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

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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)

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 3

“If one were to crystallize twentieth-century psychology into a single problem, it would be the problem of fear in the face of overwhelming evolutionary forces in humanity as a whole. At the end of the century we thought we were past that problem. We are now in the thick of it.”

~ John Campbell on Twitter

In Part 1 (LINK) and Part 2 (LINK) of this series, I have laid out some of the issues to be considered when planning and implementing programs designed to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in spiritual communities and other organizations. Using the Spiral Dynamics™ Model, one can see how different evolutionary values systems (vMEMEs) give meaning to terms such as “diversity,” “inclusion,” “racism,” and “white privilege.” Thee is also the issue of complexity of thinking at the different values systems. When we fail to see the presence of these values systems, we either make them wrong, present issues in highly complex ways, or ignore them entirely. This lack of “spiral awareness” means that many well-intentioned programs fail to be compassionate and to achieve the desired results.

VMEMEs Simplified

The Values Systems (vMEMEs) of the Spiral Dynamics Model

It can be quite challenging from any point on the spiral to convey your values in such a way as they are understood by those centered at different levels. And, the “circular argument” (if you disagree with me/us it proves my/our point) is a sign that absolutism has entered the picture, which is unlikely to result in understanding or collaboration. While the concept of white privilege or straight while male privilege makes perfect sense to someone centered at the Green level of existence, it is very likely given a different meaning at other levels on the spiral. The result is that you think you are communicating one thing, but something else is being heard.

“Drawing a ‘privileged’ individual’s attention to the discrimination issue might be valuable (more awareness is better) but pushing them into the ‘perpetrator’ role (which personalized discussions of privilege do) rather than directly asking them to step up to help those disadvantaged is more likely to backfire and polarize potential allies than it is to solve the problem.”

~ Kylie Stedman 

What is needed to ensure the highest level of success in programs intending to encourage greater diversity and inclusion, or to raise awareness of racism and sexism, include the following:

  1. Spiral Awareness – a recognition that different values systems exist so meaning making is not uniform.
  2. A focus on desired behaviors – rather than on labels which will be interpreted differently. For example: saying that “white privilege” is a given, for example, will not be received well by white people* who are not centered at the Green level of existence. Since they are the target audience for the program, alienating them means less likelihood of a successful program.
  3. Sharing stories – have representatives of all groups in the community share their stories, which may be of oppression or the ignorance of oppression. There is nothing more powerful than hearing from people you know and can relate to.
  4. Cast a Vision – programs including a sense of vision for what is possible are very powerful. This process can be participatory as well, thus growing a vision which is shared by as many participants as possible.
  5. Provide counseling – some people are going to need assistance to process strong feelings which will arise during programs such as this. Consideration should be given to how to best provide counseling to those who need it.
  6. Understand: Not Everyone Will Get It – it is important to realize that a person may be open, arrested, or closed at any level on the spiral. Some will not be willing to expand their sense of reality to include the values being presented. This is to be expected.

Poster - Change is Good - You Go First

Cultural change requires time plus a deep understanding of the values systems present. It also requires an understanding of change itself; change is usually gradual with occasional leaps forward or setbacks, and often uneven. There needs to be proper support through the change process, especially for those with natural aversions to change (LINK) and for those for whom a particular change does not seem like a good idea.

Leadership has to be onboard with the change and has to model the desired behaviors in ways that everyone can see. Everyone’s value system must be acknowledged and approached in appropriate ways. This requires a lot from leaders and program managers, but the alternative is another program with little to no impact.

“An elemental law of psychology confirms that what is not faced in the developmental tasks of the parent will be visited upon the child. So it is true that what is not faced by corporate or collective leadership will be carried as a problem by the employees or members.”

~ James Hollis

Beautiful Beginnings

As always, your comments are appreciated in the section below. Please consider following this blog if you are not already doing so (Click on the FOLLOW button), and feel free to share with your friends.

*People of Color centered in other values systems may understand white privilege differently than white people, however, they will still see it differently at each values system on 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.

 

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 2

LINK TO PART 1

While there are clearly serious problems in our society, our organizations, our schools, and our families with racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and violence, it is often unclear how to approach making positive changes in the systems so infected.

Spiral Dynamics (LINK) shows us that human development moves through stages of complexity and values systems which are called Levels of Existence. These are the effects of a larger dynamic which is unfolding calling higher stages of development forth from within human beings in response to increasingly complex Living Conditions. As more complexity emerges within individuals and groups in response to an increasingly complex world around them, new values systems emerge in ways that we are coming to understand.

VMEMEs Simplified

When some people evolve to more complex levels while others do not, or when people with different levels of complexity move into communities, a natural sort of disharmony results. This disharmony may involve appearance or background, but it will also involve a clash of values systems. You can probably see this in your own family – some who have what are considered “old fashioned” values, while others have evolved to more open and complex values.

Of the values systems described by the Spiral Dynamics Model, the Green stage or Level of Existence (LINK) (LINK) is the most relevant to our current discussion in New Thought. Green is a very complex level of thinking, one capable of systems thinking, and is a communal, feelings-driven values system. Those centered at Green value egalitarianism, consensus, cooperation, and believe that no one should be made to feel inferior. At Green, one sees no value in competition, labeling, ranking, or otherwise putting people and things into artificial categories.

Green vMEME

Those centered at Green tend to favor interfaith initiatives, have a global viewpoint, and support sustainable practices in all areas of life. Green is communal and is often unbound by dogma – but not always. Sometimes in order to gain support for what it believes in, those at Green can be dogmatic, insisting that certain speech or behaviors are or should be forbidden or required. This is usually in the name of acceptance of those who have been marginalized, oppressed, or worse by previous values systems.

The Civil and Women’s Rights Movements were born at the Green Level of Existence. So was the Ecology Movement, and many others. Movements which arose from a values system which is complex enough to understand systems thinking, and which places a high value on egalitarianism, diversity, and accountability arise regularly from Green. Diversity and Inclusion programs are no different in this regard. The Green Level of Existence sees all people as equally valued, valid, and places a high premium on every voice being heard. In this regard, Green is a very positive force for good, seeking to heal the sins of earlier values systems and to create a world which is more equal for all.

In these movements, organizations, and initiatives developed at the Green level with the highest of intentions, sometimes there are excesses and unhealthy elements. Many at Green are unaware of the entire Spiral and, like all Levels of Existence in what is termed the 1st Tier (Two tiers are believed to exist (LINK)), Green can simply see those centered at other levels on the Spiral as ignorant, wrong, or evil. From this viewpoint, Green can approach others by making them wrong, or, by insisting on a degree of complexity of thought to which those lower on the spiral have not yet evolved. And when complexity meets dogmatic thinking, the dogma often proves to be unshakeable.

Terms and concepts such as white privilege or gender fluidity tend to have a high resonance at Green, but do not resonate positively among those centered at lower Levels of Existence on the spiral. While individuals, particularly those who are white and male at Blue or Orange may be open to diversity on a personal level, they often see general diversity programs as intrusive and unfair. Part of this has to do with values, and part has to do with complexity – both white privilege and gender fluidity are complex concepts with lots of factors. Those thinking at less complex levels than Green will have some difficulty grasping these complexities.

White Privilege Montage

If we define privilege as not having your race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation be a barrier to opportunities in your life, then it takes away the sense that privilege means unusual success or celebrity. Green will understand this relatively easily, but not so much those below Green on the spiral. Complexity enters the picture when you have some members of oppressed groups achieve high levels of success and make lots of money while some members of groups identified as having privilege are homeless or otherwise struggling.

Those centered Blue and below will have a hard time with the concept that privilege is an absolute (which is a necessary component of their values system) when such disparities exist. And then, when one explains the reasons for the disparities, it gets even more complicated. And those at Orange, particularly white people who are individualistic, achievement-oriented, and value rationality will not really be that invested in the issue – Orange values tend to focus on individual achievement and competition. They will give concepts like diversity and inclusion lip service if it helps the bottom line but tend to have difficulty accepting that the playing field is not level in terms of opportunity.

“The very term (white privilege) is to me hypocritical: discrimination against women happens when they are seen for their gender over their humanity, racism happens by way of a person seeing skin color before humanity. The term ‘white privilege’, no matter how much evidence one might pile onto the concept, cannot escape the same fallacy it is supposed to be challenging. When we focus on his skin color and gender, instead of having a practical conversation with him, I cannot see how it will do anything except make it worse.”

~ Comment on the Spiral Dynamics FB Page

This quote demonstrates a response which those who are developing and presenting diversity and inclusion programs need to consider – it is a values resistance to the idea, but also an issue of complexity of thinking. The idea that white privilege is a given to be accepted is a value is not easily accepted at levels below Green on the spiral. The idea presented in the quote – to speak to desirable behaviors and attitudes – may well resonate more positively with an audience made up of people at several Levels of Existence on the spiral.

This is similarly reflected in the following quote:

“It turns out that while progressive activists tend to think that only hate speech is a problem, and devoted conservatives tend to think that only political correctness is a problem, a clear majority of all Americans holds a more nuanced point of view: They abhor racism. But they don’t think that the way we now practice political correctness represents a promising way to overcome racial injustice.”

~ Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic

The article in The Atlantic Monthly (LINK) describes a study of attitudes in the US to political correctness. In the quote above, you might recognize the viewpoint about hate speech as coming mainly from the Green level and the viewpoint on political correctness as coming primarily from the Blue level, and the more nuanced view as coming from the Orange and Yellow levels. There is a strong relationship between where people are currently centered on the spiral and how they view these issues.

While every level on the spiral has its version of political correctness, the type in the forefront today arises from the Green Level of Existence. It includes many constructs, but those relating to how people who have experienced oppression or discrimination are in the forefront at the moment. For example, certain kinds of jokes based on ethnicity or race, or which are seen as sexist, are increasingly forbidden. Those at Green would tend to say, “with very good reason.” Those at levels other than Green would tend to disagree – not necessarily with the intention behind it, but with the way it is enforced (seen as political correctness). When not recognized by those at Green, this disconnect can lead to additional resistance to well-meaning and culturally positive efforts to promote kindness and better treatment of our fellow human beings.

In Part 3 of the series, I will describe my ideas for effectively communicating challenging and difficult concepts so that they have a better chance of being heard.

 “The political winds may howl above me, scattering people like leaves in a storm, but I will hold fast to the common ground, the wisdom that once formed us. Difference is not a crime. Diversity is not a threat. Disagreement is not a failure. Community requires of me what it requires of others: a commitment to share in the process of justice. There are no expendable human beings in that process, only a sacrifice of privilege. For the sake of the many, I will not stop caring for the few.”

~ Bishop Steven Charleston

 

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

SPIRAL AWARENESS IS IMPORTANT WHEN ENCOURAGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION – PART 1

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

~ Mahatma Gandhi

diversity

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:

WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED

“I’m worried about everything.”

~ Michael Ian Black, @michaelianblack on Twitter

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

Breaking News Fear

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

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

~James Hollis, Jungian analyst

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

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

~ Stefan Zweig

Complexity and Chaos

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

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

compassion-heart-inverted

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

~ Mark Nepo

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

Spiritual Practices Kit

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

~ Ernest Holmes, YOUR INVISIBLE POWER

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

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

~ Marianne Williamson

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

Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard

 

MY BLIND SPOTS, PART 2

“Without much accuracy, with strangely little love at all, your family will decide for you exactly who you are, and they’ll keep nudging, coaxing, poking you until you’ve changed into that very simple shape.”

~ Allan Gurganus, White People

My Creation Myth/Story (LINK):  Your Creation Myth/Story describes how your natural genetic proclivities interact with your early environment to create your worldview and values. Think of your story as a jewel with many facets. What follows is a non-scientific representation of one or two facets of my story.

I grew up in a white suburb of a black cityBaltimore in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My family moved to the suburbs in 1954, which I would learn much later was called White Flight (I think they were just looking for a house with a yard for me). I was a free-range child, our suburban back yard adjacent to about 30,000 acres of forested land, some of which was actually in Baltimore City. It is all developed today. Other than school and little league baseball, I was completely “unprogrammed” and on my own to explore with my friends from the neighborhood.

There were no black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American children in my neighborhood, or my elementary school. My high school had five black students, four on basketball scholarships (it was a Catholic college-prep academy), and one other who had somehow come there on his own. Looking back, I can’t imagine what the experience was like for him – or for the basketball players for that matter. I honestly have no idea at all. I made my first black friend in college, my first out gay friend in my 30’s, to give you some idea. I lived in a straight white world for my entire childhood and adolescence.

White Privilege - TV Montage

Almost without exception, the men I knew growing up were some version of the character Archie Bunker from the television show, “All in the Family.” My dad was the only white-collar worker in the neighborhood; the rest were tradesmen or worked in factories. They had set beliefs about every group of people of every color and nationality. They even had prejudicial ideas about people in other white neighborhoods. Those beliefs and ideas ran in one direction – how we were better than “them, whoever “them” was. In most cases, it was taken for granted, especially with black people, but sometimes my dad had to make a more nuanced argument – like how most Italians were shifty, but the Italian neighbor up the street, he and his family were somehow different, as if proximity to us somehow made them acceptable.

“The most misleading assumptions are the ones you don’t even know you’re making.”

~ Douglas Adams

All of these beliefs and attitudes, spoken and unspoken, were woven into the fabric of my life. None of these men (the women rarely voiced these opinions, but many shared them) ranted and raved or, God-forbid, said these things to the faces of the people they hated (yes, they hated them). But it was there, pretty much daily. My dad loved baseball, and there were “players” and then there were “Negro players,” “Italian players,” even a few Jews – my dad said that Jews rarely played sports – everybody knew that, as the fictional, but all-too-realistic Archie Bunker would confirm a couple of decades later.

White Privilege - Archie Bunker

Something inside of me always knew that this was wrong, this way of thinking. My mom would sometimes speak up about my dad’s “excesses,” but he would say how he knew from experience. You didn’t push my dad on these matters. Any anyway, he did not stand out from others we knew, we just knew him better.

After twelve years of Catholic school, beginning during my time in university, I went on to be a cop for 24 years. The men from my youth were pretty much the same in attitude as many, if not most of the white men I worked with in those years. I had somehow become a liberal politically (actually, that’s what my mom was, and she opened-up in that regard after she divorced my dad during my first year of high school; my time in college also contributed). So, I always had a buffer from those parts of police culture that were prejudiced and very conservative.

These are the facets of my creation myth which apply to the conversation at hand. There are, of course, many other facets.

When I first heard the term “White Privilege,” I began to see, after some initial resistance, what I could not see before. I saw that my life, which I had accepted as “normal” and “average,” was anything but. I had no idea what the creation myths of others were from any sort of felt sense – even when I read or heard descriptions, I usually felt unable to relate in any way. That revelation made all the difference in my ability to see both the limitations of my worldview and the advantages my accident of birth had handed to me.

Why don’t more white people (whatever that really is – LINK) see the reality of white privilege? You have to be ready to hear something – or almost ready – for it to have a chance to sink in. When I was in my teens, twenties, or thirties, I would have instantly rejected the idea. I am fortunate that I can hear it now. I can understand why so many white people fail to accept or understand the concept of white privilege. For many, there is a culturally ingrained idea of white superiority (ingrained by home life and education – whom do we study?) and a belief that huge amounts of tax dollars in the US has gone to support people who are either naturally inferior, undeserving (i.e. lazy) or both. Even when you reject these ideas as too harsh when read or spoken out loud, they are often ingrained sufficiently to operate beneath the conscious mind.

In his recent blog post, “Why Do I Still Have to Explain #BlackLivesMatter To Other White People?” Minister and author John Pavlovitz speaks to a major blind spot of many white people in the United States:

“Saying it (#‎BlackLivesMatter) acknowledges the blind spots we’ve inherited that prevent us from noticing our privilege, our biases, how we unknowingly devalue people of color—and the way all these things conspire to make us much more tolerant of their deaths, much more likely to rationalize them away, and much more likely to get over them quickly.

When we say #‎BlackLivesMatter, we don’t need to also simultaneously say #WhiteLivesMatter to somehow model moral consistency. Our nation has lived morally inconsistent and that is the very point. That white lives matter in America has never been in question a single day of our existence, so we really don’t need to say it.”

~ John Pavolvitz (LINK)

I would put it this way: The creation stories of many white people do not allow the inclusion of true diversity and inclusion as acceptable values. Few of us have exerted the energy necessary to first look critically at our story and second, expand our story to a larger reality (LINK). Some have never had the proper influences in their lives to do so. As a result, things such as diversity programs, sensitivity training, #BlackLivesMatter, LGBTQ equality, and immigration of people of color are felt as attacks on the normal and natural order of things. Those we call white nationalists or white supremacists, say such things out loud. Others, even though they may sense the wrongness of these beliefs, still have them internalized to one extent or another as a felt sense.

In New Thought we teach Oneness, yet we sometimes fail to live what we teach. I often wonder today how welcoming and affirming I have been throughout the years of my ministry to those with different creation stories from my own. I want to do better, and I know by setting a clear intention and doing my spiritual practices, I shall.

‎”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

What is your Creation Myth/Story? If you are so inclined, share it in the comments section. In any case, I would like to know what you are thinking and feeling about this series. (LINK TO PART 1)

In Part 3, I will explore ways to facilitate moving toward greater inclusion in spiritual community in order to be supportive of the concept of #TheBelovedCommunity.

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

IS NEW THOUGHT ORGANIZED RELIGION?

new-thought-logos

This post is a bit long – you may want to bookmark it so that you can come back to it. It may or may not lead to other posts along the same line. Our New Thought Organizations are going through tectonic shifts due to cultural evolution. If we fail to look at these dynamics seriously, then our future may be short as organizations. It is time to look at our situation through evolutionary eyes. Let me know what you think in the comments section. Also, we are nearing 30,000 visitors and 50,000 views on this blog. I am so grateful that many find these ramblings to be of value. Thanks.

This morning I saw a comment on Facebook that called Centers for Spiritual Living an organized religion, which is not how I usually hear it described. I reread the comment a few times to be sure that it said what I thought it said. Yep – “an organized religion.” 

This set me to thinking, because this morning I also read a column by NYTimes Columnist Ross Douthat (LINK) entitled “Expect the Inquisition.” It is about current arguments within the Catholic Church which pit liberals against conservatives (imagine that!) regarding several aspects of Catholic doctrine versus the statements, writings, and actions of Pope Francis (LINK).

Now I have no problem seeing The Church of Rome, as the Catholic Church is called, as organized religion. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I was raised as a Catholic and was actively involved in that religion until I graduated from high school and escaped to the religiously unsupervised realm of the state university.) But I have a big problem seeing Centers for Spiritual Living, or for that matter, other New Thought organizations under that label. I usually tell people, “If you hate organized religion, you’ll love us.” Maybe I have to revise that statement.

Oh, we have organizations all right, but (and it’s a big but) where is the authority of those organizations to establish and enforce doctrine? I can’t answer that question in most cases. You can go from spiritual community to spiritual community and be hard-pressed to identify one as in the same denomination as the other; in fact, you can cross denominations, from CSL to Unity to Divine Science, and see more similarly between communities in different denominations than within the same denomination. There is within the New Thought organizations, no clear authority, and certainly no effort put forth, to ensure much in the way of uniformity among member communities.

I blogged about this a while back regarding who may have the authority to write and approve a new Science of Mind text, and in that blog post (LINK), I wrote:

 “. . . there are really two important challenges facing New Thought in the world regarding this issue. One is whether the original writings need to be updated for a modern audience; the second is who has the authority to authorize such an undertaking and approve the results? I suggest that there are no ready answers to either question in the major New Thought organizations. I will speak primarily to CSL here, as I am not familiar with Unity’s processes for such things.”

One of the effects of cultural evolution on the New Thought Movement is the movement away from anything resembling an authoritarian approach to leadership within the various organizations. While this is a good thing in many respects, it has some negative side-effects. A significant side effect is tied to another impact of cultural evolution: the tendency for local spiritual communities to resist or ignore the dictates of the organizations regarding the presentation of educational materials and the rules regarding certification of students. There are other areas of concern as well, but nothing is more important than teaching the philosophy.

Spiritual Leaders tend to stray from the designated curricula in two ways – substitution of material to be taught and studied, and in some cases “unofficially” changing the requirements for course certification. I am not referring to the beneficial practice of adding depth from one’s own experiences and alternate sources to the material in the course curriculum, but rather bringing in different material that is either loosely related or not really related at all to the course design. We all know that this happens, and my intention is not to say that it is good or bad, only that it speaks to the issue of organizational authority – and, to whether we are organized in the manner of other denominations.

Occasional attempts are made to hold people accountable, but they generally do not go well. Spiritual leaders often simply tell the organizational representative where they can stick their rules in so many words – or they simply leave the organization. This also happens in cases where there are demonstrated breaches of ethics policies. Another thing that happens, too often in my opinion, is that the organizational representatives bungle their work, making things worse and needlessly putting the organization in a position of liability while failing to hold anyone accountable for any misdeeds which may have occurred. When ethics violations occur, it means that people have been harmed in one way or another, and a lack of professionalism and competence in handing such cases can multiply that harm.

Another area in which I see our lack of organization (again, not as a value judgement), is in the trend toward greater action for social justice in our movement. Here, there does seem to be a liberal/conservative split, in this case, both politically and ecclesiastically.

Some who are more conservative politically see the kinds of statements and actions being issued or supported by New Thought organizations as too politically liberal; some who are more ecclesiastically conservative believe the organizations and spiritual communities have no business telling people what to support. Thus far, in those organizations who have taken positions on social justice and related issues, it has been left to the local spiritual communities and individuals to decide for themselves whether and how to participate.

Cultural evolution is moving us away from the old authoritarian model that could attempt to ensure organizational conformity through some combination of incentives and punishments for a membership whose values systems included obedience and fealty. We have moved beyond those times to a place where an interesting mix of independence and egalitarianism have come to the forefront.

My concern is that as the values systems within the organizations evolve, there needs to be both a recognition of these processes of emergence and decline AND a conscious effort to operate in harmony with them. It seems that too often, our New Thought organizations are operating without an adequate awareness of the cultural milieu in which they find themselves. Today, leadership must be nimble and flexible regarding form and steadfast and consistent in principle. Too often, they are the opposite, or neither.

There is certainly potential for good in these evolutionary developments, even though they may look disruptive, even harmful. We cannot move toward higher levels of leadership and practices while maintaining an authoritarian model, and the pathway forward seems to be via a swing in the opposite direction, where there seems to be little or no authority vested in leadership.

Times like these require very special people in leadership roles, who can facilitate the organizations’ passage through transitional periods without disenfranchising member communities and losing sight of the reason for the organizations’ existence. And times like these require leadership in member communities who recognize the value of being part of an organization and who support the organization during times of transition. Supporting the organization does not mean abstaining from criticism where it is warranted, but it does mean affirmative support with intentions, prayers, vocal support within the local community, and financial giving.

There is room to see all of this as the natural unfolding of our evolutionary pathway, however, there are no guarantees that we emerge from these transitional times in a healthy way. Breakdown does not necessarily lead to breakthrough – it can lead to collapse.

Getting back to the Catholic Church, theirs is a very different environment, with a two-thousand-year history of dogmatic, authoritarian rule under a leader who has been declared infallible. Can you imagine if a resolution came to the floor of a New Thought organizational business meeting to grant the organizational leader the status of infallibility? Neither can I, but it might be fun if someone made that motion one day.

Cartoon - Religion - Organized Infallible

We are a very different culture than the Church of Rome, we are younger, more American, more individualistic. But we face many of the same cultural evolutionary and organizational issues. Will we learn to thrive as organizations, as communities in a rapidly changing world? Time will tell.

As the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living wrote in the very important book, THE SEMINAR LECTURES:

“Let me repeat that ours is not an authoritative religion. We have a textbook, which is the accumulation of the greatest teachings of the ages but we haven’t any idea of becoming a closed system. We have two possibilities; we can become so narrow that we never grow or we can be so broad that we have no depth. It is up to us to find the place in between which gives freedom without giving the freedom to destroy the freedom which makes freedom possible!”

~ Ernest Holmes, “The Seminar Lectures”

As always, your comments are welcomed. What do you think?

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard