“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
~ Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland
In Parts 1, 2 & 3 (LINK) (LINK) (LINK), I explored the issue of diversity & inclusion in New Thought spiritual communities from society-wide and local spiritual community cultural viewpoints. This final post is about how our individual psychology, if not properly understood, can create unintended barriers to creating successful programs. And no, spiritual communities where there is diversity and inclusion are not impossible – even in the suburbs!
There is a concept described by the Spiral Dynamics Model (and in other places) called transcend and include. This means that as we develop to more complex levels of thought and values, we transcend our former levels, but they are included within us. This is true of any developmental perspective of human growth. We are all familiar with the Inner Child concept – where the unresolved issues of our past remain active in our subconscious and cause us to act from that unhealed perspective if not continually, at least from time to time.
“The more ‘enlightened’ we believe ourselves to be, the vaster we discover that which remains unconscious.”
~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst
We have within us the vestiges of thousands of years of humans living in tribes – groups of less than 100 people making their way in the world, some as nomads, some settled in place, but all with a fierce loyalty to the tribe and fear and suspicion of anyone not a part of the tribe. This tribal consciousness, identified as Purple in the Spiral Dynamics Model, is not only part of our collective past, but is also a stage in our individual human development. We have tribal relations with our family, our schools, etc., and this remains true in varying degrees for much of our lives. Spiritual community can bring forth tribal feelings of connections and being unique from other groups. It can unconsciously activate our desire for intimacy, protection, and safety among trusted companions. Centered around a teaching and/or a teacher/leader, spiritual community can carry many aspects of a tribal culture.
This unconscious aspect can act in a variety of ways on individuals, ways that may well result in subtle or not-so-subtle resistance to different people showing up to join the tribe. Even though at a conscious level, we may recognize the value of diversity, our subconscious may resist being truly welcoming and inviting diverse people into the heart of the community.
Such a response to diversity, or to the idea of diversity, may not even be at the level of conscious awareness. There may well be a sense of “why aren’t we more diverse?” or “Why don’t others stay around long?” But, if you ask a newcomer who is different from the other members, say someone of color or LGBTQIA, you may be surprised by what they are experiencing. It often takes some deep personal exploration of one’s unconscious patterns – biases and fears – before we allow ourselves to see these repressed aspects. While there are certainly people who are consciously biased and bigoted, it is likely that most of us simply have not done the personal work necessary to dislodge old tribal patterns of thought and therefore harbor impulses and fears which lead to behaviors signaling that we are not open and affirming to those outside of the tribe. When this is the case, we simply do not pay attention to the issue at a deep level, for our repressed aspects tend to control our perception – we don’t see what others see.
This tribal consciousness, combined with a human tendency to accept whatever goes on when we are children as “normal,” has led to an American culture where things such as white privilege can exist for centuries. Our innate biases tend to make us (white people) reject the idea of such a concept when we hear about it (LINK). Accepting that such things are real and are the result of conscious cultural behaviors can be very difficult, but necessary steps in our cultural awakening.
“Stark honesty, however painful, is needed on this journey toward the Self; the unconscious will not tolerate anything less. One must be willing to face many cruel truths, those we keep hidden from the light of day, and those we keep hidden from ourselves.”
~ Marion Woodman
“The repression of both negative and positive instincts and feelings into the unconscious causes them to inhabit a shadow realm. While ego attempts to continue to censor the shadow impulses-the very pressure that repression causes is rather like a bubble in sidewall of a tire.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés
These quotes strike at the heart of the issue that we face. No matter how willing we say that we are to open our communities to different people, our dominant consciousness will determine our behaviors. Putting up a rainbow flag but not being comfortable about LGBTIA people communicates a mixed message – and a mixed message is not a welcoming message. There is a learning curve across some differences in personal and cultural backgrounds which is much more difficult to traverse if we are bound by unconscious biases and fears.
Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own inner work – its degree, its depth, its sincerity. Certainly, spiritual leaders can and should be encouraging such work – and doing their own work in this regard. The culture of the local spiritual community, as described in Part 3 of this series, can have a significant effect on the personal spiritual and psychological development of its individual members. Is deep personal inquiry actually valued here – or just given lip service – or ignored completely?
Is spiritual leadership aware of the larger macro trends and dynamics affecting all aspects of spiritual community including diversity and inclusion, as described in Part 2 of this series? And if so, how is that awareness being integrated into the local spiritual community’s activities, planning, and ways of being?
And finally, if diversity is present in the community, or if it is a currently unrealized goal of the community, are there concrete ways of including diverse people in the heart of the spiritual community? If not, why not? A good beginning might be a very frank conversation among the community members and leadership about this issue and what may be getting in the way. There are consultants who can assist with this process, and there are programs within the New Thought organizations to provide guidance, support, and assistance.
Transformative change is never a painless process. But clear intentions and people who are doing deep work can work what would otherwise appear to be miracles.
“Only people with petty minds indulge in racial hatreds and distinctions. God’s perfect idea of man is the basis for every living soul, and we must believe this and act as though it were so. When we dislike people and groups, we are bearing witness to our small and limited viewpoints. The people in whom we fail to find good are born of the same Mind, operate under the same Law, and express the same Life as we do. Our inability to see their divine origin is our self-created stumbling block. Often, we are held back by our petty dislikes of other people.”
~ Ernest Holmes, “Guide to Richer Living”
I have asked Tracy Brown, author of the recently published book, STAINED GLASS SPIRIT (LINK), to be a guest blogger here and to add her inspired thinking to the conversation. Look for that post in the near future.
Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard
I am pleased to announce that my two books, SACRED THINKING, and CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY will soon be available in Spanish. I owe thanks for this to a number of people who I will mention in the near future.