THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 3

“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In Parts 1 & 2 (LINK) (LINK), we explored the overall idea of diversity and inclusion and a macro view, the larger cultural patterns which got us where we are and which we must recognize if we are to be effective in expanding diversity and bringing inclusion to our New Thought spiritual communities. In Part 3, I explore how the culture and values of the local spiritual community affects these efforts.

Cartoon - Diversity - my-kinda-church_2

The culture of the spiritual community is perhaps the most critical element because it determines every aspect of the behaviors and expectations of its members. Whether or not a spiritual community is even open to greater diversity is determined by its culture. Think of the group culture as a combination of the individual belief systems present and the historically encultured traditions and values of the spiritual community. This embodied culture is what greets the newcomer and lets the long-time member recognize the community even though there has been a lot of turnover in membership. This culture is both conscious and unconscious; it is somewhat fluid but also generally stable in nature. New members are taught about the culture informally and perhaps formally in New Member Classes.

One thing which is evident by looking at most New Thought spiritual communities – the local cultures tend to lead to little or no diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, LGBTQIA+, and even age. The fact that this is the reality means that the culture, most likely unconsciously, has simply continued to support a cultural belief in sameness. While me must consider macro and demographic factors as noted in Part 2 (LINK) of this series, it is very likely that any desire for diversity has not been matched by a change in the cultural consciousness.

Cartoon - Church Diversity

As we will see in Part 4 with individual consciousness, group cultures benefit by having a strong conscious awareness of what the culture consists of. Otherwise, people may feel unwelcome at the same time that community members are trying to welcome them. A newcomer’s experience of a spiritual community will be a combination of her experience of the collective culture as expressed AND the individuals she encounters who express their own consciousness, some of which will reflect the collective culture and some of which may not.

Some things to consider: Is there a strong inner circle in your spiritual community who create barriers to “outsiders”? Are the social functions geared toward one particular group? What about age-consciousness in your community? Are young people respected for what they think or treated like children? Are LGBTQIA+ or cis-gendered people made to feel like outsiders? Does the spiritual leader show preferences in terms of which social activities are attended and which affinity groups are visited? Are there efforts to have diversity on the platform and on important committees in the spiritual community?

I was once a spiritual leader of a center in a rather wealthy area. I met a man socially and after we had a discussion on spirituality, invited him to attend one Sunday. He did. I entered the auditorium that next Sunday and saw him sitting in a seat next to a woman, a long-time member of the community, who had her arm around him and told me, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this one!” Needless to say, we never saw him again at our center. The woman, who understood what should be done to make people feel welcomed, ignored that understanding for some reason. So, in that case, while the collective culture may have been a good fit for the man, at least one individual he encountered led him to decide to avoid our spiritual community from that point forward.

 

These kinds of individual incidents will happen under the best circumstances, but hopefully, they become teachable moments for leadership. The path to greater diversity and inclusion can be a long one for some communities. There must be both an openness to the idea and follow-through with cultural changes, which can and do take time.

“We are not summoned to perfection; that is the realm of the gods; we are summoned to mindfulness, to such fields of divine reference with sensitivity, respect, and humility.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst,

Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

Being mindful of creating sacred space in spiritual community should be at the top of the list for spiritual leadership in establishing the atmosphere in which people show up and are welcomed. While we can never do this perfectly, a regular reinforcement of the principles of mindful community should be expressed and exemplified by spiritual leadership, both ministers and lay leaders. Otherwise, the community becomes more of a social club with all of the unconscious aspects and biases of that kind of life. Conscious awareness of the sacred nature of the spiritual community, its activities, and of service in that community are essential. Sacred service, rather than volunteering, should be the norm, and sacred service implies that service is a spiritual practice.

No matter how well-meaning we may be, we bring our biases to spiritual community. Unconscious attitudes have a way of showing up and all too frequently, can lead to those who would bring diversity to a spiritual community feeling diminished or separated from the group. I had a young adult tell me once that he no longer attended the New Thought center he loved because older people treated him like their grandson, even pinching his cheek (!) – he was nearly 30 years old. I am certain that that act was both well-meaning and unconscious – and it drove him away. When we unconsciously project our own needs onto others, we do not see them for who they are, rather for who we need or want them to be. This will be described in greater depth in Part 4.

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”

~ William Sloan Coffin, Jr.

 

“Our unwillingness to see our own faults and the projection of them onto others is the source of most quarrels, and the strongest guarantee that injustice, animosity, and persecution will not easily die out.”

~ C.G. Jung, “Depth Psychology and Self-Knowledge”

 We learn in New Thought that nothing changes on the outside until something changes on the inside. The idea that a spiritual community which is lacking in diversity can simply announce that it is open and welcoming and that diversity will manifest is contrary to the principles of New Thought. For an outer change to manifest, an inner change must occur. If diversity is not present, and could be present, then a change in consciousness which removes the invisible barrier to the new manifestation must occur.

diversity

The work of creating a meaningful invitation to diversity is difficult and can be painful. Confronting one’s biases always is. And it is only the first step, for when diverse people start showing up, how will they be included? Tokenism serves no one. Forced inclusion may be necessary at first, however, that is a sign that deeper spiritual work is needed. The culture of the spiritual community must be genuinely open to the work necessary to make this shift from the limited past to a more open future. There is one level of collective culture which may be open to diversity, but a higher level of openness may be needed to establish true inclusion.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

Inclusion-strategy

In Part 4, I will explore the individual element – how our own biases can sabotage our best efforts to bring greater diversity and inclusion – and how to heal those issues.

“We are continuously being drawn into situations or circumstances, sometimes against our objective will, but seldom against our unconscious willing. Most of our mental imagery is unconscious. It comes either from previous experiences or the experiences of the race. There is much in the subconscious of which the intellect is not aware, but one thing is certain, our subjective or unconscious thought patterns can be changed. We have created them and we can change them.” 

~ Ernest Holmes, The Art of Life

As always, your comments along the way are encouraged! As are stories of success or lack of success in doing this work in your own spiritual communities. Please share this post with others who may find it of interest.

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

 

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THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 2

‎”Diversity … is not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.”

~ William Chase

I begin Part 2 (LINK to Part 1) this exploration of diversity and inclusion in spiritual community with the macro, or societal level – the grand scale of things, if you will. There are broad and deep patterns in our society and cultures which carry values and tradition like a kind of cultural DNA, resulting in patterns of behavior at a larger scale which affect the experiences of both local spiritual communities and individuals. Statements such as the opening quote from William Chase, which may seem to be valid on their face, may be easily dismissed or rejected due to these deep cultural values.

VMEMEs Simplified

Spiral Dynamics (LINK) is a good model to use to look at these values, and we will do a bit of that in this post. Since most New Thought spiritual communities are in the United States, let us use that nation as an example of how these broad cultural DNA patterns show up. The dominant values systems (vMEMEs in Spiral Dynamics terms), are different today than they were 50 or more years ago, and new systems continue to emerge as older systems fade. In the developed world, where Modernist-Orange and Postmodernist-Green are on the rise, people are making choices about being in community (or not) differently than when Traditionalist-Blue was more present in the mix. At Blue, you seek conformity, membership, authority, and obedience. Your parents and/or grandparents probably went to church because they were supposed to, and that values system was strongly supported by the family and the larger culture. All that began to change with the rise of Modernist -Orange in the mid-20th Century and Postmodernist-Green in the late-20th and early 21st Centuries. Orange is individualistic, believes in scientific rationalism, and is entrepreneurial, seeking to escape the “herd mentality” of Blue. Those centered at Orange are more comfortable in a secular society, or one in which religion is on the sidelines.

The emergence of Green brings a return to a communal values system, but one very different from Blue. Green wants intimacy and is very relativistic (“Who is to say what is right?” – Blue’s response, “We are!”). Green values diversity, whereas Blue values conformity. Orange will do business with anyone but will tend to associate with those who have similar values. Those at Green view Blue as stodgy, rigid, and old-fashioned; those at Blue tend to view Green as ‘woo-woo” and untethered to proper authority and values.

Spiral-staircase

‎”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 it’s richness and significance.”

~ Dr. Howard Thurman

Each nation and the regions within nations have their own mixture of these vMEMEs or values systems. In the United States, as a general rule, the east and west coasts tend to have more Green and less Blue; the center of the country more Blue and less Green. Cities tend to be higher on the spiral than rural areas, which makes sense because, after all, spiral stages are based on complexity of Living Conditions. Big cities tend to be more complex than rural areas and small towns. Orange has a bit heavier presence in urban areas but is present everywhere that commerce and science are important. These are generalizations and there will be pockets where the relationships are a bit different.

There are other factors as well, including demographics – where people live and the racial, ethnic, chronological, and cultural makeup of different places. Some areas have a significant known LGBTQ population, some do not; some have higher percentages of certain racial and ethnic groups than others. All of these factors have an effect on a spiritual community which is trying to become more diverse. Again, urban spiritual communities will tend to be more diverse because cities tend to have more diverse populations than suburban and rural areas. More people in the Green vMEME in urban areas, fewer in suburban, where Orange dominates, and rural areas where there is more Blue.

diversity_2 (1)

“He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I was the spiritual leader at CSL Simi Valley, California (2008-2015), a suburban bedroom community for Los Angeles with a population at the time of about 130,000 people, the racial makeup of the city was 92% white, 7% Hispanic, and 1% other, according to census records. Our chances of growing beyond the 3 African-American members already there were rather slim. The Hispanic population was very Catholic. A small population of Indian-Americans (almost all recruited from India to work at large tech and financial companies in the area) mostly attended the two mosques in town or did not attend services. There was one New Thought community (us); two mosques, one synagogue, 13 Mormon stakes (500 to a stake), two Catholic churches, six mainline Protestant Churches, and 140 fundamentalist Christian congregations in the city at the time. There were 0 organized and visible LGBTQ groups.

We did make efforts to be more diverse, but with little success from a demographic standpoint. We were able to expand membership and add more young adults by live streaming and other activities. When I left, there were still 3 African-American members. I was replaced by an African-American minister, but the demographics of the city and the center have not changed dramatically. Demographics matter.

This does not mean that you give up, but it does mean that spiritual leadership needs to be aware of how to prioritize resources and energy regarding what is achievable. The US suburbs are, after all, the result of a system from the mid-20th Century based on racism. There was a huge migration of white populations out of cities, enabled by the automobile, the G.I. Bill, and practices of red-lining by realtors, banks, and insurance companies, to ensure that minority populations could not move to the suburbs in large numbers. While some things have changed over time, the overwhelming whiteness of most of America’s suburbs has not.

I am not saying that these items are excuses. But they are factors in the makeup of spiritual communities. And, as we will see in the next two posts, there are other factors, within our spiritual communities themselves, and within us as individuals, which make it even more difficult to effectively invite greater diversity. All of these factors must be acknowledged and included in the plans and strategies which emerge from our visioning and planning about greater diversity and inclusion in our spiritual communities.

“The range of our possibilities at the present time does not extend far beyond the range of our present concepts. As we bring ourselves to a greater vision, we induce a greater concept and thereby demonstrate more in our experience. In this way there is a continuous growth and unfoldment taking place.”

~ Ernest Holmes

 

Understanding the area demographics and the larger societal patterns are important. There is a wealth of easily accessible data on trends and patterns in worship attendance and religious affiliation. All of it shows that we are in a time of decreasing participation in organized religious activities. The Orange vMEME is often the place where people leave traditional religion and become secular or not affiliated. It is also the stage where they become open to New Thought. New Thought principles tend to appeal to those at Orange and Green on the spiral. There can be differences in how the spiral values systems exist within various populations within a community – and to me, having a broad representation of vMEMEs in a spiritual community is another form of diversity, one which is rarely examined. Also, different groups within a larger community can be at different stages on the spiral – this is especially true of recent immigrants from places where the dominant spiral values are different from those in the US. Many recent immigrants from places other than Canada, Europe, and Australia will be more comfortable in a traditional congregation of some sort. Research shows that the Catholic Church in the US is stagnant in overall growth – it is only not shrinking because of immigration from Latin American countries.

If Orange and Green are interested in New Thought spirituality and are growing in numbers, why isn’t New Thought growing in attendance and number of communities? I believe that there are two main reasons for this (and recognize that some local communities are growing and thriving, but the overall trends are stagnant or downward). One reason is the overall patterns toward secularization are very strong – there is little societal motivation to join another church after leaving one’s church of origin. There is not much which can be done about that pattern. The second reason has more to do with New Thought itself.

In the early 20th Century, when New Thought was growing and expanding, with new branches and churches opening in pretty significant numbers, the overall population was just beginning to move from a Traditionalist-Blue Values System into a Modernist-Orange Values System. There was still a significant societal value regarding attending worship services. Adopting Christian imagery and terms (church, ministry, sanctuary, hymn, prayer, etc.) helped to make the transition to New Thought less threatening for those leaving more traditional denominations. And remember, most of the New Thought founders, including Holmes and the Fillmores, considered themselves to be Christian. Additionally, those with a Jewish heritage flocked to New Thought communities in many places.

By the late 20th Century, the Blue vMEME had faded quite a bit. Orange was the dominant vMEME and Orange valued scientific rationalism over religious doctrine. Societal pressure to attend worship had faded significantly. Sundays rapidly became secular days, with the sacred time for worship no longer protected. Stores were open, youth league games were scheduled, and the standard Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 workday became the exception rather than the rule. The emergence of the Green vMEME made the Christian imagery and terms even less appealing to many. In much of the US, as in much of Europe, worship attendance is not only not supported by the larger culture, it is increasingly frowned upon.

Because of these factors, New Thought’s Christian trappings have gone from an overall asset to a liability over the last century. This was made clear in research done in 2007 & 2008 by the two Religious Science organizations during the re-branding process (LINK) that led to the name Centers for Spiritual Living. That research led to some changes, but has been largely ignored in recent times, the branding has not been updated and more research has not been conducted. But there is no question that the larger patterns and trends continue to change toward greater secularization in the general population, particularly those centered at Orange and Green on the spiral.

All of this shows, I hope, that there are many moving parts in today’s society which impact how diversity and inclusion programs can be developed and integrated into spiritual communities.

In Part 3, we will explore factors in the cultures of local spiritual communities which affect diversity and inclusion.

“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

As always, your comments are welcomed. Please share this blog post with others who may find it of value. Thank you!

Copyright 2019- Jim Lockard

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING A MORE DIVERSE & INCLUSIVE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY, PART 1

“Our knowledge is not reliable; it is partial and undermined by the fact that the unconscious has a separate truth dimension, of which we are mostly oblivious. Ironically, the deeper truth resides in what we habitually dismiss as illusion, fantasy, myth and distortion.”

~ David Tacey

As I introduce this multi-part series, I will say right up front:

  1. I wish to see diversity & inclusion succeed in every way possible in New Thought organizations and spiritual communities.

  2. I am an old cis-gender white male and I recognize that “my people” have done great harm with regard to all of us recognizing our Oneness. I am no longer in active ministry either, and you may take what I write with appropriate skepticism.

  3. My purpose is not to discourage anyone from doing work to increase diversity & inclusion. Rather, it is to aid in the likelihood of success by helping everyone to realize that this issue is more complex than it may appear. It is not just a matter of inviting those who are not already in your communities to start coming; it is also about recognizing the larger dynamics involved and being willing and able to make what may well be significant personal and organizational changes to increase the likelihood of your invitations being welcomed, and that once diversity is actualized, inclusion happens naturally and organically.

 

Diversity Inclusion Montage 1

The addition of diversity as a value and the creation of the Diversity and Inclusion Commission are signs that Centers for Spiritual Living is serious about making our organization more inclusive and diverse. In many parts of the organization, this is a major part of the conversation, not least among our younger ministers. I am sure that equivalent steps are being taken in other New Thought organizations as well. After all, how can we create #TheBelovedCommunity without diversity and inclusion?

When I travel around and visit many of our member communities, I notice that while diversity may be a value, it is not necessarily a reality. In most of our member communities, one would have to be told that diversity is an organizational value – it would not be obvious. I also note that in most cases, where you see diversity – of race and ethnicity especially – it is in areas where diversity is present in the larger community. Even then, the leadership of local spiritual communities must make efforts to create an environment where diversity can flourish, where people are welcoming to those who are different, and where those differences are not invisible, but are recognized, honored, and included in the life of the spiritual community.

I am writing this series of posts to do at least two things: first, to encourage greater diversity of all kinds in New Thought spiritual communities, and second, to help spiritual leaders understand why actualizing greater diversity can be challenging. Most spiritual leaders who have engaged with this issue have come to realize there is a difference between what people say that desire – greater diversity and inclusion – and what actually happens.

In this series, we will examine the different factors which affect the makeup of our spiritual communities. These include large demographic factors happening nationally and internationally, local demographics and cultural factors (values systems as in Spiral Dynamics) where a spiritual community is located; the psychology and culture of the spiritual community itself; the individual psychological factors involved, such as unconscious patters and biases through a Jungian lens; and, New Thought principles and how they allow us to interact with these other factors.

Actualizing greater diversity and inclusion (which are two different things, by the way), is more than just a decision. It involves a number of dynamics across a spectrum of human values systems, patterns of belief, and behaviors. Many well-meaning efforts fail to address these issues and do not result in the desired level of diversity – in fact, they may make things worse.

Malcom Gladwell’s statement “Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind,” is one of those quotes that people may agree is true for different reasons. Those who have accepted the value of diversity and inclusion as welcome, even essential, may see it as a call for those who have not to come to accept the wise world view already accepted by some. Those who do not see diversity and inclusion as all that desirable may see it as a call for those who are so self-righteous about the issue to stop badgering them and “wake up and smell the coffee.”

The human tendency to feel more comfortable with one’s own kind is ancient and ingrained in us to a significant extent. For our tribal forebearers, inviting diversity into a community could well have been a death sentence for a variety of reasons. Banishment from the tribe, was likewise akin to a death sentence. This tribal values system is a part of each of us, and while it may be more intelligent to move past it in our postmodern world, there are reasons why not everyone will be on board – or at least not at the same time.

On a more individual basis, when diversity and inclusion are treated like a pill which must be swallowed, the natural tendency of many people will be to resent both the need for the pill and whoever is administering it. Statements of justification, however valid, will run up against ingrained values systems and beliefs in the unconscious mind (meaning that they are inaccessible to direct conscious intervention). This leads to resistance. Telling me that something is good for me is not the best way to get me to eat or drink it – “eat your spinach!” My personal programming from childhood tells me to immediately be suspicious that it will not taste good. So, I will resist and perhaps demur. As an adult, I can fairly easily overcome this resistance and take a taste, but the resistance is there, nonetheless.

“Resistance blooms naturally in the presence of change. You will encounter resistance in attempts at ascendance, physical or spiritual.”

~ Gregg Levoy

If you tell me that it is mandatory that I taste the “good for me” substance, I may well review my agreements with you and/or your organization to see if I have other options. I will do this even if I agree with you that the substance may well be good for me. I don’t like being told what to do and I especially don’t like being told what to value. I will unconsciously rebel, at least to some degree, in such circumstances, even if I agree with you on a conscious level. How this resistance is responded to by spiritual leaders and other community members is critically important. If those who resist are belittled or shut-down, their resistance will likely harden. The breakthrough may never come.

The other morning, as I opened my French language homework (Dorianne and I are studying French) and saw what the assignment was, I recoiled and briefly considered leaving the course of study. Now, I am not going to do that. I will “eat my spinach,” but I won’t be entirely happy about it. I will do it because, as an adult, I see the value in continuing, despite my discomfort. It is helpful that I am continually reminded of the value of knowing how to speak with my neighbors here in France.

The value of diversity and inclusion, on its own, may not be a strong enticement for some. We in the United States live in a nation which elected Donald Trump as president, and the values associated with the worldviews represented by that choice – among them being a desire for less diversity – are clearly prevalent enough for its adherents to gain political power. In the UK, the Brexit vote was made largely out of a visceral desire to make that nation less diverse. Similar electoral results in Italy, Austria, Poland, Germany, Brazil, the Philippines and other places should get our attention. Diversity and inclusion are not currently universal values of humans in developed nations; in fact, they are relatively new to the scene in human cultural development. Spiral Dynamics (LINK) can be helpful in understanding these dynamics.

You may respond, but this is New Thought, and we are different – we are more conscious, more loving, more open than the average in our larger culture. And I agree with these statements, in general, people in New Thought spiritual communities are more likely to see diversity and inclusion as values worth supporting. This is critically important, because an openness to a different way of being, even if not universally supported, is necessary for any community to be willing to go through the ordeal of actual change required to actualize such a value where it is not currently manifest. Because we also know that saying that we want diversity and inclusion is different that actually making the changes in behaviors, both collective and individual, which are necessary to make greater diversity and inclusion a reality.

Diversity Inclusion Montage 2

To this I add the very important and often forgotten concept of how change occurs. We recognize in all New Thought teachings that in order to manifest something different in one’s life, one has to effect a change in consciousness, which leads to a change in conditions. As Michael Beckwith has said so many times, “What must I become to manifest my vision?” So, this question can be expanded to say, “What must this spiritual community become to manifest our vision of greater diversity and inclusion?” When I see and hear discussions about increasing diversity and inclusion, I rarely hear this approach. More often it is something like this, “We are already welcoming and affirming, why don’t we have greater diversity?”

This second statement puts the power outside and seems to indicate a belief that my experience of life will change without me changing. In other words, this statement is at best a misunderstanding of New Thought principles.

In the next posts, I will explore diversity and inclusion efforts from the macro to the micro – from the society at large, to the culture of the spiritual community, to the individual psychology involved. Then, in the final segment, I will explore how to effectively apply New Thought principles to each of these areas in order to increase the likelihood of creating and maintaining successful diversity and inclusion programs.

As always, your comments along the way are encouraged! As are stories of success or lack of success in doing this work in your own spiritual communities. Please share this post with others who may find it of interest.

 

Copyright 2019 – Jim Lockard

I am again honored to be a presenter at the Inspired Writer’s Retreat: March 23 & 24

at the beautiful Château de Bossey near Geneva, Switzerland.

Chateau de Bossey.jpg

For more information and to register:

INSPIRED WRITER’S RETREAT (LINK)

SPIRITUAL HEALING & TRAUMA – MAKING A SOUL CONNECTION

“Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world – all things and all beings – are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesians as mana, to the Sioux Indians as wakonda, to the Hindus as shakti, and the Christians as the power of God. Its manifestation in the psyche is termed, by the psychoanalysts, libido. And its manifestation in the cosmos is the structure and flux of the universe itself.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Healing, which is the essence of New Thought spiritual principles, deals with a triune of realms: the physical and metaphysical realms, plus the realm of pure Spirit. It is a process of revealing the perfection of the soul through a consciousness which has become unaware of its own radiance. It is never solely in one realm or another, it is always holistically present through the whole being – from soul/essence to outer physical being.

“We are ever renewed by the passage of the Divine light through our consciousness.”

~ Ernest Holmes

When we view spiritual healing as a linear process (Unhealed Condition → Prayer Treatment → Change of Consciousness → Healed Condition) we miss a greater Truth. Most of what we are is beyond language and calculations about matter – most of what we are is ephemeral energy directed by an intelligence which “thinks” in symbols and archetypes. Our physical being of cells, organs, and systems is also beyond the merely physical; it is a community of beingness with many intelligences converging to become what we call “me.”

The limitations of medical treatments, now or at any time in history, are that they offer linear treatment regimens to a non-linear being. Sometimes, this is enough, but more often there is no healing unless the deeper systems of beingsoul and consciousness – come into harmony with the medical treatment. In New Thought, we recognize these deeper systems as the most important, recognizing that, when properly aligned, they can heal without medical intervention.

However, we do not eschew medical practices, recognizing that they can be beneficial, especially when our consciousness is not able to accept our own healing potentialities.

“In this Science, we believe that man’s life is a drama which takes place on three planes:  the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.  We should have no objections to any form of healing, for anything that helps to overcome suffering is good, whether it be a pill or a prayer.  We believe in any method which produces results, for each has its place in the Whole.”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Science of Mind,” Page 191

When healing is required, it is necessary that the processes of healing be available. This means that one must know how to facilitate the healing process by utilizing or invoking the three realms. Sometimes, this is not possible. A person may be incapable of aligning thoughts and emotions in a way which allows healing to occur. In such cases, it can be helpful to have assistance from others, who may treat for the person. Another way forward is through ritual, compassion, and other actions which may help the person to move to a salutary state of mind more receptive to healing.

As we learn more about psychology, we are seeing that not everyone may be able at any given moment to create a healing consciousness. This can be due to a number of things, from brain injury, to trauma, to improper chemicals in the body. The condition may be temporary or permanent. Trauma can result in an inability to create mental patterns which facilitate healing.

PTSD Word Cloud

Trauma, resulting in what is currently termed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition which is undoubtedly on the rise in our society. Once thought of as applying only to soldiers in combat, it is now realized that any kind of physical or emotional trauma can result in some degree of PTSD or similar disorder. Those affected are often unable to form the mental patterns necessary for their own physical and emotional well-being. They may also fail to understand that their condition is unusual and not seek help.

In a prescient column in the New York Times (LINK), David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) speaks to the need to treat the effects of trauma holistically, including soul issues (what we in New Thought would consider metaphysical issues).

“Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.”

~ David Brooks

The sea change necessary to bring our understanding of what it means to be human is underway, but a long way from complete. We have only seen a mind-body connection for about half a century. Incorporating the soul will take a while longer. But we in New Thought are already there – at least we have a teaching which is already there. And we, too, must broaden our vision of how potential is actualized into experience. We must see that there are times when individuals and groups CANNOT know the truth. And, just maybe, we need to expand our spiritual toolkits to include things that might help people bridge the gap. These might include clearly thought-out rituals, initiation rites, and the like, which do more than celebrate something. To be effective at the levels needed they must include no small amount of challenge and a willingness to create discomfort along a path to recovery or to a new level of being.

(Edward) Tick (LINK) points out that most ancient cultures put returning soldiers through purification rituals. The men came back from battle and the terrible things they had done there, and they were given a chance to cleanse, purify and rejoin the community. The community would take possession of the guilt the soldiers may have felt for the things they had to do on its behalf.”

~ David Brooks

Purification Ritual - Japan

Purification Ritual – Japan

Such rituals are also needed for survivors of abuse, for first responders, for spiritual communities where trauma has occurred. We need to facilitate the reconnection with the soul where that connection has been distorted. This will require a new skillset for most or all of us. You might begin by studying Joseph Campbell (LINK). It is a way of working toward #AWorldThatWorksForEveryone.

“I wish our culture had many more rites of passage, communal moments when we celebrated a moral transition. There could be a communitywide rite of passage for people coming out of prison, for forgiveness of a personal wrong, for people who felt they had come out the other side of trauma and abuse. There’d be a marriage ceremony of sorts to mark the moment when a young person found the vocation he or she would dedicate life to.

“It’ll take a lot to make our culture a thick moral culture. But one way or another, nations and people have to grow a soul big enough to enclose the traumas that haunt them.”

~ David Brooks

 

As always, your comments are appreciated.

 

 Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

MILLENNIALS IN NEW THOUGHT – AN UPDATE – PART 1

Having blogged about New Thought Millennials before (LINK) (LINK), I thought it was time for an update. I reached out to two key leaders in the Centers for Spiritual Living Millennial population, Rev. Savanna Noelle Riker, and Rev. Abigail Schairer, with some questions about what’s up with Millennials in general, and with Centers for Spiritual Living’s (CSL) Young Adults in particular. This post is devoted to Savanna’s responses. Abigail’s will appear in a future post. Welcome guest bloggers!

Savanna

Rev. Savanna Noel Riker

NTE BLOG: What is happening in the Centers for Spiritual Living Young Adult Movement these days?

Rev. Savanna: The CSL Young Adult movement is growing! In the 18 years I have grown up as a youth and young adult in this teaching, I have always talked about and have wanted to see the progress and inspiration to lead our organization into a completely new paradigm, to feel the kind of energy exhibited from these young people who make you want to get out of bed in the morning! I’m finally seeing it unfold before my eyes, and it is so moving. The energy of the young adult movement is palpable, joy-filled, exciting and deeply passionate about a world that works for everyone (#aworldthatworksforeveryone). It is taking our mission and vision to a whole other level, through action and compassionate being. Young adults interested in our teaching are sprouting up all over the nation.

CSL Next Gen Retreat 1

Rev. Abigail at NextGen Retreat.

The young adult movement is always seeking more events and ways to connect because often, they are the only one or part of a small group of 3-5 at any given spiritual community miles from each other. We realize that CSL will not survive with the current paradigm alone. The NextGen Retreat hosted by Center for Spiritual Living Peninsula is a retreat for late 20/early 30-somethings, gathered together in the northern California mountains, where we come together in spiritual practice, silence, rejuvenation, process, community, sharing our talents and ideas of how we actively want to make this world better.

CSL Next Gen Retreat 3

This retreat was awe inspiring to me to hear the topics of interest from these young adults. Even my own call for ministry was deepened and ignited in a bigger way because of the power of this event and all those attending. There is this great need for connection, unconditional love, education, the freedom to express as you are, and a commitment to personal self-growth and collective change for the better. We left the retreat as a huge family. I continue to hear even now after all these years, “Where are the other young adults in CSL? We want to attract more young people into our community.” And here I am thinking… “You’re preaching to the choir…. It is SO much better than it once was 20 years ago.” But we can still do better – we are rethinking the models of “church,” and outreach and that is super exciting.

NTE Blog: What are people in their 20’s & 30’s looking for in a spiritual community?

Rev. Savanna: Young adults long for deep listening and to be heard, seek connection, authentic, vulnerable leaders, education, personal development, and tools that are relevant to their lives and the world they live in.

NTE Blog: How does this teaching apply to my life in the world I live in?

Rev. Savanna: What came through the most at our retreat was not just a spiritual community where we practice but where we take action in the community and in the world. Spirituality is tied directly to a cause, development, a mission or purpose to most our CSL young adults. They are interested in topics like: sustainable living, clean energy and being good stewards to the planet, social justice, human rights issues, impoverished and disenfranchised communities, LGBTQ rights, cross-cultural immersion, travel, spirituality and sacred sexuality just to name a few.

NTE Blog: How have New Thought principles helped you in your own life?

Rev. Savanna: New Thought principles have deepened my own relationship with myself and the Divine. They have continually reminded me of the innate power that is within me to transform myself and the world. My spiritual practice has guided and directed my path, and ministry has surely given me MANY opportunities to challenge my faith and my beliefs. I have the powerit isn’t something outside of me. It has helped me manifest amazing opportunities, resources, jobs, support, abundance, love, and just what I needed when I asked for it. This teaching has given me the tools to navigate my life from an empowered conscious place, trusting that Life is for me. I just have to get out of my own way. 🙂

NTE Blog: Thank you, Savanna!

What we are seeing is an echoing of what this blog has been reporting for several years – we are in changing times; New Thought organizations and spiritual communities need to be responsive to these changes. Our Young Adults, from the past decade, who by the way are not so young – Millennials can be in their late 30’s – are demanding different approaches to spiritual community, now and in the future. What is going to be the response?

CSL Next Gen Retreat 2

Masando Hiroaka, Savanna, and Elisha Christopher Hayden-Berrios at NextGen

As always, your comments are encouraged – see below! And feel free to share this post with others who may be interested.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

HOW CAN YOUR MIND HEAL WHEN THE PROBLEM IS YOUR MIND?

“It is our own mental attitude which makes the world what it is for us. Our thoughts make things beautiful, our thoughts make things ugly. The whole world is in our own minds. Learn to see things in the proper light.”

~ Swami Vivekananda

During my 36 years as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen many clients who have been victims of people like those Hannah and my friend describe. I call them New Age Bullies — those who, sometimes with the best intentions, repeat spiritual movement shibboleths, with little understanding of how hurtful their advice can be. Some of their favorite clichés are:

It happened for a reason.

Nobody can hurt you without your consent.

I wonder why you created this illness (or experience).

It’s just your karma.

There are no accidents.

There are no victims.

There are no mistakes.

A variant of this behavior is found in the self-bullying people who blame themselves for being victims of a crime, accident, or illness and interpret such misfortunes as evidence of their personal defects or spiritual deficiencies.”

~ Julia Ingram, MA (LINK)

The two quotes above may seem to be contradictory, but they are not.

They represent two prevalent viewpoints in New Thought, one more traditional, the other something new which is emerging (I know that we are not New Age, per se, however, Ms. Ingram’s quote does apply). They lead me to this question (and lots of others, as you shall see):

If thought is the pathway to healing, what happens when your capacity to think, or to think clearly, is itself impaired in some way?

Today, we know much more about the functioning of the human brain and body than was known at the time of New Thought’s founders. We know that depression is very often not the result of “depressing thoughts,” but due to neurological/chemical imbalances. When under the effects of these imbalances, a person may not be able to form the kinds of thoughts necessary for healing the condition. She/he may also be incapable of seeking help. While this is different from the person who has developed a pattern of negative thinking and who can change with intention and practice, this difference may well not be obvious to external observers.

 

 

 

 

While New Thought teachings say that every condition can be healed, there is evidence that this is not so, and to insist that it is so can be cruel and can deny the process which a person is experiencing. More and more, New Thought spiritual leaders are being confronted with people who are finding many of the absolutist positions and statements of the past to be inaccurate and sometimes harmful.

This statement by Joel Goldsmith speaks to the realization that to truly facilitate healing, one must think in the absolute, not the relative domain – a sentiment echoed by Thomas Troward, Emma Curtis Hopkins, and many others.

“Let us never accept a human being into our consciousness who needs healing, employing, or enriching because if we do, we are his enemy instead of his friend. If there is any man, woman, or child we believe to be sick, sinning or dying, let us do no praying until we have made peace with that brother. The peace we must make with that brother is to ask forgiveness for making the mistake of sitting in judgment on any individual because everyone is God in expression. All is God manifested. God alone constitutes this universe; God constitutes the life, the mind, and the Soul of every individual.”

~ Joel Goldsmith

  • Is there a balance available to us – somewhere between the extremes of “absolute knowing” and belief that our power lies outside of us and we are helpless?
  • A balance which still allows healing for those able to think at the necessary level of clarity, but does not diminish those who may not be willing or able to do so at present, or ever?
  • Is there a more compassionate way to approach mental healing which allows for both beginners and adepts, and for those who experience inner processes which rob them of their ability to use thought to heal?
  • What is the growing edge of New Thought in relation to healing?

The basis of mental healing is to create a consciousness, or a system of beliefs, which is strong enough to change conditions. In the case of physical healing, that means changing conditions in our bodies via a mind-body connection. This often defies our previous conditioning. I came into the Science of Mindteaching with a consciousness that I was subject to external forces – like germs – which, when contracted, required an outside expert – a doctor – to facilitate healing on my behalf. Over time, I came to see that I had the capacity to both heal many conditions myself, and to create a consciousness which avoided many negative conditions altogether. I no longer experienced regular seasonal colds, for example.

While this capacity to heal is authentic, there is also the issue of how we see our evolving capacities – what should I be able to heal and when? Should I feel shame if I contract the flu or if a lover leaves me, or if I lose my job? How should I approach others who are experiencing such conditions if I am not their spiritual teacher, but a friend? How should I approach them if I am their spiritual teacher, with the accountability inherent in such a relationship? Will I simply project my own insecurities onto them and use (or even simply think) some platitude like What’s in your consciousness? as a means of deflecting my own fears?

“Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather and listening. Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions. It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.”

~ Marion Woodman

It is our fear that leads us to “sugar coat” things. Like death, for example. We speak of “transitioning” and “passing on,” avoiding the term “death.” When my daughter died at age 18, many people were quick to tell me about her afterlife experience and how she chose that moment to depart this plane. Our belief system may include a continuing journey of the soul; however, we really don’t know what that is beyond speculation. Ernest Holmes had this to say about reincarnation:

“This idea of reincarnation is held by more people than those who don’t believe in it. Personally, I don’t believe in it, but I don’t know. So I would be ignorant to be dogmatic about it.”

~ From a 1933 Lecture by Ernest Holmes based upon

The Science of Mind, 1926 Edition

 

 

 

 

But we don’t like not knowing, so we speculate. While I appreciated the attempt at kindness from many after my daughter’s death, it was often painful to be told how she chose this to happen and, as one told me, “she misses you but wants you to know that she is in a better place.” There were others, but you get the picture.

When we sugar coat the issues of life, we often, if unintentionally, diminish the experience of those we are trying to comfort or help. It is a fine and difficult line to walk – how to give solace or inspiration to someone without loading it with my own fearful projections? How to deal with repeated failures by someone to heal an illness or to get their life in order without making it more about me than about them? How to balance the need for personal accountability with someone’s current inability to accept that concept for themselves?

As in all things, I believe that we must begin by doing our own inner work. We must grow in emotional and spiritual intelligence, we must recognize our own fears, addictions, and biases and work to release them. They will surely affect our ability to be a compassionate and wise presence for others. As spiritual teachers, we must set and enforce healthy boundaries regarding issues such as who moves into professional-level classes, and how inappropriate behavior is dealt with in all classes. Many of us need to work on our ability to say NO. A proper NO can be the most affirming thing you can say many times.

In conclusion – we want to teach New Thought principles and practices as widely as possible, however, there are some who are not ready. We must realize that when we reduce our insistence on developing a strength of consciousness necessary for healing because some find it too difficult or take offense, that we may be harming all of our students. And we must try to work with those who are offended or depressed by the rigors of the teaching so that they can come to see a greater truth and not feel diminished – while knowing this may not be possible in their lives at the present moment.

Beautiful Tree in Lake

The high calling of spiritual teacher means that one says YES to the requirement for ongoing personal development, for setting and enforcing healthy boundaries, and for working for the good of all students who come to learn. Nothing less will do. And that means having people in our ministries with issues which do not get healed. While frustrating, it does not relieve the teacher of the accountability to be the best living example of the spiritual teachings that she can be. We continue to do prayer-treatment for them, to express compassion toward them, but we may never see a healing occur for them.

“If we think we can guide our brother aright, while our own feet still walk in darkness, we are mistaken. We must first clarify our own vision, then we shall become as lights, lighting the way for others. But can we teach a lesson we have not learned? Can we give that which we do not possess? To suppose so is hypocrisy, a thing to be shunned. Jesus tears the mantle of unreality from the shoulders of hypocrisy, winnowing from the soul of sham and shallowness its last shred of illusion. We cannot see Reality until our eyes are open; until the light of eternal Truth has struck deeply into our own souls.”

~ Ernest Holmes, THE HIDDEN POWER OF THE BIBLE

As always, your comments are appreciated!

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

 

 

EMMA CURTIS HOPKINS – NEW THOUGHT PIONEER

I will be in Budapest for the next two weeks, attending and presenting (LINK) at the Integral Europe Conference 2018, so this will very likely be my last post until I return. When I do return, I will have exciting news about a collaboration I will be doing with the Association for Global New Thought (AGNT – LINK). For now, amidst all the crisis fatigue that many of us share, let’s visit a New Thought pioneer, Emma Curtis Hopkins (September 2, 1849 – April 8, 1925).

“All your affairs, as you now look at them, represent your former way of thinking. They are held together by the glue of your former ideas. Now if you withdraw that glue, what can you expect, but that your affairs will all fall to pieces to let new affairs, representing your new way of thinking establish themselves.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma 2

Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma Curtis Hopkins (LINK) was known as the “teacher of teachers” in New Thought, for she had connections with many, if not most of the founders of the various New Thought denominations. A former protégé of Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science, Hopkins went out on her own and began a seminary in Chicago to teach New Thought principles and spiritual healing. She firmly believed in the power of the mind to heal any condition, and her writing clearly states that conviction. I find it helpful to revisit her work often to reacquaint myself with the strength of her consciousness.

“The world will persist in exhibiting before you what you persist in affirming the world is. ‘The man who molds the vital ethers of omnipresence by right thoughts about its bounty brings forth bountifully.’”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Overcoming fear and doubt is the key to the development of a consciousness powerful enough to manifest whatever we seek in life. What we persist in affirming (positive or negative) brings our consciousness to a state of acceptance for that thing, and we attract it into our life by the Law of Mind. There are no exceptions to this Law.

“If the Truth makes free when it is told, and we are not free, then the Truth has not been told. The Truth that the Good belongs to us is greater than the idea that we might give our time, our labor, our life, and all we are to the Good, and still never satisfy it. To tell how impossible it is for us to give enough to God breeds rebellion at existing orders. To tell that the Good asks nothing of us but to receive its substance, will rest and comfort the people.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

Emma was not one to affirm a victim consciousness, because she knew that such a consciousness was voluntary and, when affirmed with powerful emotion, just as creative as a consciousness of empowerment. Regardless of circumstances, she instructed her students and readers to think positive, empowering, and uplifting thoughts – no excuses!

“All realization of Good externalizes as Good.” 

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

If the Law works perfectly, and we teach that it does, then why do we often fail to trust it? If you want your car to go forward, do you not put the transmission into Drive, trusting that the car will move forward? It would be ridiculous to put it into Reverse out of a lack of trust. How is it that we often do not put the same degree of trust into the Law of Mind, which we have seen work over and over again? Can we not trust the Law of Mind to the same extent that we trust an automobile transmission? Of course we can!

“While true understanding brings power, it brings humility. There is no feeling of mastery one over another, only over error. True words are all of love, and if I speak any other words I do not speak at all, for they are not the utterance of truth. We do not speak true words until the mortal is put quite away-hushed.”

~ Emma Curtis Hopkins

In other words, when we think or speak anything but the truth, we are wasting our time, and, quite possibly, doing damage to ourselves and others. Let us pay more attention to the teachings of Emma Curtis Hopkins and be more in tune with our Truth, activating the great Law of Mind in our favor!

Back in a couple of weeks!

As always, your comments are welcomed!

Beautiful Angel Sculputure 2

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

THIS IS NOT A TEST: BECOMING A SPIRITUAL ADULT

“The universe is never testing you, it’s simply giving you an opportunity to practice all that you say you are.”

~ Maryam Hasnaa

The United States and much of the western (developed) world is in the midst of a temper tantrum. The last two times there were big temper tantrums, we had World Wars I&II, so this is serious business. There is a backlash from many who have been left behind by the increasingly rapid rate of cultural change unfolding across humanity. It is not all that surprising for those who are centered lower on the spiral to be reacting in an immature fashion, but we also have many centered higher on the spiral who are also behaving badly.

VMEMEs Simplified

The temper tantrum of the present has been elected into governments across the west, and more mature voices have been loudly criticized. Social media provides a platform for much of this behavior – the treatment of Senator John McCain and his family as he nears death is a good example. Immature and disdainful comments come from across social media and within the White House and no one there tries to silence them. We are institutionalizing immaturity.

To a significant degree this trend in our politics comes as an angry backlash to two things: the failure of political leaders to affect either the rapid rate of change or to find ways for those who do not adapt to that change to feel better about themselves (both impossible tasks); and, more pointedly, the clear disdain shown by many higher on the spiral for those who are centered at lower levels (“Deplorables” anyone?). When immaturity reigns across the spectrum, we cannot fulfill our potential. Maturity is staying balanced, focused, and, above all, compassionate despite the dissonance around you.

“What was overwhelming to the child can be borne by the adult if he or she has grown in consciousness.”

~ James Hollis, Jungian analyst

A critically important part of the process of learning and applying New Thought principles in one’s life is the realization of a more spiritually mature self. As Cindy Wigglesworth (LINK) and others have shown, spiritual maturity is built upon emotional maturity. Both are essential to heal human systems, whether at the national political level or at the spiritual community level.

SQ21 Intelligences Pyramid

From DEEPCHANGE.com

Spiritual maturity reveals itself at each developmental (spiral) level, but always includes a capacity for kindness and an acceptance of ambiguity. As James Hollis says:

“The test of a psychologically mature person, and therefore spiritually mature, will be found in his or her capacity to handle what one might call the Triple A’s: anxiety, ambiguity and ambivalence.”

~ James Hollis

This “test” is not an exam from the universe – it is simply the out-picturing of one’s consciousness – we are either in the range of spiritual maturity or we have not yet reached it. A spiritually mature person can face the realities of being human, which include anxiety, ambiguity, and ambivalence, while staying in balance. Perhaps spiritual maturity/intelligence is in part the capacity to experience sadness without turning it into resentment.

We are not, by ourselves, going to heal humanity or fix the world – we can, however, learn how to live in this world in a spiritually mature way and by doing that, ripples of influence are generated and added to the overall consciousness of humanity. We can become positive influencers by cultivating a presence of love, kindness, compassion, and personal accountability.

“If you’re looking at the world and not grieving…then you’re not Conscious. But if you’re looking at the world and not rejoicing in the miraculous possibilities for healing it…then you’re Spiritually Immature.”

~ Marianne Williamson

compassionate-heart-cloud

The spiritually mature person does not see life as a test, nor the world as a classroom, nor Spirit as some divine test proctor. Our lives are our reality, and we are designed to naturally learn and grow toward a fuller realization of our human capacities. These capacities are significant, and it takes a level of maturity to govern and express them with wisdom and compassion. New Thought principles are the best guides I have ever found for this journey of life, but we must practice them in increasingly expansive ways, for we are expansive beings. Our potential for growth is unending.

We are at choice in every moment – including every moment watching the news or scrolling through our social media feeds. How to receive information and how to respond are both choices which require some workvisualizing, affirming, meditating – to create our consciousness of being from which our reaction come. I want my reactions to be from the highest level of emotional and spiritual maturity which I can manage. Don’t you?

The only choice we have as we mature
is how we inhabit our vulnerability,
how we become larger and more courageous
and more compassionate
through our intimacy with disappearance.

~ David Whyte

Beautiful Beginnings

Until we can look upon our fellow humans (and ourselves) through eyes of love, compassion, and acceptance, we are not spiritually mature. If we make them “other” we lose our awareness of connection, and with it, our capacity for compassion. Seeing oneness means being exposed to sadness, but also to a mature version of hope – one which resonates heart to heart and mind to mind.

I am reflected in you and you in me. We share a universe which is beyond our capacity to know fully. May we bring the best of ourselves to each interaction, to every thought, action, and reaction. May Peace prevail on earth. #TheBelovedCommunity

‎”You are a child of innocence, born to wonder all your days. Do not believe it to be a gift that you lost somewhere along the way, as if the hurts you have done or that were done to you could steal its light from the center of your soul. Innocence is not the absence of pain, but the ability to face truth as an adult while still seeing with the eyes of a child. Innocence is hope. It is vision. It is love. God grant that each of us, for all the darkness we have endured, will always have the grace of innocence: the belief that what is to come will be better than what has been.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston 

Your comments are appreciated. Thank you for reading. If you know of someone else who may find value in this post, or others on this blog, please feel free to share it with them.

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 2

“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.

SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL – SPIRITUAL BYPASSING – NEED FOR CERTAINTY – EXCLUSION OF OTHERS – DENIAL – SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL . . .  THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

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