Reprint and Commentary: The Path of Evolution by Fr. Richard Rohr

November 4, 2016 - 10:29 am Comments Off on Reprint and Commentary: The Path of Evolution by Fr. Richard Rohr

Reprint From The Writings and Reflections
of Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF

The Pattern of Evolution
Perhaps the reason it is so hard for us to see the evolution of the Cosmic Christ in our individual lives and in the arc of history is that this groaning and this giving birth (see Romans 8:22) proceeds by a process of losses and gains, and the losses are very real. There is no doubt that history goes three steps forward and two steps backward, but thank God there always seems to be a net gain. Even though we continue to see war, racism, classism, genocide, and ignorance, violence is actually declining. We may be more aware of the world’s suffering now than ever before, but as compared with previous periods in history, we are living in a relatively peaceful time.
Historically and to this day, it seems that when a new level of maturity is found, there is an immediate and strong instinct to pull backward to the old and familiar. Thankfully, within churches and society at large there is always a leaven, a critical mass, a few people who carry the momentum toward greater inclusivity, compassion, and love. This is the Second Coming of Christ: Christ embodied by people who know that hatred and greed are always regressive, and who can no longer live fearfully or violently. …
Teilhard de Chardin writes: “Everything that rises must converge.” In other words, higher levels of evolution are always a movement toward greater unity.
Along the way there will be differentiation and complexity, but paradoxically, that increased complexity moves life to a greater level of unity, until in the end there is only God who is “all in all” (see 1 Corinthians 15:28).
If it isn’t moving toward unity, it is not a higher level of consciousness.
But along with differentiation and complexity there will also be an equal push back, fear, and confusion. We see this in our current political climate in America and much of the world. The United States has suffered eight years of nonstop gridlock and opposition to any creative governance. It mirrors Newton’s Third Law of Motion that “every action elicits an equal and opposite reaction.” Today many people are reverting to tribal thinking, denial, fear, and hatred, rather than turning to compassionate, creative solutions to real challenges of poverty, climate change, and the many worldwide forms of injustice.
I highly recommend here any of the writings of Thomas Berry, who in many ways brings Teilhard de Chardin realistically forward because he has sixty more years of science, and also sixty more years of planetary push back, to bring to the present conversation. …”
Peter: While I had a great respect and appreciation for the insights of Fr. Rohr, I would also encourage reading books by my mentor, Matthew Fox, whose has provided a library of information about the Cosmic Christ, Creation Spirituality, inclusive spirituality, social justice and social change, and timeless wisdom, insights, and advice from the mystics for our personal and communal paths towards evolution… I would add that for many years I have seen the path of personal and cultural evolution to be a dynamic spiral… that could also include an upright cone that would symbolize the upward unifying purpose or the merging of mystery, metaphysics, and meaning… When working with people on their personal spiritual path, I introduce this as a way to explain how spirituality moves us towards a place of unity…

Sharing In God’s One Spirit

August 11, 2016 - 9:15 am Comments Off on Sharing In God’s One Spirit

Richard Rohr’s Meditation: Sharing in God’s One Spirit – pelanzillotta@gmail.com – Gmail

Sharing in God’s One Spirit
Sunday, August 7, 2016
The Holy Spirit is God’s very own life shared with us and residing within us (see John 20:22). When we pray, we are steadfastly refusing to abandon this Presence, this True Self, this place that already knows we are beloved and one with God. But our false “contrived” self is so needy that we must practice living in this presence through conscious choice (“prayer”) at least once, but preferably many times, every day. Contemplative prayer is “our daily bread” that keeps us nourished so we can dare to believe the Gospel, to trust the Divine Indwelling, and to remember our God-given identity. Gradually, we learn how to abide in this spacious place more and more, how to draw our strength, dignity, and solace from this Stable Source. When we live from this place of conscious unity, we are indestructible.
The True Self cannot really be hurt or offended. The false self–our egoic identity–is offended every few minutes. But if we notice when we take offence, and what part of us is offended (always a provisional identity), this will train us to gradually reside more and more in the Big Truth. (Most of John 14-16 circles around this message.) Thomas Keating charts conversion as a series of necessary humiliations to the false self.
In order to fully experience the intrinsic union we already have with God, who is Love, it seems that we need to first be love ourselves in some foundational way. We can only see what we already partly are, which is why I like to call it a mirroring process. Contemplation helps us to rest in this love; as we gradually take on the likeness of love, we will see love over there too. What you see is what you are. That’s why Jesus absolutely commanded us to love. This is necessary for the mirroring process to begin! Our inner state of love is alone able to receive and reflect the ultimate outer Love (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Sometimes people will come up to me and say, “Oh, Richard, you’re so loving!” But I know I’m not–and I know they are! They are seeing themselves in me. Spirit recognizes Spirit. To know the Truth, one must somehow be abiding in that Truth, and the deepest Truth of every human is Love, as we are created in the image and likeness of an infinitely Loving God (Genesis 1:26-27), which Christians call Trinity.
If we are in a state of negativity, what Julian of Norwich calls “contrariness,” we won’t be love or see love. We must watch for this contrariness–we all experience it quite frequently–and nip it in the bud. This contrary self often takes three forms: comparison (common in the female); competition (common in the male); and contrariness or oppositional energy (common in all of us). Our false self is actually relieved and empowered when it has something to oppose. The clearest identifier of untransformed people is that they are living out of oppositional energy, with various forms of comparing or competing, judging and critiquing. As long as we do this, we never have to grow up; we just show how others are wrong or inferior.
The True Self needs none of these games to know who it is. It is a child of God, sharing in God’s own Spirit, and its energy is foundationally positive and generative.
Gateway to Silence
God in me loves God in everything.
Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, True Self/ False Self (Franciscan Media: 2013), discs 2 and 4 (CD).

The Spiritual Bypass Phenomenon

May 22, 2016 - 12:29 pm Comments Off on The Spiritual Bypass Phenomenon

How to Know if You’re Spiritually Bypassing

By Jonathan Toniolo on Wednesday May 18th, 2016

Can Spirituality Damage your Growth?

I first heard about spiritual bypassing on one of my favorite podcasts, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour. For those of you that haven’t had the privilege of hearing Duncan orate, it’s kind of like listening to a raspy hybrid of Alan Watts and Jim Breuer — wise enough to capture your attention, with a certain stoned goofiness that keeps it all playful.
Duncan talks about spirituality in nearly all of his interviews — most guests will happily indulge him in doing so. Naturally, spirituality is a big reason why people tune in to the podcast. So it took me by surprise when he mentioned that spirituality, as a set of ideas and practices, could actually be self–sabotaging.

Spiritual bypassing, a term coined in the early 1980s by psychologist John Welwood, refers to the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs. The concept was developed in the spirit of Chögyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, which was one of the first attempts to name this spiritual distortion.
According to teacher and author Robert Augustus Masters, spiritual bypassing causes us to withdraw from ourselves and others, hiding behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices. He says it “not only distances us from our pain and difficult personal issues, but also from our own authentic spirituality, stranding us in a metaphysical limbo… a zone of exaggerated gentleness, niceness, and superficiality.”
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We hide behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices.
We hide behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices.

My Own Bypassing
In Masters’ groundbreaking book, Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters, he writes:

“Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow side, devaluation of the personal relative to the? spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”
Before listening to Duncan wax lyrical about this, I never imagined there could be such subtle and complex consequences of pursuing spiritual matters. And thinking that I, a cautious and sincere spiritual seeker, could be suffering such consequences seemed equally absurd. But after reading the detailed description of symptoms, I knew it applied to my situation. I realised that at a certain point in early adulthood, I had perverted spirituality into a defense mechanism — a mechanism that enabled me to disavow any negative quality or behavior in myself.
I recall a few specific patterns taking place:
Whenever I became anxious, I would immediately reach for the nearest Eckhart Tolle or Alan Watts text on my bookshelf. Instead of sitting with the anxiety and checking in to see if it was coming from an innocuous source, I would quickly find refuge in spiritual philosophy.
I would strive to maintain the appearance of someone who is constantly at peace with oneself, even though inside I may have felt like the weight of the world was crushing down on my soul. This kind of faux spirituality had a complete stranglehold on my speech and behavior and caused intense cognitive dissonance.
Whenever I had done something hurtful or wrong to another person, I would rarely take responsibility for it. I deflected that responsibility by saying things like “that person just needs to grow spiritually” or “it’s just an illusion anyways” — all in a naïve tone reminiscent of the time I thought I was a bonafide professor of quantum physics.
The process of realising when you’re to blame in any given situation is no easy task. But spiritual bypassing enables one to ignore that difficult process altogether. It led me to believe I was always right because I was more “enlightened” than all the ignorant sheeples who just couldn’t see the damn light. But the harsh truth of this spiritual arrogance is that I was ignoring the pain I caused in others because I was ignoring a similar pain in myself.
I strived to maintain the appearance of someone who is constantly at peace with oneself.I strived to maintain the appearance of someone who is constantly at peace with oneself.

Reinforcements From Our Culture
Masters writes:
“Part of the reason for [spiritual bypassing] is that we tend not to have very much tolerance, either personally or collectively, for facing, entering, and working through our pain, strongly preferring pain-numbing “solutions,” regardless of how much suffering such “remedies” may catalyze. Because this preference has so deeply and thoroughly infiltrated our culture that it has become all but normalized, spiritual bypassing fits almost seamlessly into our collective habit of turning away from what is painful, as a kind of higher analgesic with seemingly minimal side effects. It is a spiritualized strategy not only for avoiding pain but also for legitimizing such avoidance, in ways ranging from the blatantly obvious to the extremely ?subtle.
The subtlety of recognition seems to be the root of why this affliction is so widespread and under-diagnosed. Psychologist Ingrid Mathieu also notes this subtlety in her article Beware of Spiritual Bypass:
“Although the defense looks a lot prettier than other defenses, it serves the same purpose. Spiritual bypass shields us from truth, it disconnects us from our feelings, and helps us avoid the big picture. It is more about checking out than checking in — and the difference is so subtle that we usually don’t even know we are doing it.”
Part of the reason for spiritual bypassing is that we tend not to have very much tolerance for pain.We tend not to have very much tolerance for pain.
Considering our culture generally shuns negative emotions, it’s no surprise many of us respond to those emotions with repression. Prominent manifestations of repression, such as alcoholism and drug addiction, are forms of relief whose conspicuous quality makes them easier to identify and intervene.

Spiritual bypassing, while seemingly more benign, is much more difficult to notice because it’s guised in the appearance of wholeness and wisdom. It’s much harder to recognise our repression when we’re chanting “Om Shanti” on a regular basis or repeating positive affirmations that “everything is okay” or “all is love.”

Yoga, meditation, psychedelics, prayer, affirmations, deeply engaging with the present moment, etc. are all incredibly powerful spiritual tools if used appropriately. But sometimes, and if we’re not careful, those things can end up masking deeper issues lingering both inside and outside of us.

Spiritual Bypassing is a manifestation of repression, as is alcoholism and drug addiction.Spiritual Bypassing is a manifestation of repression, as is alcoholism and drug addiction.
To me, spiritual bypassing is fundamentally about taking a so-called absolute truth — such as “everything is okay” — and using it to ignore or deny relative truths — such as the grief we feel when we lose a loved one, or the shame that arises when we fail at something important. On the personal and interpersonal level, sometimes everything isn’t okay. And that’s okay.

That may seem trite, but in the context of spiritual bypassing, it’s a platitude that I feel requires frequent repetition. Before we can heal our pain, we have to be honest about it and accept it — which is ideally what spirituality should help realize. As Masters suggests, this is certainly easier said than done and requires a level of vulnerability which most of us are uncomfortable with.

Nonetheless, if we grant validity to the many claims that spirituality is shaping the evolution of humanity, it seems wise to confront the intricacies of our own bypassing sooner rather than later. Doing so could not only prevent years of developmental stagnation, but also help implement new angles of self-awareness that our world so desperately needs. Acknowledgment and acceptance were the first major steps for me, and I sense a deeper spirituality is following in their wake.

Tribalism And Religious Intolerance- An Interfaith Presentation

January 19, 2016 - 12:51 pm Comments Off on Tribalism And Religious Intolerance- An Interfaith Presentation

Q: For Rev. Peter Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

In light of current incidences ignited by religious fanaticism:

What actually makes the extremist and the terrorist, who in name of God, do horrible things to people who do not belong to their ideology? If it is ignorance, what kind of personal growth may help the social tolerance? Is social tolerance is a necessity for survival of human race in general?

Peter’s Remarks:

Good Evening! I will use two reference points for my brief discussion with you tonight… The first comes from the socially conscious entrepreneur Paul Hawkins speaking about the power of community, and the second, from Martin Luther King Jr’s writings on social evils…

“[There is a growing and hopefully sustaining sense of a “blessed unrest” in our society today… That phrase coined by Paul Hawkins speaks to the subrosa or under the cultural radar movements, that are coming together to work constructively, spiritually and compassionately on our current social ills…

His outlook emphasizes the intention of group energy to provide solutions to our challenges in ways that an individual or any isolated actions cannot achieve or accomplish. He speaks passionately when he declares,” how 200,000 people in these diverse groups worldwide are working together to overcome political disease, economic infection, and ecological corruption.]”

Second, we have this statement from MLK Jr… Towards the end of his life, King spoke and wrote more and more about what he described as the “dangerous giant triplets: Racism, Extreme Materialism, and Militarism.”

He goes on to say:

“If I may borrow again from Christian Scriptures, this fight is not against individual people, but rather “powers and principalities.” ( Ephesians 6) It is best to see our fight against racism rather than against unique racists. The dismissal or conviction of a racist police officer, careless prosecuting attorney, or corrupt judge is certainly important, but it does not solve the root and source of the problem”…

“Racism draws power from materialism (financial interests) Those financial interests or powers secure themselves by way of militarism (at times military and police forces) and that force is too often employed in a way that it benefits small certain groups and serves to suppress others…”

Given the complexity of these intersecting powers that threaten human dignity, freedom and cooperation what outlooks, ideas, and values, if they were allowed greater and broader social expression, would work effectively together to lesson or resolve our stubborn cultural inequalities and injustices?

We have to ask: What is a spiritual minded person or small group to do? How does the variety of religious expression and the wide diversity we find in our American society work to encounter and face down these issues?

When we begin to look at the religious dimension of our lives and look toward the possible solutions of our social problems, it is first critical to our understanding that we admit that here is wide variance in the levels of religious understanding and ethical comprehension that exists within every religious community. In the same pew, you can find someone with a grade school knowledge of religious teachings and ethical applications sitting next to someone with a graduate school level of comprehension and application.

As an acknowledgment of this wide range of understanding, as I see it, there are at least three factors each person can learn about that will increase their greater appreciation for the scope of the problems we face, and these three factors when better or more deeply understood, can be seen as “the principalities and powers” we have to contend with IF we wish to resolve any of the social and spiritual evils that are present in our society today.

These three factors are:

1) Tribalism- resistant, narrowly focused and reinforced approach to safety, security and identity

2) Patriarchy- oppressive insistence on exclusive male authority and the established/historical patterns of preferential power structures

3) Sectarian Violence- entrenched prejudices and rivalry that inhibits cooperation and fans the flames of division, chaos, etc.

These three factors – widely dependent on the cultural or interpersonal realities such as the level of education available in that society, the degree of political oppression, media manipulation or lack of a public voice, and the reinforcement of these teachings found in each of the great religious traditions that emphasize freedom, dignity, self worth, etc. .

To this mostly socio-cultural underpinnings, I would add this theological and spiritual corollary: Maybe most important of all, is the teaching that surround the premise that we can find a transformative grace that exists within our human participation in the allness and the wholeness of God as our common source for justice and compassion. That this sustaining identity and participation are among the most dynamic spiritual principles that would encourage and enable change in any opposing or repressive attitudes, opinions, and values.

Given the time limits this presentation… the rest of my remarks will now focus on the issue of tribalism…

Tribalism presents itself as the obstacle that supports the other factors, and can be seen as the most obstinate and stubborn. Tribalism is the primitive way of understanding one’s religious identity and identify one’s place in the larger world that is then repeatedly reinforced by commonly held irrational fears. Chief among them is xenophobia or the fear of the stranger, and deep suspicions about any person who is different from the members of one’s own tribe or clan. The emphasis in this outlook is for the sake of safety and security in what can be easily perceived as a dangerous outside world. The need, therefore, is to stay with people who are just like us- people or members of our own tribe who repeatedly share the same ideas and ideals that reinforce one’s sense of identity and security through a well defined, rule bound, small circle of association and lifestyle.

While some version of this tendency towards tribalism might have been a developmental necessity for cultural cohesion and economic survival in ancient days, such as among the children of Israel, or at the founding of Islam, or for that matter, at the beginnings of any nation or ethnic identity, such an emphasis on conformity for identity or for survival no longer works well in current society.

Modernity can be defined by its multicultural realities which consist of an amalgam of traditions, religious expressions, and cultural patchworks which exists in our current culture. Most cogently, we can readily see this dynamic diversity in our daily lives, in the everyday workings of our immigrant society in the USA…

(Yes… We ARE an immigrant nation… get over it! Just ask a Native American!)

Tribalism acts as a divisive agent; whether its around the world or around the corner… and threatens to hold us back from the greater appreciation of enriching tapestry of ideas and practices that affirm value of our national diversity.

Tribalism insists on its own narrow interpretations of behavior and beliefs, and it can act, in both its arrogance and ignorance, to suppress any dissent or the altering of any of its iron clad rules that would welcome any contrasting ideas or any competitive opinion and practices…

Living in Charleston, the evidence of continuing sense of tribalism is hard to escape or ignore. We who live here cannot afford to be unaware or resistant and blind to the fact that embedded within any shiny claims of its illustrious history, there is also an insistent glare of institutional racism and the curse of slavery that tarnishes any attempt to whitewash its historical acclaim. These tendencies, and worse, these harsh realities are still active in the civic descision-making, and that the deep impact of those exclusionary attitudes still affect the city on a daily basis, and can be seen as remaining a powerful divisive factor in our city today.

The South as a whole, with its tendency towards recalling a more sentimental history could be considered to be tribal. Similarly, The WASP socioeconomic preferences around our country (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) has had a nationwide and long standing, profound negative impact on the Native Americans and as a deterrent imposition to Asians, all the way down to today’s battles over inclusion where the well established white Protestant culture would willing erect a wall- a literal physical barrier to full acceptance and assimilation for Latinos who wish to live among us…

So one of the most powerful answers that will defeat the obstacles and oppressions of tribalism, maybe its most effective remedy, would be to create and implement a nationwide, multicultural educational reform. This empathetic and honest curricula would seek to dispel attitudes of ignorance, lessen any fears of the stranger, and expose and diminish any sense of exclusionary cultural practices or economic preferences. As it has been said during our current political debates, the symbol of our country and its people cannot be a defiant wall of separation and exclusion, but rightly understood and in accord with our nation’s highest ideals, the symbol of our country would be the Statue of Liberty that would light our way, and the inclusive noble promises of the Declaration of Independence that would guide us…

Lastly, moving from a more sociological outlook into a more theological one, when looking at the need to move towards diversity, people of faith are encouraged to widen their heartfelt concern, and to move beyond tolerance for differences in faith, belief, customs and practices. While being tolerant and being nonjudgmental might well be all we can ask of secular society, and it remains a worthwhile goal, there is a further step people of faith need to be willing to take. Regardless of which pew or practice defines your spiritual life, the need for compassion is universal, and the next step- of full acceptance becomes our cherished goal…

While secular society will often operate on a “Quid pro Quo” basis- this for that as a basis for cultural trade off and compromises, the spiritual life requires us to go a step further… in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, towards a “Quid pro Bono” or doing this… because it is good… Because it is good, right, and just- not only for us, but for all humankind!

Every human being is a gift, a blessing, and needs to be recognized for the miracle that she/he is… That each person has inherent worth, dignity, and value. Every one of the great religious traditions, has within its mystical and ethical writings, teachings that speak to us of the intimacy and honesty of this ideal, and that we can express a sustaining belief in a compassionate and loving Source many of us call God.

As Meister Eckhart, the medieval mystic and as Matthew Fox the best modern advocate for the uplifting approach called Creation Spirituality reminds us: “God is always giving birth to compassion” always providing us with creative and redemptive ways of being in our world, always offering us gracious potentials for service and understanding that would create a more sacred society. In short, nothing, in truth, prevents us from offering one another empathy and affirmation and that can be shown to all of our brothers and sisters, to the animals, to all life on earth!

I will end my thoughts and remarks with this quote from Dr. James Doty, MD, from his book, The Science of Compassion. He writes:

“As human beings, we will inevitably encounter suffering at some point in our lives. However, we have evolved very specific social mechanisms to relieve that pain: altruism and compassion. …

“While survival of the fittest may lead to some short term gain, research clearly shows it is survival of the kindest that leads to long term survival of a species. It is our ability to stand together as a group, to support each other, to help each other, to communicate for mutual understanding, and to cooperate that has taken our species this far.”

May a lasting sense of our personal dignity and worth recognize the value of our human diversity, and promote a wholehearted acceptance of that truth as our spiritual and ethical goal- our working outlook, and our exalting ideal…

Thank you…

 

 

Are You Spiritual but not Religious? What does that mean? Can you be Spiritual AND Religious?

May 26, 2015 - 3:48 pm Comments Off on Are You Spiritual but not Religious? What does that mean? Can you be Spiritual AND Religious?

Homily/Theme: What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual and Religious?

Chances are that you have heard these words from your friends who have been seeking their own answers, and chances are that you have said these words yourself: “I am spiritual, but I am not religious!”

Generally, we all know what that means, right? That we identify ourselves as a person who explores, who bravely seeks answers, and who often can not find what they are seeking in the traditional ways of church, worship, with all of the limiting behavioral expectations and the exclusionary beliefs.

IF we have recently returned to our childhood faith, or when as an adult, we have reexamined the beliefs and values that are still being espoused, we can encounter limited understanding, traditional patriarchal meanings, or a series of disheartening attitudes that are, at their worst, harsh and depersonalizing, and even at their best, they can be stale and limiting.

In today’s culture, yes, even here in the “Holy City” area – One of the most resistant, most traditional, and most conservative of places, there are a growing number of people who find themselves dissatisfied with what passes for religious beliefs, and who can no longer feel comfortable, much less inspired, by traditional worship.

In particular, they can object to the repressive uses of theology and Scripture as agents of control that try to limit the scope of your questions, or cramp your desire to seek out your own answers.

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Just as many people say that they have out grown the image of God as the old man in heaven, sitting on a golden throne, as judge and jury over our souls, so too have many people outgrown the belief that we are sinners and need judgmental or parental authority figures to tell us what to do, and what to believe about God, life, love…

I expect that most of you sitting here have encountered this and resisted it, and it is possible that you have found yourselves a little lost, or at least disheartened over the lack of choice, or the lack of open, and progressive alternatives to church in our area. It can appear as if many churches here are living in a isolated time warp or a cocoon that shuts out the need for greater acceptance or tolerance.

For example, by my quick count, there are over 100 churches in Charleston county, yet there are only five communities of faith that welcome gay and lesbians, only three of these five church groups would be consider themselves to centrally Christian, only one to be inclusive and metaphysical, and only one maybe two to be welcoming of all faiths or accepting of having no faith at all! No wonder there are so many spiritual Meetup Groups! There are a lot of people who are looking around, and most cannot find what they seek!

During my personal lifelong study and my ministry experiences, there has been a lot of resistance to the word spiritual, just as there has been in more recent years, there is the reluctance to call oneself a religious person. …

 

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I feel that the time is “ready and ripe” to define both terms in new inclusive and welcoming ways. (which by the way, are the words Jesus used in Aramaic to describe what he called being Blessed…

As in the Beatitudes… Ready are you…)

Let’s chose the easier word first… being religious…

I bet you thought I would choose spiritual, didn’t you?

Without belaboring it, most conventional churches are only superficially or sentimentally religious. They prefer to operate as pious social groups, for business networking, for parenting support, for reinforcing the status quo with a little sentimental story, or a passive ritual… That’s is what conventionally passes for being religious. However, there is a deeper, more troubling dimension to be religious in our culture today…

That is when being religious means that you are blindly arrogant. When Scripture is used as a political weapon for exclusion or inclusion- Either you believe what we say or we will threaten you in two things: You will be threatened with being ostracized from family, friends, jobs, or you will be threatened with damnation and Hell because, according to the way they have chosen to read the words, they can pronounce that you are not accepted, that you are a sinner!

The pressure to conform to ideas and concepts you no longer trust or believe in is a heavy one; This coercion we can feel, especially from family and friends, can be very disheartening.

 

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I have heard this experience often from my clients in spiritual direction. They would often agree around these experiences:

That they had to leave home religiously in order to find themselves- They had to be a bold, rebellious, and then become an adult seeker…

However, it is also true that this path can be very difficult… being responsible for your own answers, being a mystic seeking wholeness or becoming a prophet after truth is not an easy road! That is why so few people choose it!

As I see it, arrogant or judgmental theology has created more atheists, and more disillusioned people that any question based on science or social doubt could have ever done! However, it has also created many sincere seekers who wish to find spiritual ideals and a community that now fit their expanded understanding…

In the 12 Principles of Creation Spirituality, you will see that this community will consciously aim to rectify and restore your sense of dignity, value, talent, and purpose. It will not ask you to sacrifice your ability to reason, nor will it expect you to believe in anything or act in any way that is not compassionate and wise.

You see, religion, as it pertains to its original word meaning, religiare, is an expression of human belonging or spiritual bonding that keeps, respects, and holds people together in service to a larger ideal or a greater truth than one can have or hold just by themselves.

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Being religious is having or holding on a sustaining belief in the grace that can be found in being together- in sharing, in working together to support and to encourage one another through our commonly held ways of worship, study, and service.

(group energy/synergy and dynamism)

Now I fully acknowledge that stating or even declaring that you are “spiritual but not religious” is an important necessary step in many people’s spiritual journey- There is truth in saying that you first have to know what you do not believe in before they can find what ideas and ideals that can become your new sources for truth. When one goes through rejection, what you are expressing is what you no longer accept, or that you no longer wish to practice a level of belief or consciousness that you feel that you have either outgrown, or that is dysfunctional or even disrespectful for you.

Instead, many sincere seekers have chosen to remain outside of any church community until you can find a place that would support and inspire your new more mature and more inclusive awareness.

So I celebrate the virtue of necessary rejection! Without the courage to walk away, to explore, and to discover new truths, you cannot realize or be responsible for having an adult or mature understanding of faith, God, spirit, truth… As Walt Whitman put it, we are to “dismiss anything that insults our souls, and then our very flesh will become a poem!”

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We need a religious dimension to our lives so that we can experience a sense of belonging, and feel as if there are sisters and brothers around that we can trust, and that we can be honest with, and who will genuinely care about us: Mind/Body/Heart/and Soul.

When religion and spirituality intersect, and when they become clearly practiced, we can arrive at a complementary synthesis, or a complete belief system. As Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality puts it, “There can be no mysticism without ethics, and no spirituality without justice.” I would add that there can be no complete sense of religious understanding without an active spirituality to accompany it. Without having sufficient regard for Myth, mystery, and meaning, there cannot be a complete sense of the Holy that can be found in that community.

Most of the new nationwide research on what people are looking for in a spiritual community centers around becoming more pneumocentric- more Spirit centered and bravely open to many ideas. which is contrary to the historical and conventional ways of church… This more Spirit centered approach will be more inclusive of various paths towards truth, it will be more participatory, and will seek to provide various ways of learning as a part of each service. It has become clear from all the feedback they have received that long time seekers, and those of the new wave of searchers will not be content with being “sacred observers.” This is the term I have found to best describe that conventional congregation:

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just passively sitting in their pews, and feeling parented by some authority figure or satisfied by simply be given pious pabulum that has little value or no direct application once they leave the service!

In short, the new generation of spiritual pioneers and visionaries will not settle for religion being done “for them or done to them”… They wish to learn how to live their ideas more fully, not just talk about them! They want to wholeheartedly participate in developing an adult, responsible, and a knowledgeable faith that informs the whole person, and that tributes positively to the critical, necessary social changes we see around us…

Now for the word, spiritual… what a minefield that is! It is so inexact, so obtuse, with so many amorphous definitions that while we can easily come to a general consensus, those facile words still lack depth or any sense of a complete understanding! It took me ten pages to define it in my book on Spirit, Time and The Future!

Generally speaking, the word spiritual is most commonly equated with a kind of universal energy, or with some force that it both within us and beyond us. Other times, the word spiritual takes on the more pious or sentimental ideas of grace, but still not knowing how or in what ways that blessing can arrive or occur. …

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I do not believe that spirituality is neither reducible to secular physics, nor is it a abstract, sentimental notion of God’s reality…

While Spirit’s basic effect is vitality, She can also be known as our source for wisdom, evolutionary relationships, soul centered healing, and justice making… It flows from the center of the Cosmos, and is evident in every breathe we take… The qualities most associated with Spirit are alchemical: They are the abilities of Transformation; Transcendence, and Transmutation… Change!

As I see it, the source for all this is the inclusive and expansive understanding of The Holy Spirit in Christianity is the same gracious and powerful Spirit or divine feminine that is found in all the timeless mystical aspects of the world faiths. She manifests and releases creativity and compassion, and She guides any community that is founded on interdependent, evolutionary impulses that direct us beyond ego and culture, and towards a sustaining sense of being whole and free…

I welcome you today to this opportunity to worship, and to work together, to share in creating a community of soulful exploration and compassionate understanding- a community that teaches how to live a pneumatic or a Spirit centered life- a life that is filled with discovery, affirmation, and blessings! Amen; So be It! Blessed Be!

 

Creation Spirituality: An Introduction to the 4 Paths

April 27, 2015 - 8:47 pm Comments Off on Creation Spirituality: An Introduction to the 4 Paths

Celebrating Our Original Blessings:

An Introduction to the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality

The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

 

There is a great search going on in our society today. It is a common yearning, a deeply held one and now; Often this inquiry is an expressed need for connection to the Earth and to one another.

From the dawn of civilization, humankind has sought out ways to define relationships to the greater world around them. To be fully human, is to search for meaning; we are not just social animals, political or economic beings, we are a seeking, curious, creative and wondering animals- homo sacralis- We are humans that seek what is holy, meaningful, what is divine within us and what is divine all around us.

Religion can be defined by any activity, which by its practice and understanding, that helps us to feel more connected; unified; together, (from Latin, religiare) and by any activity that assists us in transcending the intellect and the ego- spirituality facilitates our ability to going beyond our superfical social selves, and to look both beyond and within for our deepest, most true answers.

Today, the old, traditional ways of religion and being together, no longer fit the demands of new approaches to planetary science, or the complexities of our social existence. Religious outlooks and teachings have not kept up to the demands of modern living…

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A compelling concern has now presented itself to all of us: that humans everywhere have to come together to create a new cosmology- in new, inclusive and inspiring ways that include the holistic or interdependent linking of science, art, service, and mysticism. These outlooks synergistically combine in a simple and yet profound universal acceptance that spirituality and ecology, art and justice, all belong together and all are deeply connected to each other.

This yearning, this search has had some leading edges…. Nowhere is this yearning felt more deeply than in the various liberation movements, 12 step recovery groups, and the worldwide desire for church revitalization or the increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo in society, economy, relationships, etc. As a consequence of a search that is becoming critical and apparent, there is also a need for a common religious and metaphoric language that unites religious ideals to the frontiers of science, the depths of art, and the expanse of culture. One approach that boldly and enthusiastically presents itself as being able to facilitate these desires, and fulfill these wide ranging and inclusive needs. It is called Creation Spirituality.

Right away, let me declare that this approach has nothing to do with Creationism! In fact, its openness to science and mystery function as the direct opposite!

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One of the main purposes of Creation Spirituality is to remedy and rectify the old harmful theologies and those toxic and demeaning religious beliefs that have crippled people since their childhood…

As an interfaith movement, it offers a new interpretation of the Creation and the entire Biblical story based on its positive themes. As a uniting philosophy or framework, Creation Spirituality helps us to reclaim the beauty and inspiration of The Western religious traditions without having to accept any of the old control centered, static, severe, dour, necrophilic, irrational and pious theology!

Those interpretations of Scripture and human nature that are so often used to promote grief, guilt, shame or fear. Creation Spirituality teaches that our salvation is not based on believing some speculative man-made creed. If we are to be saved; that is, if we are to be whole, loving, and free, we cannot divorce our personal concerns from those of our planet Earth, or from our sisters and brothers around the world.

CS is an outlook and a conviction that says that if we, as humankind, and we, as a civilization and as a planet are going to survive, then we will have to actively acknowledge our common origins, our shared human experience, and actively affirm the worth, the sanctity, the mystery and the divinity of Earth itself.

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Creation is a wonder… Yet, it is ironic that so few of the Western churches teach such respect and reverence as a part of their religious education programs or life span teachings.

Instead, the models that have been passed down to us are either excessively moralistic, or do not give equal time to the dignity and worth of the person and the environment. Many of us have been sternly taught and often admonished about Original Sin, but very little is ever said or affirmed about our Original Blessings. It starts with the affirmation of the mystery and miracle of God as Spirit, presence, as compassionate energy that is inherent, interwoven, alive and timelessly participating in Creation. It teaches about God as an alive Spirit that maintains a gracious benevolence and that God has a sustaining intimate relationship with all life!

Creation Spirituality states that Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of mind and heart that confirm that we need a more positive view of ourselves, and our world, if we are ever expect to repair, restore, or revitalize the Earth or be a healing presence for one another. As for the greatest sin…

It is not found in eating an apple- it is the wholesale desecration of Mother Earth herself! It has been our ignorant, wasteful ravaging that now holds all of humanity liable, and holds the world’s people at risk.

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So while Creation Spirituality does not avoid dealing with personal sin, it does not wallow in guilt or shame either. Instead, it encourages us to look at ourselves compassionately; it encourages us to educate ourselves out of any lingering beliefs, willful ignorance, or any passive acceptance of religiously imposed inadequacies.

Students of Creation Spirituality see one another as caregivers, who have to reclaim the natural wonders and blessings of our world. C.S. teaches us to see and experience the beauty and love, understanding and consolation we can find in walking the beach, watching a leaf hold a butterfly or when we hold hands across our cultural ways to give another person hope; when we find a quiet joy looking into one another’s eyes, or the sanctuary felt when we are in another’s arms.

Creation Spirituality does not start with Adam and Eve- It begins by affirming our positive identity as the children of God, made in the image and likeness of the Divine… From that sacred basis, we find our working and royal identity when we live as companions to all the creatures of Earth, when we stand up for justice, and to act in ways that heal our world.

At its core, in its essence, Creation Spirituality is a movement toward Oneness and Wholeness; towards Unity and Divinity.

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It teaches principles that dignify and equalizes the sexes, and provides research into how best to affirm an inclusive trans-denominational approach to world spirituality and to the needs to have a world ecology.

While the ideas and ideals of Creation Spirituality reach back into the origins of our human sacred stories go far back, even before the Bible, the rediscovery of its truth is only 40 years old. Its new expression comes to us from the mind and heart of a progressive, once labeled a heretical Catholic radical, (now finding a tentative safe haven as an Episcopal priest), named Matthew Fox. He rediscovered these truths while doing research on the great Christian or Creation mystics. They were those dissenting men and inspiring women that kept this alternative way of looking at God, Nature, and life alive throughout the centuries; not bowing down to the coercion or control, or the patriarchal and dehumanizing teachings that have so effectively “de-souled” us…

Those de-humanizing ways of institutional power and moral control have condemned churchgoers to rehearsing only those reinforced feelings of failure, robbing us of health, happiness, creativity, justice and joy.

From those controversial Catholic beginnings, Fox and his followers quickly understood that using ecology to inform one’s faith drew all kinds of people, many world faiths and different spiritual expressions into

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into a larger and broader unity community- ways to share and affirm together!

This inclusive practices and interactive theology, can be divided into four interdependent, complementary ways that can be known, understood and embodied as part of every person’s search for truth and meaning.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these four ways or paths, I will give you a quick synopsis of each path, and archetype. Then I will ask how each way or path can be personally understood in practical terms.

First, from Path One or the Via Positiva, the task is to emphasize our Original Blessings, the wonder and promise of life and majesty of the Creation. Fox suggests that we have to learn to find beauty- all around us. It focus is on how we see and experience, How we feel and understand the meaning and the magic found in everyday life.

Fox states that: “we have become afraid of our own divinity,” that we are the sons and daughters of God.

With this divinity comes the identity of each of us as a royal and wonder-filled human being; a marvelous new way of perceiving who and what we are… yet, with this grand truth, there is also ongoing responsibility.

One of the principal reasons the old, fearful forms of religion endure is that it is easier for us to accept being passive, being afraid, being childish…

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In fact, some people find it easier to stay fearful or even guilty, than it is to accept our adult and ongoing responsibility as co-creaters of our world.

Here, in the first of the four paths, the one that is most ignored by church teachings is called The Via Positiva. Here we are taught that we need “to taste and see that life is good.” Because of this, each of us has to uphold beauty, truth, and those virtues of a sustaining strength and a firm resolve that brings to all men and all women into their innate abilities to celebrate all the ideals they truly believe in or that they sincerely trust. This is the path of the mystic.

The Mystic’s main task in life is affirmation, and closely connected to it, is to maintain the outlook of gratitude. (approx. Thanksgiving to Epiphany)

So, now I will ask each of you: What can you affirm in your life? What makes you thankful? How does your community connections promote affirmation and your sense of gratitude?

Path Two is called The Via Negativa, or the emptying way. Here is where the spiritual warrior battles for their mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity; He or she accepts their own need to let go- to empty oneself of false beliefs, negative feelings, social roles.

 

 

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In the Via Negativa, we have to face up to our inner pain, our hurts, and whatever we feel that we lack in ourselves, or what we have failed to accomplish in our lives. Here, the path urges the spiritual warrior in each of us to develop fortitude, bravery, persistence, and the courage to go beyond the familiar, and to welcome the unknown; THEN, to expect the good, and to be open to grace, despite life’s wounds.

Fox says this: “[we have to learn to let go- Letting go of comforts, security, of past images of oneself, or all that we have reinforced or rehearsed about past ways of relationships- all those ways that keep us stuck or dissatisfied with our lives… Here the task is to learn what serves our growth and goodness, and practice only what will not harm or will not rob anyone else of dignity and respect.]”

This is the path of the prophet.(January to Lent)

The main task of the prophet is to interfere with the status quo in ways that promote equality and justice, and build a strong, resilient courageous self.

I ask: In what ways are you willing to interfere with the status quo? When is it that you stand up for others? What does your congregation interfere with regularly?

 

 

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The Third Path or way is called The Via Creativa or the way of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is where we learn about giving birth to newness and hope, and how to experience a rebirth of who and what we are or can become. You know, it takes a lot of faith, and a sincere degree of flexibility to be creative; to bring compassion into being that fosters a new way of looking at the world, of defining and refining yourself.

As Fox puts it, “in Path Three, we stand up and offer our gifts to the community. Creativity arises from a depth of awareness that states that…

IF we do not give back our unique gifts, talents, and skills, and IF we do not give expression to life’s mysteries or give witness to life’s truth, THEN no one will stand up, or no one will care or give or do it for us.” If we do not give back, whatever gifts or talents, we have will atrophy or go stale… This is the path of the artist. (Approx. Easter to August)

I ask: How do you express your creativity? How do you share your gifts? How does this church or community give of itself to the larger community?

The last way or Fourth Path is called The Via Transformativa, the transformative way. But as Fox emphasizes, “transformation does not come easily.

 

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We are acutely aware of politcs and economics in our world. That powerful people and entrenched institutions do not relinquish control and privilege cheerfully or willingly. Paradigm shifts in religion, politics or economics are often resisted vigorously. Through empathy, we learn to celebrate the common human struggle, and we can find the strength, the willingness to stand up for justice, equality, freedom, and truth as belonging to everyone…

Path Four shows us the right way of being together in community, as how best to live on and for the Earth. This is the path of the Healer. (Approx. August to Thanksgiving)

I ask: How do you find healing for yourselves? How do you offer it to others? How do you work together as a group to offer or provide healing?

The best teachings given on creation and mysticism today ironically, are being given by scientists. … Scientists, not monks, and certainly not most typical theologians! Today, mystics are coming out of their religious closets all over the world, and are trying to find a home in every community, church, or meeting house. They are not finding room or an easy welcome!

They are artists and engineers, parents, householders, lawyers, health care workers, and yes, you might even find a priest or a minister or two who really wants our society to change!

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Carl Jung said that the mystic brings out what is creative to religion… But you will never get a full definition of mysticism or spirituality. Why? Because definitions are all left brain, and living creatively and celebrating the mysteries of life is right brain- we are never going to define or control it!

(Emerson- We dare not fence the Spirit!)

Today, we need as much heart knowledge as we have head knowledge. We need experience awe, wonder, fascination, and inspiration, and teach these mysteries to our children so they will really know what life is about…

For me, and for the others who have embraced CS as their theological guide, It is simply about how we humans can grow our souls to realize more of the beauty of the earth, and how best to cooperate with our humanity, our creativity, our divinity, and experience the holiness of universe itself.

I recommend Creation Spirituality to you… as an inspiring way to understanding, and as an excellent complement to the ideals and principles of Unity… Truly a marriage made in heaven… or if you prefer, two inspiring ways that will lead you to your freedom, dignity, and self worth… So that you can confidently and courageously claim your own wholeness and holiness every day of your lives!

AMEN. SO BE IT!

 

A Most Misunderstood Woman: Looking at Mary Magdalene ; Insights and Appreciation

March 8, 2015 - 8:02 am Comments Off on A Most Misunderstood Woman: Looking at Mary Magdalene ; Insights and Appreciation

 

A Most Misunderstood Woman: Mary Magdalene

Recalling an Extraordinary Woman and Saint from the Gospels and her own (?) Writings

The Unity Community of Mount Pleasant, SC

March 8, 2015

As I was rattling my brain, and going over the many ideas I could develop for a sermon during Lent and the Easter season, I realized that there is a true and unheralded story that needs to be told… The story of Mary Magdelene is one that can fully occupy our imagination, but cannot be understood only as religious history, or as a dissenting theology, but through her words as they are attributed to her in the Canonical Gospels and in the Gnostic Gospels that will provide us with a timeless example of living out one’s spiritual values.

Given that March is Women’s History Month, and that There is a lot of erroneous conclusions about her, I feel its time to lift her up as a courageous and inspirational feminine role model for the spiritual life.

When one looks thoroughly at the Scriptures, Mary of Magdala is specifically mentioned only once outside of the Resurrection story… But even that conclusion is an open-ended one! You see, there are five Marys in the Christian Testaments, and some are clear cut, such as Mary the mother of Jesus, but there are stories where it is quite unclear which Mary is being spoken of, or even if the woman in the story was a Mary of any sort!

Many scholars will speculate that Mary of Magdala was the Mary in the Lukan story of Mary and Martha; We are unsure if she might have been the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and it is a loose conclusion that identifies her as a the woman that Jesus healed from having seven devils within her… however… We are reasonably certain that she was NOT the woman caught in adultery, although that sin and the effects of that papal branding of her as a prostitute and grievous sinner lasted some 12 hundred years!

In the Gospel accounts, we are given indications of her qualities and outlooks on life… however, these are incomplete. When added to the Gnostic Gospel of Mary, we are given a few more insightful and truly surprising clues to a misunderstood, yet faithful and devoted disciple.

(Technically, she could be named as an Apostle, as the difference between an apostle and being a disciple is someone who had a direct living relationship with Jesus and/or someone who had a historical encounter with the risen Christ… such as Paul…)

To begin with, and something to keep in mind during this Lenten season, is that while celebrated only once a year, that our lives can be filled with Good Fridays and with Easter mornings. I would advance the idea that we cannot have a complete understanding of Holy in our lives unless we understand the how Good Friday and Easter teach us about the necessary and complementary steps each of us takes, or instruct the life changing experiences each of us has to live through that will serve to deepen our awareness of God and Spirit in our lives.

One of the most searing critiques of the New Age Spirituality Movement can be expressed by the desire to avoid Good Friday and only celebrate Easter. Genuine spiritual maturity or depth does not come to us easily, quickly, or cheaply. While you can have pleasant, uplifting episodes, and warm feelings from exercises and meditations, those do not constitute genuine spiritual discovery or depth. When I read about the lives of the saints, East and West, often there is a struggle they have to overcome, a deep personal flaw, a struggle against injustice, or an ego-defying love. The women of the Gospel, and maybe Mary of Magdela in particular, had to confront their Good Friday directly-vividly, and to endure it with nobility, courage and grace. Her story is different because there is a quality of an intimate connection that was neither maternal nor was it sisterly. IF we are to accept what the Gnostic Gospels such as Philip seem to infer, or what the novelists like Nicholas Kasinstakis in his work, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Dan Brown with his Da Vinci Code and similar speculative works, are offered to us as tantalizing possibilities. IF they are proved or considered to be true, then Mary was not only a devoted disciple, she was Jesus’ wife or spouse. Because of this intimacy, her Good Friday was different than a maternal or sisterly loss would be. A simple way to explain this controversial point of view would be that it was her lesson is how to live with loss, and then as a widow, teach others his truth and to follow his wisdom, while keeping the bond of love alive that exists between them.

Maybe that impulse, that hope and that desire to see him again was the great driving motive behind why she was the first one at the tomb- Yes, it was an act of strong faith, but it was also an act of a strong love that attests to the heart centered understanding that they shared… It was a deep understanding that the Gnostic Gospels refer to as Mary knowing the secrets and hidden teachings that Jesus never shared with anyone else.

In this more inspirational yet expansive appreciation of Mary, we come to understand her as an example of a timeless sense of love and the courageous dedication because to continue to spread and to fulfill his teachings. By doing that, she immediately was branded as a rebel and by doing so, she upset the patriarchal traditions that became so ingrained in the Western Church. One of the reasons why she was held captive in obscurity was she broke the cultural barriers to women in religious leadership in order to testify to a timeless truth of God being alive within each of us… (Son of Man = holy child of Humankind, or as Unity teaches it, The Christ within….)

Like the strange fact that we have no real idea what Jesus looked like, the same is true of Mary… We have only the artistic renderings from pious artists to use as our subjective measure… Some of those historical renderings show us a woman who Jesus saves from the angry, judgmental crowd, or show us a picture of a woman after being healed of seven demons… Others refer to Mary more quietly and less dramatically to her only as a close disciple who listened fully, and comprehended deeply.

Because of the misanthropic patriarchy winning the ecclesial battle for prominence, the important contributions of women to the Gospel and to the formation of the Early church were largely erased. This willful deletion, however, do not stop the Gnostics from adding their additional pieces to the puzzle, even if the pieces they offered did not easily fit or contribute to what was already known… By in large, women began to recede from their leadership and early prominence… If fact, they not only were forced into the background, they began to take on a more sinister importance. The skeptical old monks looked at women as the problem… Because they represented desire, and so they were, at best, a distraction to a more pious and pristine life… Then we have layered on that dubious notion, the beliefs about Eve as the originator of sin, and thanks to the Pope Gregory in 591, we have Mary identified as a prostitute!

Of course, we have absolutely NO evidence that Mary was anything but a sincere student and maybe even a beloved disciple… It was a massive error of great consequence that has haunted women and Western spirituality ever since!

The latest, reliable scholarship that would be trustworthy depicts Mary, and the Gnostic Gospel attributed to her, as having a genuine case to be named an apostle, and thereby breaking down much of the old conclusions about the growth of the Christian church and women’s roles in its seeding and planting. In the Gospel of Mary she is seen having prominence, if not preeminence because she possesses knowledge that was kept from the other disciples, and that she was charged to share it with them during the early time period after Jesus’ ascension/disappearance….

When we add to this teaching, the historical fact of its origins, it has to be given a much larger standard of credence as the time period would be roughly parallel to the writing of the Gospel of John. Thomas is set a little earlier, scholars suggest that it was written during the time of Luke/Acts, and before John. From a historical evaluation, Thomas and Mary would have to be accepted as being more genuine because they were earlier than all the rest of the Gnostics… (See research by Karen King for a full and rich explanation)

So let us turn to what her story could reveal… That her message that we have been able to translate and study give us parts left unread by the conventional Christian and that have been largely ignored by mainline teachings… While we could go overt the texts that we have been given by orthodoxy, I would prefer to open your thought and inform your hearts by turning our attention to the search for greater wisdom and understanding that these Gnostic texts can offer us…. Unfortunately, what has been preserved for us is but a fraction of the whole book… We are missing substantial parts and can only hope more might be found, but realistically having to content ourselves that these fragments can still contribute to expanding our understanding of Jesus’ timeless wisdom…

Chapter 4

(Pages 1 to 6 of the manuscript, containing chapters 1 – 3, are lost.

The extant text starts on page 7…)

. . . Will matter then be destroyed or not?

22) The Savior said, “All nature, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots.

23) For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone.

24) He who has ears to hear, let him hear”.

All that exists, first exists in the realm of an image or an idea…, It takes shape or becomes physical because it follows its unique pattern for manifestation… And at its death or demise, returns to that original , radical or root image or idea… This is not merely a law of reincarnation, nor is it just the physics of energy that always is changing… What is being suggested here is that there is a return to the essence that holds its cosmic blueprint.

Everything that has been created has a design or a blueprint that maps out its essence, its construction of its reality.

25) Peter said to him, Since you have explained everything to us, tell us this also: What is the sin of the world?

26) The Savior said There is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called sin.

27) That is why the Good came into your midst, to the essence of every nature in order to restore it to its root.

As it has been explained, here Jesus offers us a transformative statement about the nature of sin that has been totally by-passed or absurdly reduced to the idea that a mistake, a moral flaw is worthy of condemnation. It is also not a transgression that is socially defined or limited to tribal laws, or any relational expectations. The warning is one of dilution’s, and adulterating the quality of one’s motives, connections and ideals.

Following the current scholarship, Jesus teaches that sin is not a moral problem but a cosmological challenge to remain aligned, attuned, in sync and at one with the truth of one’s being. Such an intimacy or alignment seeks to have no gaps or dissonance between the person as the divine image and likeness and the how they function in the world is the ideal goal for our lives. To the degree that we allow for or create distance and dissonance between the divine fidei of who we are and the world’s temptations, distractions, and diseases will show what feelings and conditions that we will manifest… Separation is sin; and to the degree that we live out estranged and unconnected lives will indicate how close we are to God and to our divine image of divinity, our Christ within.

28) Then He continued and said, That is why you become sick and die, for you are deprived 29) He who has a mind to understand, let him understand.

30) Matter gave birth to a passion that has no equal, which proceeded from something contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in its whole body.

31) That is why I said to you, Be of good courage, and if you are discouraged be encouraged in the presence of the different forms of nature.

32) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

33) When the Blessed One had said this, He greeted them all, saying, Peace be with you. Receive my peace unto yourselves.

34) Beware that no one lead you astray saying Lo here or lo there! For the Son of Man is within you. 35) Follow after Him! 36) Those who seek Him will find Him. 37) Go then and preach the gospel of the Kingdom.

In sync with the teachings from John about false prophets, in Mary’s gospel we are given a warning about listening to any source- human , literary, or otherwise! We are to listen, instead, to our hearts… To our source of inner knowing such as our intuition as our most reliable guide. Because the Christ lives within each and every person, our instructions and our guidance comes from within our hearts, minds, and souls…

As you listen and become more confident in your knowing, then share this wisdom with others – teaching and encouraging them to go within for their most cherished and valued answers…

38) Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.

39) When He said this He departed.

External rules, laws, obligations and structures are to be avoided as they can act to confine our potentials. Such legalisms can also preoccupy us and can be ways that lead us astray. With any pre-occupations with externals, we are draining our attention and energies away from the necessary focus and the needed energies/activities of soul development.

Chapter 5

1) But they were grieved. They wept greatly, saying, How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare Him, how will they spare us?

2) Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you.

3) But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men. 4) When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior.

5) Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. 6) Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

7) Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.

8) And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me,

9) Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure.

10) I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?

11) The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is […]

(pages 11 – 14 are missing from the manuscript)

Commentary and scholarship continues… If requested, more will be posted!

 

Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 9, 2015 - 9:44 am Comments Off on Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution! Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Note: This is a reprint of the invitation to give The Ware Lecture to the UUA General Assembly in 1966… the excerpts and emphasis are mine, as the text is much longer and the emphasis points are, for me, particularly cogent and inspiring…

In many ways, this address can act as a synopsis of his most foundational ideas, quotes, and teaching for us… Given that the superb film, Selma, is being released today nationwide, it acts as a strong and clear reminder of the man, his words, and his cherished ideals…

Don’t Sleep Through The Revolution!

Excerpts from The Ware Lecture by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966…

There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. And there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our world today. We see it in other nations in the demise of colonialism. We see it in our own nation, in the struggle against racial segregation and discrimination, and as we notice this struggle we are aware of the fact that a social revolution is taking place in our midst. Victor Hugo once said that there is nothing more powerful in all the world than an idea whose time has come. The idea whose time has come today is the idea of freedom and human dignity, and so allover the world we see something of freedom explosion, and this reveals to us that we are in the midst of revolutionary times. An older order is passing away and a new order is coming into being.

The great question is, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a period? Certainly the church has a great responsibility because when the church is true to its nature, it stands as a moral guardian of the community and of society. It has always been the role of the church to broaden horizons, to challenge the status quo, and to question and break mores if necessary. I’m sure that we all agree that the church has a major role to play in this period of social change. I would like to suggest some of the things that the church must continually do in order to remain awake through this revolution.

First, we are challenged to instill within the people of our congregations a world perspective. The world in which we live is geographically one.

…..

All I’m saying is this: that all life is inter-related, and somehow we are all tied together. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of all reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms, “No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” He goes on to say, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” This realization is absolutely necessary if we are to remain awake in this revolution.

….

Secondly, it is necessary for the church to reaffirm over and over again the essential immorality of racial segregation. Any church which affirms the morality of segregation is sleeping through the revolution. We must make it clear that segregation, whether it’s in the public schools, in housing, or in recreational facilities, or in the church itself, is morally wrong and sinful. It is not only sociologically untenable, or politically unsound, or merely economically unwise, it is morally wrong and sinful.

….

There is another thing that the church must do to remain awake. I thing it is necessary to refute the idea that there are superior and inferior races. We must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. It is out of this notion that the whole doctrine of white supremacy came into being, and the church must take a stand through religious education and other channels to direct the popular mind at this point, for there are some people who still believe this strange doctrine.

….

It’s a strange notion that has made for a great deal of strife and suffering. Both the academic world and the disciplines of science have refuted this idea. Anthropologists like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Meade, and Herskovits, after long years of study, have made it clear that they find no evidence for the idea of superior and inferior races. There may be superior and inferior individuals in every race, but no superior or inferior races.

In spite of this, the notion still lingers around. Now, there was a time that people tried to justify it on the basis of the Bible. Strange indeed how individuals will often use, or should I say misuse, the Bible to crystallize the patterns of the status quo and justify their prejudices.

So from some pulpits it was argued that the Negro was inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham. The apostle’s dictum often became a watchword: servants, be obedient to your master. One brother had probably read the logic of the great philosopher Aristotle. You know Aristotle did a great deal to bring into being what we know now in philosophy as formal logic; and formal logic has a big word known as a syllogism, which has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. So this brother decided to put his argument of the inferiority of the Negro in the framework of an Aristotlian syllogism. He came out with his major premise, “All men are made in the image of God”; then came his minor premise, “God, as everybody knows, is not a Negro; therefore, the Negro is not a man.” This was the kind of reasoning that prevailed. Now, on the whole, I guess we have gotten away from this; most people don’t use the Bible and religion to justify segregation, although there are a few left. I was reading the other day where one of our white brothers in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens’ Council.

Today’s arguments are generally placed on more subtle cultural grounds, for instance: “the Negro is not culturally ready for integration. If you integrate the schools and other areas of life, this will pull the race back a generation.” And another: “The Negro is a criminal; you see he has the highest crime rate in any city.” So the arguments go on ad infinitum.

Those who use these arguments never say that if there are lagging standards in the Negro community – and there certainly are – they lag because of segregation and discrimination. They never go on to say that criminal responses are environmental, and not racial. Poverty, ignorance, economic deprivation, social isolation breed crime in any racial group. It is a tortuous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. It is necessary to go to the causal root to deal with the problem.

So it is necessary for the church, through all of its channels of education and through all of its work, to guide the popular mind, and rid the community of the notion of superior and inferior races. We’ve all seen enough to refute this idea.

We’ve seen Negroes who have given inspiring examples of ability to rise above the shackles of a difficult environment. They have justified the conviction of the poet that “fleecy locks and black complexion cannot forfeit nature’s claim.” Skin may differ, but affection dwells in black and white the same. If I were so tall as to reach the pole or to grasp the ocean at a span, I must still be measured by my soul; the mind is the standard of the man.

The next thing that the church must do to remain awake through this revolution is to move out into the arena of social action. It is not enough for the church to work in the ideological realm, and to clear up misguided ideas. To remain awake through this social revolution, the church must engage in strong action programs to get rid of the last vestiges of segregation and discrimination. It is necessary to get rid of one or two myths if we’re really going to engage in this kind of action program.

One is the notion that legislation is not effective in bringing about the changes that we need in human relations. This argument says that you’ve got to change the heart in order to solve the problem; that you can’t change the heart through legislation. They would say you’ve got to do that through religion and education. Well, there’s some truth in this. Before we can solve these problems men and women must rise to the majestic heights of being obedient to the unenforceable. I would be the first to say this. If we are to have a truly integrated society, white persons and Negro persons and members of all groups must live together, not merely because the law says it but because it’s natural and because it’s right.

But that does not make legislation less important. It may be true that you can’t legislate integration but you can legislate desegregation. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. The law cannot make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. So it is necessary for the church to support strong, meaningful civil rights legislation.

Fortunately we have seen some real advances at this point. It is very consoling to me, and I know to all of us, the role which all of the major denominations within the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jewish faiths played in the achievement of the civil rights bill of 1964, the voting rights bill of 1965. We struggled in Selma, Alabama, and in a real sense we developed right there in that little town something that the councils of the world have not been able to develop – a real ecumenical movement. Protestants, Catholics and Jews stood in Selma, and in a beautiful and meaningful way that was the ecumenical movement which created the voting rights bill.

That bill is a tribute to persons like James Reeb, Mrs. Viola Liuzzo and Jimmy Lee Jackson, those who died and suffered to make it possible. Now the President is calling for new civil rights legislation to deal with two old problems.

One is the mal-administration of justice in many sections of the South. It is necessary for all people of goodwill and for all church bodies to strongly support this bill, which will make murder or threatened assaults of civil rights workers or persons engaged in the promotion of constitutional rights a federal crime.

….

But there is a more difficult title in that bill, one that must ultimately be passed if America is to rise to its full maturity. That is the section of the bill which calls for an end to discrimination in housing. It means that discrimination in all housing will be federally non-sanctioned. It involves the sale, the rental, and the financing of all housing. This is the difficult one because there still are many fears around. There are stereotypes about Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans and others.

Studies reveal that there are numerous forces both private and public which make for the problem, because they are profiting by the existence of segregation in housing. I am convinced that if we are to have a truly integrated society we must deal with the housing problem.

The school problem is difficult and it will never be totally solved until we solve the housing problem, and so it is my hope that we will go all out over America to bring this new legislation into being and to insist that it will be vigorously enforced, once it is passed, for there is still a gulf between legislation on the one hand and the enforcement of that legislation on the other. We see this in the South every day.

In 1954 the Supreme Court of Our nation rendered a decision declaring segregation unconstitutional in the public schools. Yet, twelve years later, only 5.2 per of the Negro students of the South are attending integrated Schools. We haven’t even made one per cent progress a year. If we continue this pace it will take about 96 more years to integrate the schools in the South. There is still a gulf between legislative and judicial decrees and the actual enforcement of them. It seems to me that an alive, relevent church should go all out to see that legislation becomes a reality and that it is vigorously enforced once it exists.

A second myth that we must deal with is that of exaggerated progress. Certainly we have made progress in race relations. And I think we can all glory that things are better today than they were ten years ago or even three years ago. We should be proud of the steps we’ve made to rid our nation of this great evil of racial segregation and discrimination.

On the other hand, we must realize the plant of freedom is only a bud and not yet a flower. The Negro is freer in 1966, but he is not yet free. The Negro knows more dignity today than he has known in any period of his history in this country, but he is not yet equal. There still are stubborn, difficult problems to deal with all over the country. I’m appalled that some people feel that the civil rights struggle is over because we have a 1964 civil rights bill with ten titles and a voting rights bill. Over and over again people ask, what else do you want? They feel that everything is all right.

Well, let them look around our big cities. I can mention one where we’re working now, not to say that it’s the worst city in the United States, but just to reveal the problem that we face.

( a descriptive summary of the current crisis in Chicago in 1966…)

Again, this is true in cities all over the country. These are stubborn, difficult problems, and yet they are problems that must be tackled, for I need not remind you of the dangers inherent therein. There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of individuals within that society who feel that they have no stake in it, who feel that they have nothing to lose. These are the people who will riot, these are the people who will turn their ears from pleas for non-violence. For the health of our nation, these problems must be solved. In the areas of housing, schooling, and employment there is still a great deal that must be done.

We’ve come a long, long way; we still have a long, long way to go and action programs are necessary. I’ve heard it said that the day of demonstrations is over; this is something that we hear a great deal. Well, I’m sorry that I can’t agree with that. I wish that I could say the day of demonstrations is over, but as long as these problems are with us, it will be necessary to demonstrate in order to call attention to them. I’m not saying that a demonstration is going to solve the problem of poverty, the problem of housing, the problems that we face in the schools.

It’s going to take something much more than a demonstration, but at least the demonstration calls attention to it; at least the demonstration creates a kind of constructive crisis that causes a community to see the problem and causes a community to begin moving toward the point of acting on it. The church must support this kind of demonstration. As the days unfold, I’m sure that we will need this more.

People talk about the long hot summer that’s ahead. I always say that I don’t think we have to have a long, hot violent summer. I certainly don’t want to see it because I hate violence and I don’t think it solves any problems. I think we can offset the long, hot, violent summer with the long, hot, non-violent summer. People are huddled in ghettos, living in the most crowded and depressing conditions. They need some outlet; some way to express their legitimate discontent. What is a better way than to provide non-violent channels through which they can do it? If this isn’t provided they are going to find it through more irrational, misguided means.

So the non-violent movement has a job to do, in providing the non-violent channels through which those who are caught in these conditions can express their discontent and frustration.

Now let me say that I’m still convinced that non-violence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity. And I’d like to say just a word about this philosophy since it has been the underlying philosophy of our movement. It has power because it has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses, it weakens his morale.

And at the same time it works on his heart and on his conscience, and he just doesn’t know what to do. If he doesn’t hit you, wonderful. If he hits you you develop the quiet courage of accepting blows without retaliating. If he doesn’t put you in jail, that’s very nice, nobody with any sense loves to go to jail. But if he puts you in jail you go in that jail and transform it from a dungeon of shame into a haven of freedom and human dignity.

Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for. If a man has not discovered some thing that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live. There’s another good thing about non-violence: through it a person can use moral means to procure moral ends. There are still those who sincerely believe that the end justifies the means, no matter what the means happen to be. No matter how violent or how deceptive or anything else they are. Non-violence at its best would break with the system that argues that. Non-violence would say that the morality of the ends is implicit in the means, and that in the long-run of history destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends. So since we are working toward a just society in this movement, we should use just methods to get there. Since we are working for the end of a non-violent society in this movement, we must use non-violent means and methods to get there. Since we are working for an integrated society as an end we must work on an integrated basis on our staffs and civil rights organizations so that we don’t get to racial justice and integration through the means of black nationalism.

Another thing about this philosophy which is often misunderstood and that it says that at its best the love ethic can be a reality in a social revolution. Most revolutions in the past have been based on hope and hate, with the rising expectations of the revolutionaries implemented by hate for the perpetrators of the unjust system in the old order. I think the different thing about the revolution that has taken place in our country is that it has maintained the hope element and at the same time it has added the dimension of love. Many people would disagree with me and say that love hasn’t been there. I think we have to stop and talk about what we mean in this context because I would be the first to say that it is nonsense to urge oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense. And I’m certainly not talking about that when I talk above love standing at the center of our struggle. I think it is necessary to see the meaning of love in higher terms.

The Greek language has three words for love – one is the eros, another is the word filio, and another is the word agape. I’m thinking not of eros, or of friendship as expressed in filio, but of agape, which is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When one rises to love on this level, he loves a person who does the evil deed while hating the deed. I believe that in our best moments in this struggle we have tried to adhere to this. In some strange way we have been able to stand up in the face of our most violent opponents and say, in substance, we will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with our soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you.

We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Threaten our children, bomb our homes, send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half dead; and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you.

Send your propaganda agents around the nation and make it appear we are not fit morally, culturally or otherwise for integration and we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory. This is our message in the non-violent movement when we are true to it.

I think it is a powerful method and I still believe in it. I know that it will lead us into that new day. Not a day when we will seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, thereby subverting justice. Not a day when we will substitute one tyranny for another. We know that a doctrine of black supremacy is as evil as a doctrine of white supremacy. We know that God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men; but God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race. He is interested in the creation of a society where all men will live together as brothers and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. With the non-violent method guiding us on, we can go on into that brighter day when justice will come.

I talk a great deal about the need for a kind of divine discontent. And I always mention that there are certain technical words within every science which become stereotypes and cliches. Modern psychology has a word that has become common – it is the word maladjusted. We read a great deal about it. It is a ringing cry of modern child psychology; and certainly we all want to live the well adjusted and avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But I must say to you this evening, my friends, there are some things in our nation and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted. And I call upon you to be maladjusted and all people of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry . I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity. I must honestly say, however much criticism it brings, that I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, and to the self-defeating effects of physical violence.It is no longer a choice between non-violence and violence: it is now a choice between non-violence and non-existence.

….

Yes, I must confess that I believe firmly that our world is in dire need of a new organization – the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, cried out in

words that echo across the centuries – “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, cried in words lifted to cosmic proportions – “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth, who could say to the men and women of his day “he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” Through such maladjustment we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Let me say in conclusion that I have not despaired of the future. I believe firmly that we can solve this problem. I know that there are still difficult days ahead. And they are days of glorious opportunity. Our goal for America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s. Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the words that I just quoted from the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner were written, we were here. For more than two centuries our forbearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king. They built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most oppressive and humiliating conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop.

If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail. We’re going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands.

And we can sing We Shall Overcome, because somehow we know the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right – “no lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right – “truth crushed, will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right:

“Truth forever on the scaffold/Wrong forever on the throne/Yet that scaffold sways the future/ And behind the dim unknown/Standeth God within the shadow/Keeping watch above his own.”

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, and speed up that day when all of God’s children all over our nation and the world will be able to walk the earth as brothers and sisters, and then we can sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual – “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.”

Thank you.

 

What Would Jesus Protest Today? Matthew Fox

July 27, 2013 - 12:35 pm 7 Comments

Being ignorant and in denial is a choice.” – Matthew Fox challenges his listeners to wake up in the second Christ Path Seminar.

In my last post, we looked at the men and women who are risking their lives to speak out for justice against the powers of our times. Their stories show us that it’s no less daring to walk the Christ Path today than it was 1,700 years ago.

So what are the issues that Jesus would speak out against today?

I can think of a number of them – and any one of them is worth our complete attention and commitment. And just to name them, I think, is important: to know that there are people and groups working in all of these areas today to be the prophetic activists and voices and strategists; to know there are so many dimensions at which the work of justice and compassion gets done.

You see, Jesus wasn’t just shouting his whole life; he was also an artist. He was a parable maker, creating memorable stories. And he and his followers were creating meals, bringing people together who wouldn’t ordinarily get together.

That was a deep part of his strategy: it’s not all about shouting. Art has a deep role to play always, in speaking the truth and unmasking violence, especially when it tries to cover itself up.

But let’s consider some areas where the prophetic voice is being called out today….

Of course, our broken economic system is one. Who can deny that Wall Street has raped Main Street in our lifetimes? And now Wall Street is doing very well and Main Street for the most part is still limping along terribly.

So are we capable, as a species, of creating an economy that works for everyone in the world? Not for Wall Street, not for the 1% or a few, but for everyone?

I believe the answer is Yes! Insightful, eloquent people are devoting their lives to this kind of work – for example, David Korten – and they are being ignored. I don’t know if the current administration in Washington has ever invited David Korten to advise them on creating a new economic vision, rather than putting Band-Aids on Wall Street’s system of exploitation that’s ruining the middle class.

Now, when I talk about an economy that works for everyone, I don’t mean just the two-legged ones. I’m talking about an economy that recognizes the value of healthy, living ecosystems…an economy that will work for the forests and the oceans and the soil and the plants and the animals that are going extinct at rates that we have not seen since the dinosaurs and so many other species vanished 65 million years ago.

So I think Jesus would also be revolutionary about the whole issue of ecology. He’d be interfering in it, in whatever way he could.

And of course there are the issues of poverty and joblessness. Who’s defining work for us? Look at the work of the artist, for example – we don’t count artists when we count workers. You can see that whenever there’s a budget crunch in our high schools – as there is everywhere today – and out goes the theater department, out goes the music department, out goes the art department. You’re on your own. I know all kinds of artists who would be more than happy to be contributing, but they are not part of the conversation.

And this leads to the issue of education. When our politicians talk about education, they always talk about more technology and more science. Well, what about art? Art is where values get passed on. Einstein said values do not come from the intellect – they come from intuition and feeling. And if that’s not the work of the artist, I don’t know what is.

To the extent that we are cutting back on art as an integral part of our way of living on the earth, we are in fact cutting back on values. And I see it everywhere today, especially in education. E.F. Schumacher wrote, “The bottom line in education is values.” Education is about passing on values. And well, folks, I know our educational system pretty well. I’ve been working within it for 40 years as an adult, and values are never raised at the accrediting conferences I’ve attended. Education today is not about values. It’s about anal-retentive bean counting. You don’t dare bring values up. The whole thing is rotten, I think, rotten to the core.

The best answer is to reinvent the whole damn thing…which is what I’ve been trying to do for 30 years! Of course we need science and technology, but we also need beauty and values and meaning and feeling, and what counts, and what doesn’t count. You need intuition and critical thinking skills, both! And so we bring in art as an integral part of the work of the intellect.

Jesus, as an artist, would interfere here, I’m sure.

And then look at our political systems, which are collapsing all around us. We’ve had this democracy thing going on for a couple hundred years, and it had a lot going for it, but it’s clearly not enough today. As Thomas Berry says, “The non-two-legged ones don’t have a vote at the United Nations.” The forests aren’t represented, the whales aren’t represented… the future of the earth as a whole and living planet isn’t represented in our anthropocentric versions of democracy and politics.

And of course there’s what happened just this month with the gutting of the Voting Rights Bill – when you add that to the so-called Citizens United nemesis of a few years ago, it seems to me that our one-time democracy is just rushing down a path to oligarchy, the rule of a small, rich and powerful clique that will be very well paid by supporting an even smaller clique. It seems our politics is racing to that end, and I can’t imagine how we should not be up and doing something about this.

Look at what’s happened in Houston, one of the biggest cities in America – Rachel Maddow broke the story that one white area had 6700 voters and one voting booth, and a black area has 67,000 voters and one voting booth – that’s 10 times more voters, and this was before this latest decision by the Supreme Court! You don’t have to be black to be upset about this. You have to be a human being, someone who wants to believe in democracy, to be not only upset but outraged.

That’s where the prophet begins – with that kicked-in-the-gut feeling of outrage. And I repeat, outrage! – That is so unjust!

Being ignorant and in denial is a choice. Thomas Aquinas says that to be ignorant about what we ought to know is a deadly sin – a mortal sin. In the Hindu tradition, this is what sin is – it’s about ignorance, ignoring, choosing to ignore.

Of course there’s the issue of how women and girls are still being treated around the world. They’re second-class citizens in so many places – obviously this is not sustainable, it is outrageous. Of course in our country women have been waking up and organizing for decades, but still we’re not there, even in our country. And of course it’s getting worse in other countries where there is so much sexual slavery and repression of women and girls.

But the problem isn’t limited to the abuse of individual women. It’s about consciousness too, about the whole patriarchal idea that a certain gender or a certain group of any type has the right to lord it over others and to define God in its image exclusively, for example, God as a male. It’s not only a pernicious and subtle way of telling women they’re inferior, but also of preventing a larger balance.

For example, patriarchy has been defining education for 400 years in the West. And while our educational system offers knowledge, it’s missing Wisdom – the feminine. It simply doesn’t register. That’s why politicians and educators don’t see that wisdom and art are just as important as technology and mathematics.

So there’s no shortage of issues to light the fire in all of us, the kind of fire that lit Jesus’ teaching.

So now you may ask – how did he use this fire for justice and change in his time – and how can we, in ours? Stay tuned; I’ll be exploring these questions in my next posts.

Reprint: Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 16, 2013 - 2:18 pm 46 Comments

As many people in our country will be eagerly lining up to watch the wonderful film, Selma, I feel that it is important to read more of the words from Dr. King speeches and especially this inspiring and challenging letter that he wrote during one of his incarcerations.

Personally, I feel that it one of the most important letters in American history. It is an urgent plea to my brother and sister clergy to awaken the call to a transformative ministry, rather than remain safely a part of the status quo, or remain content with modest outreaches and polite, non controversial forms of protests. His words have been a formative source from my prophetic ideas and actions all through my ministry…. Peter

 

Letter from a Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963

 

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

King, Martin Luther King, Jr.

New Pentecost? From The Introduction to Spirit, Time, and The Future

June 12, 2011 - 3:21 pm 89 Comments

Introduction: A New Pentecost Awaits

The Holy Spirit has within her presence and potentials, a restless, powerful, and urgent expectation of continually giving birth to a new reality. This new Spirit-infused reality is both inclusive and paradoxical; Its effects are both individual and social, personal and cultural. The impulses and directives once they are actively acknowledged and released can be experienced as either gracious or tense. These urgings can be genuinely inspiring, and once they are felt, are life changing and undeniable.

 

At times, the release or re-birthing of these energies and principles can appear dramatic and challenging in its chaotic, alchemical, and transformative demands. As Spirit, the omnipresent energies and gracious expressions of God can be universally experienced. Succinctly, She can best be experienced and understood as the source of vitality, wisdom, and compassion. However, while available to all, most often it is the willing and the receptive who acknowledge this truth most readily. They are the more open and vulnerable to sensing and to experiencing God’s omnipresence as being a sustaining and loving reality that lives within and among us.

 

The new Millennia has dawned, but it has not yet become a conscious and widely acknowledged part of our dominant culture. The activity of The Spirit has not been perceived widely in our prevailing religious church practices. She has not been given serious regard in our current theological and liturgical understandings. It is also true that tracking carefully the turns of time and calendars does not guarantee the Spirit’s appearance as a growth in awareness or an advance in consciousness. While it remains true that the greater manifestations of the Spirit are continually available, yet most often they will lie latently within time or go ignored and unused in our lives.

 

Despite the intense and unsettling struggle we can easily witness all around us, we need not give up hope. When we consider the continual wrestling we encounter with the imposing ethically dark forces of human whim and will, the entrenchment within resistant and powerful patriarchal systems and as condoned by cultural inertia, we are tempted by feelings of resignation. However, by looking deeper, and searching heartfully, we can find that we are continually supported by those glimpses of increasing awareness. Our sense of hope can be restored by acknowledging the increase in spiritual investigations, and by our willingness to actively question and to reverently wonder. In that searching, and by that willingness, we promote a more constant access to supernal qualities of light, hope, and truth.

 

The evidence for establishing a new consciousness is becoming more available and more widely recognized in contemporary culture. If it is true that a new awareness is dawning, then as more people consciously attune their lives and actions to its insights and demands, it will certainly become progressively better known. Across the wide spectrum of human thought and spiritual practice, we can be assured that this new manifestation of Spirit will be revealed and Spirit will invite and extend Her influences into every home, and into every heart.

 

The Spirit is brooding over the world (Deuteronomy 32), and She is ready to hatch her offspring— the women and men of God who will fully recognize her, will see the Spirit as a tripartite source: First, as a world creating, Spirit acts as our indwelling vital and dynamic presence; Second, as a sustaining source for a shared relational wisdom and social experience; Third or lastly, as an ethical imperative for meaningful social reform and for ecological repair/transformation.

 

When individuals invite these energies and heed the influences of the Spirit, they open themselves to those life- transformative explorations and move consciously towards a greater commitment to pneumatic living or participating in a Spirit centered life.

 

To the degree that this Spirit’s invitation is welcomed, affirmed, and embodied, there will be an increase in compassionate awareness. This inbreaking spiritual energy will broaden and deepen our social conscience as well as enliven our spiritual imagination. From our receptivity, we can reinforce our insights personally and then work together to courageously transform them into necessary and ethical actions. The result will be an alchemical and gracious reordering of spiritual perceptions and baseline ethical realities. This realignment to Spirit will work collectively to foster a large scale cultural re-birthing- bringing forth a broader, and deeper comprehension of the Spiritual dimensions of our daily human existence.

 

How this Spirit centered effects are to manifest themselves, or how they will become more widely known and then more easily assimilated is not yet fully clear. What we can witness and affirm is that the cracks in our world’s icy indifference, in our rampant Western egotism, and all the deep veined fissures of cultural isolation that previously divided humanity from itself, are cracking open more readily than the polar ice caps! The indifference and isolation are giving way to the need for developing more cultural interdependence. Such compassionate cooperation will be a hallmark of this new age or coming consciousness. Because of the increasing cultural disillusionment that we can see running blatantly throughout our society, a tipping point or a crisis point is rapidly becoming necessary. Perhaps we can say, as a supernal counterbalance or as a gracious response to them, Spirit and all her ameliorative effects will be brought closer and become more available to our daily social awareness.

 

One author, Donald Gelpi,2 puts it in these words:

 

 

“A contemporary pneumatology faces then a formidable task. In order to counteract those forces that stifle Spirit awareness, it must prophetically challenge individuals and communities to rend their hearts and open themselves to the illumination of the Spirit.”

 

 

It is our crisis and our opportunity, our social demands and our soulful urgings that will move us into confronting this formidable task. One of the intentions of this book is to contribute to the background information and to the greater understanding of these powerful and dynamic forces. It is my goal to begin to outline how the Spirit works, and to clearly acknowledge the cultural changes that would be necessary to usher in a genuine Age of the Spirit.

 

Increasingly over the recent decades, our contemporary culture has written about the dramatic and idealistic possibilities of cultural change. Accordingly to current forecasts, these changes are thought to commence or to correspond to the date and time that is outlined in the Meso-American Mayan calendar. The time when such culturally predictive signs and expected wonders will seemingly occur will be on December 21, 2012. Now it is important to state that this wish for change or cultural transformation is not new! Similar to the recent, vain imaginations and hopes for a new spiritually inspired the social order linked to the Harmonic Convergence in 1987. (And even without appealing the wildly speculative and obtuse claims of the latest group of Nostradamus interpreters) We can easily see this American cultural and religious tendency dating as far back in Protestantism in North America and most notably with the Millerites3 in 1834. They were the religious sect who assembled on a New York Mountain-top; It seemed as if there was an expectation of calamity or collapse, of some impending doom, accompanied by celestial catastrophes, and at the end of such tribulation, there would be some arcane but nonetheless some Scripturally predicted and religiously assured form of divine deliverance! Each century, or so it seems, arrives with its own version of a Second Coming! These largely erroneous predictions abound in Western Millennial literature, and are wrapped up in the personal revelations of religious leaders who are “enraptured” 4 with their own world-view! Somehow, they are able to cajole and convince their followers into believing in its imminent appearing! Modern media has often been a willing, uncritical, and enthusiastic ally to these controversial and often unfounded assertions.

 

Without going into an extensive Biblical exegesis, or a rigorous religious examination of comparative texts, let me state clearly that there are no dangerous religious books per se, only dangerous interpretations. Those who lack a historical, and most importantly, an imaginative and metaphorical understanding of Scripture, are primarily to blame for being the source of such fear and apprehension! Those who would take a literal or fundamentalist approach to any text are the same ones who are most prone to insult and alarm. These same panicked individuals or the same fear fueled groups, are the ones who are the most likely to proclaim their distress to others. There is an uncanny and unfathomable desire to sound the alarm- particularly when the warnings are based on their own version of all the disastrous effects that are to come!

 

As for those dire warnings that created such alarm and panic in 2012, even the Mayans themselves are at odds with the current rash of books and predictions that offer dramatic warnings and portents of doom. As the long, extended article 5 cited in the end notes of this paper names it, our Western Christian understandings of the religious life, its examples and archetypes have been “exhausted.” This observation is one of my key concerns. Our Western religious language has been stripped of its power to proclaim dynamic and transformative messages. Because of this accepted infirmity, and the inability for conventional approaches to Western spirituality to inspire our culture, as I see it, the time is ready, even overripe, for a “New Pentecost” among us….

 

It is my contention that these changes are not literally connected to a specific time or place; they are not limited to a specific date in calendar or hour of clock time. When we are dealing with all the dire and scary predictions that we have been popularly given, first we have to make objective and scientific allowances for those uncontrollable events such as shifts in the tectonic plates that cause earthquakes, etc. That should quell some of more fantastic fears based on some supernatural punishment or fear. Next, comes the humble and honest admission that there are some events and changes that remain well beyond our human control. This humility and honesty can encourage the responsible and ethical imperative to learn how to cooperate, and to learn how best to prepare ourselves to respond to these cataclysmic events as effectively and as compassionately as we can.

 

However, there is a larger, more harsh admission to be made: Most, if not all of the social crises and environmental dilemmas we now face are humanly authored, and they are culturally created. These systemic imbalances and the shifts in our planet’s ecological extremes are primarily perpetuated by our dominant myopic social priorities. It is a case where our ethics controls our climate, and that our weather imbalances are being directed by our secular and monetary values.

 

On the positive and transformative side, Spirit is manifest whenever the heart is warmed and whenever the will is informed. I believe that our lives can be activated to receive the spiritual impulses of grace and change, and then we can, as a result of that leavening, act to make those effects evident in our lives. From our individual transformations, we can come together and apply it as a social force within our culture.

 

The aim of this book is to be an updated, expanded consideration of the depth and dimensions of the Holy Spirit. It will offer new perspectives without losing sight of its original, linguistic definitions and will recount some of the wider understandings that are to be found within our Western Judeo-Christian heritage. This concern for keeping a consistent dialogue with theology, however, is not a defensive, turgid, or a brittle one. It will align itself with a progressive working definition from both theological research and the writings of depth psychology that holds to a more inclusive and universal understanding. As such, it freely goes beyond the traditional dogmatic definitions and any of the narrowly accepted orthodox scope of language and its conforming beliefs. Consequently, the ideas expressed will be along a line of thoughtful consideration that never loses touch with its foundational integrity. As an inclusive theological overview, this research affirms that the Spirit always has been and will remain an omnipresent correspondent with every archetype that affirms and honors her place, her possibilities, and her potentials.

Advice and Admonitions on Church in America: Radical Reflections on the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

January 15, 2011 - 4:13 pm 120 Comments

“… we must not forget that there were three men crucified on Calvery’s hill… two for immorality and theft, living below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, for truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

… Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things just as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century

. I am meeting young people everyday whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.

Maybe again, I have been too optimistic, Is organized religion too in extricable bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Maybe I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia, and the hope for our world.”

from Letters From The Birmingham Jail

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As I see it, without a willingness to consider becoming creative extremists, the mission and vision of any spiritual and/or religious group is at risk of never developing beyond being an irritant to the status quo, a socially troublesome but treatable rash, that will easily be placated and then ignored.

With being willing to become more “creatively maladjusted” is there enough of a sense of dignity and justice that makes any person or group capable of presenting the dis-ease and lament of the people of God effectively and powerfully enough to those who oppose them and who, by patriarchal religious and often penitential tradition and their theological assertions have effectively have controlled them.

Throughout the centuries of Western civilization, churches have come to occupy places of religious prominence and cultural importance. There is an undeniable historical reality that informs us… But that fact of culture and history cannot limit our understanding of what a church is, or what it stands for in our respective communities. Just as it is certain that there is a need for our churches to stand against any intrusions by government concerning one’s right to worship as one sees fit, and to remain separate from mutual entanglements, so, too, is it important for churches to assert their ethical presence in a community. As I see it, our progressively minded churches stand as stately sentinels; they can act as the guardians of individual freedom, and stand watch over the issues of justice and compassion in all civic affairs and interpersonal relationships.. In a world that seems to have lost its moral compass, our inclusive churches can act decisively to promote a concern for corporate responsibility, governmental accountability, and personal ethics. Furthermore, their presence in any conservative community acts as a vibrant religious alternative; a place that promotes freedom and safety, dialogue and self discovery, along the many diverse paths of human and spiritual inquiry towards greater comprehension and understanding. Our progressive and inclusive communities offer a welcoming and affirming environment that promotes a variety of opportunities for rational exploration, self discovery, and personal affirmation, which was traditionally aligned with the idea of the ripening and maturity of one’s soul or awareness.

If King is right in his prophetic sense of where the church of our contemporary culture is today, then the world of culture, consciousness and church life is now, more than ever before, in need of creative extremists. The time for timidity is over; it is Gospel based temerity that longs to assert itself- to present itself as being fully believable- fully and without reservation on the side of compassion, justice, equality and radical change.

If the mission and vision of a spiritual and/or religious group is sincere, it will have to be honest about the degree of obstinacy and frustration it faces in our larger religious world. The power of clerical inertia and the hierarchical arrogance that lies at the base of that power it held on to fiercely. Its desire for keeping up the dysfunctional status quo will remain stolid, intransigent, cold, and callous to the need for change, unless it go unheeded, and people vote to secede with their wallets and their feet! In that regard, it is not too strong to suggest that much of what functions in our culture as mainstream church, and what passes for a purposeful or meaningful spiritual life has already separated from the people of God it claims to serve!

Ask yourself this: If King waited until all the churches aligned with him on civil rights, then the battle would not yet have begun… If Ghandi waited until the English Raj and the Crown police demurred, or until they saw the errors of their inhospitable, dehumanizing ways, then India would still be a colony. So, too, if the faithful today have to ask ourselves this preeminent question: Are we willing to wait?

The history of the Western Church has evolved violently- It was through disagreement with the powers that were ensconced or enshrined, be they be creed, book, prince, or tradition, and that only through reformation, revolution and reform, did visionaries and dissenters have sufficient energy and impetus to create all the many varieties of church that can fill many almanacs and reference books.

As one radical example among many- Who is to say that the time is not right for an American Catholic Church? Or a People’s Catholic Church?

If there is an earnest desire to defeat the systemic evils that we clamor to remove, its arrogant crassness and the icy unresponsiveness that creates so much of the heartache in the women and men of conscience within the institutional church, then to simply protest by declining to agree is insufficient– a rash that is treated with indifference.

Only substantive action will create meaningful reform. Only with an acceptance that one has to be maladjusted to the status quo can there be enough energy generated that will definitively support deep reform and foster genuine change. Only with the affirming and encouraging creation of a new paradigm for spiritual community and ethical service, can the real or true ecclesia that King recommends come into being; Only then will energy of an inclusive and compassionate mission manifest, and only then can a vision that is clear and strong to be seen that exposes the long held, tolerated abuses of the Senex and patriarchal mentality. It is only then that we will arise as the hope for the world, and affirm ” Let the revolution of God’s people ” begin!

Guidelines for A Spiritual Community From Creation Spirituality: 12 Principles

November 15, 2010 - 2:00 pm 32 Comments

The Twelve Principles of Creation Spirituality

1. The universe is fundamentally a blessing.

Our relationship with the Universe fills us with awe.2. In Creation, God is both immanent and transcendent. This is panentheism which is not theism (God out there) and not atheism (no God anywhere).

We experience that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine.

3. God is as much Mother as Father, as much Child as Parent, as much God in mystery as the God in history, as much beyond all words and images as in all forms and beings.

We are liberated from the need to cling to God in one form or one literal name.

4. In our lives, it is through the work of spiritual practice that we find our deep and true selves.

Through the arts of meditation and silence we cultivate a clarity of mind and move beyond fear into compassion and community.

5. Our inner work can be understood as a four-fold journey involving:

– awe, delight, amazement (known as the Via Positiva)
– uncertainty, darkness, suffering, letting go (Via Negativa)
– birthing, creativity, passion (Via Creativa)
– justice, healing, celebration (Via Transformativa)

We weave through these paths like a spiral danced, not a ladder climbed.

6. Every one of us is a mystic.

We can enter the mystical as much through beauty (Via Positiva) as through contemplation and suffering (Via Negativa). We are born full of wonder and can recover it at any age.

7. Every one of us is an artist.

Whatever the expression of our creativity, it is our prayer and praise (Via Creativa).

8. Every one of us is a prophet.

Our prophetic work is to interfere with all forms of injustice and that which interrupts authentic life (Via Transformativa).

9. Diversity is the nature of the Universe.

We rejoice in and courageously honor the rich diversity within the Cosmos and expressed among individuals and across multiple cultures, religions and ancestral traditions.

10. The basic work of God is compassion and we, who are all original blessings and sons and daughters of the Divine, are called to compassion.

We acknowledge our shared interdependence; we rejoice at one another’s joys and grieve at one another’s sorrows and labor to heal the causes of those sorrows.

11. There are many wells of faith and knowledge drawing from one underground river of Divine wisdom. The practice of honoring, learning and celebrating the wisdom collected from these wells is Deep Ecumenism.

We respect and embrace the wisdom and oneness that arises from the diverse wells of all the sacred traditions of the world.

12. Ecological justice is essential for the sustainability of life on Earth.
Ecology is the local expression of cosmology and so we commit to live in light of this value: to pass on the beauty and health of Creation to future generations.

 

Santa Lucia: The Saint for the Season of Light

December 10, 2009 - 10:14 am 40 Comments

St. Lucia: A Saint for the Season of Lights
The Rev. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

At first, you might be wondering about today’s topic…
How could an Italian gondola song, a faith miracle, sticky buns, evergreens, a Norse Goddess, and a Swedish folk festival ever be linked?
The connections, as you will hear, are found in the unifying ideals of light and love. These associations are all wrapped and presented to us in the story of St. Lucia, the patron saint of light and spiritual insight.
As We enter into the darkest two weeks of the year, it is part of our heightened awareness to pay attention to how light and spirituality share a common religious history. In all the world religions, myths, and stories light and theology are intermingled and one often illumines the other, and can serve to point to the same truths.
Not that much is known about the early saints of Christendom, especially the female ones. Lucia, like St. Barbara, and St. Agatha, and St. Catherine were often extolled as models of virtue and faith. They were powerful witnesses to how love overcame fear, and how light is as much an inner quality of vision and purpose as it is a sensory and seasonal fact.
According to a synthesis of historical accounts, Lucia was born in Syracuse, Sicily in approximately 300 AD . From early in her life, she was programmed and prepared for an influential marriage to one of the sons of eligible aristocracy.
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This fellow who was to be her husband by a prearranged pact between the two Roman families- families who were “politely religious,” in that they observed all the Greco-Roman pagan rites and rituals of their day.
However, Lucia was discontent about these hard and fast locked in arrangements. When she came of age, she requested repeated delays, while the groom’s family grew increasingly impatient. Then something dramatic happened that would alter Lucia’s life even more. Her mother became gravely ill; none of the local doctors could find a cure. Lucia was deeply troubled. She asked for advice. She was desperate.
Through the grapevine, she heard of people called Christians who gathered at the tomb of St. Agatha. There, people were supposedly able to cure people or help them in their distress.
Secretly, she accompanied her dying mother to the tomb, and waited for a sign. Nothing happened at the time, but soon after, her mother recovered fully! Lucia was amazed and resolved to find out more about those curious people called Christians. She became aware of all their good works, and their generosity to the poor and needy around the city. She experienced a change of heart. She decided that she would become a Christian, too.
Now she knew definitely, that she did not want to marry that man that her family chosen. With an independent and faithful spirit, she informed the groom that she declined the betrothal. The groom and his family were furious! She offered to give back her abundant dowry but they refused!
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So she turned around and gave it all to the poor! The groom’s family became incensed. They found out about Lucia’s visit to the saint’s tomb and her interest in the Christians, and indignantly dragged her before the Roman judge. Then, In a public trial, they accused her of being a Christian! At that time, this was a horrible indictment, since it occurred during the times of severe religious persecution.
She stood accused of a heinous crime of not paying homage to the pagan gods but seeking out a new one for her mother’s cure. The judge sentenced her to be burned at the stake for her crime.
On her way to her execution, something strange happened in the city square. Somehow, Lucia gained great strength, and the soldiers could not move her any further toward the fire. They pushed and pulled, they even tied oxen to her, but she would not be moved! So determined to punish her, the authorities poked out her eyes- still she refused to recant her faith or be moved toward the flames. The vengeful family then insisted that the flames be rebuilt around her, and still she remained unmoved by the fire. Some accounts attribute that only evil, magical sword had to be used, and only that finally killed her.
All through this ordeal, the young maiden projected a serene radiance- people remarked about her calm and bold trust, her unwavering faith, her special countenance and its affect on the crowds. The people saw that this frail girl became so strong and resistant within her newfound faith that even hot pokers, and the fires of resentment and hate could not touch her. ….
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After her death, and when Constantine declared the Empire to be a tolerant one that promoted Christianity, the body of St. Lucia was transferred from Sicily to Constantinople, then the official seat of the Roman Empire. Later, her remains were threatened by the Crusades, and so her relics were brought up to Venice, and there they were housed in the magnificent church of Santa Lucia.
The legend about Lucia and her eyes of faith spread through the canals, and she became the patron saint of lamplighters and gondoliers. She was believed to light the way so that all could walk by faith, and not just by sight, and her spirit guided the boats safely through the waterways and dim canals. As the legends grew, St. Lucia became the patron saint for all those who experienced eye diseases, vision difficulties, or problems with perception.
In his poetry, Dante referred to St. Lucia as the “Queen of Supernal Light” Whatever you might think about the idea of having a patron saint, a guiding spirit or some protective intercessor on your behalf, the story of St. Lucia is among the most beloved in Western thought and legend.
As Christianity spread northward, it began to encounter various Teutonic pagan beliefs and their earth centered festivals. As I have previously noted, our modern holidays decorations and myths such as Halloween, All Souls, and Now Christmastime have many of its origins, from pumpkins to evergreen trees, in these pagan Northern festivals of the Teutons, Celts, and Druids.
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In studying the spread of Christianity and Western Civilization, I remain amazed how a Middle Eastern religion, with a Mediterranean culture, could fit or be accommodated to Teutonic, Celtic, and Druid festivals. When looked at through our modern eyes we can see that all religious cultures contain the same truths placed or adorned in different packages- the key to this inclusion or accommodation of different traditions is an open attitude of appreciation, and a willingness to become aware of how we can all benefit from acknowledging our interfaith roots and celebrations.
In Northern Europe, principally among the Danes, and the Scandinavian people, there was a rich and elaborate mythology that guided their lives and directed their worship.
Known collectively as Norse mythology, it was every bit as enthralling and complex as the Greco-Roman versions. ( The world tree, Yggsdrasil, Thor’s day, mistletoe, and many famous tales …)
One of the most enduring and important festivals for the Norse people was the acknowledgment of the harvest and the season of darkness covering the Earth. Living in a intimate relationship with nature, and not being influenced by a city state mentality and its
governmental regulations, the seasonal cycle was the all important consideration that guided their lives. In the cold Northern climates, and according to the old calendars, December 13th was the shortest day of the year. (Later, it was known as the twelfth day before Christmas or as the unofficial start of the Christian observances. (From the 13th to 12th Night and Epiphany on January 6th)
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This most important date, December 13th, was the feast day of the goddess Lucina, or Lucinda. Along with other goddesses such as Freja, they governed the harvest season and acted as female protectors of hearth and home. Lucina, instructed the villagers to build bonfires, to urge the Sun to come back and gain in strength for the coming spring. As a part of their gratitude, the people were told to offer hospitality, and share their food and drink with all their neighbors and kin. Lucina was known for the common cup of mead- a fermented drink made of grain that was hearty and stout, that each family would serve to its many visitors helping them to become happy and helping each person to ward off the winter chills.
With the Christianization of Europe, over the centuries,
St. Lucia and the goddess Lucinda became merged into one holiday celebrating the season of light and hope and the promise of spring. Still celebrated in many Swedish homes, St. Lucia’s day remains a popular family event.
One daughter, from every household would be designed as the “Lucia Bride” for that year. She would be dressed all in white, with a red sash. On her head would be a crown of evergreens, red loganberries, and it would support seven encircling candles. Her task was to rise early on the 13th, and prepare a special treat of coffee, candy, and special sticky bun pastries and offer them to every parent and grandparent in the home as a sign of gratitude and love.

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To summarize, the archetype or ancient symbolic teachings found in the St. Lucia story can still hold value for us today. Remembering St. Lucia’s day is another way of remembering how darkness is dispelled by light, ignorance by truth, fear by faith and loneliness by love.
For the women of the world, the image or role model of a powerful yet compassionate woman serving humanity by offering gifts of light and caring can be appreciated in many ways:
It could be a metaphor for holiday cooking and entertaining family and friends- Or more seriously, a time when the dis-eases of perception are looked at and faced and when the purpose for one’s life and the importance of one’s relationships becomes illumined.

For me, the archetypal truth of St. Lucia that lives on in her celebration is that humanity, in rhythm and resonance with the seasons, gives thanks for all who bring light to our world, and that whatever spiritual understanding we have or chose concerning this season, we can claim that it is a truth that transcends creeds and cultures. That each of us is to live in the light and love of God.
AMEN

A Halloween History? The Story of Jack O’Lantern

October 8, 2009 - 7:35 pm 180 Comments

A Brief History of Halloween:

A  Children’s Message:  The Story of Jack O’ Lantern

What  day is today?   ” Halloween!” Who is going out soon to do trick or treating?

Did you know that such an idea as trick or treating is a very new one? That it was NEVER done before W.W.II? Think about that, since we all know that Halloween is a very old, even ancient holiday. ….

A long, long time ago, a thousand years or more, there was a tribe of people that were called the Celts. (Kelts) They lived on the British Isles- England, Scotland, and Ireland….

Their religious leaders or priests were known as druids, and their church was based on learning lessons from Nature, and the changing seasons.  Each season had a holiday or holy day connected to it- some of these special days were happy ones, and some were sad ones. There was a sad one that fell on October 31st, called Samhain, (Sow wayne)  which was the Celtic New Year’s  Eve….

This was the day of Judgment. The Lord of Death, Samhain, would decide the fate of anyone who had died that year, and offer them either happiness or punishment. It was a night when all the souls could walk about like ghosts. Because the souls were afraid of harsh judgment, some tried to take over  living people and they tried to possess them! So people would build large bonfires for protection, for you see, dead souls were cold and like moths drawn to warmth, they would harmlessly perish in the bonfire’s flames!

Some people would dress up like the family members who had died, and then go out and call on their relatives- to scare them into giving them more food, or they threatened to stay as guests for a whole year! When the Romans conquered England, they added new events to the old Halloween holiday that they called Pomona. They added the extra food to the festival- they added apples, nuts, and pumpkins! They also added fun, games, contests and prizes!

Then as the years went on, the Christians arrived in Britain, and they tried to end or stamp out this festival… When they finally realized that they couldn’t they decided to change it so that it was more in line with their religious teachings… They allowed the games on October 31st to continue and called it All Hallows Eve, or the night before All Saints Day. They conceded or gave in to the idea that people need to have fun so they decide to try to control their mischief before the somber days of fasting and prayer. Much like Mardi Gras, before Ash Wednesday, we were permitted Halloween before All Saint’s Day.

When Halloween came to America, with the British immigrants, we see a continuance of holding a “mischief night” among the Puritans. All the children were allowed to play innocent pranks, teases, and stunts… Two favorite ones from those days were unhinging people’s doors and tipping over the outhouses! (Vacant, I hope!)

Among the many stories and retold legends of Halloween is the tale of Jack O Lantern…  Who knows what a Jack O Lantern is? Did you ever cut or carve one? Did anyone ever explain to you what it means?

Well, here is the real story…. Or at least the legend of jack O ‘Lantern….

There once was a big, mean, selfish and tricky man named Jack. He was always greedy; He always took too much food, drink, money, toys, and kept them all for himself! One day, Jack ran into the Devil, who warned him about continuing in his evil or selfish ways. The Devil was sitting in a large tree, and was talking down to Jack.  ….

After listening, Jack came up with a plan to scare the Devil himself! He took out his knife, and carved a large cross in the trunk of the tree, and when the devil saw it, he let out a yell! The Devil said, I am trapped, and I can’t get out of the tree!

Jack smirked, for he believed that he tricked the Devil and pulled a fast one on him. Then the devil begged Jack to scratch out the cross, so he could climb down… Jack refused! The Devil pleaded with him, and Jack said I will do it only if the Devil promised not to punish him or keep him in Hell after he died. Reluctantly, the Devil agreed, and Jack scratched out the cross, and the Devil climbed down and went away…

Some years pass… And Jack continued in his selfish ways… He was convinced that no harm would come to him after he died, because of the Devil’s promise… Then when Jack died, something strange and unexpected happened!

First, God saw Jack’s soul and reviewed his awful life and quickly sent him away from Heaven and down into Hell. There, Jack met the Devil again, and he reminded him of his promise… The Devil was angry!  And he threw a flaming coal at him! Jack was still eating at the time, and had hollowed out a turnip.

As he was running away, Jack caught the glowing coal in the hollowed out turnip, and when he returned to Earth, looking for food and shelter, he found that no one would take him in… So Jack had to wander, and scrounge for food, and he had to walk from place to place… Forever…. Lonely and hungry. The people could always see him coming, because that Devil’s glowing coal never went out, and that the Devil’s light followed him everywhere, and on Halloween, we can still see Jack coming, and we can lock our doors!

So Be It!

St. Francis of Assisi: A Timeless Appreciation

October 1, 2009 - 9:45 am 7 Comments
St. FrancisSt. Francis of Assisi: In Timeless Appreciation
The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
When one thinks of a saint today, what images come to mind? Is it some relic from your religious past? A statue used as a bird feeder in your aunt’s garden? A football team? A classic jazz marching song?
As I have come to understand it through my reading and experience with myth, archetypes, and our universal human need for role models, the importance of a saint for humanity goes way beyond some pious and distant recollection or connection to childhood.
A saint, in all the world’s religions, is someone who embodies and exemplifies the those noble and good qualities of mind, heart and spirit we humans all admire and appreciate: values and virtues such as devotion, harmlessness, unselfishness, kindness and love…
Many of us brought up in the Western churches, especially the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and the various Eastern Orthodox sects, could name those saints who have received the most popular attention: St. Jude, St. Christopher, well until he got demoted! And of course, jolly old St. Nick! Along with these well known figures, the most enduring, and I dare say, the most beloved saint in Western church history, was St. Francis of Assisi. He has been considered to be the one person, who through his life and devotion, became the model Christian, closer to Jesus than all the rest.
What makes him such a favorite? Part of his popularity stems from how broadly and commonly his life, his teaching examples have been portrayed in Western religious literature, art and film. For instance, I have read 4 biographies of him, various accounts of his monks, and have seen three different films, and the words to his prayer appears in many places: from classical devotional anthologies, to a latest best seller, bookmarks and greeting cards! Today, I feel that his ideas and ideals still hold value for us.  From this exposure, we can safely say that one need not be particularly Catholic or even Christian, just universal, to appreciate the core of his teachings.
2
The outlook of his life, his teachings and example have created the many instructive stories and inspirational examples making him a timeless, cross-cultural role model. (Meha Baba Center)  Allow me to refresh your memories…
The man who was to become the beloved saint was born 820 years ago and grew up around the small mercantile city of Assisi, in northern foothills of central Italy. Nicknamed Francesco, He was the oldest son of a well to do cloth merchant and French noblewoman. His father was an aspiring, amoral and ruthless businessman whose emphasis on life was to acquire money, possession, prestige, and who strived to achieve the lifestyle of the upper classes. His mother was a kind, gentle and protective influence. His parents, according to the popular expectations, sought out a military career that would lead to nobility for their firstborn son.
At approximately age 20, this once brave and brash young man confidently went off to fight in a city-state war with neighboring Perugia.  As a result, he became a prisoner of war for over a year! After that incarceration and deprivation, Francis suffered a long, mysterious illness that lingered. And as some have said, prepared him for his future life…
On his way back home, traveling through Spoleto, Francis had a revelatory dream, one that both startled him and disturbed him. Still weak from his illness, he was perplexed by the dream’s message. In that dream, there was a voice that asked, “Francis, whom is it better to serve, the servant or the master? Francis replied, “The master!” The voice then said to him, “then go and do so.” (paraphrase of St. Luke, and The Good Samaritan story where Jesus instructs his listeners to “go, and do likewise”
But at that time, Francis remained unclear and still confused. He had no definite direction for his life, and asked himself, over and over,  “What Am I supposed to do with my life?” He often recalled the cryptic dream message he had received, and his preoccupation began to alienate his incredulous family and his roguish friends.
Finally, one day, as he was walking past the ruins of the old church of St. Damiano, he felt a curious compulsion to enter and meditate there. Among the ruins, he sat, and his answer came in another inspired message as he stood beside the old battered crucifix.
3
In his memoirs we can read this intuitive flash: ” Francis, go and repair my house that you see has fallen around you.” With the joy of a long awaited recognition of an answer to his life’s riddle, he eagerly set out this restoration as his holy work- to rebuild a tiny, decrepit church, long neglected, and revive its spirit, through living a simple life as a disciple of Jesus, in humility, and in gratitude for this gift of purpose and meaning…
As you can easily guess, this change in Francis was neither welcomed by his family nor accepted by his coarse and indulgent friends. They regarded this enthusiasm to be outrageous behavior- a conversion away from their values and outlooks that was so startling that he quickly became a laughing stock among his family and the subject of vicious ridicule among his peers. The final straw came when Francis “started” a bargain sale at his father’s cloth store, and then proceeded to take all the money to buy bricks and mortar for the old church’s repairs! His father, in an indignant rage, dragged Francis before the local bishop and demanded that he repay him. To everybody’s surprise, Francis proceeded to publicly disown his father and with the statement that “I have only one Father who is in heaven!”, stripped off all his clothes and stood naked before the bishop! Flabbergasted, the bishop quickly took off his ornate robe and covered him! Later, Francis chose a personal vow of poverty, and donned a crudely woven brown robe. From this act, he began his public work and his spiritual quest.  From his heartfelt conviction, one of best known and respected religious orders, The Franciscans, was born.
Dreams and illnesses can be signals of answers that are beckoning or on the horizon… When one does find or receive the answer to the riddle of their lives, like Francis, they often receive a calling- a vocation that often involves them in radical change or life transformation. It is a nagging voice, this calling… As we read in the Gospel of Thomas, ” If you bring forth that which is in you, it will save you or make you whole. If you resist or do not bring forth what is in you, it will destroy you.”
As a result of following his dream, and being transformed by his illness, Francis provided a faith-filled example. Through inspirational preaching, Francis soon found many disciples among the disillusioned youth of the nobility.
4
His vow of poverty impelled his followers to create teams of friars to go out and earn their support through helping, teaching, and comforting others in exchange for the daily rations and lodging. Fearlessly, these followers worked among the scourged lepers, the poor, and the mentally and physically ill. As their reputation for helping those in need increased, as  a protection from jealous bishops who were losing their followers to him, Francis petitioned Rome to establish a religious order similar to the earlier orders of the Benedictines and the Dominicans. As his movement spread, there was a young noblewoman named Claire who became inspired by Francis’s example. She was equally disillusioned by material values and immorality of the day, and so following Francis, she established the “poor Sisters” who then worked tirelessly in caring for the sick and orphaned all around Assisi.
Now, this is but a brief synopsis of Francis’s life. More legends and stories abound, such as his confrontation with Pope Innocent III over material excess in the church, and his remarkable, empathetic gift of the Stigmata. I hope that you will read all the various stories, but now I would like to focus on how St. Francis can speak to us here today…
Among his most challenging teachings, we encounter Francis’s decision to willingly choose poverty. How could anyone live like that today? Obviously, we would not have to adopt any of his extremism to benefit from an honest appraisal of how we use money in our society today- how we can assign value to money, property, things. He asks us to look at what constitutes our true wealth and security, and whether that can be found on any financial balance sheet. His teachings point us toward choosing a more intentional and simple style of living which has other heart-centered dividends. Without a greater simplicity, we do not give ourselves the gift of time and reflection:
If we stay on a gerbil wheel of activity, we never spend enough time with our inner selves, or being receptive to creative solutions, and the inspiration some of us call God.
Like Francis, I feel that there is much significance in the fact that a majority of Jesus’ parables and lessons, center on our human concern for money, security, and possessions. It was his way of teaching that you can never really “own” anything or
5
“have” or control anything or anyone! What the parables define as real wealth comes from our inner resources of peace and gratitude. Jesus and Francis warn us of “putting up our treasure where moth and rust can corrupt”, and to avoid counterfeit images, feelings, or any sense of worth that is not grounded in giving and sharing; in love and in charity. Eric & UUSE Canvass team last year, addressed this in their theme of GIFTS: Guaranteed Insurance For the Soul- This theme refers to what Francis meant when he said, “I only want what Gods wants. That is why I am so happy!” From a canvass viewpoint, it would be “I only want what this church wants, and what will be best for us!Other outstanding themes or lessons from Francis’s life concerns chastity and humility. Chastity, as Thomas Moore, Jungian analyst and former monk reminds us, is defined in its original, spiritual and inclusive sense, as a protective virtue- one that urges us to keep our discernment and our distance from any morally empty or vacuous social standards. Chastity asks us to abstain from trying gratify spiritual hungers, or inner personal needs in a material way, or in a way that make us feel like our lives are on a emotional roller coaster of addictive highs and depressive lows. Francis recommends that we keep our hearts and minds full; and we do this by focussing on those ideas and reinforcing those attitudes that foster trust, faith, kindness and compassion. Likewise, Moore defines celibacy, not just as some pious sense of sexual abstinence, but as a statement of intention- It is to dedicate and direct the gift of your sexuality towards its spiritual expression- towards an openness and receptivity to God and to the good found in caring for, respecting, and cherishing your committed partner. Echoing Francis and this more enlightened approach, he quotes Carl Jung in his book,   Civilization in Transition,:
“Love is not cheap- let us therefore beware of cheapening it! All our bad qualities, our egotism, our cowardice, our worldly wisdom, our cupidity, – all these would persuade us not to take love seriously. But love will reward us only when we do. I must regard it as a misfortune that nowadays the sexual question is spoken of as something distinct from love. The two questions should not be separated…. Any other solution would be a harmful substitute….  sexuality as an expression of love is hallowed.
6
And now, humility… Can anyone say that a true sense of humility is not an effective antidote to our culture’s support of self centered ambitions, or narcissistic sense of entitlement?  Francis taught that we are all interdependent and equals; that to be humble was to respect one’s limits, and then to have courage with what you know you can change. Humility encourages us to define and refine our self worth, our success as a person by our inner sense of truth, our internal and eternal goals, not any external titles, trappings or attainments.
As I see it, when studying the lives of the saints, East and West, humility asks us to be patient, diligent, and forgiving; that we are to deflate any arrogance we might feel, and replace it with an understanding that self esteem comes from how well we serve the good and the noble we find in life and in one another, and that sense of meaning and purpose becomes the basis for our true standard of living.
Lastly, a prized lesson we can all learn from St. Francis is his widely celebrated love and regard for nature, and all the creatures of the earth. His Canticle of the Sun is a familiar musical reminder of his remarkable empathy and respect he had for nature. It is with all due respect, that ecologists and preservationists claim Francis as their patron saint. We can all appreciate how he never took nature’s balance or bounty for granted, seeking only to learn its wisdom, and harmonize human life with Sister Earth’s patterns, lessons, and laws. Maybe more than ever before, we need to recapture and retain Francis’s kindness, resolve, and gratitude to save animals from extinction, preserve coastlines and forests- to care for it all, from baby seals to renewable energy; to providing shelter, and clothes for the needy, to feed the hungry without depleting the earth or burning down rain forests to feed our national economic greed. For me, ecological responsible or sustainable living is the unspoken commandment. Our U-U Seventh Principle clearly speaks to this, and for me, speaks to the sacred interconnectedness of God and nature, the earth and all humanity.
The life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi demonstrate many virtues, and we can choose to remember the enduring quality of his faith. No one I know, including myself, would not benefit from incorporating more of his spirit, his sense of simplicity and joy!
7
Could it be that this community could take the virtues and values of simple living and a reverence for life more seriously? Could we model it for ourselves and others? I truly hope that we could, for I believe that it contains many answers, many blessings for each and everyone of us. AMEN
Benediction: Sainthood is everybody’s potential. It consists of this:
To be willing to risk knowing the world and what it has to offer, but refusing to be defined or confined to it. It is to live joyfully and to love fully, but allow the Spirit to closely guard your dignity and self respect, and to allow yourself to be open to the inspiration and the guidance that fills your mind with insight and your heart with delight.

St. Francis of Assisi: In Timeless Appreciation

The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
When one thinks of a saint today, what images come to mind? Is it some relic from your religious past? A statue used as a bird feeder in your aunt’s garden? A football team? A classic jazz marching song?
As I have come to understand it through my reading and experience with myth, archetypes, and our universal human need for role models, the importance of a saint for humanity goes way beyond some pious and distant recollection or connection to childhood.
A saint, in all the world’s religions, is someone who embodies and exemplifies the those noble and good qualities of mind, heart and spirit we humans all admire and appreciate: values and virtues such as devotion, harmlessness, unselfishness, kindness and love…
Many of us brought up in the Western churches, especially the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and the various Eastern Orthodox sects, could name those saints who have received the most popular attention: St. Jude, St. Christopher, well until he got demoted! And of course, jolly old St. Nick! Along with these well known figures, the most enduring, and I dare say, the most beloved saint in Western church history, was St. Francis of Assisi.
He has been considered to be the one person, who through his life and devotion, became the model Christian, closer to Jesus than all the rest.
What makes him such a favorite? Part of his popularity stems from how broadly and commonly his life, his teaching examples have been portrayed in Western religious literature, art and film.
For instance, I have read 4 biographies of him, various accounts of his monks, and have seen three different films, and the words to his prayer appears in many places: from classical devotional anthologies, to a latest best seller, bookmarks and greeting cards!
Today, I feel that his ideas and ideals still hold value for us.  From this exposure, we can safely say that one need not be particularly Catholic or even Christian, just universal, to appreciate the core of his teachings.
2
The outlook of his life, his teachings and example have created the many instructive stories and inspirational examples making him a timeless, cross-cultural role model. (Meha Baba Center)  Allow me to refresh your memories…
The man who was to become the beloved saint was born 820 years ago and grew up around the small mercantile city of Assisi, in northern foothills of central Italy. Nicknamed Francesco, He was the oldest son of a well to do cloth merchant and French noblewoman. His father was an aspiring, amoral and ruthless businessman whose emphasis on life was to acquire money, possession, prestige, and who strived to achieve the lifestyle of the upper classes. His mother was a kind, gentle and protective influence. His parents, according to the popular expectations, sought out a military career that would lead to nobility for their firstborn son.
At approximately age 20, this once brave and brash young man confidently went off to fight in a city-state war with neighboring Perugia.  As a result, he became a prisoner of war for over a year! After that incarceration and deprivation, Francis suffered a long, mysterious illness that lingered. And as some have said, prepared him for his future life…
On his way back home, traveling through Spoleto, Francis had a revelatory dream, one that both startled him and disturbed him. Still weak from his illness, he was perplexed by the dream’s message. In that dream, there was a voice that asked, “Francis, whom is it better to serve, the servant or the master? Francis replied, “The master!” The voice then said to him, “then go and do so.” (paraphrase of St. Luke, and The Good Samaritan story where Jesus instructs his listeners to “go, and do likewise”
But at that time, Francis remained unclear and still confused. He had no definite direction for his life, and asked himself, over and over,  “What Am I supposed to do with my life?” He often recalled the cryptic dream message he had received, and his preoccupation began to alienate his incredulous family and his roguish friends.
Finally, one day, as he was walking past the ruins of the old church of St. Damiano, he felt a curious compulsion to enter and meditate there. Among the ruins, he sat, and his answer came in another inspired message as he stood beside the old battered crucifix.
3
In his memoirs we can read this intuitive flash: ” Francis, go and repair my house that you see has fallen around you.” With the joy of a long awaited recognition of an answer to his life’s riddle, he eagerly set out this restoration as his holy work- to rebuild a tiny, decrepit church, long neglected, and revive its spirit, through living a simple life as a disciple of Jesus, in humility, and in gratitude for this gift of purpose and meaning…
As you can easily guess, this change in Francis was neither welcomed by his family nor accepted by his coarse and indulgent friends. They regarded this enthusiasm to be outrageous behavior- a conversion away from their values and outlooks that was so startling that he quickly became a laughing stock among his family and the subject of vicious ridicule among his peers.
The final straw came when Francis “started” a bargain sale at his father’s cloth store, and then proceeded to take all the money to buy bricks and mortar for the old church’s repairs! His father, in an indignant rage, dragged Francis before the local bishop and demanded that he repay him. To everybody’s surprise, Francis proceeded to publicly disown his father and with the statement that “I have only one Father who is in heaven!”, stripped off all his clothes and stood naked before the bishop!
Flabbergasted, the bishop quickly took off his ornate robe and covered him! Later, Francis chose a personal vow of poverty, and donned a crudely woven brown robe. From this act, he began his public work and his spiritual quest.  From his heartfelt conviction, one of best known and respected religious orders, The Franciscans, was born.
Dreams and illnesses can be signals of answers that are beckoning or on the horizon… When one does find or receive the answer to the riddle of their lives, like Francis, they often receive a calling- a vocation that often involves them in radical change or life transformation.
It is a nagging voice, this calling… As we read in the Gospel of Thomas, ” If you bring forth that which is in you, it will save you or make you whole. If you resist or do not bring forth what is in you, it will destroy you.”
As a result of following his dream, and being transformed by his illness, Francis provided a faith-filled example. Through inspirational preaching, Francis soon found many disciples among the disillusioned youth of the nobility.
4
His vow of poverty impelled his followers to create teams of friars to go out and earn their support through helping, teaching, and comforting others in exchange for the daily rations and lodging. Fearlessly, these followers worked among the scourged lepers, the poor, and the mentally and physically ill.
As their reputation for helping those in need increased, as  a protection from jealous bishops who were losing their followers to him, Francis petitioned Rome to establish a religious order similar to the earlier orders of the Benedictines and the Dominicans.
As his movement spread, there was a young noblewoman named Claire who became inspired by Francis’s example. She was equally disillusioned by material values and immorality of the day, and so following Francis, she established the “poor Sisters” who then worked tirelessly in caring for the sick and orphaned all around Assisi.
Now, this is but a brief synopsis of Francis’s life. More legends and stories abound, such as his confrontation with Pope Innocent III over material excess in the church, and his remarkable, empathetic gift of the Stigmata. I hope that you will read all the various stories, but now I would like to focus on how St. Francis can speak to us here today…
Among his most challenging teachings, we encounter Francis’s decision to willingly choose poverty. How could anyone live like that today? Obviously, we would not have to adopt any of his extremism to benefit from an honest appraisal of how we use money in our society today- how we can assign value to money, property, things.
He asks us to look at what constitutes our true wealth and security, and whether that can be found on any financial balance sheet. His teachings point us toward choosing a more intentional and simple style of living which has other heart-centered dividends.
Without a greater simplicity, we do not give ourselves the gift of time and reflection:
If we stay on a gerbil wheel of activity, we never spend enough time with our inner selves, or being receptive to creative solutions, and the inspiration some of us call God.
Like Francis, I feel that there is much significance in the fact that a majority of Jesus’ parables and lessons, center on our human concern for money, security, and possessions. It was his way of teaching that you can never really “own” anything or”have” or control anything or anyone!
What the parables define as real wealth comes from our inner resources of peace and gratitude. Jesus and Francis warn us of “putting up our treasure where moth and rust can corrupt”, and to avoid counterfeit images, feelings, or any sense of worth that is not grounded in giving and sharing.
I think this is what Francis meant when he said, “I only want what Gods wants. That is why I am so happy!”
Other outstanding themes or lessons from Francis’s life concerns chastity and humility. Chastity, as Thomas Moore, Jungian analyst and former monk reminds us, is defined in its original, spiritual and inclusive sense, as a protective virtue- one that urges us to keep our discernment and our distance from any morally empty or vacuous social standards.
Chastity asks us to abstain from trying gratify spiritual hungers, or inner personal needs in a material way, or in a way that make us feel like our lives are on a emotional roller coaster of addictive highs and depressive lows. Francis recommends that we keep our hearts and minds full; and we do this by focussing on those ideas and reinforcing those attitudes that foster trust, faith, kindness and compassion.
Likewise, Moore defines celibacy, not just as some pious sense of sexual abstinence, but as a statement of intention- It is to dedicate and direct the gift of your sexuality towards its spiritual expression- towards an openness and receptivity to God and to the good found in caring for, respecting, and cherishing your committed partner. Echoing Francis and this more enlightened approach, he quotes Carl Jung in his book,   Civilization in Transition,:
“Love is not cheap- let us therefore beware of cheapening it! All our bad qualities, our egotism, our cowardice, our worldly wisdom, our cupidity, – all these would persuade us not to take love seriously. But love will reward us only when we do. I must regard it as a misfortune that nowadays the sexual question is spoken of as something distinct from love. The two questions should not be separated…. Any other solution would be a harmful substitute….  sexuality as an expression of love is hallowed.
6
And now, humility… Can anyone say that a true sense of humility is not an effective antidote to our culture’s support of self centered ambitions, or narcissistic sense of entitlement?  Francis taught that we are all interdependent and equals; that to be humble was to respect one’s limits, and then to have courage with what you know you can change. Humility encourages us to define and refine our self worth, our success as a person by our inner sense of truth, our internal and eternal goals, not any external titles, trappings or attainments.
As I see it, when studying the lives of the saints, East and West, humility asks us to be patient, diligent, and forgiving; that we are to deflate any arrogance we might feel, and replace it with an understanding that self esteem comes from how well we serve the good and the noble we find in life and in one another, and that sense of meaning and purpose becomes the basis for our true standard of living.
Lastly, a prized lesson we can all learn from St. Francis is his widely celebrated love and regard for nature, and all the creatures of the earth. His Canticle of the Sun is a familiar musical reminder of his remarkable empathy and respect he had for nature.
It is with all due respect, that ecologists and preservationists claim Francis as their patron saint. We can all appreciate how he never took nature’s balance or bounty for granted, seeking only to learn its wisdom, and harmonize human life with Sister Earth’s patterns, lessons, and laws.
Maybe more than ever before, we need to recapture and retain Francis’s kindness, resolve, and gratitude to save animals from extinction, preserve coastlines and forests- to care for it all, from baby seals to renewable energy; to providing shelter, and clothes for the needy, to feed the hungry without depleting the earth or burning down rain forests to feed our national economic greed. For me, ecological responsible or sustainable living is the unspoken commandment.
The life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi demonstrate many virtues, and we can choose to remember the enduring quality of his faith. No one I know, including myself, would not benefit from incorporating more of his spirit, his sense of simplicity and joy!
7
Could it be that this community could take the virtues and values of simple living and a reverence for life more seriously? Could we model it for ourselves and others? I truly hope that we could, for I believe that it contains many answers, many blessings for each and everyone of us. AMEN
 
Benediction: Sainthood is everybody’s potential. It consists of this:
To be willing to risk knowing the world and what it has to offer, but refusing to be defined or confined to it. It is to live joyfully and to love fully, but allow the Spirit to closely guard your dignity and self respect, and to allow yourself to be open to the inspiration and the guidance that fills your mind with insight and your heart with delight.
Children’s story: St. Francis and The Wolf
Who was St. Francis? When you look at all these different pictures of him, what kind of person do you think he was?
I want to tell you a short story, that comes from your RE class on Holy Days and Holidays, about Francis and the wolf, and how he showed us that love overcomes fear…
There once was a little town near where Francis lived and taught.
The people of that town were not happy, they really were sad and afraid!
You see, there was this big, fierce gray wolf that walked and stalked, and growled all around the town… What does fierce look like?
That’s right, the wolf would bear his teeth, and the people would run, put their sheep in the barn, stay inside, and bolt all the doors! They did not know what to do, or what the wolf wanted from them…
So, some of the townspeople went to Francis, and asked him for his advice. They knew of his reputation of being able to talk to the animals, and that he was such a peaceful person, he might know what they should do.
So Francis said he would come over, and soon Francis began walking all around the town… One evening, Francis came face to face with the wolf!
And the large gray wolf began to growl and show his teeth to make Francis afraid, but Francis calmly stood there, and showed that he wasn’t afraid!
Francis knew that often when someone snaps or growls, that it was just the wolf’s way to say, “I need some love!” And if the people won’t love me, then at least, I can make them fear me!” Francis saw that behind unhappiness and anger there is often a need to be understood… Francis reached into his cloak for some bread, and gently held it out to the wolf to eat.
The wolf was amazed at Francis’s kindness! Francis then patted the wolf, and the wolf felt relaxed and glad. Francis quoted the Song of Songs to the wolf, saying that love is stronger than death, stronger than fear, and that hate is often the lack of love.
11
From that evening on, the wolf began to follow Francis all around the town… And gradually the wolf became more tame and trusting. All of the townspeople were amazed; they began to relax, unbolt their doors, and the children came out to play, and soon, happiness returned to the streets and town square.
Then it was time for Francis to leave. So he asked his brother, the wolf, to stay and protect the very people he once threatened. The wolf agreed, and in appreciation, the townspeople set out all their table scraps so the wolf would feel loved and well fed. He soon became the town’s pet!
Through Francis’s love and courage to face and then go beyond fear, the prophecy of Micah, where the wolf and the lamb are together was made real and true. Whenever we can turn fear into love, and treat animals and one another with kindness, we will heal our hearts, and become happy….
Blessing For The Animals….
Spirit of Life, and of Love, we ask you to bless these animals that live with us. We pledge to look after them and treat them with kindness. We now bless these animals, in the name of St. Francis, who loved all the creatures of the earth.”

Living Out Your Life’s Purpose

July 27, 2009 - 4:40 pm 17 Comments
U-Us draw their personal inspiration from many sources...

U-Us draw their personal inspiration from many sources...

Sermon: Living Out One’s Life Purpose
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

From the very beginnings of our religious movement worldwide, there has been an emphasis on living our lives with purpose and to infuse our daily decisions with meaning. We, as religious liberals forthrightly state that most of us refuse to settle for being defined by only our social roles. We have chosen to draw our own conclusions- usually from our personal sense of purpose, mission, ethics and values, that derive from our personal search, and from our own life experiences.
So I propose this morning that asking the questions of meaning and purpose are universal human needs… In fact, I would say that we are known, defined or revealed by the depth and quality of questions we are willing to ask ourselves. Following in the Socratic method that disdains an unexamined life, and our Humanist tradition of free inquiry and rational examination, I would assert that to periodically appraise one’s life is a necessary part of any personal evaluation… Then, again I am someone who believes in scheduling checkups… not just annual physicals, but emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual checkups, too!
In academic discipline of theology, Western and Eastern, there are two contrasting concepts that generally focus on meaning and purpose. These concepts will frame my discussion today.

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They are: In the West, life as Teleology and in the Eastern traditions, there is following the Dharma. Philosophers and religious teachers, East and West, have all written about the importance of having faith in one’s future. In simple terms, that our time on this earth is a gift from God, what we do with the life we are given is our gift back to God, to humanity, and to life.
This morning, I will explore each term briefly, and then I will share some of my personal experiences with trying to understand my purpose for my life. Lastly, I will focus my attention on the question of aging… and the difficulty found of living too long or feeling that one has already lived out all purpose they thought they had.
First, then is the concept of teleology. This is the Western philosophical and theological assertion that life itself has a purpose. Teleology postulates that an abiding trust and an earnest devotion to lifelong ideals will reveal one’s purpose.
We are to have faith in those ideals in order to empower them or to make they real and workable; then we are called to follow through, acting on them and being responsible for them.
It has been postulated that once a person goes beyond meeting their basic human needs and social roles, our next most important task in our lives becomes the creation of a cogent philosophy or system of lasting values for our lives.
3
Teleological reasoning states that merely existing is not sufficient reason to go on living… That the next evolutionary step in awareness moves a person to examine their motives for doing anything beyond what is regarded as absolutely necessary.
Now I do not wish to sound too naive or overly idealistic here… I am fully aware that many people never get around to asking these probing or motivating questions… and most often, there is no fault that the demands of basic life has kept them from asking these questions. However, it can be the suffering inherent in the struggle for one’s basic existence that often starts the process of serious questioning. Conversely, affluence also can act as a deterrent to asking about one’s inner truths.

In our modern world, we appear to be driven to distraction! A person can become too busy with technology and with the social demands of society to ask the questions about ultimate responsibilities- they avoid asking such probing questions because it might threaten their lifestyle and the accumulated status quo. Teleology tries to inform us that purpose, meaning, or one’s sense of faith, hope and love are linked, or I would say, they are indissoluably connected. Through the daily process of faithfully living out one’s values, attesting to one’s virtues, and reaching for one’s aspirations and ideals, our lives become truly enriched and more complete.

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In the East, there is a whole different or contrasting approach. Within the teachings of the two most prominent religions that began in India, the religions of Hinduism and its major offspring, Buddhism, we are given an imperative called “following the Dharma. This dharma can be generally understood in various ways. …
As it is simply defined, one’s dharma is one’s duty to learn the wisdom of the Sages, learn and embody the wisdom of the Ages, and then practice this wisdom as one’s own guiding and fulfilling direction, especially as they are laid out in the Vedas and the Upanishads of Hinduism. (One such direct reference is found in the epic, symbolic battle, The Maharabita. This is the lifelong struggle; When Ajuna asks Krishna to speak about the meaning of psychomachia- the battle for one’s soul, or what is the true purpose and meaning for one’s existence… (Film version!)
The emphasis here is how we can overcome previous misdeeds, the traps of selfishness, negative passions, and our chronic problems of health, emptiness or unhappiness… for it is firmly believed that without intentionally working on these issues in this life, you will be doomed to repeat them in the next- The Dharma teaches that whatever we resist, persists…
In classical Hinduism, if we refuse to learn, we can descend the evolutionary ladder and become either sick, or infirmed by our ignorance- and in some of the more fatalistic transmigratory teachings, if we are stubborn and remain unyielding to truth,

In the next life, we leave being a human and descend the evolutionary scale to wind up a hyena, a cockroach, maybe a slug or a patch of kudzu-simply something less than desirable!
The Dharma for Hindus is more strictly connected to a more inflexible doctrine of reincarnation; for Buddhists, however, while reincarnation remains a central teaching, the practice of Buddhism itself is more focused on ethical and daily teachings that embody wisdom, and help one to attain one’s own Buddhahood or enlightenment. This is the very core of being a Buddhist practioner, which are the comprehension of the
four noble truths, living out one’s life along the eight-fold path- and accepting the disciple of the five austerities, choosing to seek refuge in the Sanga, or community and in the Vajrayana and Mahayana schools, taking Bohdisattva vows. Knowledge and daily practice of these teachings in both Hinduism and even more centrally in Buddhism, is the way to our sense of life’s meaning and purpose … It is also the way to release one’s mind and body from suffering, and one’s soul from past indebtedness.
This knowledge is self knowledge. It is not simply a gracious or free gift, but it is a freeing gift- what frees or releases you from the all of its hang-ups and fears, and it frees you from whatever has caused old painful patterns, habits, desires and expectations that can consciously or unconsciously hold or imprison you in want, need, illness, etc.
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These new patterns of thinking and feeling result in the soul’s freedom and the ability to understand one’s purpose in life- to mirror the values and embody virtues of enlightenment and compassion. In these wisdom teachings, we find that all true knowledge, conveys a responsibility to use it ethically, and to employ knowledge in compassionate service to humankind is the best use of one’s awareness and skill. Therefore, when practiced and more fully understood, sincere and diligent practice can frees us from the eight worldly conditions- gain, loss, honor, dishonor, blame, praise, misery or happiness.
While radically different, Teleology and the Dharma agree on the issue of recognizing one’s indebtedness to others and then choosing to respond to the truth of our interdependence on others with a personal gratitude and with greater compassion.
As a ethical consequence, we can erase or reduce our indebtedness by acting with kindness, by being wise, and unselfish. Anne Lamont, Episcopalian writer and poet looks at it this way: She says that enlightenment is found in the struggle to be unselfish and kind. The Dalai Lama asserts, Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. If you cannot help them, at least, do not hurt them.]”
First some caveats and some admissions… It is possible to live what some people would call a successful life, a positive and productive life without fully discovering their spiritual and heartfelt purpose. However, it has been my experience in counseling to see a lot of unhappiness and self-defeating behaviors among very bright and successful people.
Conversely, I have also seen genuine contentment among those who are truly humble and who choose consciously not to strive for any goal or desire that cannot be attained without ethical surrender or a soul debilitating sacrifice….
I feel that of all the definitions of a lifetime of success as it relates to life’s purpose and meaning, words attributed to Emerson stated it best when he said:
” To laugh often, and to love much; to win and hold the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of little children; …. to appreciate beauty always, whether in the earth’s creation or human handiwork, to have sought for and found the best in others and to have given the best oneself, to leave this world better than one found it, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, a cherry letter, or a redeemed social condition; to have played with enthusiasm, loved with exuberance, and sung in exultation… to go down to your dust and dreams, knowing that the world is a wee bit better, and that a single life breathes easier because we have lived, that is to have succeeded. …
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And of course, I would wish each of you that kind of success, that kind of lived expression of purpose and values.
Next, concerning those vexing and unsettling questions we ask ourselves about our lives… I feel that it is a normal and natural process of maturation to experience certain, and sometimes serious places of despair and disillusionment during certain times in our lives. … After all, it is only the mediocre person that is always at their best!
Whether it is with our choices such as career, the depth and quality of our relationships, or almost any goal or ideal we had when we were younger, there is a very human and an almost inevitable process of comparison that goes on between the ideals we hold and the real experiences and attainments in our lives.
I prefer to see these times in our lives as a creative crisis, the opportunity to receive a calling- an intuitive or spiritual new message about where we need to go next or what we need to do that doesn’t respond to logical analysis or diagnostic tests. The effort then to fine tune our lives, usually through some inspirational cue or clue-often found in art, music, prayer, dreams, films and other seemingly unlikely sources, can point us in new directions our souls need to pursue… that is, if our ego and our fears will let go long enough to do so….. As it has been said about the holistic process of aging and discovering one’s purpose: “What the soul conceives, the mind creates; what the mind creates, the heart carries out, and what the soul, mind, and heart provide, the body experiences.”
Another caveat… I do not necessarily recommend that you become more like me- described by some of my tongue in cheek friends as a terminal idealist, a Magoo-like visionary, or the Don Quixote of liberal religion! It seems that I have been continually pursuing spiritual questions and pushing myself to find the highest spiritual, religious, and ethical answers for most of the last 35 years …. So much so, that I can frustrate friendships and partners and certainly any chance of material security. When I have shared my areas of discovery, doubt, disillusionment, and defeat with some of my less spiritually minded colleagues, that have said to me… “You know, Peter, what the trouble with you is…” (Don’t you just love how your family and friends start their advice with phrases like this!!)….
“The trouble with you Peter is, you believe what all the mystics, saints, prophets, poets, and progressives have been saying! Rather than just think about it passively, and then talk about it politely, you take it to heart, you urge personal and social change, then you go out try to fully experience it! That is a great way to be miserable or feel that you do not fit!”

Of course, I prefer what one of my more compassionate and insightful colleagues said when he stated that you remind me of the advice and outlook that Martin Luther King Jr. gave to all the liberal clergymen who questioned why he was making such a fuss about civil rights.
In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, he stated that a call to living as if God, Spirit, and one’s ethical convictions truly matter is very dangerous to your security, to the status quo… King implored people who choose to call themselves liberals to become creatively maladjusted- maladjusted to society in order to truly change, uplift or heal it!
“That’s what’s wrong with you Peter, you are creatively maladjusted!” And all this time, I thought all I was being was a good Unitarian-Universalist… Who knew?
Maybe one’s purpose in life is to be the best maladjusted person you can possibly be…. and since being a U-Uist already shapes you into being a square peg in the round hole of religious beliefs, maybe you, too, will risk becoming your true self, and join me in being creatively maladjusted- being in conflict with anything that is cold hearted, unjust, disrespectful, or demeaning. But beware, as Emerson stated, “[you can have truth or you can have comfort, you can have truth, or you can have security… you have to choose which ideals will live in your heart, which gods you will worship,or what motives for your life you will serve.]”
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OK, let me see now, where was I? Oh, Yes, our purpose in life….
Now, this active pursuit of meaning and purpose, this living out one’s Dharma and its virtues, can last throughout one’s lifetime… but what if you have chosen to define yourself by certain time-bound expectations you have assumed rather than the truths that you choose to live? This is a particular dilemma for many seniors who feel as if they have lived too long…
That is, to their own estimation, they have lost their value to others because the are too old to work, and their friends have died or moved away, too old because even their grandchildren no longer need them in some important way…
How do we help them to continue to feel as if their life matters, and that there is still a valuable purpose for them in this life?
We all need to be needed… loneliness, isolation, alienation are great demons to have to slay at any age… and if we feel that our sense of value or purpose is gone, we can be left facing despair and the questions of feeling useless… Because we, in the West, assume that life is linear… it has a beginning and that it will end, when we arrive near our perceived end with nothing left to do, we can experience profound depression.
How do we address this concern for seniors who think of themselves as living too long to be of no earthly good to anyone?

The most useful and easily understood concept I have found is Stage 8 of Erik Erikson’s eight stages of human development where the emotional and spiritual natures of the individual are focused on and evaluated. His stage 8 was entitled Integrity vs. Despair”…. and it involves looking back over one’s decisions and one’s perceptions, choices and directions, and through a compassionate inventory of what has been done and what has been left undone, we can arrive at being at peace with our lives in our preparation for our death. (By the way, this is also a very Buddhist concept which states because I am aging, I no longer can ignore death, so I had pay better attention to my life.)
Let me offer a personal example…. One of the ways my idealism has functioned was to Co-own and co-operate a home based hospice for two years. During that time, we were the private duty nurses and counselors to two ladies- the younger, Marion, was 88 years old and deaf, the other Eva, was 99 years old and blind. Marion never married, and taught school for some 45 years…
Eva was a classical matriarch, whose children were already in their 70’s ! To say the least, this was more than a full time assignment, and our only day off was spent as volunteer prison chaplains, but that’s another story!

Eva, at 99, would fret about her use in the world…. and even though we arranged for talking books, and other ways to engage her mind that was slipping away, the most cogent and most favored approach we tried was to have her pray for the world, for her grand and great grandchildren… to see herself as useful because the world still had need of her caring, her empathy….. This brought her much peace and feeling of fulfillment… As the statement from Helen Keller puts it, “As long as I can sweeten another person’s pain, my life is not in vain….”
Discovering and keeping one’s sense of meaning is a lifelong search. It requires being open to change, to be willing to ask troubling questions, being open to risk and rejection, and simply being faithful to those inner messages as long as they speak truthfully to you… I feel that waiting until one is advanced in age to ask probing questions about one’s life might be waiting too long…. yet, whenever one’s questions about life do demand knowing and growing, then it is the right time for one’s soul… “Happiness”, said Chamfort,”is not easily won, it is hard to find it in ourselves and it is impossible to find it anywhere else.”

So, my last words on purpose comes from the Unitarian historian, Will Durant. Durant was asked how does one maintain one’s happiness, identity and sense of purpose.
He said: “[Do not stop cultivating your garden… Do not depend on your teachers to educate you… follow your own bent, pursue your curiosities about life and about yourself bravely, express yourself truly, make your own sense of harmony…. In the end, education, like happiness, is individual, and must come from our inner selves. There is no other way …

So today I affirm and recommend this: May your search for indiviual meaning and a lasting sense of purpose be timeless and ageless, and begin today! So Be it! AMEN

The Seed of Life- An Easter Sermon ( inspired by studies in Creation Spirituality)

April 13, 2017 - 11:49 am Comments Off on The Seed of Life- An Easter Sermon ( inspired by studies in Creation Spirituality)

The Seed of Life
An Easter Sunday Sermon
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
As most of us know, many of the parables used images and metaphors from nature. Jesus used those agricultural stories for ethical instruction, or to increase personal and spiritual awareness, often inserting references to the natural processes of growth and change. Many of these stories… Like The Mustard Seed, or the Sower, are among the most central, beloved, and familiar teaching stories we remember from either our childhood instruction or from our adult study as a part of our liberal religious heritage.
Easter reminds all of us of our seed potential. Jesus taught about how the Kingdom or Queendom of God can grow within each of us, and that it can also take root and grow among us as a community. We can extend this metaphor to say the human potentials for greater intelligence, creativity, ethics, and compassion can also grow within us and become known to us.
The great 13th century mystic and German advocate for women’s rights, Miester Eckhart put it this way: He stated that “the seed of God grows into God… Let yourself go, let God be God in you.” That is, we are to let false selves or our egos go, and then by making room in our awareness, we invite principles and ideals that are more ethical and spiritual to grow graciously and persistently … Steadily changing, evolving, or transforming us into our larger, greater, higher selves.
Similarly, our children can be seen as seeds of ourselves… Growing and greening with life, they are guided by our active love and care, growing into the fullness of their humanness. Through the ongoing guidance of family, church, and school, they are cultivated, and will grow into their best potentials for their lives.
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In this way, we can see that growth, itself, is more than a biological process; it is the changing, ripening awareness that serves to bridge or connect us to each other and to an interdependent life on earth.
Through a natural growth in our expanding awareness, we lose the concept of being separate, and we come to realize that our lives depend on a common reality, that there is a desire for unity within each human heart.
As our growth continues, these metaphors accompany us… We come to realize that everything that is alive is connected through tendrils of grace, by common roots of experience, by branches of concern, by leaves of wisdom, and we can understand the fruits of deeper understanding as those motives, desires, and aspirations we humans hold, reach, and can share…
The evolutionary biologist Gregory Bateson believes that there exists a common source of intelligence… That there is a universal, cellular pattern, that connects… connects us to all of the Creation, and to the universe where we live. In this way, we are never apart, separate, alone…
Another scholar, the geologian Thomas Berry, states it this way:
” We bear the universe in our being, just as the universe bears us in its seeding.” From the ancient mystics to contemporary theoretical physics, from the origins of life, to the discovery of its component parts, we become more closely connected, more aware that humanity shares one spirit, that all the creatures, that all life is connected through the patterns of God or the good, and that there are important and crucial breakthroughs that happen to us; that change our perceptions, and increase our appreciation, devotion, and our sense of sustaining reverence that links eons to ions, solar systems to solar plexus, science to soul.
Seeds, then, can be seen as acting much like human beings… They are like our families, churches, neighborhoods, even nations. Their life cycle teaches essential and inescapable lessons about the shared nature of growth, death, resurrection.
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Seeds or cells, be they political or biological, personal or communal are systems or patterns of connection. The patterns carry within themselves, predictive DNA… They are the patterns of destiny and demise, discovery and determination. Seeds and cells also carry within them the demands of change: that every living thing, every family, group, or organization will, of its own necessity, need to adapt, need to redefine itself… Often the seed , group or organism needs to go through its own decline and death, on the way towards its own restructuring and resurrection…
People, like societies, empires, even planets and stars are faced with an ultimate choice: rot or grow, change or die. While this sounds like a harsh truth, it is fair and just, because it applies universally, and can be seen as an agent of transformation in that it bears within its pattern, a compassionate promise- that as we adapt, we survive; as we adjust, we come to understand, as we affirm, we learn what traits, qualities and ideals we wish to support, and which ideas and ideals, which principles and purposes, will work effectively to encourage us to thrive and grow.
Seed casings must burst and die to its old encased ways… Being in contact with the earth, and the elements, encourages the process of softening, then breaking open, set its roots, and then direct its stems and shoots upward and outward and allow its leaves to unfold towards the Sun… Inactive pods, dormant seeds are like our old ways of staying content, staying safe, staying dormant, then when they become exposed to the light and other forces that compel change, we will feel unsettled, anxious while on the way to bringing ourselves into a new awareness and becoming comfortable with an emerging new identity. Identity gives stability without holding the new growth static, and the stems or ideas of further development and exploration push out from the old bark, or release the old stems to make them give way to new leaves of emotion and discovery…

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The old protective shell that once insulated them from change falls off, replaced by a new dynamic faith in possibilities, and growth towards a new sense of its potentials for greater interconnection and larger unfoldment.

The seminal message of Easter teaches that we must die before we can be reborn. In the process of dying, we are being transformed into new creatures. And when we are changed by our ethical and spiritual realizations, we mature into becoming resurrected with new views of life; new views of family, new views of church, neighborhoods, countries, a new sense of cooperation with the world and with one another.

Both seeds and souls can bear good fruit once the hard shells of our past become broken and a new sense of a shared heart becomes encouraged to grow within us. I affirm and I believe that The Earth is holy, and that all the seeds of God- human, animal, vegetable are connected, are sacred. [What has been seeded is the capacities for conviction and for conscience which often manifest as wonder, awe, dedication, devotion and love that serves to renew and regard nature and our community as precious, valuable, and worthy of our time and care.]
Easter reminds us that the seed or source of God or good is within us… And as it grows, there is a renewed sense of inspiration, commitment, and caring that works together to foster and create a world of blessing-
for our children, our church, the earth, for all of life!

AMEN and So BE IT!

Opening Words:
Springtime Prayer

For the flowers that bloom about our feet,
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet
For the song of bird, and the hum of bees,
For all that we hear and see,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in Heaven, we thank Thee!

For the blue of stream and the blue of sky,
For pleasant shade of branches high,
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in heaven, We thank Thee!
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Benediction:

As Jesus proclaimed, ” That we shall be known by our fruits!”
May this Easter time be the time for seeding new visions, and planting new foundations. May we choose to expand and grow- bearing witness to the fruits of great witness: To justice, equality, dignity, to caring and compassion.
As Easter signals the earth’s emergence and the hope of Spring, may we welcome a new manifestation of community, and the growing sense of mission and purpose among us.
PEL

Joys And Sorrows:
The Unitarian poet, e e cummings, stated that life, in its spiritual dimensions, “Easters in us …”
That the lessons and experience of Easter act as a continuing catalyst, as an annual verb of gracious action, as it cycles through our awareness and serves to guide our decisions and actions. It awakens us in Springtime to the need to rejuvenate, and to resurrect our spirits and to regenerate our hopes… For we are all given creative capacities, and we are all capable of transformation.
Each day we are reborn, and as we grow through life’s changes and challenges, we learn to die to the old ways of doing and defining our lives, and seek new expressions, new dimensions, new patterns for our growth…
Eastering is the name we can give to those changes… To the human process of becoming renewed and transformed…
This Eastering that takes place within us, also brings with its lessons and adventures, both suffering and celebration, wounds and wonders…
And the effects of this Eastering becomes best known to us through our relationships, as it comes to us whenever we connect or commit to someone or some group… be it through marriage or through church membership.
From those meaningful connections and commitments, we are both consoled and inspired, accepted and challenged, to be more fully human, to be more fully alive and in touch with how meaning and purpose can be found.
Each time we gather as a community, we bear witness to the full range of emotions that our Eastering has created within and among us…
As I see it, it is a special gift and blessing to gather to celebrate and to be
understood, to be invited to share your joys and your sorrows on this day…
Pastoral Story/Reflection: How Awareness and Perspectives Shape our Interpretations Or maybe better known as the Pope and the Janitor….

Many, many years ago, during the Middle Ages, there was a Pope who wanted to banish the Jews from Rome. He had an official edict or law drawn up that allowed him to ask anyone who wasn’t Catholic to leave the city…. And he was successful… Well, all except a small band of Jews who had built a synagogue just outside the Vatican walls…
They sent their rabbi, and he asked the Pope to reconsider…. The Pope, being a reasonable and fair man, offered him and his synagogue members a sporting proposition: Let the Jews appoint someone to debate him, and since there was a language barrier, it would be in Pantomime… Gestures…
The rabbi went back and reported this proposition with his congregation… They concluded that to turn down the debate meant sure banishment from Rome, but to accept such a debate would signal a sure defeat! What to do! Given that the Pope would be both the debater and the judge it seemed like a slim but necessary possibility… After weighing all this , they looked around for someone among them who would be willing to debate the Pope….
No one came forward…. That is, none of the Rabbis felt prepared, and no of the scholars felt capable, and so there didn’t seem to be anyone who was willing…. Then the janitor volunteered!
Well, said the rabbi, since no one else would come forward, the janitor it is!
When the Pope heard about this , at first he was insulted, but the debate would go on…!
There in the Vatican, with all of his ornate cardinals, bishops and priests around him, the Pope was ready for the debate… On the other side of the square, was a small band of simple people, dressed in black….
The pope stepped down from his throne, walked to the center, and faced the janitor who had come out of his group… And so the debate began….
The Pope raised one finger, and then he traced it across the heavens…. Then the janitor promptly responded by emphatically pointing downward towards the Earth….
The Pope seemed taken aback, puzzled, and a little amazed!
Then the Pope raised one finger and waved it in the janitor’s face… The janitor responded by waving one, then three fingers in the Pope’s face! The Pope was astonished!
Next, the Pope thrust his hand inside his cloak and pulled out an apple….
Whereupon, the janitor, reached inside his pocket, and pulled out a piece of matzo!
At this point, the Pope exclaimed in a loud voice, ” The janitor has won the debate! The law is revoked. The Jews can stay! A a cheer went up in the little band across the square!
Afterwards, the Pope met with his cardinals and scholars, and they were befuddled, confused… So they asked him, “Your Holiness, what happened?” The Pope wiped his brow because of the strain of the debate, and he exclaimed, that man must have been a scholar in disguise…
He was a brilliant theologian, a master in debate, as good as any of us!
You see, when I first raised my finger, I proclaimed that God reigns in the whole sky… But then he reminded me that the Devil rules over Hell, and judges those on earth….
The second time, I raised my finger to declare that God is One! Imagine my surprise when that fellow responded by first putting up one finger and then three- thereby proclaiming
Our own sacred teaching that God manifests himself as the Holy Trinity!
Well, now I knew that I will not get the best of him arguing theology, because he was a genius, so I tried to trick him by claiming that new fangled, non sensical theory I have been hearing about, that our earth is round, so I showed him an apple…. Well, then he took out a flat piece of bread, and proclaimed what we teach- that the earth is flat! So, I had to concede! He had won!
By now, the small band of Jews had returned to their beloved synagogue, and they were bewildered at their good fortune, and so they had to ask the janitor what had happened! The janitor was indignant. The whole thing, he said, was a bunch of rubbish!
Look, first that Pope moves his hand like he s telling all the Jews to get out of Rome!
So, I pointed downward to say, we, Jews are not going to move!
So then, he points his finger right at me… So I point back at him to warn him, if he said once we had to leave, I would say three times, we are going to stay!
Next, he pulls out his lunch, so I pulled out mine!
Ah, how our perceptions dictate their truth and their silliness to us….
May we all become more aware of how something really is rather than judge by how it appears!

Resources for Invocation/Opening Words and Benedictions/Closings Words

Glory Be To God

Glory Be to God for dappled things- For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; flinches wings; Landscape plotted and pierced- fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift; slow; sweet; sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him!

Gerald Manly Hopkins

Love Flows
Love flows from God to humanity without effort
As the birds glide through the air, without moving its wings-
Thus they go whithersoever they will, United in body and soul

Yet in their form separate- As the Godhead strikes the note, Humanity sings! The Holy Spirit is the harpist, and all the strings must sound, which are strung with love.
Mechthild of Megdeburg
I Thank You God

I thank you God for this most amazing day; for leaping greenly spirit of trees
And a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural, which is infinite
Which is yes…

(i who have died, am alive again today. And this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
Day of life and love and wings; and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

How should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any- lifted from the no of all nothing- human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
e e cummings

I see humanity as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfillment only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent crossing and selection.
In the span of my own lifetime, I have observed such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles of simple and rational living.
We must return to nature, and nature’s god.
Luther Burbank

An Interfaith Prayer for A World Religions Service for Charleston and Orlando

June 27, 2016 - 11:55 am Comments Off on An Interfaith Prayer for A World Religions Service for Charleston and Orlando

An Inclusive Prayer for Remembrance
(an opening prayer for an interfaith service
The Charleston and Orlando tragedies)
June 26, 2016

Holy One, Source of All that which lives within, among, and beyond us; Hear our prayers of recalling your truth and remembering the value of Your sustaining love and care…

We are gathered here to recall those who have died, and to remember, that is will be up to us, the living, to actively honor their memory; We are being called back to our true selves, our best selves whenever we reflect on our sincere and lasting intentions for peace, benevolence, and understanding…

We are gathered to recall the essential facts of our lives- that we share this one world and our humanity as one. Together, we make its elevating possibilities manifest, and we also make visible its shortcomings for all to see… As Teilhard de Chardin puts it:
“[We are one, after all… you and I… Together we suffer, and together we exist, and together, we can heal… ]”

We gratefully admit that we have been given the gift of life, and what we do with it, is our gift back to You… for as Scriptures puts it, We love, because God first loved us… (I John 4)
The monk and mystic, Thomas Merton reminded us that there is a part of us, call it our souls or our hearts, that belongs entirely to God; It is the gift of a pure truth, unending affection, comfort, and affirmation… We must draw our actions from this!

Because of this great gift, there is no tragedy so big that it can rob us of hope, or steal away the resolve that knows, in our hearts, we can do better, we can love more deeply, and we must share it more widely- that this love we bear knows neither race nor gender, nor class, nor status; It cares little for political debates, unless they truly serve dignity, equality, and justice…

Holy One, the One Reality we share, we gather here this day to remember… and to know in our hearts, that we are to come together and grow beyond our illusions of our separate egos, and become, in Your name, one harmonious and loving whole;

We remember our fractured innocence, we know we can repair our wholeness, and we can come back together as friends, families, and as citizens to promote peace, and understanding.
We remember that we belong to one another as there only one race, one planet, and there is only one ultimate reality that binds humanity and the planet together- the love of good, God.

Only as we remember this truth, can we become strong enough to face any of our earthly fears… after all, you and I share this world, and we will make of it what we will…
That can be our motive here today… and everyday… that our actions are first directly by a shared compassion and we can choose to be unselfish and charitable towards all…

O Source of Truth, of Wholeness and Peace;
Hear our words this day, words spoken and sung that come from many sources, that will together express our shared hopes and universal desires… . Grant us a holy audition, so that we can hear, not just with our ears, but with our hearts…

May this time together, this time of recalling and remembering, stay with us, serving to initiate any needed changes, serving to strengthen our resolve for the future …

The future we wish to create and promote for our planet, for our lives, and for our children…

Amen; Salaam; Shalom; Namaste; Blessed Be!

20 Quotes from Carl G. Jung…..and some articles and thoughts including an excerpts from his work, The Red Book

May 22, 2016 - 1:11 pm Comments Off on 20 Quotes from Carl G. Jung…..and some articles and thoughts including an excerpts from his work, The Red Book

20 Profound Quotes By Carl Jung
That Will Help You To Better Understand Yourself
and Some excerpts from Jung’s writings including
The Red Book

by The Minds Journal Editorial · April 19, 2016

One of the things I love about Carl Jung is the fact that he was a deep philosophical thinker who examined all aspects of the self when writing about the human experience. As you will see in the quotes below, Jung was clear on the notion that we are spiritual beings, and that having a spiritual relationship with oneself truly helps us to understand the deeper aspects of who we are.
To some, this idea translates to religion — to finding solace in the existence of something greater than yourself — but I believe this to be a fickle form of spirituality, and one that does not truly help a person get to the core of who they are (or, alternatively, who they are not).
According to www.cgjungpage.org: “Carl Jung was one of the creators of modern depth psychology, which seeks to facilitate a conversation with the unconscious energies which move through each of us. He contributed many ideas which continue to inform contemporary life: complex, archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus, personality typology, dream interpretation, individuation, and many other ideas. He had a deep appreciation of our creative life and considered spirituality a central part of the human journey.”
This summation of his life and work connects deeply to what Collective Evolution is all about, and shares much in common with what inspired me to create this platform in the first place. In putting together the quotes in this article, I gained an even deeper appreciation for Jung and his work, as I uncovered the conscious themes that were apparent throughout his teachings. He was clearly a deep thinker with an intimate knowledge of his inner being.
Jung also had an appreciation for astrology which, over the past few years, I’ve begun to understand more and more and see profound value in. I’m not talking about opening your daily paper and reading your generalize horoscope, however, but true astrology. Something many of us have never been properly exposed to and thus don’t understand the real meaning of or value. (Maybe we’ll have to make a short documentary on this one day!) Note from PEL: Please see my listing and descriptions on astrology on my website pages…
But enough on my own musings — onto the quotes! Here are 20 from Jung that I feel not only serve as an accurate representation of his work, but also provide much to reflect on.

20 Profound Quotes By Carl Jung That Will Help You To Better Understand Yourself
1.”One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”
2. “Don’t hold on to someone who’s leaving, otherwise you won’t meet the one who’s coming.”
3. “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
4. “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
5. “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
6. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
7. “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
8. “If you are a gifted person, it doesn’t mean that you gained something. It means you have something to give back.”
9. “Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”
10. “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
11. “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”
12. “Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
13. “Depression is like a woman in black. If she turns up, don’t shoo her away. Invite her in, offer her a seat, treat her like a guest and listen to what she wants to say.”
14. “A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”
15. “Your perception will become clear only when you can look into your soul.”
16. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
17. “What you resist, persists.”
18. “A dream is a small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens up to that primeval cosmic night that was the soul, long before there was the conscious ego.”
19. “We may think that we fully control ourselves. However, a friend can easily reveal something about us that we have absolutely no idea about.”
20. “Everything about other people that doesn’t satisfy us helps us to better understand ourselves.”

“If you give up your self you live it in others; thereby you become selfish to others, and thus you deceive others. Everyone thus believes that such a life is possible. It is, however, only apish imitation. Through giving in to your apish appetite, you infect others, because the ape stimulates the apish. So you turn yourself and others into apes. Through reciprocal imitation you live according to the average expectation. The image of the hero was set up for all in every age through the appetite for imitation. Therefore the hero was murdered, since we have all been aping him. Do you know why you cannot abandon apishness? For fear of loneliness and defeat.”

“To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. If you want to create yourself then you do not begin with the best and the highest, but with the worst and the deepest. Therefore say that you are reluctant to live yourself The flowing together of the stream of life is not joy but pain, since it is power against power, guilt, and shatters the sanctified.”
C.G.Jung.

Though you want to flee from yourself so as not to have to live what remains unlived until now.But you cannot flee from yourself. It is with you all the time and demands fulfillment. If you pretend to be blind and dumb to this demand, you feign being blind and deaf to yourself. This way you will never reach the knowledge of the heart. The knowledge of your heart is how your heart is. From a cunning heart you will know cunning. From a good heart you will know goodness.
So that your understanding becomes perfect, consider that your heart is both good and evil. You ask, “What? Should I also live evil?” The spirit of the depths demands: “The life that you could still live, you should live. Well-being decides, not your well-being, not the well-being of the others, but only well-being.”
C.G. Jung, The Red Book

The psyche is the greatest of all cosmic wonders and the sine qua non of the world as an object. it is in the highest degree odd that Western man, with but very few and ever fewer exceptions, apparently pays so little regard to this fact.
Swamped by the knowledge of external objects, the subject of all knowledge has been temporarily eclipsed to the point of seeming nonexistence.
C.G. Jung, 1946 Collected Works 8, para. 357

Not nature but the “genius of mankind” has knotted the hangman’s noose with which it can execute itself at any moment.
C.G. Jung, 1952

Nothing worse could happen to one than to be comletely understood… One would be instantly deprived of one’s personal raison d’etre if one were. I’d hate it myself… Understanding is … at times a veritable murder of the soul as soon as it flattens out vitally important differences. The core of the individual is a mystery of life which is snuffed out when it is “grasped.”
C.G.Jung.

“The living spirit grows and even outgrows its earlier forms of expression; it freely chooses the men in whom it lives and who proclaim it. This living spirit is eternally renewed and pursues its goal in manifold and inconceivable ways throughout the history of mankind. Measured against it, the names and forms which men have given it mean little enough; they are only the changing leaves and blossoms on the stem of the eternal tree.”
C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.
C.G. Jung.

Synchronicities are those moments of “meaningful coincidence” when the boundary dissolves between the inner and the outer. At the synchronistic moment, just like a dream, our internal, subjective state appears, as if materialized in, as and through the outside world. Touching the heart of our being, synchronicities are moments in time in which there is a fissure in the fabric of what we have taken for reality and there is a bleed through from a higher dimension outside of time. Synchronicities are expressions of the dreamlike nature of reality, as they are moments in time when the timeless, dreamlike nature of the universe shines forth its radiance and openly reveals itself to us, offering us an open doorway to lucidity.
He who enters into his own must grope through what lies at hand, he must sense his way from stone to stone. He must embrace the worthless and the worthy with the same love. A mountain is nothing, and a grain of sand holds kingdoms, or also nothing. Judgment must fall from you, even taste, but above all pride, even when it is based on merit. Utterly poor, miserable, unknowingly humiliated, go on through the gate. Turn your anger against yourself, since only you stop yourself from looking and from living. The mystery play is soft like air and thin smoke, and you are raw material that is disturbingly heavy. But let your hope, which is your highest good and highest ability, lead the way and serve you as a guide in the world of darkness…
C.G.Jung The Red Book Liber Novus.