NOTE: in light of the recent events that resulted in the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – I find myself returning to the questions I have around the issue of privilege – which seems to prevent otherwise decent White folks from being capable of treating this issue with the urgency it requires. As police organizations, local, state and federal agencies and individuals look inward at what we must face and address; religious and spiritual organizations must also look at how they may be perpetuating a mindset that quietly, hidden behind the veil of privilege, allows “life as usual” to proceed as these outrages to continue. It’s time to look deeply and critically at all we have embraced, taught and encouraged. We cannot go on, business as usual. And if we do, we move from a neutral bystander, teaching quaint spiritual lessons, to complicit overseers in a crime against humanity.
I’ve been struggling recently with the question of whether the perspective I have embraced, worked with, promoted and celebrated for the past several years is rooted in White privilege. The question has tickled the edge of my consciousness as long as 5 year ago when I wrote a blog about Emerson, where I called into question his perspective as a foundation of New Thought.
In a paper on Emerson (“THE LIMITS OF SELF-RELIANCE: EMERSON, SLAVERY, AND ABOLITION”), Professor James H. Read interprets Emerson’s early position on the self-reliant individual: “A self-reliant individual will find adequate external resources however challenging or primitive the social conditions; an individual lacking self-reliance will not achieve it through external assistance.” … Culling content from published essays of the time as well as Emerson’s own journals, historians and literary scholars have documented Emerson’s early belief that if the slaves truly wanted to be free, they would free themselves, first in their minds (“catching the strain”), and then their chains would, by rights of natural law, fall from them (That the slave who caught the strain, Should throb until he snapped his chain).
In a recent back and forth on a Science of Mind Facebook page, I watched a licensed spiritual Practitioner with CSL argue that White privilege was baloney, and kids that are being taught about it are being divided instead of enlightened.
“If you hold a permanent view of yourself as a victim, you become your own oppressor.” A student’s experiential take on the promotion of “white privilege.” I hope that people will be open-minded enough to consider what this young man has to say.
As I and others pushed back, he dug in, citing spiritual principles all the way. The entire interchange bothered me deeply, and not because I thought he was a twit (he is); but because I began to question the foundations of the spiritual path I have been walking as being founded in, and built on concepts that reek with privilege – and predominantly White privilege.
It reminded me of the scholarly reviews of Emerson’s work, that declared that if the slaves wanted to be free, they would free themselves, first in their minds and then their chains would, by rights of natural law, fall from them.
I have the great good fortune of having been born into a solid family with resources. I have never been hungry, or without a place to live. I grew up in homes that my parents and grandparents and GREAT grandparents owned, and I became a home owner early in my adult life. I’ve had access to quality education across my life and the career opportunities that I have had are enviable.
As someone with Swiss, English and Italian heritage I walk around in relative obscurity. I raise no eyebrows when moving into an affluent neighborhood. I am not followed when I browse for an extended period of time in a store, and I do not worry about “driving while White” or about my son if he would be involved in a police interaction.
Why wouldn’t I be able to put my focus on something, and have it show up? The world, or at least the America I grew up in and am living in now, is set up to support success for people like me.
How arrogant is it for me to assume that this is how it works for everyone?
A positive perspective certainly helps much more than a perpetually negative one, and prayer does work miracles. But I need to think about this for a bit, and make peace with this turmoil in my heart.
As happens in life at times, I have recently found myself dealing with a circumstance that is unsettling, upsetting and entirely outside of my control. It’s the kind of thing that can disrupt sleep and disturb one’s peace.
In my initial approach to dealing with the issue, I was certain that things would turn around and settle down.
Instead of moving in that direction, however; they have escalated and grown more complex, tenuous and upsetting.
Each passing day as I held on to the knowing that there IS a more peaceful, loving resolution to be reached; the rancor, ire and disregard for others hit a new low. It would be easy to throw my hands in the air and proclaim total failure while descending into hopelessness and helplessness.
We all face times like this where the appearance of things around us suggest that we are on our own.
Early this morning during a sleepless period my mind came back across this photo from a family vacation in the Outer Banks a few years back and the quote I found to pair with it (I create these visuals for my weekly wisdom emails).
“It is not possible that you could ever find yourself anywhere where God was not fully present, fully active, able and willing to set you free.”
I was immediately grateful for remembering this statement and it made me think of times when people ask why I am so interested in “this stuff“.
I have learned to tuck this Truth (and others) into my subconscious knowing, so that I am able to tap into it when I find myself in deep despair, in a “dark night of the soul” circumstance (we’ve all been there at one time or another).
Unlike the leaky bathroom fixture I repaired, or the technical issue I researched and fixed on my laptop or the work solution I engineered for a previously unresolved problem; this disaster is entirely outside of my control. And here is where years of study on spiritual wisdom begin to pay off.
There is perhaps no greater spiritual angst than when we see a disaster unfolding in slow motion that we have no ability to stop or mitigate. There is also no better reminder that we need to let go.
In Divine Science studies (Emmet Fox was a Divine Science minister) we learn that the foundation of spiritual awareness begins with the acceptance of Omnipresence. It’s a big word that can be spoken with a dramatic flair to inspire awe. It’s also a concept that can help to usher peace into the midst of chaos.
If it is truly “…not possible that [I] could ever find [myself] anywhere where God was not fully present, fully active, able and willing to set [me] free” then freedom from this suffering is not only possible, but imminent and assured.
Spiritual Warriors are not those with the loftiest titles, the longest string of initials after their name or the most interesting spiritual accessories. They are those who, when in deepest despair, remember the Truth, and turn to it – confident in the knowing that they are never alone.
AFFIRMATION: no matter where I am, or what I am experiencing: the Infinite (God) is always fully present, ACTIVE (even if I can’t see any action), fully capable and willing to set me free.
I accept this Truth. I know it to be so, and I let it go. And so it is.
When someone (or some organization) tells me who they are, I take them at their word until proven otherwise. The recognized founder of Religious Science (who took what he had learned in Divine Science and Christian Science and reorganized it into Religious Science) said the following:
“Science of Mind…is Christian-oriented, fundamentally following the teachings of Jesus.”
Ernest Holmes in ‘The Spiritual Universe and You’ (Los Angeles: Science of Mind Publications, 1971)
In any teaching that purports to be built on “…fundamentally following the teachings of Jesus“, it is critically important to know those teachings! Jesus, did not establish a religion built around large buildings, weekly gatherings where a basket was passed or capital campaigns. Instead, he lived as an itinerant teacher, traveling town to town and teaching people spiritual Truths.
“…Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
from Matthew 8
Catherine Ponder’s prosperity gospel best-sellers aside, I do not believe that the historical records have any support for the teacher Jesus being a millionaire (although it’s admittedly a catchy hook for selling books).
The biblical accounting of what Jesus believed the relationship between money and the church is documented in Matthew, Mark and John.
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”
from John 2
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and it should be no surprise to anyone that there is a serious disconnect between any religious or spiritual organization that claims to be based on the teachings of Jesus that ALSO builds its foundational infrastructure on generating money from the teachings that he (as well as as many others) taught to uplift humanity across the ages.
While churches, centers and other organized religious and spiritual organizations continue to struggle with membership and relevance, many are pulling out old playbooks to rev up the (remaining) troops. This often falls into continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Some people have classified this as the definition of insanity.
The circumstances of the global pandemic are forcing businesses of ALL kinds to rethink their strategies. According to some of the smartest economic minds available today, the economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis is likely to extend for years, not months. This reality means that most churches, spiritual centers and related businesses do not have the luxury to wait out the recovery.
Some will say that the demise of organized religion is long overdue. I don’t entirely disagree, but will caution a full embrace of this belief. There is great value to be found in communities of like-minded people who hold a shared belief system. Research has shown that prayer has a positive impact and that the caring actions of a committed community can effect positive outcomes in difficult times.
It is for these and a few other reasons that I believe that the paradigm shift in organized religion – and now I am speaking specifically about metaphysical spiritual organizations – needs to shift away from the model where there is a minister who is paid a salary in addition to expenses around location, and services.
The post-pandemic model I am suggesting is one where there is an established community whose members agree on a shared vision of what is important and what they are willing to support. This may be a monthly rent or lease so that there is a space to gather. It may also include stipends for those who maintain the books, or organize the logistics (operations).
While some people cannot imagine how an organization could function without a paid grand poobah, there are many successful organizations that exist and succeed because of capable people who are well-able to manage working full time jobs and time in a volunteer leadership role.
The first thing that needs to go is the belief that every organization needs a talking head. Our culture already has way too many talking heads with questionable skills in presenting content in a compelling way and they are littering the airwaves with mediocre talks.
Thankfully there are also plenty of good speakers with a compelling message available. Groups that want to refresh their learning on spiritual Truths can log in – separately or in a gathering – to hear some of the greats who are available on sites like YouTube and Facebook – for free.
Teachers of spiritual Truths can offer their wares in classes, seminars and workshops and more and “the market” will respond. Those offerings which are compelling and worthwhile will attract a following and those that are stale and non-relevant will see dwindling attendance. I’m not necessarily a capitalistic guru, but the forces of the market do have wisdom to share. When the market is saying over and over and over that it isn’t interested in what someone is selling,… it’s time to sit up and listen.
This new paradigm will require a different way of being financially but it is fundamentally a more honest way. Instead of promising the Grand Poobah a set salary, and then hoping that their whiz-bang oratory skills and wit will attract people from the 4 corners of the earth; set up the expenses for the community (location, basic services like utilities, internet, etc.) and secure a core group of founding members.
If the basic expenses are $1,500 a month and you only have 5 core members, they must be willing to give $300 a month every month. If that’s not a workable solution; decrease the basic expenses or recruit some additional core members.
As new people show up for talks, classes and more they can simply contribute a love offering. Those that continue to show up will be offered the benefits AND responsibility of becoming a core member.
In addition to a commitment to contribute a set amount each month, core members will receive member benefits. Here is a partial list of some Core Member benefits that a Spiritual Community could offer those that sustain the group with their financial support:
One monthly session with a practitioner/coach/spiritual mentor
One date they can use the location for a class, workshop or meeting each month (or each quarter, depending on the size of the organization and the number of core members) at no charge – love offerings always accepted.
Reduced cost sharing for any additional use of the location
instead of a 50% cost sharing, members get to keep 70% of the revenue from the event they host at the location
Opportunity to “advertise” their offerings in the community newsletter (with community board approval)
This option allows for practitioners of many metaphysical arts to share their gifts with the community (Board should establish guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not and it would vary by community) AND support their metaphysical spiritual community.
This is much more egalitarian than the old model of paying a minister, whether or not they are delivering value, and it shifts the control of the organization back where it belongs: in the hands of the members.
Some may ask what the difference is between paying a minister’s salary and paying for a class or workshop.
The BIG difference is choice.
Today as tithing and attendance dwindles in churches and centers across the country, those who desire to remain in the community are held hostage and pressured – either directly or indirectly – to give more and more money to pay the preacher. This causes undue stress and is unfair at best; unethical at its worst.
The membership model provides defined, accepted upfront costs that all agree on and pay to sustain the COMMUNITY – not to pay a figurehead. The obligation is to the sustenance of the group and the structure necessary – as agreed upon by the members – for the group to remain viable.
The OTHER offerings; talks, classes, training, workshops, seminars (etc.) are optional. This separates the things that are not getting traction (e.g. the market is not responding) and allows those to die on the vine without taking down the entire community.
It also allows people to vote with their wallets without taking down the entire community.
The MEMBERSHIP donations each month are strictly intended to support the community organization – regardless of and separate from the ministers and others that come and go.
It’s past time to separate the communities that people rely on and invest in from the need to pay a minister – who may or may not be invested in the community; and who may or may not be able to provide services that others find valuable enough to support.
Teaching spiritual Truths means that we teach about a Divine Source that always provides. How can we stand up and lecture others about that out of one side of our mouths while haranguing the few folks that come around for money out of the other side of our mouths?
It’s time to actually walk our spiritual talk;to reverse the practices that have twisted the teaching of spiritual Truths into a commodity. When we do the work, we are provided. And no organized extortion is needed. It’s time to dispose of the model that requires churches and spiritual centers to be houses of merchandise, and honor the intentions of founder Ernest Holmes.
I’ve not been shy in calling out questionable behaviors in the religious/spiritual world before the global Coronavirus pandemic, and there seems to be no shortage of opportunities to continue the practice.
In a recent exchange within a Facebook group, a self-described “minister” claimed to want to start a conversation about churches who have closed due to the local and state recommendations in their respective areas.
He began with this statement:
“Since the churches have closed in respect of COVID-19, the question now for Boards and Ministers is how do they reopen again? When the churches abdicated their rights and responsibilities to meet the pandemic through their faith (or at least bowed to the reasoning of the secular community), they offered themselves to be subject to the same legal restrictions that apply within the secular world, … “
He strongly suggests that the churches and centers which closed in response to health concerns around the COVID-19 virus “abdicated their rights and responsibilities to meet the pandemic through their faith“.
Before we read any further we see that this individual is trying to set up a binary, win/lose orientation for the current circumstances by suggesting that religious/spiritual organizations did something wrong by closing during a global pandemic. This kind of setup usually has one purpose: to pick a fight with someone, or several someones.
He goes on to suggest that there is a power struggle inherent in any decision by a religious or spiritual organization to close (“or at least bowed to the reasoning of the secular community“).
In this country he has the freedom to think what he chooses, and to say what he believes, but as a “minister” I believe that he also has a higher responsibility: not to lead people astray; not to encourage behaviors that are misaligned with the best interests of individuals and communities.
He went on with the false, binary choice but added a more dangerous twist:
“Does anyone believe that a church body that has accepted closure, now could open their doors in response to their faith? If so Divinely instructed they would have to try and reestablish that separation in order to act on said Guidance. How to do that when you previously admitted that the threat of COVID-19 was beyond your faith & authority, now to change positions saying that it is suddenly is?“
The hint from someone in a position of perceived power (again, he claimed to be a minister) that if people had enough faith, they would not need to take any precautions about COVID-19 is dangerous, if not criminal.
Some people are intellectually robust enough to read across many subjects, think critically about a topic, understand when they need input from those more knowledgeable, and make informed decisions after gathering the necessary data and information. But many others are easily influenced by someone with a platform, a position or title who push an agenda sprinkled with bits of accurate-sounding information.
The premise that there are only 2 choices: to be a person of faith and disregard any/all concern around the transmission of this virus, or to give in to the overreach of the government – is false, and dangerous.
People with a platform, position or recognized title have a higher responsibility to do the right thing – even if it will impact the bottom line by restricting the flow into the offering plate; and even if would be really fun to start an argument on social media because you don’t have anyone else with whom to argue.
Words have power, and messages from people perceived to be in the know can lead to actions that are harmful, hurtful and unnecessary. Holders of titles, formal or informal, and positions of respect in religious and spiritual communities have a sacred responsibility.
They may not take an oath like medical doctors prior to beginning their practice; but they should take seriously the impact they have on those around them. Those unwilling to accept that mantle of responsibility ought to face serious consequences.
The Constitutional right around freedom of speech does not give one the right to scream FIRE! in a crowded theater. Similarly, the responsibility to first do no harm should be required for maintaining one’s ministerial or other religious credential. That’s not too much to ask at any time, but it’s especially important during times of crisis, like a global pandemic.
The celebrations of Passover and Easter for Jews and Christians, respectively, are already in the rear-view mirror of the calendar as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day in some form of altered arrangement during these irregular times. The world continues to experience an old foe, wreaking modern havoc in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel (new) Coronavirus.
As the bad news and frightening statistics pile up, some turn to conspiracy theories and anger; while others turn to spiritual resources for hope, comfort and strength. This verse from the Psalms is one such ray of comfort.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
from Psalm 139
Sheol is a Hebrew word, and is described as a place of darkness where the spirit goes at the time of death. As it is within the Rabbinic tradition, there are variations on this definition, each with a slightly different interpretation (though it remains basically the same concept); and that’s before the Western biblical translations took over and replaced the word Sheol with the word Hell.
Regardless of the finite definition of the word Sheol, we can interpret the larger meaning: we are never out of the Presence of the Infinite.
This concept is repeated in many traditions, including spiritual metaphysics. In Divine Science: Its Principles and Practice, the writings of Fannie Brooks James and Malinda Cramer have been compiled into what is considered a “textbook” of the teachings. They wrote, “Since the living God is around us, above us, and through us all, we are protected and shielded by the perfect Good at all times.”
Today many people believe that we are in a sort of hell. At the very least, there are opportunities to be in a state of fear around the physical or economic health of our families, our communities, and ourselves.
When this darkness falls on our thoughts, where can we turn?
As the global community faces continued disruption in life as we once knew it,it’s a perfect time to reconnect with the Truth. The wisdom we seek is ever-available; the Divine is ever-present and no matter where we go, or what we do – we are never alone.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
from Psalm 139
As the celebrations of Passover and Easter that we just passed mark freedom and release, we can free/release ourselves from the belief that we are ever left on our own. From the heights of heaven to the depths of hell, the Omnipresent arms of the Divine holds us and turns the “darkness into light“.
In my previous blog I suggested there is substantial evidence that today’s modern metaphysical renderings of ancient truths have put too much stock in personal consciousness while ignoring, or at least downplaying, the impact of Divine influence. In this post I will be exploring the shift from deep and personal faith to the commodification of spiritual practice.
As I continue my studies and search for the foundations of a deeper spirituality, healing and related traditions; I have come across the name of Dorothea Trudel. Miss Trudel was born in Switzerland into a large family typical of the early 19th century. Her mother was a devout woman, but her father was a drunk. The family did not have much in the way of worldly things, but Dorothea’s mother taught them that God would always provide. Dorothea wrote of her childhood:
“There were times when we had not a farthing in the house. None but God knew of our condition, and he who feedeth the young ravens when they cry, was not unmindful of the petitions of his faithful child. He ever helped us in our time of need”
Dorothea’s mother taught them to pray, but to never beg; to rely on God alone for all they need. Dorothea would later write that “many striking deliverances were afforded us, and every one around could bear witness that we were not allowed to suffer want.”
Her path to recognition as a healer came when several of her colleagues (she is reported to have “worked with flowers”) became quite ill. Keep in mind that modern medicine was still very much in its infancy at this time (mid-19th century), so serious illness or injury often meant death.
Concerned for these colleagues and friends, Dorothea tended to them and nursed them, but to no avail – they grew worse. She turned to her faith, and searched her limited resources for help, which came, she wrote, by way of a flash of enlightenment.
Her report is not unlike what others in healing traditions have reported (e.g. Divine Science’s Malinda Cramer).
The light of inspiration, as she called it, inspired her to read the Epistle of James:
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
She returned to her sick colleagues, anointed them with oil and prayed for them; and they all recovered.
Her story grew and soon her small village was overrun with people seeking her out for healing. She did not establish a church, charge a fee or set herself up as an authority. She attempted only to share the healing gift she had found, and to continue her work with flowers, believing that the income from this work had been God-given.
It did not take long for a local physician to get wind of her work, and initiate a petition to prevent her from praying for people, or as the judgment against her was written, “to heal people without the presence of a physician“. Clearly his business was being impacted by her success and instead of working to understand how she was accomplishing the many healings, he went on the attack.
She appealed the decision, and eventually was restored to her ability to pray for people who were sick, but the stress of the ordeal – having people begging her for healing prayer, and the state mandating that it was an illegal activity – took its toll. She succumbed to typhus in 1862.
How many practitioners of spiritual healing today would offer their services without pay, homage or elevated title? The evidence suggests that the answer is “not many“.
Stories of pioneers in spiritual healing like Dorothea Trudel stand in stark contrast to the businesses who have organized around the selling of techniques on how to heal and live a better life. That these businesses (also known as churches and centers) find themselves engaged in a great struggle to survive begs the question: what are they doing wrong?
The “commodification of empowerment” and the “commercialized spirituality” described by Haller (The History of New Thought, 2012) has long bothered me, even as I embraced modern metaphysics as a path to expanded enlightenment.
As I have watched and read of the challenges in organized religion – especially in recent years – I have wondered how full the seats and offering plates would be if they were consistently producing healings, recoveries and restorations. It would matter little that the Sunday morning time was inconvenient or the content boring or outdated: if churches/centers were consistently demonstrating healing and restoration, there would be standing room only, every week, year-round.
The simple Truth that keeps bubbling to the surface is that these teachings are absolutely meant to be passed on, shared and taught. They are not, however, intended to become vehicles for wealth.
Dorothea Trudel’s story and the documentation of the healings she helped bring to the people in her village offer a road-map to the future for those whose earnest desire is to teach healing, recovery and restoration.
#1: study the wisdom texts and spend time in meditation/prayer #2: keep our day job, being grateful that it provides us an income #3: don’t consider healing gifts as a vehicle to income or wealth #4: give generously to those who are in need of our healing gifts
There are many ways in this world to make a quick buck. History seems to suggest that the best way to successfully teach wisdom principles involves giving of one’s self more than getting. This understanding not only guides us to make the right decisions for ourselves, but also helps us to distinguish between those truly interested in serving the world, and those whose primary interest lies in serving themselves.
Joel Goldsmith, celebrated as one of America’s great Christian mystics, is oft-quoted in metaphysical studies and his works assigned as curriculum in coursework within defined programs of study in metaphysical organizations.
I was combing through the book, “Practicing the Presence” a few days ago and was interrupted. When I came back to my reading, the pages had flipped open to the page that featured this paragraph:
“We dare not ever look outside of our own being for our good, but we must ever look upon ourselves as that center from which God is flowing. It is the function of the Christ, or Son of God, to be the instrument as which the good of God pours out into the world:
I am that center through which God operates, and, therefore I understand the nature of supply. Never will I attempt to demonstrate supply; never will I attempt to get supply. Since the activity of the Christ, Itself, is supply, then all I need to do is to let it flow. Since “I and my Father are one”, and I am the Christ, or the Son of God, I am that place through which God flows. Therefore, I can meet every demand that is made upon me…”
Joel Goldsmith, “Practicing the Presence”, p. 83
Since stumbling upon spiritual metaphysics, I have struggled with an age-old question that has plagued humanity since the introduction of religious rules and regulations; principles and practice.
Why does this stuff work some of the time, but not all of the time?
Some old-school metaphysicians will point out that it always works, according to the consciousness of the person. I have disputed this almost since first hearing it proposed as the reason for non-demonstrations, as have many others.
I also wonder: what is the reason that I have demonstrated a new roof, a way to pay my student loans, and more – while other matters remain elusive (an agent for my book, as 1 example)?
If I knew a definitive answer – something that could be simplified, packaged into a commodity and distributed – I could sell it and become ridiculously wealthy. The continued multitude of offerings on applying the Law of Attraction (or whatever the latest version might be – “scripting” may be the buzzword now) continue to suggest that interest remains high (though not as high as it was after the release of The Secret).
“The moment we realize [our oneness with the Divine], good begins to flow to us from outside, from sources all over the globe.”
Joel Goldsmith, “Practicing the Presence”, p. 84
This realization is one that does not track one-to-one with modern metaphysics. In some (not all) corners of what I am referring to as modern metaphysics, more “us” (the individual) and less God is taught. The focus is often presented as being about individual actions, individual beliefs (change your thinking, change your life) and individual consciousness instead of a recognition of the omnipresence of the Infinite. This may not be the intended communication; but at its surface, that is the message that comes across.
I have come to wonder if, as the pendulum swings between extremes, the concept of personal consciousness has been over-emphasized in some corners of metaphysical spirituality, and the impact of Divine influence under-considered.
I look at my own experience, where on many occasions I have turned to spiritual tools to remove myself from an unpleasant situation or circumstance, only to find a path through – not out – of the circumstance. Once on the other side I have found a significant benefit to having remained in that situation/circumstance. This strongly suggests that there is a wisdom; a higher power that knows better than I do and does NOT simply respond to what I want, but sees the big picture and acts accordingly.
This of course isn’t as “sexy” or marketable as manifesting. The path to this kind of manifesting is longer-term (and Americans, especially, have become increasingly impatient); requires self-discipline, self-control and commitment. It is most definitely not a “quick-fix“.
I understand why churches and centers run Prosperity Classes. Who would respond to an advertisement with a tagline that promised a lengthy commitment of time, serious study and introspection, and abundant benefits that are unable to be quickly tallied or measured – AND – sometimes even show up as a decisive “no” to our request? It’s a hard sell except for the most committed seekers.
Sadly, history suggests that the interest in manifesting things out of thin air will not disappear any time soon.
In his book, “The History of New Thought“, author John S. Haller, Jr. wrote:
“The commodification of empowerment and self-discovery has been one of the characteristic elements of New Thought in American life and culture as it competes in the marketplace for audiences—a condition that has left its spokespeople indistinguishable on occasion from the crassest of hucksters. Utilizing oratory, salesmanship, pseudoscience, ritual, and entertainment to elevate the moral tone of their message, these dream weavers provide believers with much-needed assurances that they are the living legacies of the world’s spiritual awakening and that the world is, indeed, their oyster. By playing down dogma, simplifying creeds, and offering oral and visual distractions rich in anecdote, they have won the loyalties of millions to their commercialized spirituality.”
John S Haller, Jr. “The History of New Thought, p. 273
Today, modern New Thought struggles to hold onto its footing and relevance as a movement. Now is a good time to ask at least one hard question: has the “commodification of empowerment” and “commercialized spirituality” created more shallow distractions than deep enlightenment?
As we have preached prosperity, tallied tithes and given a lot of lip service to Oneness; it appears that at some level we have also minimized/sidelined the core Truths of a message that, when fully understood and embraced, can truly heal the sick, feed the hungry, uplift the fallen, and restore the years the locusts have eaten.
It remains to be seen if there is a way out that does not require a total upending of the current status; and only time will tell.
In spiritual studies, spiritual law is often compared to the physical laws of science. I’ve even written about the correlation on this blog. One of the most popular comparisons is to gravity. It is taught that just as the Law of gravity is always in force, spiritual laws are always operating in our lives.
While I agree with this part of it (these are always operating), the rest of the understanding of the Law of gravity is left out (probably because non-scientists are stepping outside of their realm of expertisewithout acknowledging their ignorance) and therefore, the lesson and its true applicability is incomplete.
I was pondering this recently when I came across an older blog by Harv Bishop where he discussed the (problematic) belief still held by some in New Thought that our thinking creates everything in our lives.
This often leads to a belief that those who are poor or those who experience discrimination have only themselves and their consciousness to blame – nothing else.
The challenge of this viewpoint was articulated best in this statement:
“…we live under multiple influences in our lives including our minds. But we are also influenced by our biological and psychological make-up and social forces.”
Since so many people point to physical laws to prove spiritual laws, I thought it best to use the COMPLETE PICTURE of a physical law to prove that external influences can and DO influence behavior – even in science.
In a vacuum (a situation devoid of atmospheric matter), if we drop a small marble and a feather, they will drop at the same rate of speed.
If we repeat this experiment outside of the conditions of a vacuum (e.g. in regular atmospheric conditions), the marble will drop much more quickly because of the impact of air resistance on the feather.
The air resistance in this demonstration of a scientific principle is similar to the confounding factors, or multiple influences, in our lives that also can create resistance to our thoughts being able to manifest into the things we desire.
I’ve written a number of blogs where I reference Maslow’s hierarchy of need, and it is worth recalling here.
Individuals stuck in the lower levels of the hierarchy experience “resistance” to achieving life at the higher levels because of their circumstances. In other words; hunger, homelessness, illness, poverty, unemployment, abuse and more present challenges and in many cases, barriers to ascending to higher levels of achievement.
In addition to these, societal and cultural realities also create resistance. For example, racism, sexism, income inequality and other factors can impede forward progress – regardless of how clear our consciousness is, and how strong our spiritual practice.
While a positive attitude, tenacity and focus are always a better option than negativity, self-pity and giving up; we cannot ignore the many external forces at play in the world that interact with our own thoughts and create “resistance” in the same way that normal air creates resistance for a feather.
We don’t ridicule the feather for being impacted by the air resistance; we accept that this is just the reality of life for a feather in normal atmospheric circumstances. We also recognize that we cannot live in the “ideal” circumstances of a vacuum state where there is no resistance.
Similarly, we should not judge ourselves or others who, even with Herculean efforts over long periods of time, fail to rise up out of circumstances to a higher level or better place.
This is not intended at all to suggest that we should just give up and not try. Instead, I offer this comparison to suggest that judging ourselves or others harshly for not having “the right consciousness” is not only futile, but wrong – especially if we’re going to point to the Law of Gravity to teach spiritual principle.
A little bit of information, deployed by those without enough knowledge, can cause confusion, erroneous thinking and even harm. Teaching spiritual principles is supposed to be helpful, uplifting, and positive – not cause pain or harm.
Newly-credentialed physicians take the Hippocratic Oath where they pledge to first (FIRST!) do no harm. Self-proclaimed spiritual people who cannot, or will not, make this same pledge are, perhaps, in the wrong business.