Birthing a New Model

(C) 2019 R Harmon

If you follow my blog at all, you may have picked up on the fact that I closely follow data on the shifts in our culture, and specifically the changes that are impacting organized religion.

Historically, churches and spiritual centers have had physical space (buildings, property) and hired a minister and other staff as dictated by the needs of the congregation.

I remember when the role of Church Organist was a full time position in every church, unless the minister’s wife was a musician and then the compensation was often added as part of the minister’s salary package.

By the time I began working as an Organist (1991), many churches had begun to move away from the full-time Organist/Director of Music model to one where the Organist was paid to show up on Wednesday night to lead choir practice, and Sunday morning for services. It was a part-time gig with no benefits package.

This change came about due to the financial realities stemming from a decline in members, tithes, and changes in church attendance. Today, as the decline in religious participation has accelerated, we see these same changes impacting the ministry.

As I continue to ponder the fate of traditional organized religion in the United States, I have come to question if any of this should have morphed into the big business that it became and struggles to maintain today.

The principles of spiritual living are universal Truths, and as such belong to everyone. Ernest Holmes – ordained Divine Science minister and founder of Religious Science – seemed to understand this, never wanting his teachings to be packaged into a religion.

“… Ernest Holmes never wanted a church, and wasn’t interested in religion. He only wanted a teaching ministry. … Holmes resisted it as he resisted too much organization. “To evolve a higher understanding of the spiritual universe, humanity and the church must be free, open at the top.”

SOM Archives

When the focus of a church or center shifts to finances, the mission becomes muddled. Instead of remaining “open at the top” and agile enough to evolve a higher understanding of the spiritual universe; churches and centers become obsessed with paying the rent/mortgage, funding repairs or updates, giving the minister(s) a raise (or paying them what was agreed to) and counting what gets put into the offering plate each week.

These organizations are not free and evolving higher understandings or open at the top – they are scrapping and scrimping to meet the payroll; worrying about their own survival and chained to very base financial realities of modern life.

Referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, we know that an individual cannot evolve to a state of self-actualization if they are struggling with basic needs (e.g. survival). I can’t imagine that an organization – comprised of multiple individuals who are interested in the health of the organization – can evolve when collectively they remain mired in the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

This reality of financial turmoil then leads to feeling justified in charging money for classes that teach techniques for applying universal Truths, prayer work and more. And here is where I believe churches and centers have gone astray and where the wisdom of Ernest Holmes (e.g. no establishment of a religion) is so obvious.

The focus, I believe, needs to be on teaching interested seekers how to use spiritual tools to improve their lives, period. It should never devolve into maintaining salaries, rents and more. Easy to say; not so easy to back out of when almost the entirety of organized religion is up to their eyeballs in this money model.

A transformation is already in motion. Fewer dollars going into offering plates on Sunday morning; more church buildings are being put up for sale each month and difficult salary decisions being made every week in religious organizations across the country.

As I ponder the fate of the spiritual-not-religious teachings, I see the need for teachers and guides, but I don’t see the need for the role to be a salaried position. In fact, the very BEST teachers are those individuals whose lives are 3D examples of how the spiritual principles actually work in the real world. Don’t preach to me about what I should do – show me what’s possible by living your best life!

As Mitch Horowitz writes in the forward to Harv Bishop’s new book, New Thought (R)evolution, (See,… I’m not the only one saying these things)

“New Thought as an identifiably intellectual and spiritual movement, born out of the transcendental yearnings of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, has a less certain future.”

(and)

“New Thought, in its churches, books, and internal dialogues, has failed to mature.”

Mitch Horowitz

My opinion on at least part of the reason New Thought has failed to mature in the latter 20th/early 21st century is that pursuit of fame and/or fortune has been the goal, and the sharing of spiritual principles has been the vehicle. The (anecdotal) evidence of this has presented in several ways.

If we look at the current crop of Hay House speakers, we can see that none of them are generating the same excitement, crowds or best-selling books – even though they are in essence, teaching the SAME THING that Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay taught and found extreme success in teaching.

In less lofty circles, we see multiple examples of ministers who go into the ministry do so with the hopes that it will give them a platform to speak to the world, not to necessarily “do the work” that is in front of them – serving their fellow humans – regardless of fortune or fame.

The problem here is not with the teachings, but with the goals of the teachers and organizations. As a global movement, we would be wise to recall the wisdom of Epiucurus:

The love of money, if unjustly gained, is impious, and, if justly, shameful; for it is inappropriate to be miserly even with justice on one’s side.

Epicurus ( 341–270 BCE)

History has shown that these principles will survive. Whether the modern-day organizations built up around them will survive is uncertain at best.

If there are to be heroes in this saga, they will be those who see the importance of the teachings as more critical than the maintenance of the hierarchy, and who work to usher in a new model – one that will support the evolution of a higher understanding of the spiritual universe and humanity; and that is free and wide open at the top.

I may not ever be classified as a hero – and that’s OK, but I plan to be (and am working now) on the leading edge of this transformation.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

A gift to start the week

The start of the traditional work week in the United States can be a blessing for some, while to others it seems like a curse.

It can be challenging to work at a job that you dislike; or to be at the mercy of people in the workplace who are mean and nasty; or to struggle with mental, emotional or physical challenges while still needing to navigate rush hour traffic and the stresses of a job.

It can also be challenging to face the work week without a job, or with a job that is not paying a living wage and falls short of providing what is needed to support yourself or your family.

In a previous blog, I shared an affirmative prayer for peace at work. This week I am sharing a New Thought artist whose songs are some of the best I’ve heard, musically as well as in verse/content.

I had the good fortune to hear Denise Rosier perform live at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, California in 2018 and I’ve been a big fan ever since. You can check out her web page here.

This work week’s spiritual share is taken from Denise’s song, “Hallelujah Today” – the lead song on her album, Everyday.

The second verse begins with the following:

“With every mile, I’m reminded,
I never go, empty handed;
God is my strength, I’m never stranded,
I’m not alone.”

Denise Rosier, “Hallelujah Today”

I can think of no better coaching for anyone who dreads the work week – no matter what the reason. And while the words are beautiful as sung in this musical rendition, they are powerful as a spoken or written affirmation too.

AFFIRM: “I never go empty-handed; God/Spirit is my strength and I am never stranded. I am not alone.”

Regardless of the road we are traveling, taking time to remember this simple truth – whether the words are sung or we write them on a piece of paper and tuck into our purse/wallet – can make all the difference.

Most faith traditions remind us that we are never alone. We simply need to turn our attention back to this realization and know that all is well (no matter what it looks like on the outside of the situation or circumstance).

I leave you now in the very capable hands of Denise Rosier, and know that this week, the blessings that come to you outnumber the troubles – many times over.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

New paths

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

Change is a part of life. Few will argue that point, but it’s hard not to be a little breathless at the magnitude and the pace of the changes in motion today.

The impacts are all around us – some of them helpful and positive; others confusing and even a little scary.

The paradigms we have relied on for decades are fading into obscurity even as technology makes things that were once unthinkable as close as our back pocket.

I’ve written a number of blogs on waning church and center attendance. I still meet people who tell me that “things are picking up!” and I smile. I’m happy that they are happy – but they are whistling past the graveyard. And not just because I say so. The trends are larger than any one denomination or faith group.

I still receive the local Jewish Chronicle. It’s a good read on local and world politics from the Jewish perspective and I enjoy every issue. A recent copy featured a front page, above the fold article on the relevance of the synagogue in the 21st century.

Before I share the details, let’s establish a few facts. The reason that Jews and Christians affiliate with and attend a local house of worship varies between the 2 faith traditions. While there are some shared motivations, there are also divergent ones. I know this because I have a foot in each camp. The closest comparison to Jewish practice (motivations to affiliate and attend) in the Christian tradition is Catholicism.

The reason I point this out is that this difference undercuts some of the generalized reasons naysayers give for the downward trends in church attendance (e.g. “it’s the music“, or “it’s the Sunday morning thing“). Catholics and Jews have had non-Sunday services for centuries and they’re still struggling along with the rest of the faith traditions to fill seats for their weekly services. They have vastly different holidays and still suffer similar challenges in membership and attendance. I feel confident in saying that it’s not the organist, cantor or communion wine keeping people away on Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday night or Sunday morning.

According to the article, while the local Jewish population grew by 17% since 2002; only 35% of households report a synagogue affiliation – compared to 53% in 2002.

One rabbi asked the question: “Can Jewish life be sustained without the synagogue?

A colleague answered him with an answer that we could use in the spiritual-not-religious sector: “Clearly people are living Jewish lives absent the synagogue.” (consider the 17% growth of Jewish households)

The same rabbi went on to say that the challenge will be “...to figure out what role the synagogue has going forward and how (leaders) can best meet that task.

The questions, and the answers, could be shared inserting “Center” for “Synagogue“. Clearly people are living SPIRITUAL LIVES absent the Center and the challenge for Practitioners, ministers and other leaders in New Thought is absolutely to figure out the ROLE that the Center can/could/should play in spiritual life, and how said leaders can best serve in that capacity.

Consider the brick road pictured in the photo above compared to the same section of road, freshly paved (below). The bricks are obsolete, and don’t serve the needs of travelers on the modern street – but the way is still viably traveled to reach the same homes, schools and other destinations.

Spiritual teachings are like these roads. They will remain avenues for enlightenment. The synagogues, churches and centers that once served a very important purpose are like the brick roads. In many ways they have outlived their relevance in the modern world – just as the beautiful but impractical, brick streets.

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

We don’t stop traveling these streets; but we appreciate that our modern vehicles can drive on smooth, even asphalt instead of uneven bricks. Similarly, we won’t stop connecting with the Divine; praying and seeking spiritual meaning to our lives; but we connect in ways that are smoother and less disruptive to our modern lives.

The teachings of Ernest Holmes, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Thomas Troward, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Trine, Malinda Cramer, Nona Brooks, the Fillmores and many, many more will live on in books, blogs, YouTube video talks and other media outlets; but the paths to learning them are in flux.

I sometimes look wistfully at the more pristine sections of brick streets in my neighborhood and wish that they could all be the quaint, throw-back style. Then, it rains (or worse, gets icy); and I remember that progress is a good thing (ice on brick roads is no joke).

In the 1940s everyone in the small town my father was born in went to church on Sunday. Many of these same people also had an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing. The good old days weren’t all that good. And while progress does bring with it a balance of good and bad; we must not get so fixated on the old days that we lose sight of the evolution unfolding in front of us.

Yes, the future of the 20th century-style church/center is tenuous at best, but the answers don’t lie behind us – after all, we’re now in the 21st century! The answers we seek will only be discovered when we embrace the future (it’s here!) and look ahead with open minds and open hearts.

And so it is!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Related blogs:

Pray like Neville

Neville Goddard

From the time I was a very little girl, I have been instructed on how to pray. I grew up in the traditional, “high church” Protestant tradition (quiet contemplation, not loud praise) and learned the typical Anglo-American way to approach the Divine with various wants and needs.

In the Christian tradition, this is an approach of supplication: “Please consider my plea, all my good deeds, and grant me that which I desire.”

As an adult, I questioned this for many reasons, and that questioning led me to the study of ancient, non-Anglo spiritual studies and their presentation through New Thought (which is really OLD Thought in new garments).

The organized religions in New Thought have patterned their ways after the Protestants that preceded them in formally organizing. They have high-mucky mucks in charge of this and that, and they pass out titles in exchange for investments in their organizations. And they have established a RIGHT and a WRONG way of doing various things – including how to pray.

I have to admit that I bought into this initially and I must say that I have also learned a lot along the way. Funny thing about reading, though – the more you read and learn and think for yourself; the more you see things as they really are and not as others would like you to see them. Such it has been for me on the path of understanding prayer.

While immersing myself in organized New Thought studies, I was also reading widely across the emerging spiritual teachings of the day, including Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra – whose early exposure and immersion in the Hindu tradition makes him an especially rich resource for interpreting New Thought.

These teachers (and others, too numerous to mention, including many Rishis from long ago) were opening my mind and my eyes to the simplicity of communing with the Divine even as I was being instructed that there was another “right way” to do it.

Some of these teachers spoke in ways that would be comfortably welcomed in a liberal Christian church, while others spoke of things that most ministers would claim as blasphemy. Long ago I stopped being afraid to question the commandments of men (and women) with robes and titles, so I found myself drawn to those whose perspectives were most independent from the mainstream. I was sure that they had something of value to add to my journey. Neville Goddard was one such teacher.

In a previous blog I wrote about Neville and his great gift to the world. His contention that God is not some outside force, but lives within humankind as “our own wonderful, human imagination” would make most ministers of the cloth fall faint; but if you’ve studied Neville and taken his advice to try out what he shared, you know, like I do, that there’s something to it (maybe they faint worrying about not being able to pass the offering plate if too many people figure this out for themselves!!?!?)

A year ago I was looking at my finances and doing some pre-retirement planning. I knew that my savings were on track, but I wanted to make sure that I was also addressing other factors that would be relevant, and one of these was debt.

The one significant area of debt in my life was student loans, and I decided to use the tools and techniques I had been learning to deal with them. I was tired of paying them each month, and wanted to be free of that debt, but in a way that was fair and equitable to all. I didn’t want to stop paying them and thumb my nose at the creditors, but I also didn’t want to pay them out of my existing budget any longer. I knew better than to get attached to any particular way of resolving this, such as deciding that I would win the lottery or receive a long-lost inheritance from a rich relative. I decided to undertake a Neville-esque approach, following one of the ways he described in his lecture series from the mid-20th century.

“My third way of praying is simply to feel thankful. If I want something, either for myself or another, I immobilize the physical body, then I produce the state akin to sleep and in that state just feel happy, feel thankful, which thankfulness implies realization of what I want.”

“I assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled and with my mind dominated by this single sensation I go to sleep. I need do nothing to make it so, because it is so. My feeling of the wish fulfilled implies it is done.”

Neville Goddard, Core Lecture #4

Given this construct, I set about feeling the joy I would feel if I no longer had to pay that large, student loan payment each month. I did not craft elaborate prayers, petition others to pray for me or chant affirmations. I simply felt gratitude for this debt being taken off of me, as if it had ALREADY been accomplished. I also avoided daydreaming how it would come about. I remained in the END STATE of the loans not being part of my monthly expenses any longer.

It was a Saturday, much like today, and nothing seemed to happen immediately, but I did not allow myself to know anything other than gratitude for this accomplished state – especially that night when I went to sleep.

About a month or so later, someone stopped by my office at work. As we were chatting, they mentioned that their fiance had just signed paperwork that would have our employer pay her student loans in exchange for an agreement to stay on in her job for the next few years. I was immediately intrigued, and as soon as they left my office, I made a phone call.

Long story short, I am no longer sending a student loan payment in every month: the payments are being made by my employer, in exchange for me agreeing to remain for a few years. In the world of Caesar (as Neville referred to the physical world), I knew I would be working somewhere for at least a few more years. I like my job and am well-compensated, so it was not a hard choice to make in exchange for the student loans being paid on my behalf.

Some may say that this conversation would have happened anyway. Perhaps, but I’ve seen this kind of thing happen enough times that I’m not quick to believe that is the case.

One of Neville Goddard’s great gifts to the world was his uncloaking of the simple Truth in a way that is accessible to everyone. There is no need to get up early on Sunday morning, or put a certain percentage of your money in a basket or bronzed plate that is passed around, or to find specific words (while avoiding others) and place them in a pre-ordained order of speaking. We need only train ourselves to be able to feel thankful for what it is that we desire, and then assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled – to know that it is done, and live in this knowing, period.

If this is NEW to you, don’t start with something so large that your own doubt will cloud the possibilities: start with something that you can believe could happen. Once you learn how to use this, you’ll find that no news is devastating; no situation doomed; no lack unfulfilled.

Practice, keep reading and learning and live the life you truly desire to live!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path
To learn more; check out this lecture (in Neville's own voice). 

More on Job (prosperity)

Are we missing the point?

I’ve not been shy about sharing my opinions on the standard prosperity teachings found in many New Thought churches and centers. While I find them to be wonderfully inspirational when first encountered, I have also found that many places are not teaching the follow-up curriculum that is the magic pixie dust that makes prosperity truly work in our lives.

It is this lack of transparency in the initial learning that I believe a) fails new members who come into a center or church to learn prosperity and b) fails long-time adherents who never move beyond the surface teachings.

In my version of the ideal world of teaching metaphysics, prosperity would always and only be taught with a disclaimer and requirement that students understand/sign off on knowing that this is spiritual warrior work, and not a magical incantation that they can learn in less than a few weeks. AND it would come with something I’ve not seen in spiritual prosperity teaching (disclaimer: what I am about to reveal may already be part of what is taught in some New Thought corners that I haven’t encountered)

In my previous blog I wrote about the wisdom of the story of Job and how it applies to something debated quite hotly in the New Thought arena: the role of consciousness in life’s difficulties. Today I want to address the wisdom found in Job that just so happens to be echoed in some modern-day research.

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Job 42:10

To recap Job’s experience: he had suffered the loss of family, wealth, stature and health. His friends, being steadfast in their care for him, began to offer advice to him that was out of alignment with the truth. As the story goes, the Almighty was angry with Job’s friends for their error-filled advice and Job – even in his own misery – prays for mercy to be shown on his friends. Job was able to look past his own very present problems to pray for goodness and mercy for his friends.

In doing so, Job’s fortunes were restored, and he ended up with twice as much as he had before. Metaphorically presented, as the biblical canon is, the language is not meant to be precise in terms of measurement but impact: our own needs are more than met when we stop begging for our own good and lift up the needs of others.

In Lynne McTaggart’s latest book, The Power of 8, she documents the healing power of group intention. Built on the findings from her book, The Intention Experiment, The Power of 8 is a handbook on how to bring real healing out of the realms of the miraculous and into everyday practice.

In her body of work on intention and healing, that included reviewing research from many other similar studies, McTaggart highlights the significance of “the rebound power of praying for other people“.

Referencing a study by Dr. Sean O’Laoire (Irish Catholic priest and psychologist), and another by Karl Pillemer of Cornell University , McTaggart peels back the layers on intention to reveal something that was shared – in just 2-sentences – in the Book of Job: when we take our intentions and focus off of ourselves and turn them to the care and support of others, we are restored.

McTaggart writes of one participant who, after closing a business in 2013, struggled to regain her footing and was working hard to shift her prosperity consciousness. This participant’s experience did not move, and she was struggling with how to remove her limited thinking and realize more prosperity for herself. Then she was invited to participate in a healing circle that was focused on a young man who had experienced a terrible injury and whose recovery was complex.

McTaggart reports that after only two days of shifting her intention away from her own prosperity needs and instead focusing on the healing for the young man, the participant got an unexpected offer for paid work in an area that she loved. It is important to note here that McTaggart acknowledges that these research findings have been documented in many studies – she is not claiming all of these from her own research.

The powerful message from McTaggart’s shared wisdom along with the counsel found in the Hebrew scriptures Book of Job are a wake-up call for prosperity seekers and teachers everywhere: if you want more for yourself, give of yourself.

This is not new content for New Thought as Karen Drucker’s song, “If You Want More,…Give” lays it out nicely.

I have always wondered why, if this is such old, established wisdom, we aren’t teaching more prosperity classes that start with the focus on GIVING the extra that comes in to an external community need – with no thought to how the teacher or church/center gets paid?

Some will say “But we have BILLS to pay, and EXPENSES to meet, …” but this misses the point entirely.

The lesson is clear from the ancient story of Job. The research is evident – in McTaggart’s writings and beyond. The rest is up to us.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Other Spiritual Giants

Joseph_MurphyFor those attending or participating in a New Thought organization today, your learning may or may not include historical references to early New Thought teachers outside of the rock star lineups most commonly celebrated. If you are not routinely being exposed to people beyond Holmes, Troward and Emerson, you owe it to yourself to expand your reading list to include others who were as enlightened, and in many cases as prolific as the aforementioned.

Joseph Murphy is one such enlightened teacher.

According to Penguin/Random House, Joseph Murphy immigrated to the United States from Ireland. You can still hear a hint of his mother tongue in various recordings of his lectures. Murphy was highly educated, having both a PhD and DD and wrote many New Thought books. He is perhaps best known for the New Thought classic, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963).

Joseph was a popular speaker and teacher, and deserves a second look by all who have an interest in metaphysics in the 21st century. His treatise on effective prayer is especially educational as are his lectures on prosperity.

At the very least, we limit ourselves and our growth potential when we claim a purity of ideology or practice. In the worst cases, we can become narrow, intransigent and begin to teach and live from a limited perspective.

Indeed, Ernest Holmes was a talented visionary, but he wasn’t the solitary voice in the chorus that would become New Thought and we do well to read beyond his teachings, even if our churches and centers are not encouraging the same. There is intellectual and spiritual GOLD to be mined and available to us through the wonders of the internet.

In today’s blog post I want to share a golden nugget from Joseph Murphy. I know that you will find it to be the treasure in your life that it has been in mine.

A personal (powerful!) daily affirmation:

“Only divine right action takes place in my life, and whatever I need to know is relayed instantly to me by the Infinite Mind.”

Click here to see/hear the YouTube video with this lecture, where Dr Murphy shares numerous demonstrations of the application of the principles studied by New Thought students and practitioners everywhere.


Joseph Murphy Bio


While we want to celebrate the founders of a movement or a denomination, we must take care not to put blinders on and lock out the many other teachers that have, across the centuries, contributed to the enlightenment of all.

Stay curious. Ask questions. Push back against purists, and if you’re in a group that has blinders on, be willing to take yours off and see the wider Truth that is out there for you to see and to benefit from in every aspect of your life.

And so it is.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

One of the best

When I tell people that I am studying to become a Licensed Spiritual Practitioner through Centers for Spiritual Living, they often give me a quizzical look.

This video by Brian Akers is one of the best explanations of spiritual living as practiced in Centers for Spiritual Living.

What he said 🙂