Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Spiritual Perspective For 2013

I was exchanging holiday wishes with a good friend and subscriber earlier this week. We discussed the rancor of 2012 politics and our hopes for for 2013.  I commented on her New Year’s greeting card she had sent earlier. In it she had written “… I can’t quite remember my early programming, but is fear and greed the result of our original sin?” During our conversation, she mentioned how it seemed to her that human history seemed to operate in cycles. It seemed to her that humankind would take 3 steps forward only to retreat 2 steps, followed by another 2 steps forward and then 3 steps backward – ending up maybe 400 years later with much newer technology but back in the same place culturally, politically, and spiritually.
I believe my friend is correct in the observation of cycles. Here in America, we have gone through quite a few cycles of 3 steps forward only to retreat 2 steps. For example, We have had what historians call “The Three Great Awakenings.” The first was in the mid 18th Century, the second in the early half of the 19th Century, and the third in the last half of the same century (1850-1900). The Third Great Awakening also spawned the era of the Social Gospel, which covered the period from 1890 to the outbreak of World War II.  
Each of these was precipitated by economic/cultural upheavals and associated alterations to our perceived cultural/social/moral values. Each “Awakening” was a step back to recapture perceived “lost” values but each also contained the seeds of further growth. For instance, during the 3rd Awakening there was an enormous movement to recapture personal (almost Victorian) piety, which gave rise to Holiness, Pentecostal and other similar congregations. These, in turn, were very fundamentalist – interpreting the Bible very literally and being rather judgmental in terms of all those that didn’t quite agree with their positions. On the other hand, this emphasis on personal piety gave rise to a strong sense of social activism within the organizational structure of religious institutions – within congregations and denominations themselves. From this came the Social Gospel Movement and its focus on suffrage movements, unionization, the Salvation Army, progressive political positions, as well as humanist philosophies such as the Theosophical Society, to promote care for the health and housing of the poor, needy, and downtrodden.
I do believe there are cycles that societies go through, where there are elements of progressive change as well as elements of severe resistance to that change. In short, there are steps forward and simultaneous pressures to try to step backward.
Since the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, many with a spiritual (not religious) focus have noted that we are moving into another significant social/moral/spiritual Era. Some have attributed this to the Mayan Calendar Cycle. Regardless, we are currently witnessing some pretty significant social and cultural upheavals: The progressive political movement in the USA (with its focus on accepting the growing  diversity of our citizens as well as wanting to modify the growing disparity of wealth) and the Arab Spring movements. This progressive movements is coupled closely with the resistance to these trends – the TEA Party, the Religious Right, fear of immigrants, the perceived battle between “socialism” and “capitalism,” the desire for more personal piety in sexual behavior enforced by laws prohibiting contraception for unmarried women, the stark distinction between voiced social criticism and perceived unpatriotic behavior.
As I stated in my Christmas greeting, I do believe we are moving into another Era – one encompassing the beginnings of an Age of Cooperation rather than Competition, Inclusion rather than Exclusion, Acceptance and Tolerance rather than Self-Righteous Arrogance, the Power of Love rather than the Love of Power. If history holds true as a guide, the old values of competition, power, accumulation of wealth, and very strict adherence to rigid religious dogma will not simply “slip away quietly into the night.”
My friend has asked a very good question for the beginning of the year. “[Within the cycles of history] … Is fear and greed the result of our original sin?”
My short answer: Yes and No. Let me explain.
If I define sin (original or otherwise) as something I have done that violates one of God’s Law(s) and therefore I will be punished – then the answer is “No.” If I define sin as an error (as does A Course in Miracles), in which I have mistakenly come to believe that the reality of this physical world truly exists and I am truly a separate-from-everyone-else biological human being, then the answer is “Yes.” If I perceive I am a physically separate entity in human form, then all other errors of my perception follow from this: Separation, Duality, Lack or Greed, a dog-eat-dog mentality (protect-defend-attack-retaliate). When I think about it, all of these perceptions can be boiled down to FEAR – the opposite of Faith. 
I leave you with several uplifting thoughts as this New Year begins. Hopefully, these might help each of you maintain a perspective about the events that are currently occurring:
  • ·      The powerful experience of inspiration that many of us feel at the beginning of a new year is the recognition that we really can do something that we hadn't believed possible before—that we are capable of breaking through to higher ground and reaching previously unimaginable levels of our own potential. Indeed, the uplifting experience of inspiration that we feel in those moments is the thrilling sense that anything is possible. That feeling of inspiration is a taste of spiritual freedom, because within it we experience liberation from any habitual sense of limitation. —Andrew Cohen. NOTEYou can read the full context for this quote in Andrew's new blog post, "When the New Year Doesn't End"  <>
  • ·      One of my favorite sayings.  “Strive for control over your experience of the events and people of your life – not control over the events or people themselves.”

Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 January, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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