteers, congregants and family.
  • People in the caring professions who seek to understand the values of those they care for so as to give more effective service and care giving.
  • Anyone interested in issues of culture and diversity in the workplace or in spiritual community.
  • Anyone in sales or marketing, or in any business or organization that needs to reach the public effectively.
  • Anyone who finds themselves in conflicts or disputes that elude resolution.

Not in the Area or can’t attend on that day? This presentation will not be live-streamed, however, I will be doing an online class introducing Spiral Dynamics in March of this year – watch this space for information.

VMEMEs Simplified

REALMS OF RELEVANCE: NEW THOUGHT IN THE WORLD – Part 1

From its inception in the late 1800’s and for about a century, the various New Thought philosophies* represented the leading edge in human thought in two realms. The first realm was the realm of human psychology and the second was the realm of spiritual understanding.

Today, New Thought is still on the leading edge of spiritual understanding, but it has lost its place on the leading edge of human psychology. This has little to do with New Thought, per se, and has everything to do with the fact that the awareness of those aspects of human psychology that were leading edge are now mainstream, at least in much of the developed world.

Beautiful Angel Sculpture

Let’s look at these two realms; we shall begin with the realm of human psychology. Tracing the lineage of New Thought from Emerson and the Transcendentalists (LINK) through Quimby (LINK) and subsequently to the various New Thought founders (LINK), we can see parallels between the development of the psychology behind mental or spiritual healing and the developments of the early western psychologists like William James (LINK), Sigmund Freud (LINK), and Carl Jung (LINK).

Concepts such as conscious (objective) mind and subconscious (subjective) mind, the self-image, visualization, and belief systems formed the basis for the kinds of healing work that was being observed in people like Quimby and later taught by Mary Baker Eddy (LINK), Charles and Myrtle Fillmore (LINK), Ernest Holmes (LINK) and others. In the 19th Century, these concepts were almost unknown, and only during the latter part of that century did the teaching of western psychology commence. Books on psychology began to appear to a larger public in the early 20th Century, but were not commonly read. So for a few decades, New Thought and western psychology ran loosely parallel tracks in the development of the understanding of the human mind.

SONY DSC

The realm of spiritual understanding has a very different trajectory than the realm of human psychology. Spiritual understanding has ancient roots and the knowledge of this realm was carried forward through history in threads via small groups of people. Aldous Huxley’s book THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY (LINK) (LINK) is an excellent guide to this process and how it differed in the east and in the west. For now, suffice to say that the knowledge of spiritual understanding has long been known in great detail and has simply never become mainstream. Unity, the Science of Mind™, and other New Thought philosophies are both the inheritors and the torch bearers of The Perennial Philosophy and the deep truths contained in this body of knowledge form the basis for New Thought spirituality.

“The Perennial Philosophy is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi (‘That thou art’); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being, is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who he really is.” ~ Aldous Huxley

We might say that our relationship to the realm of spiritual understanding has been relatively static over time, but this does not need to continue to be the case. It is clear, for example, that in earlier times there was a greater connection to spiritual understanding – more as spiritual experience – than there is today. While there is a great deal of spiritual experience occurring today, it is not necessarily being fostered by organized religion, and the secularization of much of the “developed” world has further accelerated this pattern.

Again turning to the Spiral Dynamics™ model, we can see that during the time of the tribal-Purple and the egoist-Red vMEME levels, and where these levels are dominant today, there is a different relationship to spiritual understanding than at the traditionalist-Blue or modernist-Orange levels. There is a greater relationship to state experiences than to stage development. At Blue and Orange, things first get codified in Blue, and then subjected to empiricism in Orange, which tends to move one to a more cerebral relationship with spiritual understandingpsychological techniques, brain science, even bits of quantum physics are taught as part of the how one moves toward greater spiritual understanding. This is very different from the days of the shamans.

At the postmodernist-Green, a communal level, there is a tendency to move to a more egalitarian, feelings-based values system. There is also a new opening to the rituals of Purple and Blue, a reawakening to those state experiences. People at this vMEME level are more open to spiritual experience and less interested in the cerebral approach that dominated the prior two levels. This new appreciation and valuing of spiritual experience can carry over into 2nd Tier vMEMEs, where there is an expansion of spiritual appreciation leading to a greater value on the realm of spiritual understanding.

Beautiful Beginnings

As more and more people come to New Thought communities versed in the basics of modern psychology and knowing how to actualize greater experiences using the associated techniques, there will naturally be less demand for these things to be taught in New Thought programs. This means a shift toward the second realm becomes not only possible, but advisable.

I once heard Dr. Mark Vierra of the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science call the two realms “Working with the Law” and “Courting the Beloved.” These names are apt and fit in well with what New Thought has been teaching for over a century. The difference today and going forward is that there is less of a need to focus primarily on the realm of human psychology (Working with the Law), because more and more people are showing up with some knowledge in that area. Rather, a shift to the realm of spiritual understanding (Courting the Beloved) as the primary focus of New Thought communities has the advantage of meeting more and more people where they are – versed in psychological principles, but longing for spiritual experience and realization. Perhaps we can view it as up-leveling the entry-level focus in teaching from basic psychological techniques to a greater focus on spiritual practice and spiritual realization; less emphasis on the pedagogy of the philosophy and more emphasis on the practice.

After all, and speaking from my own perspective, the issue with most of my students was NOT that they did not know how to visualize or to think properly. The issue in almost all cases was a failure to develop sufficient spiritual understanding to act as a firm foundation from which to have dominion over one’s own mind (including the emotions). The faith in a Power greater than oneself is essential if one is to go beyond the limitations of one’s own psychological issues. And the actualization of higher qualities like compassion and radical self-honesty are impossible with a well developed spiritual understanding.

If New Thought is to continue to be both relevant and innovative, the spiritual needs of people who have already learned the basic psychological awareness and skills to direct their minds is the place to focus. We will not be all things to all people, however, we can provide the kind of mature spirituality, free of superstition and very light on dogma, that those at modernist-Orange, postmodernist-Green and beyond on the spiral are seeking. To do this well, it will mean a significant re-imagining of the structures and forms of spiritual community for many of us.

Beautiful Moon 7

 

Each spiritual leader may consider two things that relate to this topic.

First, look at his/her own spiritual developmental level and where the comfort zone currently lies. A good tool to do this with is the SQ21 Spiritual Intelligence Assessment (LINK) (contact me for info if you want to take it and have coaching). The idea is to see where your own issues or lack of awareness might affect your ability to respond to the needs of your spiritual community. Are you comfortable with change? More specifically, are you comfortable with LEADING change? Can you assess the needs of your community members and tailor your activities and curricula to meet those needs?

Second, examine where the balance between the two realmshuman psychology and spiritual understanding – is right now in your community. Again, your own impression may not be without personal bias, so ask around. Are you teaching psychological principles and techniques where necessary (and only where necessary)? Are you focused on ways to bring greater spiritual understanding to your community through a balance of services, classes, spiritual practice, ritual, and other activities? Is deep spiritual understanding something that is truly accepted and honored in your community?

These types of personal and community assessments, especially when the membership at large is involved, can lead to the development of spiritual community that works better for a larger number of people. The process will not be without confusion, disagreement, and the like, but any change process will involve those things. Using techniques such as visioning, open space processes, community forums and the like will bring you toward the highest outcomes.

We in New Thought are being called to respond to the evolution of our culture and of the culture at large. By being open and receptive to what is emerging, we can co-create spiritual communities that thrive because they work for people.

In Part 2 of this post, we will explore how the dynamics of having many levels of development present in our communities impacts how we develop spiritual communities that thrive.

*New Thought philosophies include Science of Mind, Unity, Divine Science, and more. All contain the same basic elements of the divine expressing through and as all of creation, including human beings.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard