The Magic of Music

Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ― Leonard Bernstein

In New Thought, and specifically the branch that emerged from the writings and teachings of Ernest Holmes (Religious Science), the founding principles laid out by Holmes are similar in structure to the creeds of Christianity.

Holmes fought against the establishment of a church – wanting his teachings to be pondered and taken by students back to their home churches and communities. He lost that battle and the Church-saturated culture that was the United States in the mid-20th century took the principles (that Holmes formulated based on his studies in Christian Science and Divine Science) and built a church-like organization around them.

It is this close resemblance to the Protestant Church (organizationally and in procedural matters) that makes the fate of the American church a concern to spiritual centers, too. But this is not a post about those matters.

The following are a sampling of the beliefs that guide Centers for Spiritual Living today:

WE BELIEVE in God, the Living Spirit Almighty; one, indestructible, absolute and self-existent Cause. This One manifests Itself in and through all creation, but is not absorbed by Its creation. The manifest universe is the body of God; it is the logical and necessary outcome of the infinite self-knowingness of God.

in the eternality, the immortality and the continuity of the individual soul, forever and ever expanding.

that heaven is within us, and that we experience it to the degree that we become conscious of it.

… in the direct revelation of truth through our intuitive and spiritual nature, and that anyone may become a revealer of truth who lives in close contact with the indwelling God.

… in the healing of the sick and control of conditions through the power of this Mind.

… in the eternal Goodness, the eternal Loving-kindness and the eternal Givingness of Life to All.

New Thought congregations are often populated with refugees from traditional religion. Once in the tradition long enough to be comfortable with a relationship with the Divine that incorporates their New Thought perspective and respects the tradition(s) from which they came, many people’s spiritual practices become a mix of New Thought with some traditional flavors added in for “texture“.

One of the most common mixing comes in the form of music. There are few mediums that evoke the strong emotional responses that a piece of music can.

Even the very traditional chant music (YouTube video embedded above) can be appreciated from a New Thought perspective. And it’s one way we can honor the late founders of New Thought, who were much more connected to traditional tenets of religion than their modern descendants.

So enjoy the music you love – whatever the season; and remember that when we say that we are all One – it includes even those folks who are still deeply grounded in the teachings we’ve moved away from.

One is one.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

A good reminder

“You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars, guides you too.”

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
TEDx Noosa 2014

In our darkest times, it can feel that we are so very alone. I sometimes see Facebook posts from people who share that they feel unmoored, adrift once their parents pass away, and others who share feelings and experiences of loss and pain.

First of all, Facebook can make the most successful among us start to question our lives – snapshots from others’ seemingly wonderful lives compared to our current struggles can seem like we’re doing it all wrong.

We’re not – it’s an illusion, but as Einstein once said: “[it’s] an illusion, albeit a persistent one!

Sometimes our current circumstances feel hopeless, helpless. And that feeling can be quite persistent! Training ourselves to know this is not the truth when we are NOT feeling the hopelessness/helplessness is the best prevention for those times when things start to degrade.

I remember once when the late Louise Hay – a successful and popular guru of self-help – mentioned that she is able to see things positively about 70% – 80% of the time. I remind myself of this when I slip into those dark places. Even with my education in Consciousness, there are days when it’s hard to put the positive spin on things. Thankfully, I have the tools I need and these periods move on quickly.

One of the tools that I use regularly, and encourage those who seek guidance and support from me to use, is to journal (or simply write down somewhere that you can find again to read). At those times when you are the beneficiary of a miracle, or what metaphysical folks would call a “demonstration” – write down what happened so in later times when things appear to be going downhill, you can recall the many times that things actually worked out.

I like the word demonstration instead of miracle because instead of seeming like a one-in-a-million happenstance; it calls these events what they are: a demonstration of the fact that we are indeed never alone or helpless. And when we’ve used the spiritual tools that are available to know this; good things happen.

While I have had many personal instances where I have been reminded that I am never alone; I was reminded this week of a most profound instance of this. My family lost our 2 year old a few years back (my granddaughter), and the Summer after that loss, her mother had a “visitation“. It came in the form of a beautiful, blue butterfly that landed on her and stayed there with her as she sat on her back porch for more than 20 minutes.

A blue butterfly of the same markings has visited her every summer since. A couple years ago when they had moved into a new house, it arrived, and fluttered around, letting her touch it, and pet its wings. Last year it found them again as they arrived home from running errands. It flew in and out of the family’s legs, let them touch it and get close enough for a photograph.

There are so many lessons in this story: but the most profound one I find is the reminder that there is much more to life than what we’ve been taught to see.

If you struggle with the burdens of life and often feel alone; the statement (above the embedded video and posted below) is one, small – but powerful – tool. Write it down; think about it. Turn your attention away from the problems of the world and spend your time and energy reading, watching videos and discussing with others this concept of unity consciousness.

The YouTube video embedded above is a great talk on Consciousness, but if you don’t have the time or patience to listen to it, here’s the gem from it: a quote from Shrii Shrii Anandamurti – guru to the man speaking (Dada Gunamuktananda).

“You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars, guides you too.”

Ponder this truth instead of focusing on your problems. Reach out when you need help. Know that miracles happen every day and be open to how they show up (it’s often not what we expect). Keep a log of when things DO turn around for you, and read it when things start to go sour. Know that you are always loved; always important – and that you are truly, never alone. And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

A Warning for New Thought

Centers for Spiritual Living, Unity, prosperity, prosperity gospelA wave of dislike is unfolding in the larger population that New Thought leaders should sit up and pay close attention to today as it hits close to some foundational and historically popular teachings in the New Thought movement.

As the country moves more and more in a direction that is anathema to the preferences of the numeric majority (think popular vote) with every decision and victory that the 45th president achieves, more attention is being given to the price that he is NOT paying for those political moves, and the reasons.

One significant reason is that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for, and still support the president. This 8-minute video is worth watching in its entirety, but the specific point of concern for New Thought, I believe, is the danger – as we look to strategic planning and building for the future of our organizations – of what many are seeing as the tie between #45 and the White evangelical community: the gospel of prosperity.

Mentioned in the above linked video as “the pernicious influence of the prosperity gospel“, it is not viewed positively by the larger population and is increasingly being linked to the negativity of the current presidency.

We in New Thought would do well to sit up and pay attention to this. This is not the first time that the negative side to prosperity teachings was highlighted – in my writing or the larger media. Now is the time to look closely at WHAT we teach, and HOW we teach it and ensure that we are not, unintentionally, swept up into being branded along with this movement.

This will not be as simple as some may think. CSL and Unity would do well to totally revamp, if not step back from, the teachings around prosperity along with the elevation and adoration of toothy teachers from the 20th century who have hawked these teachings for decades. It’s time to embrace more fully the concepts of “a world that works for everyone” as a core tenet and downplay – starting TODAY – the emphasis on prosperity.

If we do not actively and intentionally separate ourselves from teaching prosperity as a staple or core offering, we risk great damage to the brand; damage that may result in the absolute “graying out” of the movement.

To be clear: I am NOT saying that we STOP teaching people how to think more prosperously; I am NOT saying that we STOP teaching people how to shift from a lack mindset to an abundant mindset. I AM saying that we need to be careful about publicizing the old school prosperity classes as a way to attract new members and should probably step back from the programming that pushes tithing on unexpected income.

Instead, why not focus programming on reaching out to feed the hungry, support Veterans with PTSD or raise consciousness and funds for a local animal rescue group using the principles and teachings of Holmes, et al? These efforts look a lot like “a world that works for everyone” – at least more so than a millionaire telling the group that they need to tithe to the millionaire when their own hard work (spiritual and/or physical) nets them some additional money or income.

There’s an old saying: ” if it looks like a duck, has webbed feet and QUACKS,…it’s a duck“.Centers for Spiritual Living, Unity, prosperity, prosperity gospel

While I am not suggesting that we are ducks of the brand identified negatively in the video I shared; a lot of our member organizations – to an outsider’s eye – have webbed feet and quack And this is dangerous to the organization as we look at the societal and demographic challenges facing all of organized religion.

We would be wise to understand the emerging political discourse, evaluate our perspective and practices; and think clearly and intentionally about how we want to present ourselves to the world. Then it’s time to make the right pivot for the times we live in today.

This will not be easy, but it really is simple.

A world that works for everyone is much larger than money or material wealth – and CSL/Unity leadership – ministers, practitioners and lay leaders – (should) know this more than anyone else.

The time is now to teach THIS Truth.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Happy holidays belong to us all

Happy HolidaysHalloween, the gateway to holiday madness, is upon us. In the Northern latitudes, the air is crisp, the days shortened and leaves are in free-fall everywhere we look.

We also fast-approaching the time of year when the sanctimonious among us will begin to practice getting indignant if we wish them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

The image featured here was going around on social media and it’s an important reminder to the Christmas crowd that we live in a multicultural world. The Merry-Christmas crowd seems to miss the fact that the Bible is but 1 sacred text, and that much of the wisdom contained in its pages are echoed in ancient writings from across the world.

Consider the following:

In the book of Proverbs (Mishlei Shlomo in Hebrew) much is written about the importance of the words we speak.

Here are 3 verses (of many):

  • When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)
  • Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)
  • Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

And from the New Testament (Christian Bible):

  • If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

Here we have a similar message coming from 2 religions with different holidays (and greetings!). But wait, there’s more!

We don’t have to look much farther to find even more counsel on the importance of watching our words from the Tao Te Ching – “a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism“.

Here’s text from Chapter 56 from the Tao:

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

This is but 1 example of the wisdom that is shared across traditions – there are many, many more. Spiritual wisdom belongs to no one sect, no single religion, no individual tradition. It belongs to us all. Holiday cheer should also belong to us all.

If you believe that your religion wants you to “correct” people who wish you a Happy Holiday season, I encourage you to write down the verse from James 1:26 and carry it with you:

26 If any among you seem to be religious and bridleth not your tongue, but deceiveth your own heart, your religion is vain.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Yule! Happy Kwanza! Seasons Greetings!


 (C) 2017 Practitioner’s Path

Statement on Charlottesville

Many words have been spoken, and sentiments shared. Perhaps none as poignant as the following: this statement was issued by Rev. Kevin Kitrall Ross from Unity Sacramento and represents where many of us in the spiritual community stand.

“When love is in the lead, there is no gray geography concerning hate. Hate and those who march under its banner deserve no disguise, no vague glazing over, and no hiding place. Let the perpetrators of hate and its firstborn, White Supremacy, stand naked and vulnerable before a civilized society and have its immigration status revoked.  

These are the true Enemies of the State and whether born on this soil or not, these are the “illegal immigrants” and “fake citizens” whose divisive attitudes bring no value to our great republic.

The incident in Charlottesville was an act of domestic terrorism that, albeit regrettable, is a reminder that hate and its only natural resource, violence, is always the weapon of the weak. Love is always the strongest branch to stand on. It may bend, but it never breaks. To our beloved friends in Charlottesville, rise to the occasion. Our prayers are with you. Come out on the skinny branch that cannot break. For truly, love will always have the final word.”

Thank you, Papa Francesco

HolyTrinityGreekOrthodoxThe Pope’s visit to America has dominated mainstream media for the past 3 days (some good news for a change). As he brought his message of love, charity, and care for those less fortunate from the Roman Catholic perspective (and generally made Congress and many American Conservatives uncomfortable), I was having my first Greek Orthodox experience at the wedding of a family friend.

Being somewhat of a religion junkie, I was enthralled by the surroundings as I sat in the church and took in the ornate and detailed paintings and other fixtures that adorned the altar, walls and ceiling of the church. The wedding began and I was comforted in hearing the back and forth chant between what I would call a Cantor and the Priest. They chanted/sang almost the entire service. The harmonic cadence in both Greek and English reminded me of the Friday evening Shabbat service at our local synagogue, where Hebrew and English are the norm.

The church provided a booklet with all of the prayers, in Greek and in English – also reminiscent of my years in Judaism. The few times we could sit I allowed my gaze to wander across the walls and ceiling – beautifully and busily painted with the stories of the Old Testament and the Gospel. I knew each story and thought about the strange dichotomy that existed in religions where we shared many of the same stories and yet for centuries have remained so far apart.  I noticed the beautiful metal-covered bible that the Priest held and saw that embossed in the middle of the front was a beautiful star shape that had a decidedly Islamic influence.

I noticed too, the portrayal of Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel in the paintings and recalled the prayers (Avot v’imahot) from the traditional Hebrew service where we remember that the God we worship today is the God of our ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (and in modern congregations, the matriarchs are mentioned: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah).

Late last night as I replayed the events of the day, I thought back to that beautiful sanctuary and the simple messages I heard in Greek and English – messages I have heard for years in Hebrew and English; from Christian and Jewish perspectives and with Midwestern enunciations, Southern drawls, Brooklyn accents and Pittsburgh inflections. The world heard these same messages this weekend, in Italian, from Papa Francesco.

Caroline Myss describes  religion as “nothing but the politics of god,… a costume party”, meaning that beyond all the categorization of religions, sects, sacred texts and rituals, …we’re all one underneath the costumes of our religious identification.

Wayne Dyer seemed to transcend religion of any stripe best in his comment that “when you have the choice of being right or being kind, choose kindness” which in many ways, echoes the message that Papa Francesco brought to the halls of Congress and shares with the world.

The convergence of similarities in religious experience from my own life came together this weekend in a fitting way as Papa Francesco continues to turn the traditional expectations for the leader of the Roman Catholic Church upside down. Aside from the controversy about women’s role in the church, and whether he did enough to address the church scandals of late, his message was a message as old as time; feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, acknowledge the Divine Spirit that is alive within each and every person.

Humans have complicated this simple truth, but once we peel away the “costumes” and rituals it’s pretty clear: we’re all in this together.

We are One. And so it is.

Star(Greek Bible)

Just prior to his departure, Pope Francis acknowledged the leadership role that the United States has in the world, and reminded all of us (likely targeting our elected officials) what Jesus said:

“…as you do to one of the least of these, you do it to me.”

Ernest Holmes’ Original Intent

Ernest Holmes never intended to start a new religion. From the Science of Mind archives we learn that “…Ernest Holmes never wanted a church, and wasn’t interested in religion. He only wanted a teaching ministry. He never cared for choirs, soloist, or flowers in front of the lectern. He believed in some ritual but he stressed to keep the ritual simple and beautiful, at absolute minimum. The Founders Church was Bill Hornaday’s idea. Holmes resisted it as he resisted too much organization.”

From studying texts like The Essential Ernest Holmes we learn that initially he believed that his writings and teaching should be something that people could take back to their own churches and religious organizations, and to share and apply within the context of each organization’s structure. Certainly this happened for his colleagues like Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, whose best-seller The Power of Positive Thinking was inspired by many of the teachings of Ernest Holmes.

As a child, my family attended a mainline Protestant Church. In my earliest years, this was a church that focused on God’s goodness, the triune nature of God (as is common to all Christianity) and very little, if any hellfire and damnation. It also maintained a balance between the role of Father/Son/Holy Spirit. This balance began to wane when in the mid-1970’s Evangelical fever hit many traditional Protestant churches. It was at this point that many in my family began to back away from the church, not liking the character that it was taking on with the incursion of what I call “The Jesus Cult” (which is a term I use for the co-opting of the concept of God by elevating Jesus to a superior role). My distaste for that shift is likely why New Thought, with its foundations in the teachings of Jesus, but clear focus on a Universal Spirit, appealed so strongly to me.

Lately, in pondering all-things-churchish I have been thinking about the changing American demographics – especially related to religious practices – and wondering how, in the age of the Internet, the simple Sunday Celebration (New Thought) service can survive or even thrive. In light of the extraordinary struggles I have witnessed for Unity and Centers for Spiritual Living congregations in the Pittsburgh area over the past 10 years, I take great interest when I begin to see patterns or trends emerge.

Enter Joel Osteen into the mix. Joel Osteen is a TV preacher that has all the trappings of a typical TV Evangelical preacher,…except that his messages are hard to separate from ones I have heard in New Thought organizations or read in Wayne Dyer books. In fact, other than the belief/teaching about Jesus and his role in that whole “saving” thing, Joel Osteen’s messages are not much different than the messages of Ernest Holmes, and in some ways are more “mainstream”.  Consider his soon-to-be-released book, The Power of I Am: two words that will change your life today. This could easily be the title of a book that is the foundation for an accredited class in a Center for Spiritual Living or on the reading list for Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer fans.

In the context of Ernest Holmes’ original intention, which as I mentioned at the open of this blog was NOT to create a new religion but to teach these principles to people who would then take it back to their home churches, Joel Osteen is the living breathing example of this dream. Even Joel’s core message sounds in many ways more New Thought than Evangelical: “That our God is a good God who desires to bless those who are obedient and faithful to Him through Jesus Christ. It is Joel’s deepest desire that his own life be an example of that principle and that everyone who hears this message of hope and encouragement would choose to accept God’s goodness and mercy and to become all that God wants them to be.

In New Thought parlance, it could go like this:  That God is good and blesses those who understand and live by the principles of right thinking. It is (our) deepest desire that our lives be examples of these principles of Good  and that everyone who hears this message of hope and encouragement would choose to accept God’s goodness and to become all that God wants them to be. 

Other than the reference to Jesus and Obedience (which New Thought folks aren’t big on), there’s not much of a difference.

Here’s what’s fascinating (to me, anyway): this same basic message which has various levels of success in different locations when cloaked in the CSL framework, rocks it out of the park when it is presented in the framework of Christianity. I have several opinions on the whys of this, but in a nutshell, I think it boils down to this:

Mainstream Protestant Christianity went off-course several decades ago when they veered hard right (conservative, evangelical) and took on the “Jesus controls everything I do” perspective while Religious Science veered off course toward “all Mind, all the time; it’s only about me and my consciousness“.  Today we are seeing a softening of the hard core Christian message and the hard core spiritual science groups have eased up on their anti-religion stance. The result: a very muddled middle ground. However, this is a middle ground in which many established, successful Christian organizations are in a position of strength and can incorporate the New Thought message into an established organizational framework. They’re not starting over at ground zero – they’re adding a new context to an existing structure and it appears to be working for many of them as we see many Mega Churches taking on a New Thought flavor.

Where does this leave New Thought, the movement? Will Progressive Christian groups, with the momentum of organizations like Joel Osteen’s, eclipse the message of Centers for Spiritual Living? Will those who left the angry, hard-right Christian churches be pulled back into the kinder, gentler and forward-thinking Christian churches of their youth and family traditions? If so, what does this mean for the resurgence of new thought as codified within New Thought organizations, especially in North America?

Will New Thought – the movement – end up being an historical footnote in religious history, while new thought concepts are incorporated into the Christian experience, or will it remain a separate and viable contender in religious organizations? And if so, how – when the core teachings of Ernest Holmes – the foundation of the religious science movement – are no longer limited to being shared and taught in New Thought organizations and in fact have become the core messages of other, more “mainstream” religious organizations?

Ernest Holmes’ original desires for his teachings to be taken into the home churches of his students and applied within their doctrinal frameworks appears to be in motion. The challenge for today’s New Thought leaders will be in defining who they are beyond the teachings of the Science of Mind, as these teachings now exist in mainstream books, lectures and movies (a la Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Eckart Tolle and more) as well as now showing up with regularity in traditional houses of worship.

Will New Thought – the movement as we know it today – survive?

Joel Osteen

***FOOTNOTE: I was not aware that Joel Osteen Ministries was not supportive of LGBT individuals. This is a major differentiator between his message & the message of inclusivity within the CSL community. Thanks to those who pointed this out to me 😊