Archive for September, 2007

What Do I Believe

September 19, 2007

One of my assignments on the path to ordaination in Unity is to write My Credo – what it is and how I came to it.  I’ve decided that I’m going to share what I write on this site.  It will be interesting to see what, if any, comments come from the sharing.

Part 1: 

Our assignment is develop a functional theological belief system – a credo – of the nature of God, personhood, humankind’s relationship to God, and how that belief system shows up in ministry.  We are asked to look at the impact of tradition, culture, scripture, experience, revelation and reason on our developing system.  At this point in the process, I feel as though I am working with the chicken and egg questions.  First I must be able to clearly articulate my beliefs.  Once that is done, the role of tradition, culture, scripture, experience, revelation and reason can be defined – and without a clear understanding of the relevant traditions, culture, experience and reason, beliefs have no true structure upon which to rest.  Alas, the chicken and the egg!

So for me, I’ll start with the present chicken and look back on how the egg formed it and in some cases was broken.  Hey I know it doesn’t quite make sense; just go with it for now!

My Credo on the nature of God, personhood and the relationship of the two today in its simplest form:

  • I believe that there is only one Power and Presence and that that Power and Presence is life-affirming.

  • I believe that I am a hologram of that Power and Presence – one point in that Presence that contains the entirety of that Presence.

  • I believe that “all that exists and beyond all that exists” is that Presence – connected energy – simultaneous energy points and at the same time unique manifestations.

  • I believe that how I think and what I think configure the out forming of that Presence, as the energy that is consciousness moves through that point that is “me.”

  • I believe that how and what I think moves me to consciously experience “feelings” as specific “things”, for “feelings” are energy without charge or meaning until I “think” a label, name, meaning.

  • I believe that consciousness evolves – in individuals and in collectives.

  • I believe that when my thoughts, feelings and actions come from a limited consciousness, I create the perception of a less than whole life. 

  • I believe that conscious use of prayer, meditation, and thought can increase my awareness of wholeness and bring me and my “world” into alignment with that Power and Presence.

  • I believe that my purpose in this lifetime is to consciously experience the oneness in all points of energy and through every manifestation of my thoughts and feelings.

To quote the famous 1st century Rabbi Hillel, “Everything else is commentary”. 

And of course the commentary is the evolving egg.  So how did my present chicken evolve?

I was born into a world where God existed.  There has never been a time when I doubted that there was a Presence.  As a child, that Presence was a very powerful man named God and he had a son named Jesus who was God, just as he was.  I am thankful that that God was, more often than not, loving, kind and caring.  And yet, some of the stories I heard about him were a bit harsh and hard; some of them didn’t quite make sense.   However, what I remember most of those stories was that God would always rescue the good guys if they loved him enough and obeyed him and he was very separate from me.  Actually, it seemed to me at the time that the more important of the two Gods was Jesus.  He was gentle, kind and loving; he always did the right thing – “…obedient even unto death…” – he was “…the way…”

That version of the Presence stayed with me through my formative years.  The family and religious community that I was surrounded by initially gave me no reason to doubt.  The cultural structure of my family mirrored the all-powerful and loving father; its message to me was that I was loved, and conforming to the expectations of the community would ensure that love.  One could be special, but not unique.  And “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Oh, the power of scripture!  Good Christian girls didn’t do a lot of things that other girls could do. 

The church was one of, if not the most important, centers of my life.  All day Sunday church, choir practice, classes, youth activities, special holiday events – all of this was tradition.   Music was also a tradition and for me and my family very significant – my father sang old fashioned hymns to his girls at bedtime.  Everyone in my family sang in choirs and small ensembles.  Every family gathering included time around the piano singing from “The Old Fashion Revival Hour” songbook.   It was important that we “…make a joyful noise unto the Lord…”  The ecstatic experience of singing beautiful music that praised God and, most often, his son Jesus with a group of like minded believers made an indelible imprint on me.  I can still feel the holiness and ecstasy of the moment when I sing certain hymns – so long as I don’t pay close attention to the words!   The embryo that was forming in that egg grew quite strong during this period of my life.

As I grew older, I would occasionally ask a question of family or teachers or church leaders that was slightly off their mark, when something I heard or was taught just didn’t jibe with my perception or understanding.  I remember thinking often, and saying less often, ‘if we only knew what he (Jesus) really said…”

For a number of reasons, which I’m not prepared to put in this paper, I chose to disregard or suppress those “off the mark” ideas, questions and feelings for quite a few years.  Over time I would open up to the questions and ideas as I studied and read a wider range of viewpoints than those of my family and my spiritual leaders.  The feelings – they would take a lot longer to release!  More about this in the next paper.

As I moved into a larger and more expansive world, my version of that Presence changed.  I moved from an insulated, literal and familial world to a world of diversity, with greater depth and breadth of information, and one that did not have the church at its center.  The culture became one of commerce, of travel, of questioning, of challenging.  The Presence still existed without doubt and yet God was different.  Jesus became human and that humanness was powerful and yet antithetical to the Jesus God I had grown up with.   I believe this was when I began my love/hate relationship with him.   God became the Universe – the Great Mystery – the Ultimate Oneness – an intellectual exercise, with brief moments of awe and wonder.    Interestingly, at this same time, I discovered religious ritual in the form of the Catholic and the Episcopal churches.  As my concrete view of “God” began to dissolve into ambivalent murkiness, the ritualistic traditions of the Eucharist and formal meditation reconnected the ‘inner me’ with a long forgotten part of my being and my soul.  These symbolic actions allowed me to bring forth cellular memories of past connections to the Presence that my mind was unable to make in the present.   The words spoken during these rituals were less important than the action and in fact at times they were hindrances.   More on that in next paper. 

 And over time, the energy of those rituals, in seeming conflict with my expanding intellectual understanding of what the world and Christianity were, caused the shell of that egg to crack – and crack rather significantly. 

That crack called into question my basic beliefs about God, about church, about me.  In order to survive, I had to find that Presence within me and I had to find a way to see it externally as looking like me, feeling like me and thinking like me.  Simply put, that Presence had to be at least partly feminine.  During this time however, the Presence never became just feminine.  I knew at some level that would have been replacing one misconception with another.  And I was unable to find an organized religious community that had the words in its lexicon and dogma that would effectively support a true Mother/Father God and one that allowed me to be one with that goodness.  While many of the spiritual leaders I spoke with allowed that God was Spirit and therefore neither male nor female, the words used to speak of God were still generally masculine and always focused on an external presence.  And I was still born of original sin and not particularly worthy.  Talk about confusion and inner turmoil – that crack was getting wider all the time.  And yet I never doubted that the Presence existed – I just didn’t know what to call it! 

During this time, scripture as I knew it – the Bible – became a book to be studied and contextualized.   I could no longer find comfort and inspiration in most of its words.  I recognized the principles and truths written in many parts of it; yet it was not my touchstone as it had been in the past.  I found those same principles and truths in other sources and other traditions.  Some of the “new” sources were actually old and yet they did not trigger the stored negativity of my past when I read them.  Some of the “new” sources actually were from the scientific arena, new words to express what appeared to be a new ‘worldview’ coming from the new physics – quantum mechanics.  David Boehm, Francis Capra, Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Matthew Fox, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Rupert Sheldrake, Gary Zukov,  Riane Eisler, John and Caitland Matthews, Houston Smith, Brian Greene, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton  – these were just a few of the writers who inspired me, challenged me and help me begin to repair that crack. 

In this exploration, my understanding of the Presence made some subtle shifts – I began to know a God Within – that 1st person of the Presence.  The world that I moved in allowed for not only special, it allowed for unique, and that special and unique did not have to be earned, it just was.  This 1st person of the Presence became my growth edge.   The 3rd person of the Presence – the Great Web of Life, the Universe, the All, the vast impersonal evolutionary System, – became clearer and awesome.  I began to truly feel that I “…lived and moved and had my being…” in that Presence.  The 2nd person of the Presence – the Great Thou, the radiant, all-living, all-giving God before whom I surrender in love and devotion – was still shrouded in too much old negative energy of culture and tradition for me to openly embrace it.  And, hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, so they say. 

In the late 80’s, I discovered a community – Fellowships of the Spirit – that was a combination of Spiritualism and Unity.  Through this community, I further repaired that crack and re-nourished the embryo.  I didn’t know a lot about either belief system; however, Fellowships felt right and contained a good balance of ritual and intellect to support me where I was.  The culture was one of diversity, creativity and tradition.   

I had by this time moved away from much of the ritual of the church because I was unable to get pass the words.   This community exposed me to more esoteric writings, traditions and systems centered on spiritual healing and metaphysics.   There were very few rituals and the ones that were present were non-denominational.  Again the symbolic actions triggered cellular memory from even more ancient parts of my soul. 

It was during this period that I discovered the writings of Charles Fillmore.  In his own inimitable fashion, Charles brought scripture back into focus for me.  While his style and his science were slightly outdated, for me his perspective was right on.   Working metaphysically, I was able to revisit the Bible and see it more clearly as a story of the evolution of consciousness for humankind and for myself.  However, I still found that my childhood scriptural indoctrination and historical facts surrounding the book created resistance in me for using the Bible as the first source for inspiration and truth for myself personally.  I believe that this will be an on going process of balance for me. 

I know that the Bible is basic to Unity and I am committed to teaching its stories, truths and principles – to being a bridge over the expanse between the traditional understanding or lack of understanding and the deep metaphysical truths – and discovering and sharing those same truths and principles in newer, more integrative sources and systems.       

I believe that we do ourselves, our co-founders, and “God” a disservice by holding on to forms and words that no longer speak to and support our culture and understanding or that require so much translation as to make the effort almost futile.   The basic principles and truths we claim are eternal and have been expressed by humankind through a myriad of gods, holy scriptures and stories, each perfect for a given stage in human consciousness evolution.  We are at another major evolutionary point and once again the Presence that is in all things and beyond all things will manifest through each of us – holographic energy points – in the way that is perfect for our time and our understanding.  This I believe and the chicken is still evolving!