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

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SACRED DISRUPTION – NEW THOUGHT MINISTRY IN A CHANGING WORLD

As I write this, the news of the horrific shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando is swirling across all media platforms. It is Sunday morning, and many are attending services at New Thought spiritual communities. I am sure that there are calls for love, compassion, and to recognize that we live in a “perfect universe” and if we just keep our thoughts positive, everything will be okay.

1a Orlando

We see social media messages like – “Prayers for Orlando” “Sending love to Orlando” and the like. We also see the anger and the woundedness of so many, and, of course, the reaction to this tragedy as an opportunity to promote some political agenda.

We see these same statements every time. Nothing seems to change.

How many times have we seen this? How are we to reconcile these statements of “perfection” with the events unfolding around us in the world? With terrorism, poverty, violence, war, as well as extensive corruption in government, business, and, yes, even in spiritual communities? Do we simply sit in meditation and do nothing? Do we “send our thoughts and prayers” to the victims over and over and over? Do we turn within and refuse to “give energy” to the tragedies of life? Do we even acknowledge that being a “victim” or the existence of anything called a “tragedy” are even possible from a metaphysical perspective?

“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.”

~ Carlos Castaneda

Castaneda speaks to the issue of using a belief in a spiritual teaching to wrap ourselves in a cloak of superiority. It makes us say things like, “I would never do something like that,” which is the opposite of “There, but for the grace of God, go I,and it is a denial of the shadow elements of the self and the community. Compassion cannot arise within a consciousness of separation, especially when that separation takes the form of a false sense of superiority and unhealed shadow issues.

But New Thought principles include the idea that nothing on the outside changes until the related mindset is changed. As above, so below. As within, so without. So the first step is within, that is clear – it is what we do with that new mindset that is in question.

How do we approach the apparent conflict in seeing a “perfect universe” when all this carnage is happening? In a previous post on this topic (LINK), I wrote:

“I believe that everything IS perfect – but that perfection exists on the invisible side of life, the spiritual side if you will. On the physical side, in the process of manifestation, things get distorted as they move through our still-developing consciousness. So on the spiritual side, I have a perfect body; on the physical side, I have some aches and pains and I get diseases sometimes. In fact, NOTHING IS PERFECT on the physical side, because something that is perfect cannot change. Out of perfection, nothing new can be made. Everything on the physical side is subject to change and in a state of becoming, so my spiritual challenge is to clarify my consciousness so that a greater degree of the potential perfection on the spiritual side is manifest on the physical side.”

In the Science of Mind philosophy, we are told to “treat and move our feet,” meaning to do our spiritual practice to develop an inner knowing of some good and then to act in accordance with that knowing to bring it about. But there is some confusion about that last part – the acting part.

Some say that the acting part is simply to respond to the manifestation that results from the treatment, or visualizing, process. To them “moving your feet” means to step into the new condition that has been produced from the positive thoughts. That is one school of thought, as far as I can see.

A second school of thought says that the “moving your feet” part is essential to the actualization of the spiritual practice – part of a larger whole. This quote from actor Jim Carrey speaks to this school of thought:

“I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

~ Jim Carrey

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Ernest Holmes

The paradox of practicing The Science of Mind or any other New Thought philosophy and having the world around us seem to be totally unaffected by our spiritual practices is nothing new. During Dr. Ernest Holmes’ lifetime, for example, there were two world wars, crime, corruption, illness, natural disasters, and more. We can glean some things from his writings and the biographies written about him. His approach seemed to be to do spiritual mind treatment (affirmative prayer) about the big things, like the world wars, and, on more than one occasion to treat and then act on the more local things. Perhaps is has to do with the fact that when we go within, we can create an atmosphere of relative safety and clarity, but when we engage with the larger world, we have no such capacity. We have to endure the chaos resulting from ignorance and fear. But where is our work to be done?

There is the story of his acting to send a young woman who was working in a brothel in Los Angeles back home to Kansas by sneaking her out of the brothel, giving her money and putting her on a bus (LINK).

As New Thought students, sometimes we are taught to “let God do the work” and sometimes we are taught that “Spirit can only do to us, what it can do through us.” These two ideas are not incompatible to the more advanced student. Letting God do the work means that when we bring our consciousness into alignment with our deepest wisdom, we will know what to do. Then, we need to do it.

“(One’s) mind should swing from inspiration to action, from contemplation to accomplishment, from prayer to performance.”

~ Ernest Holmes

I am in agreement with that school of thought that says that we in New Thought need to be encouraged to act on our spiritually developed beliefs. We have to trust that those actions will be consistent with the principles of all the New Thought teachingslove, compassion, and practical spiritual approaches to issues.

It begins with those who teach – the ministers and teachers. This quote from Rob Bell speaks to this idea:

“The sermon is an art form that needs to be reclaimed. It’s the original guerrilla theater, somewhere between a recovery movement, a TED Talk and a revival. This art form has been hijacked in our culture. For many people, the sermon is how you build bigger buildings. But the sermon is about the sacred disruption.”

~ Rob Bell (LINK)

Sacred disruption – the idea that you bring spiritual awareness into an area where it is not known or where it has been forgotten or abandoned. This idea speaks to the “treat and move your feet” concept from New Thought, because it speaks to spiritually motivated action to bring positive qualities to something. And the idea of disruption refers to the introduction, by example, of a spiritual idea – one that will turn people away from the older idea of less quality. Sacred disruption encourages us to fully engage with the world around us – to get into the midst of things.

We can see examples of disruption by a superior idea in the business world, with companies like Uber, AirBnB, and Google. While these are in a competitive arena, they are illustrative of what effective disruption can do to improve services or products.

What Rob Bell is saying, and I agree, is that spiritual disruption can bring a spiritual idea to a situation as well. It beings with a teaching, when it then taken by others into the arena. A positive, spirit-led disruptive idea, such as compassion, expressed in the arena, has a powerful possibility of generating change. Think of the power of the acts of forgiveness generated by some Amish after a shooting of their children (LINK).

What kinds of sacred disruption can New Thought bring to bear on the challenges of the world? And how can we do so to create #aworldthatworksforeveryone? And how can we do so to co-create The Beloved Community?

As always, your comments are welcome.

Poster - End of the World

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard