I think spiritual revelation is a lot like psychic revelation. The problem doesn’t so much arise when humans receive profound wisdom as it does when humans interpret profound wisdom.
For example, I like to think that Charles Filmore had a spiritual revelation about the supremacy of life; that you are not form enjoying temporary life but that you are life enjoying temporary form.
And instead of interpreting that there must be higher realities beyond this one we currently explore - this earthy reality of form - I like to think he interpreted that the spiritual life, done correctly, would leave us in these physical bodies forever.
The revelation was solid, you see. The interpretation - problematic.
Besides, I don’t know about you, but I really look forward to the idea that I might trade this model in on a shiny new model someday. No time soon, mind you. I’m not in a hurry.
But I really look forward to the idea that I might trade this model in on a shiny new model with a stronger back, a quicker mind, a wiser heart, a deeper faith, quiet joints.
Unity’s Poet Laureate James Dillet Freeman suggested something similar in one of his poems about death, and it reads:
He [or she] has put on invisibility.
This I know, although the road ascends and passes from my sight, there will be no night;
that You will take him gently by the hand and lead him on along the road of life that never ends;
and he will find it is not death but dawn.
Our life did not begin with birth, it is not of the earth;
and this that we call death, it is no more than the opening and closing of a door–
and in Your house how many rooms must be beyond this one where we rest momently.
I think the same idea applies to heaven and hell. Solid revelation. Problematic interpretations.
Redemption, salvation, sin and so forth? Solid revelation. Problematic interpretations.
I like Connie Fillmore’s five tenets. I’ve interpreted the first four as God is, I am, I express, and I pray.
Meaning, there is one life behind all of life.
Though imaged and named variously, as we say, there is one life, there is one beings-ness, there is one is-ness behind all life. And this is important because though that one life is imaged and named variously, as humanity comes to grasp the singularity of that which we image and name, our tendency toward adversity gives way to a curiosity.
“How do you image and name it in your tradition?” we might ask.
And our tendency toward judging gives way to an honoring.
“Wow, I can totally see why you image and name it as you do,” we might admit.
And our tendency toward separating gives way to a reaching toward.
“Maybe your tradition can enrich my tradition,” we might suggest.
There is one life behind all life and because of this, you are of it. You are of God. Whatever its nature is, your nature is.
This is tenet two, or I am.
And while there are those who would consider such a bold statement to be blasphemous or arrogant, I would suggest the opposite to be more appropriate: that for humanity (particularly modern people, really) to claim that it can, somehow, exist outside of capital-E existence is far more problematic.
You know, we’re living in the wake of millennia of entertaining an out-there god of maleness, unpredictability and fickleness. What do we have to lose by considering an in-here god of life, wisdom and love? We’re living in the wake of millennia of entertaining our human fallibility. What do we have to lose by entertaining our divine possibility? We’re living in the wake of millennia of a collective low esteem. What do we have to lose by welcoming a universal inherent worth?
And if we can consider that not only is there such a singular ground of all being, and that we’re expressions of this singular ground of all being (along with all of life), tenet three suggests that we are spinning our individual and collective (especially collective) experiences in accord with our cooperation with it or frustration of it.
In a sense, we are spinning our individual and collective experiences in accord with our relationship with a divine flow that knows how to do life in general, and life as humanity in specific.
It’s my belief that so many of the challenges facing humanity today are the result of our collective and ongoing frustration of this divine flow.
Let’s assume that the universe has no favorites among its creation, for example. Then wouldn’t human racism seem to frustrate?
Let’s assume that the universe holds it creation to be worthy of incarnation. Then wouldn’t human cruelty seem to frustrate?
Let’s assume that the universe knows how to provide for its creation. Then wouldn’t human greed seem to frustrate? Jesus spoke to this when he cautioned against just storing up stuff and things on earth (or in this world of form). He went on to suggest through his grand series of affirmations (we call it the Lord’s Prayer, by the way) that the universe meets the demands of each day with daily bread.
There’s your affirmation for today: The Universe meets the demands of this day with my daily bread.
What if you could trust – deeply trust – that the demands of that which is before you today have already been met? That you need not spend so much of your precious mental and life energy fretting and complaining and cavorting and projecting about some hypothetical world?
Let’s assume that the same universe that can demonstrate balance among spinning planets can demonstrate balance among varied species. Then wouldn’t human overbuilding, overreaching, over-polluting, over-accumulating seem to frustrate?
Tenet three might suggest that we are to become the purest vessels we can become – in thought, in belief, in word, in action and in relationship – for a ground of being that knows what it’s doing; for a divine flow whose wisdom grace would be made visible through our right relationship with it.
And tenet four would say that if you – through thought, through belief, through word, through action and through relationship – don’t like how you’re expressing that ground of all being; meaning, if you don’t like how life is showing up for you (maybe you think you’re frustrating the divine flow), you can change.
Tenet four says that you have tools, practices and technologies to support you. And while they include prayer and meditation, affirmation and denial, service and study, I would suggest that tools, practices and technologies expand to include anything and everything which seem to lift you into a state of higher consciousness.
Tenet four would say:
If nature lifts you, nature becomes your prayer.
If music lifts you, music becomes your prayer.
If exercise lifts you, exercise becomes your prayer.
If beauty lifts you, beauty becomes your prayer.
If art lifts you, art becomes your prayer.
Prayer, then, is any technology which seems to lift you into higher states of consciousness.
And higher consciousness isn’t best likened to a vacation spot you want to stay every September but a new neighborhood you seek to inhabit every day.
It’s not where you want to visit. It’s where you want to live.
Now, from what I can tell, I think such a lifting does two things. I think higher consciousness lifts us higher as individuals and calls us closer as peoples. Higher consciousness ever beckons us as individuals to grow and us as peoples to soften; it seems to challenge the countless excuses we make for our individual smallness and the endless arguments we make for our collective separation.
Ultimately, higher consciousness seems to affirm that you are more and that we are one.
That’s why we – at Unity in Lynnwood - embrace those from all faith traditions, you see. All faith traditions offer invitations to lift into higher states of consciousness and we get that.
And that’s why we – at Unity in Lynnwood - embrace those who claim no faith tradition whatsoever, without any suggestion that you should be otherwise! For higher states of consciousness are not exclusive to religion. Life itself offers invitations to lift into higher states of consciousness.
In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that the call to higher consciousness doesn’t rise from human faith traditions so much as human faith traditions rise from the call to higher consciousness.
So let it be said that you’ve found an intentional spiritual community that believes your soul’s work can be accomplished in a temple, in a synagogue, in a mosque, in a church, in a forest, in a concert hall, in a good book or in a long overdue hug with a loved one.
So God is. I am. I express. I pray. And finally, I like to distill the fifth (and final) tenet as “I do.”
Essentially, Unity would say that for as much as you might enjoy a really good Sunday service, for as much as you might enjoy great music, positive words, empowering thoughts, paradigm shifts, great people, an overdue forgiveness, a quiet moment – for as much as you might enjoy all of that – it will do little for you unless you find ways to make it real in your life.
In other words, Unity’s fifth tenet seems to echo the popular adage, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Simply going to a certain church doesn’t change you. Simply parroting a rote creed doesn’t change you. Simply adopting an empty ritual doesn’t change you. Even uttering the best affirmations and denials written by the most enlightened beings doesn’t change you. Unless and until you let them change you. Unless and until you do that, you’re still standing on that same busy corner praying as flamboyantly as you can instead of going into your closet, closing that door and doing your personal work.
So, the obvious question becomes, “Well, just how do I do that?” And while there are common and valid responses such as prayer, meditation, affirmation, denial, service and study, I don’t think we need to be so limited, predictable or (dare I say it) even so highbrow.
How about you get up tomorrow morning asking, what alienated person needs to be seen by me today?
And how about you get up on the next morning asking, what bold possibility might be entertained by me today?
And how about you get up on the next morning asking, what lingering tension might be softened by me today?
And how about you get up on Thursday morning asking, what rigid separation might be removed by me today?
And how about you get up on the next morning asking, what egoic position might be abandoned by me today?
And how about you get up on the next morning asking, what wonderful progress might be celebrated by me today?
In other words, how about getting up every day asking, how might I become a vehicle for the elevation of individuals and for the unity of peoples today? How might I become proof of the possibility that, indeed, I am more and that we are all one today?
That’s how you make it real. That’s how you make it practical.
That’s how you repurpose reading this message from being a spectator to being a charging station – for sharing something of a restored, renewed, revived, rejuvenated, revitalized and reinvigorated light with the world which we share.