I Am Freedom

nowIt started by marking the killing of Medgar Evers, then revisiting the March on Washington. I also went to see The Butler and last night,  I watched a PBS special on the music of the Civil Rights movement. I, (along with many of you) relived a fifty-year-old decade last week.

There was a lot going on in the Sixties. Dreams ignited everywhere and movements formed around those dreams. Sometimes the dreams collided with each other.

When the media tells the story, it is about just one aspect. In reality, there was a magnificent pattern happening. As I run the newsreel in my mind, I see a great flowing river of historical change. It is like watching the old ideas slip off the cliff and new ideas rise toward the limitless sky.

Social class slid down. Color blended. Conformity died. Change exploded fast and loud. It was the Sixties. I was a part of it and I have never been the same. Neither has the nation. Dr. Raymond Charles Barker tells us that a consciousness, once stretched, never returns to its original shape.

The Sixties were a visible, rebirth of ideas. Other movements sprouted in the wake of the Civil Rights decade; the women’s movement, the anti-war movement, and the gay rights movement all began in that decade. We wanted it all and it was confusing.

We are still a long way from having it all, but we haven’t returned to the original shape either. No matter how much our legislative dinosaurs struggle to erase progress, freedom will not be stopped. The cat is out of the bag. The fat lady sings.

The Sixties were a great moral victory for all of us. Afro-Americans deserve to be singled out, acknowledged and celebrated. Their unique story captures our hearts and demonstrates our best. Now we must connect the dots and see that poverty, easy guns, unjust laws, unequal sentences, and poor education are more than an just an incomplete picture. They are seeds of despair we do not want to see sprout. There is much more to do.

The Sixties featured a decade of young people in an inspiring reach toward freedom. It was also a decade of faith, courage, and connection. TV was a powerful new medium and so we all witnessed a great moral struggle. We saw that the black hats were on the white guys heads and vice versa. Clearly. We saw that Love says yes. Fear says not-so-fast.

I was 30 and I thought I knew things. I’d heard the facts and read my history. I listened to gospel and folk music. I’d even attended an interracial camp when I was 15. Bayard Rustin taught me protest songs. I had black colleagues who were friends.

I knew nothing. It was terrible to see those young men and women huddled to protect themselves while the police terrorized them. I’d long ago lost my Christian faith but I could see they were believers. I knew I couldn’t put my life on the line. Those kids shamed me.

TV cameras were magic then. We weren’t used to watching war while we ate supper. TV hastened change and stole our innocence.

It took us time to learn that the cameras couldn’t tell the whole story. Today, as I watch events, I am more sophisticated. I know I see  the tip of the iceberg. I know my channel leans left and someone else’s leans right. In those days, I was only suspected I was witnessing the great rebirthing of iealism. The women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement, and the civil rights movement were all part of my daily news. They all called for more freedom to exercise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The loving connection between the  young people who risked their lives was the distinguishing aspect of the early Civil Rights Movement.  It was obvious those kids were living their Christian lessons they’d learned in their  churches. They were willing to turn the other cheek. They inspired white kids to join the movement. That brought more TV cameras.

We watched kids stand together and sing as they were beaten, then led off to jail.  Many adults did not even have courage to watch anymore. As a nation, we were shamed into changing.

Certainly, the civil rights of the Sixties was based on Christianity and the faith was impressive. Not all the ideas came straight from the Bible, however.  Many depended on the Transcendentalists who were our adopted ancestors. Our founder, Dr Ernest Holmes, was very inspired by  Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Walt Whitman,  can also claim a piece of the Sixties uprisings.

It was Emerson’s 1863 essay, Nature that set off our quest for self-reliance, self-trust, and the certainty that God is present everywhere. His essays  Self-Reliance, The OverSoul  and other topics presented influential ideas for  modern theologians and everyone else.

Emerson’s  friend, Henry David Thoreau wrote his1846  Essay of Civil Disobedience in a Concord, MA jail. Thoreau’s belief that an individual’s personal conscience was more important than civil law was exported to India where Ghandi adopted it as a rationale for fighting against Colonial rule. Thoreau influenced Ghandi and Ghandi influenced Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a circle of enlightenment and Civil Rights  was an uniquely American movement.

All the freedom movements of that era had roots in Emersonian values of self-reliance, self-trust, equality and dreams of a classless society. If you are a follower of New Thought, you are connected to the greatest minds and ideas the USA ever produced. Those ideas are alive and well today.

I am certain that if Thoreau was reincarnated into the Sixties, he was writing another manifesto from jail. Margaret Fuller certainly would have burned her corset and Walt Whitman would have been reading his poetry at the Stonewall Inn during the first gay resistance in 1969..

When we think of the 1960’s, we think of social action and breaking down the old society.  However, not all young Americans were sitting around San Francisco smoking dope. Nor were they all in Southern jails.

Many of them were reading, learning, believing and teaching ideas of self-reliance, inner guidance, and trusting yourself. The Bible was important to Civil Rights. Emerson and other the other Transcendentalists were also important. It took a lot of history to create a unique decade like that one.

Those freedom dreams of the Sixties are still pushing us. Yes, we have a black president. Yes, we have come a long way. Yes, there are some promises that are not yet realized. Yes, the dream is alive and well. Say Yes!

Ask Yourself

Do I feel free?

What would I need to believe to feel free?

What steps might I take toward the dream?

Do I feel connected?

What would I need to believe to feel connected?

What steps might I take?


The New Transcendentalists

Walden PondMy friends, the Zagwyns, are in Massachusetts this summer so they sent me photos of some Transcendentalist landmarks, including Walden Pond. They knew I’d love to see and hear all about this amazing spiritual vortex. This is the birthplace of the Transcendentalist movement and New Thought followed closely behind. I like to think of us as the New Transcendentalists.

 If you attend a Center for Spiritual Living Center or follow New Thought some other way, your lineage includes a group of distinguished American thinkers called Transcendentalists. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman are among them. You have a very proud heritage.

The early New Thought writers all quoted Emerson and for many, many years, he was the best known, most quoted and most widely read of all American authors. For example, my mother could quote Emerson poems by heart.

It is difficult for us to imagine how much impact Emerson had because his ideas are all around us today and they don’t seem that original. However, he was a revolutionary influence in the fields of philosophy, religion, and literature. His ideas about finding God in Nature, self-reliance and trusting ourselves branded the character of this nation as democratic and self-reliant.

Emerson was trained as a Congregational minister but he did not believe in some of the rituals, including communion. He decided to become a writer and platform speaker instead. In 1836, he published an essay called Nature. It was not particularly well received but now it is a standard reading in college English classes.

The same year Nature was published, Emerson helped establish an informal group popularly called the Transcendentalists. This group originally gathered to discuss new ideas from Europe; instead, they became the birthplace of independent American thinking. The Transcendentalists were important founders of abolition, women’s suffrage, and authentic American literature as well as opening up traditional religious thinking.

Emerson was the central figure in the movement. During the next fifty years, Emerson wrote and spoke all over the nation and in parts of Europe. His essays included SelfReliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws and the Over Soul. Our CSL class on Emerson includes these and other essays as well as some history of the era.

So many of the ideas and attitudes that we think of as distinctly American come from the works of Emerson and the Transcendentalists. It is hard to imagine a world without them. It is also extremely difficult to imagine Religious Science without Transcendentalism.

Emerson found God everywhere and Ernest Holmes accepted the immanence of God as an absolute truth. Emerson said we should be self-reliant and listen to our hearts. Holmes believed that our intuition was a pathway to God’s wisdom. Emerson wrote, “To thine own self be true”. Holmes said, “Every man knows the truth.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born 1804 and died 1889. He was Harvard educated but he urged American intellectuals to take a self-reliant attitude and stop looking toward the European past. He consistently called for an authentic American voice in literature. Emerson said many wise things, including “Imitation is suicide.”

Ernest Holmes was born 1902 and died 1956. He was a self-educated thinker who combined Emerson’s idealism with mental healing techniques. The 1937 Science of Mind Textbook is one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

The two men lived in entirely different worlds, even though they were New Englanders, because of the differences in life at their different times. Despite these material differences, Emerson and Holmes had much in common. Both were born into families with dominant mothers and absent fathers. Both had brothers, but no sisters. Both men were precocious, avid readers and showed amazing promise at an early age. Emerson entered Harvard at 14. Holmes dropped out of school because he was bored and studied independently.

Both were born in New England. Emerson lived his whole life around Boston – most of it in Concord, and that was the vortex of intellectual power in his time. His neighbors and friends were some of the most brilliant people in US history. Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Parker and in New York City, Walt Whitman were all his good friends.

Holmes chose to move to the creative center of his time – Los Angeles. His congregation was filled with movie stars, and one of his main financial contributors was the man who subdivided Bel Aire. The Institute he established included Asian religious leaders, college professors and psychologists. Holmes’s open mind blew away any narrow idea of religion. The teaching was called Religious Science because he viewed life as a whole, with no split between science and religion or the visible and invisible worlds.

Emerson and Holmes shared a similarity in temperament which was instrumental in making them great leaders in thought and in life at the same time it was a result of their beliefs. They were both happy, well adjusted, loving men. In his day, Emerson was often described as sanguine, which means he was never ruffled, and always optimistic. Holmes was also sanguine.  A woman who attended my church used to go to hear him in earlier times. Once, I asked her, “What was he like?”  She thought quite a while and finally said, “He was a merry little man.”

Both men were generous. During Emerson’s lifetime, he supported his mother, brothers, friends, including the Alcott family for most of their life. He also very generously sponsored the publication of other writers works. Stories about generosity abound about Holmes’s as well. They both lived well and neither was interested in amassing a lot of money. They expected it to be there.

Emerson and Holmes shared many beliefs. They both believed in idealism – that is they believed that behind every material experience, there was a spiritual cause. They believed in abundance – that is they could share their wealth, give of themselves, circulate freely and there would be enough to go around. They believed in self-reliance, that is, that the final authority in our lives is within, that we must look within to find our unique and individualized truth.

They believed in the sacredness of life – all life. Neither man distinguished good and bad aspects of life, but they saw only good. They were both fascinated by Asian religions and incorporated compassion and detachment into in their teaching. Nevertheless, they remained Westerners. They believed in the innate value of all people. They recognized that all of us have a divine origin and nature.

This is your lineage. If you have studied Ernest Holmes, you have also studied Ralph Waldo Emerson. Their wisdom is available to you as a gift from the Universe. Say thank you and accept; happiness, peace, idealism, optimism, self-reliance, sacred life, and all the other components of their enlightenment.

Ask Yourself

What would I like to accept from Holmes or Emerson?

What would more self-reliance feel like?

What would more self-love feel like?

What would _____ feel like?

Where can I learn more?

Sunday, Beautiful Sunday

dreamI am speaking at the Center on Sunday. Since I created 50 new talks a year for many years, I’m not nervous. I know that one way or another, I will say, “Your consciousness creates your life and you can change your consciousness.”

For example, when I retired I expected a life of leisure but I kept thinking of new ideas and saying yes. Now, I ask, “Where did my free time go?”

As we move up the ladder of life, things don’t always change quickly. For example, my life continues to attract work because I hold onto my love of work. We all have repeats of success and failure in areas of our lives and the question is whether the repeated experience is OK. We make the choice.

Our Positive Living Centers are devoted to helping people change the parts of their lives they want to change. The way we change our lives is to change our consciousness and spiritual practice is the simplest way to do that.

On Sunday, I will be as clear about that process as I can be because I know Sunday church is the start of spiritual practice for most people. There are many other opportunities but church attendance is usually the opening tool to lift up our consciousness.

What the speaker says on Sunday is important and I will do my best but my talk is only a small part. The decision to suit up and show up for church is the real starting point for consciousness expansion.Everyone who is there made a personal decision and their choice demonstrates an intention to have a better life.  I discovered attending church made my week go better many years ago.

Even after I made a conscious decision to use Science of Mind in my life, I still had difficulty hearing the message. In the beginning I heard, “If you have trouble, it’s your fault.” I was so full of regret and guilt that all I could hear was blame. I must have heard something else however, because I kept  coming back.

I was aware of my first real shift in consciousness when I found Dr. Raymond Charles Barker’s Power of Decision.  The book was so clear that I believed I’d found the key to the kingdom. The idea that my ability to change my life began with my personal decision to do so made perfect sense to me.The message that it wasn’t God’s will but God’s response to our messages fit into what I knew about psychology and what I was learning in 12 Step programs.

Reading is a great spiritual practice. So are classes. I began to take classes and that really helped me let go of the past and look to a better future. Classes give you a chance to ask questions and get direct responses so they are very powerful change agents.

Classes challenged me to pay attention to my thoughts and helped me monitor progress. I could actually prove this stuff in my life. In the midst of a group of like-minded people, I found I could really see change in their lives. I reasoned if it worked for them it was surely working for me. The teaching began to seem less fanciful and more practical. I began to dream bigger dreams.

One major attraction for me to the New Thought teaching was that good old American value, Self-Reliance. I loved the Emersonian attitude of being free from conformity and trusting yourself. I also loved the idea of rescuing God from a human-like description and recognizing God as the Creative Intelligence in every aspect of Life.

As a literature major, the intellectual authority of the Transcendentalists was important to me. Since I already knew about Emerson, Fuller, Thoreau, and Whitman, I felt more comfortable with our teaching. And the Transcendentalist political action suited my beliefs.

We come to understand and use the teaching in a variety of ways. It has been my privilege as a teacher to see many students accept New Thought without doubt, almost from the day they arrived. More than one colleague tells me when he or she knew was introduced to Holmes’s writings it was immediately clear it was the Truth.

We are all different. My doubting Thomas attitude served me well in some ways. It has made me a thorough student and given me the ability to explain things well. It took me longer but I eventually came to a place of trust.

The Hindus tell us there are several paths to enlightenment. We know about Hatha Yoga, the physical path, but there are also paths of service, of love and of the intellect. In New Thought, we must find our own path based on our own consciousness.

Our individual consciousness is a collection of ideas, beliefs and emotions taken from personal experience and cultural influences. Many believe it also contains remnants of past lives. We are all unique  individualized expressions of Life and so we all have unique consciousness.

My path to full acceptance of the teaching was based on the intellect. It was work but I had nothing more important to do. What is your path? And how do you discover it?

I believe that the best way to find techniques that help you expand your consciousness begins in your home church or center. Your will find like-minded people who share your interests. You will also find a bookstore devoted to the practice of consciousness stretching.

All centers offer classes with excellent teachers. Most offer workshops and activities that offer you chances to grow. Certainly, volunteering can help you open up in wonderful ways. Making the choice to help make the coffee can be a turning point in your life. Selfless service is priceless for expanding your life.

Wherever you are when you read this, I invite you to attend your nearest church next Sunday. Whether the speaker says anything you can believe or agree with or not, you will find opportunites there. You will find paths to changing your life by changing your thinking.

Once you begin to send lighter and brighter messages to the Universal Mind we call God, everything will become lighter and brighter. If you want to change, you can do it. If you want to celebrate what you have without listening to others, you can do that. You get to design your life with the help of the Power For Good in your life that you are always using.

 Ask Yourself

What was your first step into belief in Science of Mind?

What would you like to change in your life?

What do you want to keep?

How might you begin or deepen your spiritual practice?