‎”Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi


The issue of diversity and inclusion has been much on my mind of late. This is both because it is a topic of current focus in New Thought organizations and because it is something that I value greatly. There are a number of program initiatives, training programs, and other approaches to move forward and bring greater diversity and inclusion to New Thought, and, to the larger society as well. And, as with all things, there are a few blind spots involved. One of these blind spots relates to a lack of understanding of cultural evolution, complexity, and values systems and how they affect these initiatives. I will address these ideas in this series of blog posts, recognizing that I bring my own cultural blind spots to the process.

Poster - Diversity Inclusion

I am concerned that some of our good efforts to increase awareness, change cultures and behaviors may actually inhibit some of the very worthy intentions of these initiatives. What if the dynamics of cultural change express differently according to where individuals and groups exist on a spiral of human development? In other words, what if programs and initiatives promoting a culture which truly values and incorporates diversity and inclusion or gender equality actually creates barriers to those things happening? What if terms like “white privilege” and “gender fluidity” are automatically given different meanings at different stages of development? Would it be helpful to know the answers to these questions and to take them into account?

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics™ (LINK) is a model of human potential which I use and teach. Many in New Thought have some awareness of the model through various sources. I would add that very few have studied and used the model extensively, so the awareness of the model is somewhat broad but not particularly deep in our movement. However, a lack of understanding of human development as described by the Spiral Dynamics Model can create a significant blind spot for those interested in progressively changing organizational and community cultures and behaviors.

“What I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of old, lower-order behavior systems to new, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.”

~ Clare Graves, originator of Spiral Dynamics

I think the lack of depth of knowledge of cultural evolution is unfortunate, because the insights into thinking and values systems which Spiral Dynamics brings are very important, especially as the values systems present in our society continue to evolve and diverge. In other words, it is getting more difficult and less productive to “preach to the choir,” speaking only to those of like mind. This is because the “choir” is becoming more diverse in complexity of thinking and values.

Uniformity of thinking and values is becoming rarer as there is greater diversity of all kinds in our families, groups, organizations, and societies. This is a very good thing in many respects – we want to encourage and promote diversity and inclusion in our spiritual communities and organizations. We want to hear more voices and see more of the rainbow of humanity. At the same time, there are aspects within us which desire harmony and uniformity – to feel comfortable and safe. The tension exists within each of us as we confront a more diverse culture and seek to both embrace and expand that diversity.

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

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

While most in our movement are very supportive of greater diversity and inclusion and representation, we are not all looking at these terms through the same lens. Spiral Dynamics shows us some of the various lenses, or Levels of Existence, by which we give meaning to our experience of life. These lenses are values systems which emerge with different stages of complexity of thought, and they exist across all cultures and societies to one degree or another. Failure to understand these differences can lead to our tendency to assume that our values are shared by others or that all people of certain groups have the same values systems. This is not true and can lead to organizational disharmony and dysfunction if ignored. Clare Graves used to caution that “all we can do is help a system become what is next for it to become.”

When organizational leadership tries to change their organizations’ cultures by altering the belief systems of their people, it is critical that they understand how cultures evolve and values systems cause people to respond to such efforts. The best of intentions cannot prevent widespread dysfunction when change is initiated with insufficient understanding of cultural dynamics, values systems, and cultural evolution. Over the next few posts, I will explore this topic as clearly and in the most loving and compassionate way that I can.

“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

~ Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

Each Level of Existence on the spiral has its own way of enforcing its beliefs and values. In other words, there is a form of political correctness for every level. Blue values conformity and has lots of rules to insure it. Violate the rules and there are punishments of various sorts. Shunning is also common at Blue.

Orange values individualism, freedom from restraint, rationality, status, and entrepreneurialism. Orange political correctness is an unrestrained field of winners and losers; the belief that things will sort themselves out properly if no “authority” intervenes.

At Green (LINK), egalitarianism, cultural identity, and feelings are valued. Conformity is also valued, but not of appearance and social mores as at Blue, but conformity of beliefs based on the value system. Green values include the desire for every voice to be heard, and for every voice to be valued. Green values also include a dislike of hierarchy and dissonance within groups. Paradoxically, those centered at Green can also be blind to the fact that others do not automatically share their values, nor do they necessarily want to share them.

In the next post, we will explore how this mix of values can show up a both healthy and unhealthy expressions which affect how messages of equality and connection are heard across the spiral.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: I will soon be offering a two-part program in Spiral Dynamics™ for New Thought. Part one will be an introduction to the model; Part two, which is optional, will provide certification to teach and coach using Spiral Dynamics. More information soon.


And Spiral Dynamics is discussed more thoroughly in my book for Spiritual Leadership:



“Racism and spiritual bypassing are harmful in and of themselves, and their combination compounds the harm. Add gaslighting (LINK), and you’ve got an exponentially toxic brew. In this case, the manipulative elements and dizzying doublespeak were staggering. There were acknowledgements that racism had in fact occurred, followed by denials that it did, round and round. There were fauxpologies followed by defending, round and round. There were expressions of caring for those who had been hurt, immediately followed by not-so-subtle digs at them, round and round.”

~ Camille Williams,

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK)

GASLIGHT - American Poster 6

The term GASLIGHTING comes from this film.

In Part 1 of this series (LINK), we explored the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and its effect on individuals and groups. I referenced the article by Robert Augustus Masters, PhDSpiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag (LINK). I encourage you to read Part 1 and the Masters’ article before reading this post, which follows up on ideas already presented.

The focus of my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK), and of much of this blog, is to promote healthy spiritual leadership in New Thought (and other) spiritual communities, in part by writing about the difficult, often overlooked areas which deeply affect how spiritual leaders operate, and how followers perceive leadership. For a spiritual community to be in alignment with the creation of #TheBelovedCommunity, it must have both healthy leadership and healthy followership.

The second article referenced in Part 1 is a powerful one by Camille Williams, a blogger and essayist. In When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK), she takes a dive into some of the most difficult places in spiritual communityracism and Gaslighting, as affected by spiritual bypassing. Her article focuses on an online exchange on spirituality, but one can easily see the same dynamics in a spiritual community of any denomination. Note that all of these negative issues arise from a lack of emotional and spiritual intelligence in one or more of the parties involved. Healing is needed and involves deep personal work, both individually and within the community.

“Willingness to push past our discomfort in these situations (spiritual bypassing & racism) is literally the rock bottom least of our responsibilities, considering the risks, abuses and indignities black and brown people and other marginalized groups live with on a daily basis. I think it helps to give some thought beforehand to different ways we might respond, so that when it happens we can think on our feet and not freeze in deer-in-the-headlights fashion.”

~ Camille Williams

When you read Ms. Williams article, note the many resources at the bottom. She also writes:

“If spirituality is an important part of your life (as it is for me), and/or if you place a high value on positive thinking, and especially if you’re a Law of Attraction enthusiast, please read about spiritual bypassing beyond the paragraph definition. . .. We need to understand the nature of this thing so we can actively avoid it, especially if the thing being bypassed, denied or oversimplified is the reality of systemic oppression and how it impacts people from marginalized groups. Side benefit: understanding this can help us deal with everything else in our own lives more skillfully, too”

~ Camille Williams

Those of us in New Thought can be particularly susceptible to spiritual bypassing for a few reasons.

  1. Our emphasis on positive thinking and how our thoughts create our experience of reality can lead us to fail to recognize unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. It’s easy to live in denial by saying things like “It’s ALL Good!
  2. Our unconscious biases can easily overlook the experience of those outside our race, gender, or class. Privilege exists in the unconscious and often manifests in New Thought as a failure to take into consideration anything beyond one’s thoughts as cause to their experience. Instead of, or in addition to, the common question, “What about a baby born with a disease?” we might also ask, “What about someone born as an oppressed person, or into a subculture with no access to New Thought principles?” To fail to consider this is to diminish the experience of many people, triggering feelings of guilt and shame and perhaps “otherness.” It might help to explain why New Thought is less diverse than it could be.
  3. In New Thought curricula (as far as I have experienced) we do not teach opposing points of view, except perhaps to denigrate them. A prescient post by Harriet Hawkins speaks to this (LINK). Unlike, say, the Jesuits, we are not taught to be critical thinkers regarding our teaching(s) as they relate to other worldviews. This can lead us to become unquestioning and refuse to see the limits of some aspects of our philosophy.
  4. We want everyone to feel good all the time, so we often refuse to acknowledge issues and experiences which do not reflect that desire. We tend to have a high tolerance for dysfunction and a low tolerance for ambivalence and we tend to want to see all worldviews as equally valid, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

None of this is to say that all spiritual bypassing leads to serious dysfunction, although it is produced by dysfunction. But, serious dysfunction will rarely occur in an atmosphere of spiritual authenticity. The reasons above make many of us more open to spiritual bypassing to avoid what is unpleasant or difficult. It can also reinforce our unconscious biases, leading to behaviors which marginalize othersracism, sexism, or “otherness.” These are very often major factors when spiritual communities go into crisis or decline.

“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.”

~ Richard Rohr


“One way of measuring ego-strength and maturity of personality is to assess a person’s capacity to tolerate ambivalence. This capacity is closely related to the ability to feel empathy. It is all about tolerating otherness.”

~ Heidi M. Kolb

All of this comes together as a self-perpetuating system of unconscious behaviors, limiting our ability to really see ourselves and others, to feel empathy and express compassion, to be deeply present for others in our spiritual community and elsewhere.


Until we interrupt it.

While this must begin within each person, it is also a systemic issue – our culture is weighted with limited thinking and spiritual bypassing. It is time to face this and begin the process of leaving this particular set of limitations behind us. We will never be perfect at this, but we will get better at it. We know that we have no fear of a greater Truth being revealed – we welcome the healing potential of spiritual disruption!

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.


Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 NOTE: I referred to an article by Robert Augustus Masters, and to several quotes from that article in Part 1 of this series in this post. At the time, I was generally unfamiliar with his work, other than an article on spiritual bypassing. I have since learned that he has admitted to abuse of students and members of a group which he led. I will not be referring to him or to his work again. – Jim Lockard October 2018


“My New Thought heritage carries a tradition of ‘seeing no evil’ and only ‘holding the High Watch.’ My professional status requires me to offer hope and consolation to those who suffer. My personal self is exhausted.

“What tires me most, is being afraid of ‘your’ judgment, and not being able to express my experience with violence in my country and my own hopes for it. Could I be alone in this feeling?”

~ Rev. John McLean

Poster - Holmes - New Thought

We in New Thought like things to be neat and tidy. We prefer that people be calm rather than upset. We see negativity, illness, bad relationships as a failure to think properly – but we often resist pointing that out to those who so suffer. We can at times seem like old-fashioned “church ladies,” wanting everyone conform to what is desirable, yet being afraid to upset those who do not. We forget that life is messy and that there is little that we can do about that particular fact.

“I like messy people; people who don’t fit in a box or stay between the lines, but who’s integrity is greater than any rule book and who’s loyalty is stronger than blood.”

~ Jim Wern

Cartoon - Peanuts Messy

Too often, we flee one set of rigid outmoded rules and the people who enforce them only to find a New Thought spiritual community and recreate the same thing from which we fled. We create communities where people who are suffering decide not to show up and be judged for improper thinking. We create cliques and levels of acceptance and speak of being open and affirming while erecting very visible barriers for those who do not fit in. (LINK to Spiral Dynamics description)

We want harmony, a conflict-free environment; we want nothing to disturb us or remind us of our own failings. We tolerate dysfunction, especially in our spiritual leaders (LINK). Too often, we hide the dysfunction until it cannot be contained any more and it explodes, embarrassing and wounding people, poisoning the well of possibility in our spiritual communities. The wounded are then left to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. They try to make it perfect again like they imagine it was in some previous form – but that is a fantasy. We cling to the idea that if all is not well there must be something wrong with us.

“Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”

~ Hugh Mackay

All of this happens because we are dealing with very powerful spiritual and psychological principles. When these principles are used without an appropriate degree of depth and practice, they can be very disruptive, even dangerous. It is, in a way, like when an amateur tries to handle professional-level fireworks. New Thought principles are not for those who do not approach them with sufficient respect and diligence.

The spiritual master knows that life is messy. She knows that perfection is but a dream from which nothing can be made. She knows that people will fail, the best intentions will often miss the mark, the best relationships dissolve. Yet she persists.

“The need for approval, the need to control things, and the need for external power are needs that are based on fear. This kind of power is not the power of pure potentiality . . . or REAL power. When we experience the power of the Self, there is an absence of fear, there is no compulsion to control, and no struggle for approval or external power.”

~ Deepak Chopra

The spiritual master recognizes that potentiality arises into form through the cracks in our illusions of control. He knows that chaos is the field of creation. He knows the seed must break apart for the tree to grow.  he encourages the chaos, the upsets, the mystery – but within an atmosphere of Love, Compassion, and holding harmless. He knows that the true struggle is always within.

“The master understands that the universe is forever out of control.” ~ Lao Tzu

“What can I do to transform this quaking mess into the mind of the true mystic?” ~ Alan Watts

“Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, canceled, made nothing dipped in oblivion? If not, you will never really change.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Spiritual Mastery

If we choose the path of mastery, we must face a few truths. One is that our lives will become more challenging as we challenge ourselves to greater levels of realization. Another is that we will have to shed some ideas, habits, and practices which no longer serve us, if they ever did. And we must give up the need to be conditionally accepted by others based upon whether we please them. We must give up the idea that mastery is a competitive concept – one seeks mastery over oneself, not over others; mastery is ultimately about service. Oh, and we must give up on the notion that developing mastery means no more problems. In fact, mastery means sacrificing oneself to the bigger challenges which await at the higher levels of realization.

The Perils of New Thought include the decision whether to seek mastery or to have some other way of being in New Thought – something more casual, shall we say? Whichever pathway we take has its own set of challenges and rewards. Mastery offers the greater opportunity to be of meaningful contribution and service to creation.

“All masters were once foolish apprentices and to know the process that mastery requires is to also know that self-esteem is not found in perfection but in the fundamental belief that with practice, the learner will improve.” 

~ Elizabeth Napp

As always, your comments are welcome!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

NOTE: The new book SPIRAL DYNAMICS IN ACTION is out and available at Amazon.com!

And, of course, my book is there as well!


This is a difficult post for me to write and publish.Especially right after my most recent post – WHY I LOVE NEW THOUGHT (LINK). I guess it is a case of divine timing.

It was inspired by a comment to a previous post on spiritual leadership (LINK). In my professional life, I have served for 24 years as a police officer and for 21 years as a minister of Religious Science. I say serve, because both roles are service if done properly – if approached from a consciousness of giving of your best self to something bigger than yourself. So I have served, imperfectly to be sure, but I have been able to give of myself in a variety of roles and have, for the most part, avoided the sense of separation that affects so many in the “service” professions.


From many in my law enforcement family today there is a sense of indignation that the citizens that they serve(d) would see them as harmful, even as casual assassins. But rather than a recourse to deep inner exploration, there is an angry retort, a “HOW DARE YOU!” attitude accompanied by a refusal to give an inch in the grand debate about relationships with citizens of color in the United States. This is a response from fear, from a tribal sense of us vs. them that has been cultivated over time in the police culture. It is the result of our (yes OUR) collective failure to teach things like emotional intelligence and the Shadow (LINK) in our culture. I include this information because my experiences in law enforcement have helped to frame my viewpoints about leadership integrity.

When I see the long line of spiritual leaders who have failed to show emotional intelligence (LINK) or spiritual intelligence (LINK) in their work, I weep. From the Catholic priests who abused children (and others) (LINK) to the televangelists who scam their emotionally unintelligent flock, to the New Thought ministers who have run afoul of ethical standards, we can see the difficulties inherent in positions of “service.”

Some years ago, since I had a background in law enforcement, I was asked to help revise the then RSI/ICSL policies regarding ethical complaints and investigations. In order to see what was needed, I reviewed a number of old cases (which I will not reveal here). What I saw was a number of very sad and disturbing cases where ministers or practitioners preyed upon or took advantage of those in their circle of influence.

What were the main drivers of these ethical and legal violations? The same ones that I saw in police work:

  • Money
  • Sex
  • Power

Actually, when sex was involved it was usually about power, not just sex. All of these issues arise from a sense of separation and a lack of self-value of one sort or another. Our New Thought teachings and their emphasis on positive thinking can form a mask, or create a spiritual bypass, over our inner fears, hatreds, and dysfunctions – even when they appear out in the open. The spiritual leader who becomes toxic (not in essence, but in actions) will often attract into his circle people whose own inner needs make them enablers of the dysfunctions of others. The Law of Attraction (LINK) works here to create a situation where harm can and does occur.


In many of our spiritual communities, we are conditioned to believe that the spiritual leader has the deepest knowledge of the teaching and that his knowledge should not be questioned; then, we may observe dysfunctional behavior and have to decide what to do about it. If we are lacking in emotional and spiritual intelligence, we will likely form a mindset that makes what the leader is doing acceptable and understandable, or we will deny it entirely. Those upon whom the toxic leader is preying will often come to be seen as the ones who have done something wrong.

The kinds of behaviors that occur in such cases can include relatively common ones, such as the spiritual leader being needy and creating a group around her who enable her neediness by trying to give her what she is not providing for herself. This can include attention, money, companionship, even romantic relationships, etc. Such a situation can upend the vision and core values of the community and put all of the community’s energy into serving the spiritual leader.

Another version of this is the spiritual leader with an autocratic streak, who insists on complete fealty from members, including board members and other leaders, to his authority. Often, people are bullied and trampled emotionally by such a leader. Trust quickly evaporates in such conditions and those members with a healthy sense of self-value will likely depart; leaving behind those who are inclined to be the victims and enablers of such behavior.

There may be no obvious great harm in this, at least not in the short term, however, the spiritual community who has such a leader will expend most of its energy in “supporting the spiritual leader” rather than in developing spiritually intelligent members.

Poster - Jung - Shadow Warrior

Other behaviors can be more damaging – such as a spiritual leader who borrows money from members or lets members pay for his expenses on a regular basis; or who takes “advances” on future earnings from the community bank account; or who embezzles the spiritual community’s funds.

A spiritual leader who takes advantage of others sexually through relationships established in classes or in counseling settings is another example of such seriously harmful behavior. Such abuses of power are always out of integrity – even though some have led to marriages which have endured. It is a paradox – but one that more often has a sad outcome for the spiritual leaders’ “romantic” victims.


So what are we to do when such situations occur? The spiritual leader is expected to be the living example of integrity and spiritual intelligence. What do we do when he or she is not?

In Part 2, I will explore what resources exist for such issues within the spiritual organizations, and what options members of a spiritual community whose leader is expressing toxic behaviors have in creating a healing outcome.

In Part 3, I will explore healing options for the spiritual leaders who find themselves out of integrity.

As always, your comments are welcome – however, I am asking that any comments about specific cases not include specific identifying information (names/places), for what I think are obvious reasons. Comments which include such information will not be published.

I am available for personal consultations – contact me at DrJim-Lockard@ATT.net for that purpose.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard