LEARNING HOW TO DIE

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.”

~ James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time

I think I have mentioned in a previous post the story of my encounter with a very old man early in my Science of Mind studies. He had been in the teaching for some time and we were having a discussion during a class break. What he said to me has remained with me as one of the most significant statements in my metaphysical learning. He said that in learning the Science of Mind, we are learning how to die.

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When I questioned his meaning, he replied that only in learning how to live fully can we learn how to die properly. If we have not lived fully, we will resist that final state of our human lifetime and likely suffer much more than necessary. The quotes from James Baldwin, above, and Krishnamurti, below, speak to this deep truth.

“Death is extraordinarily like life when we know how to live. You cannot live without dying. You cannot live if you do not die psychologically every minute. This is not an intellectual paradox. To live completely, wholly, every day as if it were a new loveliness, there must be a dying to everything of yesterday, otherwise you live mechanically, and a mechanical mind can never know what love is or what freedom is.”

~ J. Krishnamurti

In our New Thought principles and teachings, we have a recipe for living fully, not just a series of lessons in positive thinking. Our teachings are about the realities of a human existence and a realization that although we are imbued with divinity, so is everything else. Pain and suffering are not to be denied but experienced and transcended as much as possible. The “successful” spiritual pathway is not one free of negativity and pain, but one in which the inevitabilities of life are met with compassion, grace, and wisdom. Our path is never completely clear of challenges, but we can begin to clear it of unnecessary challenges created out of our own ignorance and fear.

“A good life is still a life. It must involve a full share of suffering, loneliness, disappointment and coming to terms with one’s own mortality and the deaths of those one loves. To live a life that is good as a life involves all this.”

~ John Armstrong

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 3

Our fears lead us to live false lives, repressing aspects of ourselves which do not seem to lead to our acceptance by those by whom we wish to be accepted. We develop personalities designed to manipulate others through charm, intimidation, or aloofness. We come to see ourselves as inadequate and try to protect ourselves by hiding behind masks of various kinds.

“Most hide behind the smile because they are afraid of facing the world’s complexity, its vagueness, its terrible beauties. If they stay safely ensconced behind their painted grins, then they won’t have to encounter the insecurities attendant upon dwelling in possibility, those anxious moments when one doesn’t know this from that, when one could suddenly become almost anything at all. Even though this anxiety, usually over death, is in the end exhilarating, a call to be creative, it is in the beginning rather horrifying, a feeling of hovering in an unpredictable abyss. Most immediately flee from this situation. They try to lose themselves in the laughing masses, hoping the anxiety will never again visit them. They don inauthenticity as a mask, a disguise protecting them from the abyss.”

~ Eric G. Wilson

For some on a New Thought pathway, this becomes a fixation on being positive, good, even perfect. There is a clear sense of fear if anything negative is said or if the bad news of the day is discussed. This compulsion to avoid negativity is, psychology tells us, another form of the fear of death. In this realm, no one dies, they “transition.” The fact that no one knows what happens after that “transition” is also not spoken about, unless one has a belief that they do know.

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 5

A major lesson taught by Jesus is that every resurrection requires a crucifixion. In other words, there is no new birth without a death – the child must die so that the adult can be born, ignorance must die so that awareness can be born, etc. If we do not grasp the inevitability and the necessity of death in our existence, we sentence ourselves to incomplete lives lived in bondage to fear and avoidance. This shows up every time we cling to something that no lover serves us or that is, of its own volition or nature, ready to move on. Relationships, old belongings, stages of life, and limited ideas exist in this category. Clinging to the past is a form of denial of our actual fear – that we are destined to be forever moving into an unknown future which includes a physical death, and that we fear living fully.

It can be comforting to have a belief about what happens to us when we die. The founder of Religious Science, Ernest Holmes, was agnostic on this topic. He did believe in immortality of the soul, of the essence of who we are, but he was less certain about any retention of memory of our life in human form. He did not believe in reincarnation to earth but believed that every individual has access to every thoughtform, and memories of past lives were just that – thought forms (see the 1926 Science of Mind Text). Of course, he also held that this was his own opinion and others were not required to believe as he did.

“I do not believe in the return of the soul to another life on this plane.  The spiral of life is upward.  Evolution carries us forward, not backward.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind (1938), p 386.

The ability to live in the paradox of a life which ends with a physical death and the continued journey of the soul, in another form or formless, into an unknown eternity is a sign of spiritual maturity. The spiritually mature person lives with mystery and paradox easily and does not require specific answers where they are not forthcoming or simply cannot be known.

Beautiful Angel Sculpture Death

By learning how to live fully, to accept the mysteries and paradoxes inherent in life and to be a living expression of our uniquely divine nature is the key to learning how to die. To enter that mystery with no more knowledge than we had when we entered this lifetime is what Nature requires of us (“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:3). To come to a place where we do not fear death because we accept its inevitability and its mystery is to prepare ourselves and to enable us to live fully in each present moment.

Accepting the reality and inevitability of physical death is an important aspect of living a life worth living, one that offers the chance for fulfillment of your reason for being. It allows you to live both fully and lightly, with humility and humor, and to accept death and loss as part of the journey – not tragic but sorrowful, as sorrow is also part of human existence. Living as if life is an adventure to be explored rather than a fragile jewel to be protected at all costs – finding that middle balance where you ride the crest of the wave without falling in and without withdrawing out of fear. In this way we find the grace of life, which is a sense of true belonging, of deep connection with all of life, not just the parts we think we should like. We are all learning how to die.

“The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life’s joy. One can experience an unconditional affirmation of life only when one has accepted death, not as contrary to life, but as an aspect of life. Life in its becoming is always shedding death, and on the point of death. The conquest of fear yields the courage of life.”

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Angel Tears

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

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

A COUPLE OF ANNOUNCEMENTS:

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WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED

“I’m worried about everything.”

~ Michael Ian Black, @michaelianblack on Twitter

It is easy to become overwhelmed these days. The increasing complexities of everyday life are being compounded by a litany of social ills, chaotic and corrupt politics, and the breakdown of trust in our institutions. There is terrorism, mass shootings, racism, sexism, and more in our society. We are blasted from all sides by fear, anger, and calls for attention to this or that issue. The media and social media are filled with examples of natural disasters, crimes, corruption, and tragedy – and now theses things spread farther and faster than ever before. I see friends driven to crowdfunding sites to pay for healthcare or basic expenses, and others for whom “retirement” has become a distant dream. As I sit writing this, news is breaking about a fifth bombing in Austin, Texas and a new school shooting in Maryland. It seems there is no break from “breaking news.”

Breaking News Fear

One result of these issues is that New Thought is beginning to turn outward so as to engage more fully in the issues of the world. While this is an essential, and perhaps inevitable, consequence of our cultural evolution, it nevertheless puts additional stress on us, as change always does. We are called to bring forth a higher version of ourselves and our teaching into the world. This process of emergence adds to our stress levels even as we see its rightness and necessity.

“We grow from challenge. We grow from taking something on.”

~James Hollis, Jungian analyst

While our Power is internal, we are activated by our environment. We must respond to what we find in our lives, both at the macro and micro levels. Emergence of new qualities and possibilities comes as an adaptive mechanism to changing life conditions. It seems that we in the western societies, particularly in the United States, find ourselves in conditions which demand a spiritually based response. We must do more than sit in meditation and prayer-treatment (although both practices are necessary for our personal sense of stability); but we must act from a place of spiritual poise.

“Only a person who has lived through a time that threatens his life and that valuable substance, his individual freedom, with war, power, and tyrannical ideologies – only he knows how much courage, how much honesty and determination are needed to maintain the inner self in such a time of herd insanity.”

~ Stefan Zweig

Complexity and Chaos

The apparent chaos of our current times can be seen as a reaction to rapid increases in the complexity of our living conditions. Many people have not adapted to these increases in complexity for a variety of reasons. They are frustrated, and that frustration is increasingly showing up as fear and anger. They want to bring what they see as a runaway social system to a halt and return to some version of a better yesterday when life seemed more manageable.

What we see termed “nationalistic” or identity politics is a version of that desire to reign in change. When we fail to adapt to greater complexity, we will naturally see that complexity as wrong in some way. Nationalistic politicians, ironically often using very complex psychological methodologies (LINK), will tap into this frustration and resentment to gain power – the power to try to turn back the clock in some way, usually by gaining control over the society’s institutions. We are in such a cycle now, and it appears that there is a great deal of chaos in our future as the larger societal structures adjust to these dynamics. It is easy to be in overwhelm and to seek to join in this apparent battle for the values of our culture. Better to rise above that approach and to engage via the compassionate heart.

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“That we go numb along the way is to be expected. Even the bravest among us, who give their lives to care for others, go numb with fatigue, when the heart can take in no more, when we need time to digest all we meet. Overloaded and overwhelmed, we start to pull back from the world, so we can internalize what the world keeps giving us. Perhaps the noblest private act is the unheralded effort to return: to open our hearts once they’ve closed, to open our souls once they’ve shied away, to soften our minds once they’ve been hardened by the storms of our day.”

~ Mark Nepo

When we are overwhelmed, we need to take time to heal, to rest. There is nothing wrong with needing some time away from the chaos. But in that process, we must work to keep, or to regain, a positive frame of mind. We must do our praying, our meditating, our affirming every day. Our spiritual practices are essential to the development of true spiritual poise – to a consciousness of empowerment and to the compassionate heart.

Spiritual Practices Kit

“No greater good can come to you than to know that the Power already within you is the power to live, the power to create.  Not only to create for yourself, but to create for others — the power to do good, the power to heal, the power to prosper.”

~ Ernest Holmes, YOUR INVISIBLE POWER

Our teaching tells us that no outside condition is stronger than our internal potential. We are called to rise to the occasion, to embrace and thrive in changing times, to reveal the Truth of our being in each moment. We are the ones we have been waiting for – it is our turn to step into the world around us and bring a powerful, realized consciousness of healing and love.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Marianne Williamson

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

WOULD WE BE A DIFFERENT MOVEMENT IF THE SCIENCE OF MIND 1926 EDITION HAD REMAINED OUR PROMINENT TEXT?

“In presenting these lessons on Mental Science, I do not claim to have discovered any new Truth. The Truth has been known in every age by a few; but the great mass of people has never even dreamed that we live in a mental and spiritual world. To-day, however, there is a great inquiry into the deeper meaning of life because the race has reached a state of unfoldment where a broader scope is possible.”

~ First line of Forward, The Science of Mind™, 1926 Edition

Loyal readers know that I am mostly all about change. I have even supported an updating of the Science of Mind™ text (LINK). But just for fun, let’s explore what the Religious Science Movement would be like today if, instead of revising the text in 1938 (the text used in SOM classes), the decision had been made to stay with the original 1926 Edition of The Science of Mind (LINK to Online Version).

Holmes & 1926 Text

The structure of the 1926 Edition starts with an essay on The Evolution of Man’s Thought, then a series of six lessons about the Science of Mind. This is followed by 21 Special Articles on topics ranging from Absoluteness and Relativity, to The Sequence of the Creative Order, to Jesus as a Savior. Then there are 12 Meditations for Self-Help and Healing, a Glossary and the Index.

I am not certain why the text was so thoroughly revised in the mid-1930’s. But if I may make a guess, I would say that it was likely done for two major reasons. First, the structure of the lessons may have been unpopular with the new group of ministers who were leading the Religious Science churches in the 1930’s (Dr. Robert Bitzer being the first minister recruited for this purpose in 1930); Religious Science ministers are notably an independent lot, and it is likely that they preferred to present material according to their own preferences (just taking a wild guess here). Indeed, it was out of print for decades. Secondly, I can see how a few sections of the 1926 Edition may have been seen as controversial to some in a new denomination seeking some degree of acceptance in the larger religious landscape of the time.

Hints abound. Two entire subjects did not make it into the 1938 Edition of the textbook. One was Lesson Six: The Law of Psychic Phenomena, seen as important enough to be part of the basic teaching in the 1920’s. In the introduction to the lesson, Dr. Holmes wrote: “While no apologies are made for the ensuing pages, yet, in justice to the Truth, it must be said that many of the world’s eminent scientists have investigated the subjects to be discussed, and so far, to the author’s knowledge, none of them have ever refuted the ensuing facts.” This seems to indicate that he saw the topic as both controversial and sufficiently proven to include as a part of the basic lessons of the teaching.

Psychic Phenomenon Collage

“There is within man a power that can communicate without the tongue, hear without the ear, see without the eye, talk without the mouth, move ponderable objects and grasp things without the hand; and perform many other feats that are usually connected only with the physical instrument. All these facts have been completely proved, and it is no longer necessary to produce evidence to substantiate these facts.”

~ Science of Mind 1926 Edition, page 229

Holmes - Young

Dr. Ernest Holmes

Dr. Holmes explains, or attempts to explain, a number of psychic phenomena, including clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, and apparitions. He also described things such as inspiration, streams of consciousness, The Theory of Ectoplasm, and how to create personal charm here. He attributes all of these phenomena to the interaction between the localized, individualized mind and the Universal Mind. Our human minds, he writes, have two aspects, the objective (conscious) and subjective (subconscious); it is the subjective aspect which is embedded in the Universal Mind. For some, what we call psychic phenomena, which are present in the subjective minds of all of us, become available to the objective mind. This can just happen spontaneously, or one can be trained in developing a greater receptivity.

SOM - You Will Live Forever Holmes

In another section of the lesson, he explains immortality and its link to psychic phenomena. Some of the material relating to immortality also appears in the 1938 Edition, but without reference to psychic phenomena. Here is a quote from the section about the human aura:

“The human aura is the mental vibration or emanation of the individual. The idea of the halo surrounding the heads of the saints is explained in this way. The personal atmosphere varies with the changing thought and emotion and is sometimes pleasant and at other times unpleasant.”

~ Science of Mind 1926 Edition, page 278

The second subject which was not included in the 1938 Edition relates to sexuality and gender. This is primarily contained in the special article entitled “Repression and Sublimation.” Here, Dr. Holmes writes about sex and gender, both subjectively and objectively. He also includes descriptions of the relatively new (at the time) field of psychoanalysis and the concept of self-analysis. While some of the material in this section may have been eliminated because it was based on the new and rapidly changing field of western Psychology, there is little doubt that the material on sex and gender was seen as too controversial for the 1938 Edition. Here is a quote from the special article:

 

“Man, coming from Unity, is both male and female, and has, within himself, both attributes of reality. In some the male predominates; in others the female. We have two distinct types in man and woman; but they are types of one fundamental principle. There is also an intermediate sex; that is, one in which the two attributes seem to be almost equally balanced. The greatest men and women of the ages have belonged to this type, for it is a more complete balance between the two which are really one. But this is too great a topic to discuss in this course of lessons.”

– Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind 1926 Edition, page 305

Sexuality & Gender 1920s

To get back to the question in the title of this post, what might our movement look like if we had continued to hold psychic phenomena and sex and gender as major components of our teaching? Might this have led us to be less mainstream (to the degree that we might be considered in such a light) or less like a church? We will never know.

To be sure, most of the content in the 1926 Edition is reproduced in the 1938 Edition, if reformatted. There are different things emphasized and the first four chapters of the 1938 Edition is new material. It is said that Dr. Holmes was less involved in the production of the 1938 Edition, however, this is disputed by some. What is clear is that he did evolve in some ways. Although he never abandoned the key ideas of the philosophy:

  1. An Infinite Creative Intelligence

  2. A human mind with subjective and objective components

  3. We humans direct our own experience by the use of our minds, which are elements of the One Mind.

What evolved were specific notions of the interplay of individuals and groups and the effect on consciousness, and, in his later writings (especially The Holmes Papers – LINK), he began to write about the difficulties that many have in aligning their minds with Truth.

I believe that the 1926 Edition is worthy of ongoing study by students of The Science of Mind. It is not only a clear distillation of Dr. Holmes first decade-plus of the development of the philosophy, it offers unique insights into areas of his thinking that were not carried forward. And it is fun to speculate what might have been.

In addition to the poem “Peace Be Unto You Stranger, which appears before the Forward in both editions, this poem, “Yourself, follows the Forward in the 1926 Edition:

YOURSELF

Oh, weary heart, laden with earth’s weight and care,
Oh, feet, stumbling on the way, bleeding and bare,
Oh, arms outstretched, and hands upheld in prayer,
Oh, back, which so oft has felt the lash and rod,
Oh, soul, which cries aloud for the living God,
Oh, life, struggling to free itself from the clod;
Know this: there is no power from without,
Yourself must answer every fear and meet all doubt
With some divine, indwelling power
Which you yourself, upon yourself, shall shower;
And giving, take, and taking, give
Unto that life which you, yourself, shall live.

~ Dr. Ernest Holmes

As always, your comments are welcome! What are your thoughts about the original Science of Mind text? Note that the Science of Mind Archives and Library Foundation (LINK) has lots of materials from this era.

 Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

HOLY WEEK – DEEPER MEANINGS

“What has always been basic to resurrection, or Easter, is crucifixion. If you want to resurrect, you must have crucifixion. Too many interpretations of the Crucifixion have failed to emphasize that. They emphasize the calamity of the event. And if you emphasize calamity, then you look for someone to blame. That is why people have blamed the Jews for it. But it is not a calamity if it leads to new life. Through the Crucifixion we are unshelled, we are able to be born to resurrection. That is not a calamity. We must look freshly at this so that its symbolism can be sensed.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That (LINK)

Dali - Passion of the Christ

The Crucifixion by Salvador Dali

Joseph Campbell, in these quotes, brings clarity to the meaning of this season. The idea that the crucifixion is a necessary element in the resurrection, is of major importance to those on a spiritual pathway. In New Thought, we generally recognize this, although it is a difficult concept – a place where an incomplete understanding can lead to harm. A limited or incorrect understanding can lead to a glib “IT’S ALL GOOD!” to someone in the midst of the suffering of their “crucifixion” experience, denying the hard work and suffering involved. Or the focus can be on the crucifixion itself, thus denying us the necessary understanding to move toward the resurrection, or healing and elevation to a new level. We are called by our challenges to awaken something within ourselves that heretofore has not been awakened.

“St. Augustine speaks of going to the Cross as a bridegroom to his bride. There is an affirmation here. In the Prado is a great painting by Titian of Simon of Cyrene as he willingly helps Jesus with the cross. The picture captures the human participation, the free, voluntary participation we all must have in the Easter-Passover mystery.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That

The crucifixion experience can also be voluntary, as in the acceptance of a great challenge that will involve sacrifice and suffering but may well lead to a transformation of the self. St. Augustine references the willingness of Jesus to enter the ordeal, it is the gateway to his greatest miracle, even though it is fraught with danger and difficulty. It is the only way forward if he is to fulfill his mission, and so he goes willingly – not without fear – but consciously forward.

We tend to get stuck in the suffering part, don’t we? Much of Christianity is stuck in the symbolism of the suffering of Jesus, with relatively little focus and celebration of the resurrected Christ – the glowing, transformed figure who found it so difficult to connect with his former followers according to the Gospels. When you are transformed, it is difficult for those who knew the former version of you to accept your new manifestation of self. And there is no getting to that new you without a crucifixion experience of some kind.

Poster - No Mud No Ressurection

“Easter is calculated as the Sunday that follows the first moon after the vernal equinox. It is evidence of a concern centuries before Christ to coordinate the lunar and solar calendars. What we have to recognize is that these celestial bodies represented to the ancients two different modes of eternal life, one engaged in the field of time, like throwing off death, as the moon its shadow, to be born again; the other, disengaged and eternal. The dating of Easter according to both lunar and solar calendars suggests that life, like the light that is reborn in the moon and eternal in the sun, finally is one.”

~ Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That

In this passage, Campbell speaks to the ongoing recognition of the rebirth of life, a recognition that is symbolically larger in scope than the Christian Easter. For centuries, perhaps millennia, humans recognized the time of the Spring Equinox as representation of rebirth. This essential idea is shared by all of humanity. The Christian story personalizes it for the followers of Christian religion(s), so as to encourage followers of that pathway to have courage and to engage life more fully.

In New Thought, we learn that this cycle of death to the old and rebirth to the new is ongoing – it is a moment by moment experience. It is our nature to leave the old ideas behind and to embrace new ideas as they emerge or are discovered. There is always some degree of discomfort in this process, some need to grieve what is being left behind, some awkwardness in mastering the new. When we accept this as our nature, however, we enter into the ongoing changes of life “as a bridegroom to his bride” as St. Augustine wrote. When we consciously choose to develop, we enter the challenges willingly and our transformations become easier (for the most part anyway).

The Holy Week message is one of preparation to rise to a new level of being. We prepare by repenting (releasing) our limitations, doing our inner work to transform our consciousness to create a receptivity to the new. Then, we move through the “crucifixion” – whatever the personal challenge and discomfort are – and allow the inner change to gestate, finally rising as the new consciousness. In this way, we are transformed. The risen Christ Consciousness within is awakened an expresses as a new version of selfawakened and read to contribute in a larger way to the well-being of ourselves and our planet.

Dali-2 - Egg

The moment you stand up and claim your divinity,
Christ is reborn within your heart,
Buddha rejoices,

Mohammed dances upon the mountaintop,
Lao Tzu winks approvingly
And the Promise of the Tree of Life is Fulfilled.

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,
And the women my sisters and lovers….

~ Walt Whitman

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Here is where you can get my book

CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

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THERE’S “AUTHENTIC” AND THEN THERE’S “AUTHENTIC.” THE DIFFERENCE IS IMPORTANT

“The only Zen you find at the top of the mountain is the Zen you bring with you.”

~ Zen Proverb

We speak and write a lot about “being authentic” in New Thought. And, to be sure it is a desirable state – one where your behaviors are in alignment with your best self.

Sign - Self Knowledge

But, what if you are not in touch with your True Self or highest self and a spiritual teacher tells you to “be authentic.” What happens then?

“The problem with telling someone to be authentic is that they might be an authentic jerk.”

~ Lou Tice

Face - Angry 3

When we are not in touch with our True Self and we are given permission, or encouraged to “be authentic,” what may well happen is some very destructive behavior. While acting out in such a way may be cathartic and possibly lead to some greater realization, it may also lead to a retreat from the True Self. The person may bully others or retreat into depression, as the anger so near the surface can no longer be denied. After all, a two-year-old can be very authentic when biting her sister.

That admonition to “be authentic” can be an invitation to destructive behavior – for our sense of what it means to be authentic is determined by our degree of self-awareness. Even if we are aware that our True Self is Love, we may be some distance away from developing the ability to express that Love consistently. And make no mistake, your authentic self is Love and Wisdom. There is no trace of woundedness, anger, or separation – all of those things arise in our ego mind.

At the level of ego, our “authentic self” is whatever is currently programmed into our reactive mind – our first impulse, if you will. On the other hand, our true “authentic self” is that deepest aspect of Wisdom and Love which we may or may not have accessed in our learning and practice.

This difference between a sense of what is our authentic self is dependent upon our level of development. It is a felt sense. Few if any of us are so fully realized as to be in perfect alignment with our authentic self at the deepest level, so the actualization of our authenticity is always a work in progress. It is an important first step to be aware of this gap between our level of development and our full potential so that we have the humility to see that we have a way to go.

Poster - authentic-self-soul-made-visible2

The True Authentic Self is at the level of the soul. It is the soul made visible. This self does not need to be empowered – IT ALREADY IS EMPOWERED. It simply needs to be revealed.

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

~ Ernest Holmes

Here, Dr. Holmes urges us to go beyond our reading and listening of the teaching, to internalize it and to bring forth our own highest version of the principles to which we are exposed. Rather than becoming rote learners who can recite some quotations, we actualize the unrealized aspects of our own unique potentials and express them in our lives. In doing this work, our sense of the “authentic self” expands and deepens. We must in a sense depart from the doctrine we are taught so as to embody it more fully via our own uniqueness. How we do this without our fear-based ego convincing us that we are already fully realized is our greatest challenge at this stage. Humility is the key to moving forward – a combination of confidence and uncertainty held in balance.

Holmes ABC

“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”

As we explore the landscape of our society and its politics, we can see that the reactive mind is at the fore. Things are said, written, posted, and actions are taken that are out of harmony with movement to a higher level of being. This shows the difficulty of coming into alignment with our higher selves in a culture that has all but abandoned such an effort in our public discourse, our media, and entertainment. But we, as students of New Thought principles, must rise above the noise and distractions of the world of appearances.

 “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”

~ Margaret Mead

Our social fabric is always a reflection of our combined consciousness. What is unfolding in the world today is no different – it is a call to find that deeper, truer “authentic self” within us and to bring it forth into expression. We must learn the spiritual principles, do our daily work to internalize and personalize them (without diluting them), and then bring them into action. It is our greatest calling.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

Here is where you can get CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY:

A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership,

in paperback or Kindle editions

(LINK TO AMAZON.COM)

DO NEW THOUGHT ORGANIZATIONS HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CHANGE?

I often think about the need for an update to The Science of Mind (LINK), by Dr. Ernest Holmes, the text used in much of the curricula of the Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL). The book was written and edited prior to its 1938 publication date. Its language is of that previous time,  and it is a very long book, therefore, many modern readers find it difficult to read and understand; some find it impenetrable. And I would add before going on that I am a big fan of The Science of Mind text book and read it regularly. So this is not about my preferences.

Having also read much of the oeuvre of Charles Fillmore (LINK), founder of Unity, as well as other early New Thought authors, I think that the same can be said regarding many of today’s students about the way most of the original writings are received today. My experience with this as a teacher is that few, if any students will speak up about their difficulties with the older works – only when questioned about it did they open up to me. And I think that for many, their failure to make headway in these books is a source of frustration, even shame for some, and it leads them to drift away from our spiritual communities.

Books - New Thought

While some undoubtedly believe that there is no problem here, I see that here are really two important challenges facing New Thought in the world with regard to this issue. One is whether or not the original writings need to be updated for a modern audience; the second is who has the authority to authorize such an undertaking and approve the results? I suggest that there are no ready answers to either question in the major New Thought organizations. I will speak primarily to CSL here, as I am not familiar with Unity’s processes for such things. Perhaps someone with knowledge of Unity’s situation can comment.

Do we even know what it would take to authorize a new “text” as the primary teaching document of Unity or Centers for Spiritual Living? I put quotes around “text” because there are a number of approaches to such a change, and they go beyond the printed word. One would be to authorize an update of the existing book(s); a second would be to have a new book developed (which might be more multimedia than traditional book); and a third way would be to create a hybrid of existing and new materials; a fourth would be to develop a shorter version that would be more accessible and use current language; and I am sure there are other possibilities as well, given the new technology arriving on the scene.

I have found that many people, of all ages, but primarily younger people, have great difficulty reading and comprehending the current version of The Science of Mind and other texts from that and earlier eras used in CSL curricula and referenced in Sunday lessons. I am aware of one effort to develop a new version of The Science of Mind by members of The Launching Pad Ministries (LINK), a young adult ministry within CSL. That effort did not result in anything usable.

Even if it had, the question remains – who would authorize the use of such a version, giving it the authority of the organization and, dare I say, requiring that it be used by member communities? Perhaps the CSL Department of Education (LINK) could recommend it to the Leadership Council who would then vote on it. And if that happened, would the member communities be likely to follow such a mandate? What if they did not – what would the CSL organization do? Clearly, the understanding of organizational authority has changed over the years since Dr. Holmes was alive.

1a change

Cultural evolution can explain a lot about this change in the structure and nature of organizational authority. When Dr. Holmes was alive, the Religious Science Institute and the United Church of Religious Science functioned on the spiral (LINK) from a strong Traditionalist-Blue base with an emerging Modernist-Orange aspect.

The Blue level vested authority in the Founder, or whomever the organizational leader was, along with the Board of Directors. At Blue, authority is an important value and it is to be obeyed. Over time, as the Orange Level of Existence began to dominate, the source of much authority shifted to increasing autonomy of the member communities and their ministers within the two organizations (after The Split). Senior ministers and pastors began to feel free to change the curriculum, use their own source materials, and teach a wide variety of materials beyond what was contained in The Science of Mind and other core texts of the teaching. The Orange level dominated from the mid-20th Century until the mid-1990’s, when the rise of the Postmodern-Green level began to gain traction.

Green, like Blue, is a communal level unlike individualistic Orange, but unlike Blue it does not view obedience to authority as a core value. The increasing prevalence of the Green Level of Existence in the ministry and in organizational leadership brings with it a values system favoring egalitarianism, a rejecting hierarchy, and focusing on the importance of feelings (even over outcome) in decision-making.One result of this influence was the explosion of accredited courses developed in the last decade of the  RSI/ICSL Organization’s existence. Most those courses were based on materials other than those by Dr. Holmes.

Those centered at Green are unlikely to claim the authority to make a significant mandatory change in the basic teaching materials, since doing so would cause a number of people to be upset – and could be seen as not honoring the Founder appropriately. The Green level can be very indecisive, and it is increasingly likely that such big changes could only happen through a grass-roots effort that gained wide, if not universal, support. I remind you of the nine-year conversation necessary for the Integration the two organizations into CSL to occur. Only when the acceptance level was in the 98 to 99% level was it okay to merge the two organizations.

Holmes Pic 11

The 1938 edition of The Science of Mind was authorized by Dr. Holmes and he worked on it with Maude Latham. No one questioned its validity, and the 1926 edition (LINK) was set aside throughout the organization as a primary teaching reference. In fact, it was difficult to find a copy of the 1926 edition for a number of decades. I do not think that the central organizations of New Thought have or would claim the essential authority today to significantly update or replace the original books used to provide the basis for teaching new students now and in the future.

I see this as a problem today and one that will continue to grow as time goes on; it is not addressed by curriculum changes, as the newer curricula continues to use the same texts as reading material. It is very likely to be a contributing factor to the “aging out” of today’s major New Thought denominations, as has happened to Christian Science, which is in steep decline, due to their refusal to change and update their methods and materials.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

Poster - Toffler Quote

 

THE CHURCH MODEL IS DYING . . . AND THRIVING . . .AND MAYBE BESIDE THE POINT

NOTE: I am offering an online Spiral Dynamics™ Workshop in June – Information and Registration at the (LINK)

 

In my multi-part series “Is the Church Model Going Away?” (LINK), I explored a number of factors, both micro and macro in nature, that are impacting the Sunday gathering style of spiritual community.

Church Sinking

On the one hand, macro trends which include cultural evolutionary factors*, technological changes, and changes in family dynamics have led both to fewer people being available on any given Sunday morning and to a relaxation of the social system that encouraged some form of worship attendance. What this means is that the overall trend is down in terms of Sunday attendance (which is also true in New Thought). (LINK)

While these larger trends are clear in terms of the resulting decrease in overall worship attendance, the experience across denominations, demographic groups, and geography varies. Urban centers have a different experience than suburban or rural areas; younger people different from older; New Thought different from Islam.

Since writing that series, I have traveled quite a bit in the United States and attended and spoken at a number of Centers for Spiritual Living Centers. I have done this in California, Oregon, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia in the past six months – at 14 centers. While anecdotal evidence is not always reflective of overall experience, I can share what I have observed.

Almost everywhere I have been, attendance is down over the past five years, in some cases significantly. I have been at only two centers where attendance is steady or up over that period. There have been a number of factors present:

Some of those centers are without ministers, and that certainly has to be taken into account. Frequently, centers without ministers struggle to offer a compensation package that will represent at least a living wage for their area; some struggle to pay for candidates to come to their centers and speak so that congregants can vote.

A few centers have a significant degree of internal strife of one kind or another. These range from insufficient income to open hostility within the leadership. Such factors are not as uncommon as you might think. My observations are that in some centers there either a lack of leadership skills or an insufficient amount of emotional and spiritual intelligence among the leadership, or both.

church-thriving-570x375

Those that are sustaining or thriving tend to be more traditional in their approach to “doing church.” This does not mean that their attendance is not declining – but it is declining more slowly and there is a presence of strong support from a core group of members who donate generously.

A challenging thing about how these macro and micro trends are expressing is that there are so many factors at work that it is often difficult to identify which factors are playing a role in any given situation. And while there is really nothing that can be done to alter the macro trends affecting worship attendance, there is much to be done in the area of the micro trends – that is, the things going on at the local level that are keeping a community from thriving.

Which ties in to the more recent series on “Creating the Beloved Community” (LINK). This concept speaks to the essential nature of spiritual community – the healthy and loving pursuit of the consciousness of compassion and mutual expression of love necessary to manifest The Beloved Community. I believe that regardless of the form that a spiritual community takes, the creation of The Beloved Community is its reason for being. And I believe that The Beloved Community can be created regardless of the form that a spiritual community takes. Although the macro dynamics affecting the church model are important, they are essentially beside the point in terms of living the true essence of spiritual community.

For New Thought communities, vitality and vibrancy, compassion and connection, success and thriving, depend on the dedication and focus of those in leadership to inspire themselves and others to really learn and practice the principles of their philosophy. That means that Unity communities learn and practice the principles of Unity; that Divine Science communities learn and practice the principles of Divine Science; that Centers for Spiritual Living communities learn and practice The Science of Mind.

The foundation of any spiritual community is the philosophy/theology/principles of its teaching – how they are taught and practiced. This is always the first place to look when an individual or community is in struggle. I am frequently told that the principles of the Science of Mind are not evident in the business of the center and the actions of leadership. When you think about it, when we are not thriving, is there anything else that it could be?

Well, yes, actually, there is. And I will cover that in my next post.

 

*I am offering an online Spiral Dynamics™ Workshop in June – Information and Registration at the (LINK)

Spiral Dynamics - new spiral

LET’S DO THIS – NEW THOUGHT AND AMERICAN POLITICS, Part 4

 

SHOULD CSL GO TO NASHVILLE? Here are my two cents.

The United States has seen a number of state governments propose so-called “religious freedom laws” during the past several months (LINK), some of which have been signed into law. These laws are aimed at two areas, small businesses whose owners or employees find it objectionable to serve certain classes of people, and the use of public restroom facilities by transgendered people. Legislation similar to this has been occurring for some time (LINK), although it is the most recent laws are somewhat different – they are in response to the recent Supreme Court case allowing marriage equality (LINK).

A number of New Thought spiritual communities serve the states where the legislation has been most recent, which so far includes but is not limited to Indiana, Tennessee (pending), Georgia (vetoed), Virginia (vetoed), North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. As it happens, the Centers for Spiritual Living has scheduled its 2017 Spiritual Living Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Transgender-Symbol

Whatever CSL leadership does, they will surely be primarily guided by spiritual principles. In this case, I think that includes holding the highest vision for all concerned and seeing those in CSL who are charged with making this decision in the highest possible regard.

“Never forget that social justice is what love looks like in public” 

~ Cornel West

If the decision is to hold the convention in Nashville, then everyone concerned will have some personal decisions to make. Obviously about attending or not, but perhaps more importantly is the mental/emotional atmosphere in which that is done. And then, regardless of the organizational decision to be there or not, we have a decision as to what, if anything, we choose to do regarding the issue of the legislation in Tennessee and in other places that is harmful to those in the LGBT communities. Is the path to be one of spiritually motivated social action? These bills, especially the current variety that are being presented in dozens of states (LINK), are part of a larger attempt to get the Supreme Court ruling overturned and to further marginalize members of the LGBT communities. Let’s not kid ourselves about that. So this is more than simply “cherry picking” locations to boycott. It is sending a message to a larger audience than in any place where there are sympathies for such discriminatory laws.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

~ William Faulkner

As for myself, I am personally choosing not to travel to any state that has enacted legislation that discriminates against LGBT people in this manner (and actually, the laws in Tennessee and Alabama at least, extend well beyond those communities). That is my choice, and I do not hold anyone else to the same choice. A larger concern is for the general spiritual and physical welfare of the United States at this time. And what is happening here is also happening, in ways similar and different, around the globe. How do we learn to develop ways to respect and honor (or at least tolerate) one another? This is especially true in the current political climate in the U.S. where we are challenged to be the best versions of ourselves.

Personally, I do not see how Centers for Spiritual Living can elect to hold the convention in Tennessee. Even if the governor vetoes the bill that has been passed, members of the LGBT communities, who are part of our spiritual family, will be, at minimum, exposed to an emotionally hostile environment. The idea that by attending, we can somehow change the hearts and minds of such a large number of people is simply not proven by experience. We can probably have a larger impact by the news that our dollars will not be coming to any state whose laws discriminate in this manner.

What CSL can do is to find ways to support the local member communities in these states who chose the path of spiritually motivated social action. That might mean funding, or sending others to participate in social action of one kind or another. Or it might mean engaging in intentional social media campaigns in support of equality for all. There is much to do. Individual spiritual communities from other states may decide to provide similar support.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

– April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

It is true that our impact is not the biggest issue here. The safety, emotional and physical, and well-being of our members is first and foremost. I do not see that as negotiable. I treat for the highest and best outcome for all.

Poster - Teillhard - Community

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

HEALING IS REVEALING – THE ESSENCE OF THE SCIENCE OF MIND

When you come right down to it, the Science of Mind is about healing, and healing is essentially a return to Truth. This means to move back into alignment with your deepest Truth – the perfection of the soul – from whatever condition of suffering that you may have manifested.

Now, in human form in a physical universe, we do not align “perfectly” with the undiminished perfection of pure Spirit. But we come as close as a plane of existence that must allow for change can come. We come into the realization and manifestation of health, of sufficiency of wealth, of joy or peace or love. All of this is transitory in our experience, but we can manifest sufficient good to enjoy our lives and to be a contributor to the general good of all.

Slide2

The manifestation of health (or any good) is the result of the development of a consciousness of receptivity to health (or any good). We develop that consciousness by directing our thoughts and feelings toward an expectation of good, and we do so often enough and powerfully enough to bring about that expectation in our subconscious mind as a belief system.

What we come to accept on the subconscious level, we will naturally tend to manifest in our experience of life. We do not make the world around us change – we shift our relationship to what is in the world and in doing so, we create a different experience for ourselves. A side effect may be that we influence others to change their beliefs through their own though processes as a result of their interpretation of our actions or our way of being. But the focus is always on one’s own consciousness.

Slide8

In order to facilitate healing, in myself or in another, I do not need to know where the illness or injury came from – that is really not important for healing to occur. I only need to know that the existing condition is a fact and not a spiritual reality – that my mind can access a greater power than the condition (which has no power) – and that I know that the condition is dissolved and replaced with a condition of health.

I may choose to be with the condition of pain or difficulty for a bit to gain some understanding of the underlying cause and to see if there is a lesson in it for me; but I can also do that after the pain has been relieved. There are lessons in pain, but we do not have to stay too long in the pain to learn them.

Slide6

So in the Science of Mind teaching, Dr. Ernest Holmes explains how healing is done. He called this technique Spiritual Mind Treatment, although today it is often called prayer-treatment, affirmative prayer, or simply prayer. Here is what Dr. Holmes wrote:

Slide12

We can see that this healing technique requires a firm acceptance in mind of the healed condition, and it also is designed to help us reach that acceptance if we treat often enough and properly.

So do your treatment work every day until the condition is healed, until you have accepted the healed condition at the depth of your being.

Remember – you are Life. Life is Strong. Life knows how to heal itself. You know how to heal yourself.

Beautiful Life Force

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard