Buy your religion wholesale

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Max Planck

I read an article this week about a scientist (geologist) whose life work has put her at odds with the majority belief about the last extinction event on Earth: the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

Her research, and that of scientists whose work supports the theories she suggests for the extinction (a major volcanic eruption in India – the Deccan eruption), is soundly ridiculed by the majority. Such is the gamesmanship in academia. Her story is worth reading, and available on Medium (search: Greta Keller). I also linked it to this post (above).

In the article, a colleague commented about the scientific disagreements, paraphrasing Max Planck: “You don’t convince the old (scientists) about a new idea. You wait for them to die.

The article has me pondering a number of things in this upside-down world we are living in, but that quote turned my thoughts to a subject I ponder a lot: the state of organized religion in the context of today.

I have had a mixed experience in my participation in a variety of sectors of organized religion. My earliest experiences were those of warmth, acceptance, and family as I grew up in a church-going Protestant family in small-town, rural America. I was raised by quiet, but devout believers who lived their faith instead of talking about it.

My first “challenge” to all of this came when I was at a Summer Church Camp and the minister/counselor led an evening session for us to find Jesus & invite him in. The experience was intended to allow each of us to “be saved” – to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives. And in a manner quite unlike the way I had been raised (although it was the same denomination), my fellow campers began to writhe on the floor, howl and cry out for Jesus.

I was confused, because I did not feel anything change, did not hear any voices, was not compelled to cry, and did not feel any compulsion to do anything. I did have a strong desire to get the hell out of there, however, but I was only 12 or 13, so I stayed put and hoped that no one would notice that the Spirit hadn’t chosen to visit me.

This episode has stayed with me for many years and I believe was a pivotal point in my deep questioning of all that is organized religion. As I grew and explored psychology, religion and religious experience and had many opportunities to observe human behavior in various religious and spiritual contexts, I had many more experiences to add to this early one where I question the framework and context that humans have put around how we interface with our Spiritual natures.

Fast-forward to today and I am curiously watching the unfoldment of a brave new world in the sector of organized religion.

I previously shared a story of an altercation I had with a local “spiritual-not-religious” minister who wanted to continue to have services when, in mid-March, it was clear to any thinking person that gathering older people with compromised immune status in a small, 11 x 14 room with poor ventilation, was a bad idea.

This same impulse, which I have attributed to an unhealthy attachment to the offering plate, has not only impacted other denominations and organizations, but resulted in the deaths of a number of prominent pastors who have continued to preach “… a message of defiance …{and] to ignore state and local government mandates against group gatherings.”

We know from volumes of research on church attendance that churches are graying out, and that millennials are not affiliating with organized religion. The behaviors being exposed in social and national media are helping to drive these trends, which reminds me of the Planck quote.

Is the decline in church affiliation and attendance simply seeing the dying off of the old, more church-prone generations and the emergence of the dominant generation who has seen example after example – personal and national – of organized religion showing its true colors?

The body of evidence that organized religion is problematic at best, and a well-orchestrated scheme to separate people from their money to the benefit of a small subset of others, is deeply and prolifically documented.

It’s fitting here to reference yet another scientist.

Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.

Albert Einstein

I suggest that many people believe that the Sunday talk/sermon makes a great minister, but they are wrong: it’s ALL about their character.

So does this mean that everything we’ve read, studied, learned and believed about the spiritual aspect of life is all a bunch of crap? No.

I have said many times that spiritual teachings will survive, as they have over the centuries; but that the vehicles through which they are deployed today in our society may not.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Neville Goddard, whom I have written about a few times (see below for a list), refused to be a part of any organized religious group although he was approached by several and promised a key position in them. And while his teachings range from common sense to the fantastical, this statement of his warrants consideration:

Don’t buy your religion retail – taking someone else’s perspective and paying markup prices. Get your religion wholesale. Go to the Source.”

Neville Goddard

How do we buy our religion “wholesale“?

  • Read for ourselves – the internet, YouTube, libraries (Amazon!) & more are vehicles to freedom!
  • Find like-minded people to discuss our perspectives
    • we need to ensure it’s a discussion among equals and not a discussion led by someone who has a formal title or an agenda
  • Question everything – especially long-held assumptions that support money and power going to a few people at the top of an organization or movement.
  • Maintain a healthy distrust of anyone who tells us “this is how it’s done,…
    • examples include tithing, not discussing negative things (aka spiritual bypass), pushing to maintain “the way we’ve always done this” and more.
  • Understand that we can take wisdom in pieces. We can find wisdom and truth in portions of someone’s perspective without needing to become a disciple.
    • this frees us to explore the wisdom that OTHERS have to share as well
  • Trust our inner wisdom
    • if it sounds too good to be true; or sounds/feels not right – we need to trust our gut!

This time of disruption is a time to reflect on many things.Let’s make sure we don’t squander it on longing for a return to the way things used to be. The time for great change is upon us, and long overdue!

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path 

Blog posts about Neville Goddard on this site:

The Problem of Privilege

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.

He posted this article, and then this comment:

“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.

Peace.


(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

The Age of Apps

I was drowsily listening to the television over the weekend, 5-days into a quarantine couch posture, when I heard a familiar-sounding statement in a new context:

Change your thinking, and get great results!

A version of this tagline is used to advertise Noom – a new weight-loss program that was developed to target millennials.

It’s deployed on an App – also very millennial – and the cost is straight-forward: $49/month.

As I thought about the concept being advertised, I recognized the tools and techniques taught in metaphysical spiritual centers across the world: change your thinking, change your life.

The world was changing at a fast pace before any of us knew the term COVID-19, or began to practice “social distancing“. When we all emerge from this, we will return to a different world – in many ways.

I mentioned to a friend the other day that the teachings once found exclusively in metaphysical churches and centers are now mainstream, and suggested that this made the value proposition for the traditional, Sunday morning church service in centers an even harder sell for those not already connected to, and invested in an established group.

As the “established groups” age, or grey out as it is sometimes termed, the likelihood that the younger generations will come in and fill behind to keep the doors open is painfully and obviously low.

Millennials are not affiliating with organized religion and there are many reasons.

They are, however; using the tools and techniques taught in metaphysical churches and centers, to “change their thinking & change their lives“.

They’re logging in for coaching on weight loss (Noom), fitness (fitness buddy), anxiety and depression (Moodfit), stress (Sanvello) – and more.

A quick look at the Moodfit app shows at least 3 techniques I’ve seen taught in metaphysical classes at a spiritual center. Millennials aren’t rejecting the teachings – they’re embracing them!

What they’re rejecting is the packaging.

It’s clear from this quick search that Millennials are interested in, and
spending money on, metaphysical tools and techniques. It’s also clear that those who believe that the traditional Sunday service is the best way to teach said tools and techniques aren’t paying attention.

My friend pushed back at my suggestion that the value proposition for the
traditional Sunday service was waning, saying that people still needed a place to go and felt called to be there for them.

She’s a good person with a generous heart, and it’s an admirable sentiment; but the data shows that it’s a limited proposition with increasingly diminishing returns, given the current trajectory. The younger generations are absolutely interested in the “what” – but they’re not at all interested in the “how“.

The future of organized metaphysics is being written right now. So far, “the way we’ve always done it” is holding strong, with a few nods to technology thrown in here and there but as accoutrements – not core capabilities. The business model remains largely as it was in the early 1900s, as does the hierarchy.

If we could let go of the stranglehold we have on the past and pay attention, we might learn how to engage the younger generations and their interest in metaphysical principles.

It looks something like this:

  • easily accessible in an asynchronous format (when they want it, and not scheduled at X time on Y day)
  • straightforward pricing
  • willing to spend money when they perceive something as having value and contributing positively to their lives
  • transactional (once they learn what they need to learn, they will likely leave, and find another “app” to address a different area)
  • fits easily into their busy lives (on the fly)
  • authenticity (they won’t buy something from someone who can’t demonstrate success applying in their own lives what they’re selling to others)

The world and the generations coming up behind us need the wisdom and guidance available in the metaphysical teachings shared in earlier times from pulpits, stages and more. The millennials are actively seeking these teachings out as they mature into careers, raise families and more, but they’re not going to fill the seats or the offerings plates on Sunday mornings.

This generation is also more likely to question the premise of American exceptionalism than their parents and grandparents. From this perspective they often look to Europe as traditional American models fail to deliver. This alignment with Western European principles also bodes poorly for organized religion as the importance of religion in Europe – specifically France, Germany and the UK – is among the lowest across the globe (10% say that religion is important to them as compared to 53% in the United States).

As the history of organized New Thought is written at some point in the future, it will be interesting to see if the decade we’re sitting right smack in the middle of (2015 – 2025) was a point of acceptance, change and growth or a point of retrenchment and decline.

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating. The principles of New Thought spirituality will survive. The organizations that feel an ownership of them, may not. It’s decision time.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Best practices

In times of great turmoil, the feelings of helplessness can seem overwhelming. If we watch the news we can quickly come to believe that we’re all doomed; but that’s no way to live.

I’ve been clear that I believe in science, and support science-based actions in the face of this public health threat. We need to be heeding the calls to stay home, and maintain physical distance as well as wash our hands and now as recently as yesterday, wear a cloth mask when we are out in public.

I have been pondering sickness, spirituality, and the tools I have been adding to my “medicine bag” over the years, as well as observations I have made. In that line of thought, I came across a verse in Psalm 41.

Blessed are they who consider the poor!
    In the day of trouble the Lord delivers them;
the Lord protects and keeps them alive;
    they are called blessed in the land;
    you do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
    in their illness you restore them to full health.

Psalm 41

While I do not think that when we feel a tingle in our throats, or a pain in our chests we can throw a bunch of money at a charity, or give generously to someone in need and that will solve the problem; I do think that there is something to this counsel.

In a very anecdotal assessment of people I have known (and known about) over the years, I have observed the following mental conditions present in those who ended up with a life-threatening disease:

  • sustained resentment of something in their life
  • deep and sustained jealousy of others
  • constant anger that is always present
  • shame (long-held)
  • stinginess/greed (“I got mine – you’re on your own.”)
  • other non-specific and intense negative emotions

It seems to me that my very unscientific assessment has some support in the verse of Psalm 41, where it states that those who care for others, in this case by considering “the poor” will be protected, blessed, and restored to full health.

Note that “the poor” is not limited to those without financial means, and likely includes those who are lacking in other areas of their lives (e.g. poor in spirit).

What does this mean to us, mid-pandemic?

My interpretation of this is that each and every one of us has the ability, right here and right now, to boost our immunity by doing our spiritual warrior work.

Edwene Gaines, author of The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, teaches that before we are going to see abundance in our lives, we must do our forgiveness work. She speaks of not going to sleep at night before checking in with herself to see if there is anyone she is in need of forgiving – including herself.

This and similar healing practices are the foundation of good health – mentally and physically.

And this isn’t just some “woo-woo” nonsense. Research is increasingly showing a connection “…between forgiveness and physical, mental, and spiritual health” as well as evidence that the act of forgiving others plays a critical role in the health of us all (communities, nations – the world).

If we are challenged in knowing where to begin, consider Louise Hay’s perspective on forgiving others. She taught that we can begin by knowing that: they did the best that they could at the time.

We can start by making a list of all the people we dislike, can’t stand, or who irritate us. We can use a journal where we can write down/get out all the negative stuff we’ve been holding on to about what they said, did or didn’t do, and anything else about them that we need to let go. We can also stomp our feet or bang a pillow if that’s easier for us than writing.

Once we give pen or voice to these issues, I recommend sitting quietly for a bit before moving on to the mantra, “they did the very best that they knew how to do” or if it’s a current situation, “they are doing the best they can at this time“.

When this is a challenge (some people and circumstances will be easier to forgive than others) I look at my own life and remember mistakes and misjudgments I have made. Knowing that I did the best I could at that time helps me soften my view of others’ behaviors and choices.

As we work through these, our higher wisdom will bring more to our conscious awareness for our consideration and work. We just need to keep moving through the “stuff” that comes up. It will get easier and we will start to feel better, lighter, healthier.

Maintaining our health requires more than organic food and exercise. It demands a healthy mind and spirit, too. We cannot hold onto resentment, jealousy, anger, shame or any other intense negative emotions and fully support our physical body’s ability to be healthy and whole.

Many of us are on significantly decreased schedules; working from home, or perhaps even out of work. All of us can boost our health status by taking this gift of increased time and using it to let go of emotions and thoughts that don’t serve us. We can “consider the poor” and turn away from our self-centered perspectives by giving generously of our forgiveness for past wrongs, current missteps and choices – those done by others, and those we have done.

What can we do in this time of global pandemic?

We can forgive; release; let go and in doing this within our own lives, we will perhaps heal the world more than we ever imagined possible.

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Walk in the Light

Metaphysical spiritual teachings remind us that the Infinite Spirit (God) is Omnipresent. This differs from traditional Christianity where there is an accommodation for duality – often referred to as “evil“.

The examples cited most are darkness and light; heat and cold; love and hate and in today’s “interesting times“, I would add fear and peace. Metaphysically, we believe that these are not 2 opposite ends of a spectrum but instead are binary. Zeroes and ones, in the tech language. Darkness is not its own entity, but simply the state where there is an absence of light. The same applies to hot and cold, with cold simply being the absence of heat.

In the spiritual context we would apply this analogy to good and evil in the same way with evil being simply the absence of good (or God) and fear being the absence of peace.

This perspective eliminates the need to “fight” anything. There is no war between good and evil, or light and darkness: there is only the need for more good, more light.

In the world today, as we face multiple reminders that things have changed, we encounter numerous opportunities to be fearful. We can, if we choose, stream near constant updates on how many people are ill, how many are in intensive care units, how many body bags were ordered from the Department of Defense and of course the death toll.

I don’t recommend it. It only crowds out our peace.

While I am an advocate for being smart about public health issues, it doesn’t mean we need to dwell in doomsday. Instead, we can turn our attentions to better things.

In metaphysical studies we often hear phrases like: “energy flows where our attention goes“.

Joseph Murphy wrote in the previous century that “Whatever we give attention to will grow, magnify, and multiply in our experience.”

These teachers and teachings suggest strongly (& correctly) that our peace of mind is directly connected to the things we place our attention and energy upon.

The writers of the Christian canon took it a bit further, suggesting that not only will a positively-inclined attention bring us peace; but that as we “practice these things“, the Infinite abides with us.

… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4

Most of us will not contribute much, if anything, to solving this global crisis aside from cooperating with public health officials, and abiding by the expert’s recommendations to keep ourselves and others safe.

The most important thing we can do is to walk in the Light. To help us achieve this we can listen to uplifting music, read a spiritual book, listen to a streaming podcast by a favorite author or spiritual teacher, take a walk in nature, or meditate in silence. These activities (and many others) are ways to keep our feet on a path where we can “walk in the Light“.

To date there are no cures known for COVID-19, but there is a cure for fear: peace.

Let’s commit to walking in the Light, embracing calm and peace, and watching our fears dwindle into nothingness.


(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Wisdom from an earlier age

As we trudge through the most uncertain times in modern memory, many of us are seeking reassurance and solace. I’ve not conducted any surveys or taken any polls, but I suspect that in the midst of what can feel like a sustained terror attack (with the “terrorist” being a microscopic virus), no one is looking for a complex, long and drawn-out answer.

We want to know that we’re going to be OK; that our families and friends are going to be OK, and that our communities are going to be OK. We are worried about health – of ourselves, and those we love – as well as the economy (our personal economies as well as the larger one).

Right now NOTHING feels OK. We are hiding in our homes, wary – if not fearful – of each person we encounter on the street, in the store, or at work. We are aware of the news, too often glued to the TV to see if the doomsday scenario is any closer to us and hoping that this is all just a really bad reality TV show hoax.

Nona Brooks, 1914

This feeling of helplessness is compounded when we are concerned for the health and well-being of those we love.

Where can we turn?
What can we do?
What options are available?

In the late 1800’s, a number of women (in different geographic locales) were experiencing great success in healing infirmities and diseases that had been pronounced incurable.

Their revelations and practice became known as Divine Science.

They wrote a number of books dedicated to teaching the spiritual principle(s) they had discovered and practiced. In one of these books, Nona Brooks wrote:

“Thought, the activity of Mind, is the Creative Power of the Universe.
All things (forms) are thoughts of God.”

Nona Brooks, Short Lessons in Divine Science

Divine Science, considered part of the New Thought movement, has been defined as “the practice of the presence of God” – or the understanding and acceptance of Omnipresence.

That seems simple – but how can we use that simple concept in these complex and turbulent times?

In the book, “Short Lessons in Divine Science“, Nona Brooks wrote a “treatment” or affirmative prayer that can be used when we are concerned for someone’s health, reminding the student that they “…must forget the claim of sickness, or weakness, that is being made …and know only the Truth.”

Here is that statement of Truth:

“You are God’s child; God’s love surrounds you and cares for you; God’s Life is yours. In the light of the Great Reality I see you perfect, free from the delusion of sin, sickness, death. I see you whole with God’s Wholeness; I rejoice to speak this word for you; it is the Father that speaketh in me. The word of God is powerful to bless.”

Nona Brooks

In 21st century language, we might say something more along these lines:

“You are a beloved child of the Infinite. Spirit’s love surrounds you, enfolds you, uplifts and protects you. In the Light of Truth, I see you perfect, healthy; free from sickness and struggle. I see you whole in the perfection of Spirit – and I am grateful to speak this word for you – knowing that it is Infinite Wisdom that speaks through me, with the power to heal and bless.”

Practitioner’s Path

Neville Goddard – independent teacher of spiritual Truths in the mid-20th century taught a similar method. He spoke of imagining that the person in need of help was already in that better place: the unemployed friend as gainfully employed; the unmarried friend as happily married; the ill person as healthy and whole.

Ernest Holmes – in the movement he built after being ordained as a Divine Science minister – taught that as we learn the Truth, the Truth will automatically free us and built a movement around the art of learning to “know the Truth” for those who sought assistance through prayer.

The common thread that runs through the teaching of Neville, Religious Science and Divine Science is the great power that our thoughts have to heal.

In these tumultuous and uncertain times, it can feel like we are helpless, but we are not. No matter who we are, or what is going on; we can use thought – the creative power of the Universe – and know the Truth, for ourselves and for others.

Unplug from the news. Be smart, and follow the experts’ (scientists, doctors) advice, but don’t overdose on the scary stuff. Spend time knowing that all is well; that this too will pass; that you and those you love are healthy, strong and safe.

Or as Nona Brooks would tell us, “forget the claim of sickness, or weakness, that is being made …and know only the Truth.”

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Related blog posts:

Remembering

As a global community we are experiencing a mix of fear, trepidation, uncertainty and anxiety around the novel Coronavirus and the disease that results: COVID-19.

(C) 2019 Angelic Guide

Stark reports are intermingled with new restrictions and recommendations, and it can be difficult for the strongest among us to stay positive.

I was listening to Michael Gott’s song, “When I Forget” on the way into work this morning (I work at a major medical center, so no home quarantine for me at least for now), and it reminded me of something that I wanted to share.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6

This verse from the Christian canon reminds us that we are precious, valued and cherished. It is sometimes challenging to remember that we hold this honored status when we are facing scary times. The best way to strengthen our faith in the face of a great storm is to take inventory of all the many times that we have been provided, cared for and blessed in our lives.

We can use a journal, or make a “Vision Board” to review the blessings, answered prayers, miracles and manifestations that we have experienced over the years.

It is easier to battle larger giants when we remember that the Infinite Spirit had our back on many small and medium things. Making a list of all the times Spirit showed up to cover our expenses, provided something we needed (or wanted), and brought healing to us or someone we love helps to calm our fears, and return to a knowing that we are not alone.

To put it in terms as they are presented in the biblical story excerpted above:

Remember all the times God showed up in your life as money, food, healing and answers in things large and small? Be strong, and have faith! You weren’t alone then, and you’re not alone now!

The lyrics in Michael Gott’s song include the following line:

  • When I forget, will you remember for me?

We can work together to remember – for ourselves, and for each other. There is a Power for Good in the Universe – greater than we are – and we can use it! We’ve used It throughout our lives.

And we can use it now – no matter what we are facing.

When you forget, I am remembering: for you, for me, for us all.

And so it is.


(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path