No house of merchandise

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.

I’m not sure it’s technically insane, but it’s certainly a zero sum game. If the circumstances of the global pandemic have taught us anything, it is that old paradigms are done, and a radically new way of being is in order. While this is true in many corners of society, the one I am interested in most is the paradigm shift needed in organized religious and spiritual practice.

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 Grand Poobah of the Order of the Water Buffalo/Lodge

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.

Community commitment

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.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Sacred responsibility

(C) 2020 R Harmon

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.

In the same way that a different “minister” was wrong to endanger the members of a community by insisting that they still meet in a small, closed space back in March; this “minister” is also wrong to suggest that people who claim a faith should question the adherence to governmental recommendations to stay safe during the global pandemic.

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.

 (C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

No matter what or where

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.”

And still other traditions have noted, “We are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars, guides us too.

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“.

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Related blog posts:

A challenge in practice

(Joel Goldsmith)

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).

Continuing my reference to Goldsmith’s book, whose writings echo the tone found in John Randolph Price’s Abundance Book, I can only conclude that the “answer” to my own query is this:

“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.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

No harm

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 expertise without 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.

(C) 2020 Practitioner’s Path

Related posts:

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.


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