Maya Angelou closed the Kwanzaa documentary with those words. I have no idea if they were written for her or if they were original, but I do know that watching TV documentaries is fascinating – especially the historicals when you’ve lived through those times.
I remember when Kwanzaa was invented (1966), or at least I remember when it became well enough known to attract the attention of white liberals. It seemed, at first, like one more example of a rising interest in African culture. I had no idea that it would become a nationally known week of celebration of the spiritual values that made an ethnic group great.
I didn’t imagine we would routinely celebrate Kwanzaa rituals in the church I founded. Of course, in those days, I couldn’t imagine founding a church. Some things look inevitable in hindsight, but they were impossible to imagine as you headed into an unknown future.
If you learn much about history from TV documentaries, you see that all constructive change movements represent the opening minds of many people. It’s not a movement if it’s only you and a couple of friends. There is an old joke about the important guy with megaphone trotting beside the parade shouting, “Slow down so I can lead you!”
History is like that. An event happens – Rosa Parks says she won’t move to the back of the bus and history happens. Cassius Clay says he won’t go to war and history happens. Betty Friedan writes a book and history happens. Or so they say.
The truth is that history only happens when a critical mass is ready to ignite. There was a whole lot of preparation for the Montgomery bus strike. Many young men and women were against the draft and Vietnam war. Many young people decided they wanted to change from “slave names” to African ones. Many women loved Friedan’s book and untied their apron strings and burned their bras.
It takes more than an isolated event. Constructive change needs to attract a crowd. There are many ways to prepare people for taking steps forward.
We reach consensus by talking in small and large groups, in classrooms and through media. Popular culture prepares people to change. That is why dictators hate open discussions and free press.
Totalitarian leaders seem to need to close schools, shut down the press, squash artists and burn books as quickly as possible. If you want to build and preserve a dictatorship you must stop conversation about change as efficiently as possible.
We live in a nation committed to freedom and we are currently experiencing a strong resistance to change. When we look at how Congress is paralyzed, we see the messy side of democracy. We despair of our ability to change in the direction of equality and justice for all but it will happen.
Education and the arts are important if constructive change is to thrive. When looking backward the power of the arts is clear. Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit did more to awaken the conscience of the nation than any one thing. Right now, millions are singing the Peace Song every Sunday morning. That song will accomplish as much as a treaty.
Just signing an agreement doesn’t make change happen. Slaves were emancipated over 150 years ago but some people are still working in appalling conditions. Women have had the vote since 1920 but we still get less pay. Someone could write a book called Aunt Tommi’s Cabin and show the poverty of single mothers for the heartbreaker it is.
In this modern age, I suspect that TV documentaries are best for promoting constructive change. God bless PBS. News stories also change minds.
Certainly, the civil rights movement owes a lot to news reporting. It was ordinary people who linked arms and sang as they overcame fear and violence and marched into the 1960’s. It was ordinary reporters who covered those marches.
When I look at the past, I am encouraged but things never move fast enough to suit me. It’s not enough to have a black president although it is a beginning. There is so much to be done it makes me want to jump on my soapbox.
We need major reforms in education, immigration, health, prisons, and money equality. We need to elect more women to public office. There is more but we need to tackle this now.
I am optimistic about change because so much has been achieved in my lifetime, especially for middle class blacks and young women. These changes tend to mask the number of older women and single mothers who are trapped in poverty. It also masks the appalling unemployment rate among black men.
I’m not doing much but watching documentaries at this point but it’s fascinating to compare TV history to my own personal movie. As I look back at my life, I’m grateful that I was as outspoken and on the side of the angels as I was.
I’m also moved to write an occasional social action piece on my blog. I continue to send money to causes and write letters to politicians. These are two possibilities for anyone who wants to help make constructive change.
My spiritual choices are the most important thing I do. My New Thought religion doesn’t tell me how to vote or what to say, but every time I say, “There is a Power for Good greater than I am and I can use it,” I am empowered. You are also.
I believe that spiritual beliefs based on Science of Mind can unlock many constructive changes in individual lives and also make a big difference in our common culture. Think about it. When we locate God in the present, living within each person, we’ve declared independence.
The mere idea that God is the Creative Power of the Universe and not an old white guy in the sky shifts the power base. We become spiritual revolutionaries.
Once we accept that everyone is a spiritual being with equal access to God, we are denying that anyone is more important than any other. That is radical thinking!
I believe we are living in a time of spiritual liberation or revolution. When you learn you can take charge of your life by changing your thinking, you stop looking to outside authority . We are making a great shift in our belief about where the power lives. What used to be “the best kept secret” is becoming a common idea.
I’ve seen it coming for a while. When people started quoting Oprah instead of ministers or priests, I knew we were enjoying a great sea change. The fact that she is a black woman is a harbinger of change.
Like all great movements, it’s complicated and will take time. There will be resistance but the ruling hierarchy is in big, big trouble.
I am not impatient because I have a dream. I dream I’m one of a gathering crowd of spiritual revolutionaries who know we have a God-given right to Love, Light, Prosperity, and Wisdom. We are claiming our Divine Inheritance as we practice the principles of Love and Light. We are spiritual leaders riding the waves toward life-changing acceptance of Spiritual Truth.
How have I changed?
How do I want to change?
Do I need to release fear or doubt about change?
Am I ready to change any behavior now?
A friend, who was born in 1908, taught me to say, “Another day to be glad in” the first thing every morning. She learned it from her mother who was born around 1880. I now teach it to people who were born in the 1990’s. That’s how wisdom grows, expands and evolves.
Some people are certain life is getting worse, not better. They talk about the “good old days” when life was simpler and better. Some believe in places like Shangri-La, ignoring the fact that the old movie is Hollywood fiction. Other people believe in lost islands of perfection such as Atlantis where everyone was spiritually advanced.
Actually, life is getting better all the time because we gain wisdom as we age and we learn from our mistakes. We impart that wisdom to the next generation. Individual lives vary but in general, we are living better now than we did in the past.
Being a caveman or woman makes good reading in the funny papers but there was no fire to keep us warm or cook our possums. And can you imagine childbirth in the Middle Ages? How about illness before we knew about germs?
There were some dreadful side effects to the industrial revolution but we enjoy the inventions the Age of Progress brought. Technology has improved many things. In my lifetime, I have seen so many labor saving and entertainment devices introduced to my home that it is hard to count them all. I once lived without TV and hung my clothes on outdoor lines.
Our emotional and spiritual natures have also improved. There was a time when theologians seriously doubted if women had souls and witches were burned at an astonishing rate. Only men could speak in church and women had to wear hats so their flowing locks wouldn’t tempt the men.
It’s fun to daydream about Somewhere Over The Rainbow where troubles melt like lemon drops but it simply isn’t true. Life was harder in the old days.
We are much better off today. Travel is easier. Food is better. Health is better. Our collective wisdom has improved things. Slavery may not be totally eradicated but it is rare and considered criminal instead of normal. Child labor is frowned on everywhere and usually against the law. Thank God we educate girls in nearly every part of the world.
I also believe that people are growing wiser and kinder every day. Think about it. Aren’t you growing more loving and less judgmental as you mature? Aren’t you more interested in others than you were as a self-centered teenager?When life is longer and gentler, it follows that people treat each other better.
Ancient Egypt was supposed to be the seat of all spiritual wisdom but it was a brutal place for the average man who lived to be 35. Longevity enables us to mature spiritually. The phrase “We are one,” takes on deeper meaning when we have young loved ones. Every age brings special joys.
We tend to glorify childhood but if you watch the park playground, you will notice that children are just learning to share. In fact, sharing is a major part of the kindergarten curriculum. Yes, I believe we are created as perfect, whole and complete and I observe that it takes most of us a while to discover our perfection. Most of us improve with age.
We love the innocence of childhood but innocence implies the need to learn. Yes, kids can teach us some things but most of the time, we must teach the children. If the Master Teacher really told us to become like children to enter the gates of heaven, we shouldn’t take that advice literally. No sensible adult aims for a return to childhood. We call that senility.
It’s best not to take the Bible literally. I would interpret the phrase “become like little children” to mean releasing the resentment and pain of the past. And the best way to release those old grievances and sad stories is to live in gratitude each day.
Wisdom can be learned and taught and that is how humans fulfill some of their spiritual potential. We are here to express God and the goodness of life and we expand in spiritual wisdom as we remember to be grateful. In New Thought, we define God as an ever-expanding evolutionary principle. Spirit is Infinite Power, Infinite Love, and Infinite Possibility. That word infinite means no limits. Spirit has no limits and neither do we.
We also know that we bring more of what we focus on into our lives. We keep our thoughts as light and bright as we can to bring more lightness and brightness to us. Over the years, I have learned to train my mind toward optimism and to lighten my dark moods.
How about you? Do you start your days with joy and enthusiasm? Do you believe life is good and getting better? Are you willing to learn? Do you want better days?
If you wish for better days but doubt the possibility your life could improve, why not experiment? Start a simple spiritual practice based on thanksgiving. Gratitude is a powerful tool and everyone can use it to kickstart the Law of Attraction.
What works for others must surely work for you because we are one. I’ve learned to use one of the simplest and most effective spiritual practices I’ve encountered in my many years of study.
Here it is: Before you finish your first cup of coffee in the morning, write “Another day to be glad in,” in your notebook. Then list ten things (or more) that you are grateful for.
I believe you will find this is truly a mind and heart expanding practice, especially as it becomes a treasured habit. It will work in any situation. I’ve seen it pull people out of deep depression when practiced faithfully. I’ve often had it turn around a day that promised difficulty but turned out great. Gratitude is a lot like magic.
There is always something to be grateful for. There are always people you love, natural things you admire, entertainments you enjoy, a some surprise event like a baby’s smile or a phone call to enjoy and put on your list.
Your list doesn’t have to be complicated. Just note the simplest things, like your coffee, your doggie, your petunias, tomorrow’s football game or your favorite aunt’s name. By making the list, you take control and you will no longer feel so helpless. It will lift your spirits.
We can all control our emotional mindset if we acquire simple techniques such as gratitude lists. It took me a long time to learn that truth but I accept it now. I used to want to blame conditions or other people but I rejoice that I am in charge of my emotional life now.
Wisdom grows through our experience. Because we are intelligent humans, we can also learn from other people’s experiences. Even a simple idea such as taking charge of our emotions can be learned through practice. Sometimes it takes a while to embrace obvious truths but it can be done.
What’s on my list today?
I read a novel set in Portugal in the 1700’s. Although it was not a violent book, the Inquisition loomed in the background and eventually some of the major characters were burned at the stake. The story disturbed me, as stories about religious fanaticism always do.
I thought it was a good novel about interesting people but at the end the writer obviously thought the Protestant religion was best because it was so sane. However, I know there were many witches burned in Protestant nations in that time.
I thank God every day for my religion where I learn that God is love and fear is only a mistake or error.
Most of the terrible things like war, pogroms and ethnic cleansing come from fear. So do the personal terrors such as economic disparity, prejudice, crime and abuse. Fear creates problems such as suspicion and sleeplessness in our daily lives also. Fear of the unknown creates trouble on personal, tribal, national, and global levels.
This week, people are caught up in the story of Trayvon Martin’s death and rightly so. Whenever a young man is tracked and hunted because he is a different color it is a cause for national concern. I understand the jury has spoken and that the trial it is over. Somehow, we must choose Love rather than despair.We must trust Love.
Perhaps Trayvon’s death will awaken people and they will see there is more to be done about fearful laws, fearful guns and racial divides. We cannot just elect a black president and say it is over. We must find a way to help people release fear and move into acceptance, and Love.
New Thought people are leaders in acceptance because our teaching is steeped in the belief of Oneness. I am feeling very much at One with Trayvon’s parents this morning and so are many others. I hold them in Love and I choose to respond to the nonsense in the media with Love. It is my attitude of choice.
Fear and Love are attitudes and we all slide up and down the scale, just as we do with hot and cold, happy or sad, healthy or well. We all have mixed bags of choice and we are not always logical. One person fears immigrants but loves to travel. Another person loves people but fears animals. Nations with borders either love or fear each other. When did we last hear anything mean said about Canada?
Fear can elect politicians and impact laws. We build fences and place armed sentries at gates to keep out people whose labor we depend upon. Gated communities are built in fear. In some places, kids must walk in groups to school because they live in fearsome neigborhoods. Fear is contagious but Love overcomes all.
Sometimes a mild form of fear is useful. I check the date on my refrigerated food. I wear a hat in summer and a jacket in winter. I even fear the company of some people enough that I avoid them.
We are constantly picking positions on the attitude scale. These choices should be conscious instead of automatic. When we are conscious, we choose Love because it is our true nature. We choose Love and we avoid spats, arguments, and even wars. We choose Love because it expands joy and brings adventure, wisdom, and happiness. We choose Love because it reinforces our true God-self.
Choosing Love is easy to practice in small ways when we are conscious. We might even make a game of overcoming fear. We might be brave and try a new restaurant or make a new friend or join a new group.
Choosing a new restaurant is a long way from the Spanish Inquisition – of course it is. But the fear that keeps us in a rut is a small version of the fear that created the Inquisition. It also created segregation and racial prejudice. Fear creates wars. It also creates great havoc and pain on all levels including our personal life. It is good dispose of fear and move toward Love.
Your choices help yourself and they also help everyone else. Our collective consciousness if made of individuals like you and me. Anytime we choose Love over fear, we move everyone forward. In the next few days, think about your current choices. Are they Love based? If not, are there alternatives? I trust you will all take a small risk toward more and Love and Life.
Some of us may be tuned into fear-based news media that makes it seem as though our nation is filled with threatening strangers and the world is terrifying and evil. If that is our news source, we need to change the channel. Fear is contagious and so is Love. Fear is a habit and so is Love.
Developing the habit of making conscious choices based on Love makes a difference in our planet. We can’t heal it all alone but we are not alone. Let’s open up to Love with ourselves, our family, our friends, and all the other people on the globe. Let’s accept Love as normal. Let’s stop resisting change and diversity.
If we only speak to people with our same opinions, who look like ourselves, in our neighborhood, and in our own age group we might as well talk to ourselves. I love my marvelous friends, not just for our agreements, but also for our differences. They enrich and enlarge me.
In New Thought, we believe that all human beings are expressions of God. We all come from One Source and that Source is the Creative Energy of the Universe and it is Love. Fear is error or a mistake. We do not waste our energy fearing life or reacting in anger to someone else.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Why not take that as an affirmation to use in the context of your personal life?
Small choices matter. Here’s a personal example of fear and error can change. Rev. Debby and Rev. Mattie added a ritual to our Sunday service after I stepped down as pastor. They brought in a traditional candlelabra and I’ve never liked ritual because of my childhood religion. In the first weeks, of candle lighting, I feared the change. I thought, “Why talk about the Truth found in Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity or Islam during a New Thought service?”
I truly love Rev. Debby & Rev. Mattie and I loved their leadership so I was silent. Every Sunday a congregant lights candles honoring the major faiths. Then we are asked to look within and light our own personal candle of Love and Light.
Thank God, I didn’t choose to be the crow who croaked, “That’s not the way we used to do it.” Thank God, I chose Love instead of fear because candle lighting is now one of my favorite parts of the service.
How is fear holding me back?
What are my choices?
Where shall I begin?
My two students completed an exam from CSL headquarters that took more than seven hours. That more or less finishes their work with me and moves them into their last year of ministerial studies. I am certain they did well on the test and I am certain they are already wonderful ministers. I could not have had more beautiful people for my last ministerial class. Thank you, God!
It’s been two years, but it seems like yesterday that we started. In another way it seems as though we’ve been meeting every Wednesday since we were all teenagers. That can’t be so, because one of the students is actually my daughter.
My other good news is about a long running national struggle and the opportunity for me to release a personal grievance. The Supreme Court announced two decisions that will change the lives of gays and lesbians from this day forward.
The first had to do with Prop 8. Here in California, it looks as if CSL ministers will be performing same-sex marriages again. I look forward to it. The other Court decision gave me personal joy and I am finally ready to release an old grudge about a gross insult and injustice against my dear, departed friends whose story parallels the Supreme Court case…
When I lived in Massachusetts, I had two wonderful friends. We were extremely close for many reasons, including sobriety, political opinions and loving to laugh. We also had a great deal in common because of our successful years in education.
One of my friends was a retired high school librarian. Her partner was a retired administrator in the same school district. By the time the first partner died, they had been together 37 years and were living in a upscale retirement village in North Carolina.
I was back in California by then, but we were still very close. When Mary died, I flew out to help Betty. She thought it would be simple since they had shared everything for so many years.They’d been to a lawyer, made their wills, and everything was owned jointly. So she thought.
Betty believed her income would be lower but that she would still be well-off because they had done everything they could to legally tighten it all up. She knew she couldn’t inherit her partner’s pension, etc., but she expected the current assets to be slam-dunk. Maybe it would have been in Massachusetts.
We were stunned as the lawyer explained that the surviving partner had to pay an enormous amount of North Carolina State inheritance taxes to settle the estate. I don’t remember it all exactly, but I know she had to pay something like 25% taxes on half of everything because they weren’t married. When it was over, Betty was in much worse financial position than she’d expected.
These were two women who had worked hard and supported themselves since they entered college in the early 1930’s. One typed other student’s papers. The other waited on tables. Neither of them would have finished school without a desperate need to move up in life. They were ambitious and they needed those teaching credentials to be self-supporting.
They were a generation older than I was and I knew what it had been like for me so I admired them very much. They were very successful (for women) in their day. Remember, there were no women in corporate hierarchies and women’s colleges hired only a few women professors. They really did well for their times. They earned their money. Mary taught night school adult classes. Betty made a library training film and self-published it way back in the 1950’s. They were quite frugal, worked hard, and were conservative in their lifestyles. They did what they could to take care of business.
These women were the kind of school teachers who have almost disappeared. Those best and brightest women have mostly now gone into higher paying jobs now. They were “good” women. Well meaning, respectable, quiet and non-assuming. They took care of things, minded their business and expected courtesy from the world. In the education field, in my day, women like these were fairly common. They were the first “don’t ask, don’t tell” group.
Anyway, my friend Betty took the financial blow without quite understanding what went wrong with their plans. She was in shock over the death of her partner and she didn’t complain, but I was astonished and outraged at an amazing injustice! In retrospect, I think they failed to check out North Carolina inheritance laws before moving there, but women of my generation (even lesbians) didn’t know much about money management.
All this happened twenty years ago but I remembered it well. When I first read about the lawsuit Edith Windsor brought before the Supreme Court I got mad all over again. Her story was almost the same as Mary and Betty’s. The difference was that Ms. Windsor’s married her partner in Canada in 2007. My friends weren’t married because they didn’t have that choice. Many people who love each other still don’t have that choice.
As of yesterday, the Supreme Court declared in favor of Ms. Windsor. She gets to file a joint income tax return and new financial rights for survivors of same-sex marriages are established as the law of the land. Ms. Windsor gets to keep her rightly inherited money. I now release my old grievance and celebrate the future happiness of new friends. I think many people can understand that people deserve to marry if it means financial equality so I look for more states to make same-sex marriage legal quickly.
Things have turned around in many ways. I celebrate the gay rights movement for continuing to hang in there on equality issues. As time moves along, common sense does prevail. I try to remind myself of that when I see what’s happening right now on voter rights. That issue didn’t fare so well in the Court but I know that change is coming.
No matter how slowly, we are climbing higher on the good sense ladder of social issues. We should never, never give up.
It is important to positively persist. Those who hang on to the dream, do prevail. I learned this as a writer when I was starting out. I learned it again when I started the Center For Positive Living more than 20 years ago. I was reminded of it yesterday when my students took their ministerial test and I was reminded again when I read the news today.
But this is a day to celebrate and I do! I celebrate my students. I celebrate my friends’ love! I celebrate gay rights! I celebrate what’s coming on voter rights! I celebrate this day! We shall never give up. Never let the dream die. We speak our truth and keep on keeping on!
What three things can I celebrate today?
What dreams have I pursued and caught ?
What is my dream now?
How shall I pursue the dream now?
Last week, I wrote about my wonderful, spiritual town where I live in. At that exact same time, one nearby neighbor shot and killed another neighbor, apparently over a bush trimming feud. When I saw the police cars and TV van, I almost pulled my blog. Instead, I decided to leave it longer than usual. My neighbor’s truth is not my truth.
Everything I wrote about my town is true. Even the TV and newspaper stories started with phrases like “quiet, peaceful and upscale neighborhood.” The facts remain the same except last week we had a murder on my street. No one expected it but it happened here.
Violence happens all the time somewhere in the nation. My neighbor’s quarrel should have been settled reasonably between two sane people. I believe it might have been settled rationally if no one had a gun.
Beyond the news stories, I cannot make a judgment about the case, but I am free to make the judgment that there are many too many guns around. I realize that stricter gun laws might not have had any effect on my neighbor’s dispute but I do believe that new gun laws are desperately needed.
We must speak out! I hope everyone who reads this will take a stand and urge his or her leaders to continue to push for gun control legislation. When the great majority of citizens are in favor of tighter restrictions, shouldn’t politicians respond? Does money talk louder than the lives of innocents?
Yes, I have heard all that Second Amendment hooey. The Second Amendment was put in the Constitution to protect the American Colonists against the English in the 1700’s. It seems as archaic as Bible laws against eating pigs or shellfish to me. The dietary laws met a health need thousands of years ago but we have food inspectors now.
I know that my comments may sound simplistic but it does seem simple to me. Of course violence would still continue to happen, but if there were fewer guns in this country that would surely slow down the killing.
I’m glad people are talking more seriously about making neighborhoods safer by enacting stricter gun laws. This morning it seems as if we might see a tighter background check law get voted on and passed in the Senate. It is a beginning but there is so much more to be done.
Big city mayors have organized and been speaking out for several months now. Unfortunately, the mayor’s group represents cities, and many suburban folks who felt safer couldn’t hear them. Things have changed.
After the killing of 20 children and their six teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary School, everyone was shocked and it seemed they might be ready to listen. We dared to hope that some good would come out of the Newtown CO massacre.
The death of those innocent children dented in our hearts, They seemed like “our kids”. We already knew about random violence in less privileged neighborhoods but this time, there were so many children killed at once. And they were so young and from white, middle-class suburbs.
I’m certain we would say that a child of the ghetto or barrio deserved as much safety as a child of the suburbs. On the other hand, as I learned last week, it is easier to ignore issues when they happen farther away. Sandy Hook felt closer to home for most of us.
Many of us tried to imagine what it would feel like to lose a young child in the first or second grade to mass gun violence. My heart breaks when I think about it.
There are neighborhoods where death by gun violence is common. Sometimes it is gang activity and everyone involved a teenager. Sometimes random fire strikes a six year old. Can you imagine what it would be like to raise a child in one of those neighborhoods?
Whether in suburb or city, age six or sixteen, life is precious. There are far too many children in the USA who are endangered by guns. We know this and we also know that limiting access to guns would help. That’s why such a large majority (approximately 90%) of voters favor of stricter gun controls.
When politicians put powerful lobbies ahead of representing their constituents’ desires, it is time to elect new politicians. We can change the rules. Politicians who resist gun control legislation can lose in the next game. Why re-elect someone who represents the NRA?
Violence has many facets. There are other things we can do besides limit gun access. We certainly need to curtail the violent video games, and the violence in movies, and on TV. It is a strange world where young people are entertained for hours by playing killing games. Not a good idea – as any psychologist will tell you.
Some of the same people who agree with me on guns will be against censorship of volence. They will quote the First Amendment quicker than the opposition quotes the Second. Neither the First nor Second Amendment is sacred.
Truth is, we already censor free speech in many ways. Liberals should not be afraid to ruffle the feathers of the Hollywood money birds. We are hypocrites if we are not willing to attempt to curtail all violence by saying, “Enough!
As a part of my New Thought spiritual practice, I have avoided violent films for years and I think it is a very good idea to keep your mind clear of violent entertainment. Why fill your head with nonsense? You may believe believe that Django is great art but that is not my Truth.
We also need to find new ways to identify and help individuals with mental health issues. That said, the most immediate need and the most logical place to start curbing violence is with gun control measures.
It looks as if we will get a vote on a background check bill in the Senate very soon. Please do what you can to help it pass. It’s not enough, but it is something. Let’s take what we can get as quickly as we can.
When the bill passes the Senate, it goes to the House and your representatives need to know you want something done. Contact the men and women who represent you NOW. Let them know what you believe and why. Tell them you are watching their votes and that it is important to you.
Whenever someone tells me that a proposed law is not enough, that the problems will remain, I remember the starfish story…
There was once a young man who walking on the beach who came upon hundreds of starfish washed up on the sand. He started picking them up, and throwing them back in the water. His companion said, “Forget it. There are too many dying. It won’t make any difference.” The young man threw two more starfish into the water and said, “It made a difference to those two.”
Remember – Political Action Works!
Do I agree?
Is there anything I can do?
What shall I do?
When shall I do it?
I can’t let March go without writing this… New Thought deserves a very special place in Women’s History. Did you know that New Thought was the first church to have women ministers? Did you know Emma Curtis Hopkins was a leader in the women’s movement?
One reason I was attracted to New Thought in the first place was that women had an equal voice and there were a so many women ministers in our churches.
Recently I read that since the beginning of time, women have been more interesteed in religion than men are. I don’t know if that is true but I do know that I’ve never attended any church anywhere when there weren’t more women that men in the pews. Nevertheless, I’m almost positive we remain the only denomination with more women than men behind the pulpit.
New Thought was started in the 1880’s when the women’s movement was gaining steam but the real reason we allowed women equal power in our churches is because of what we teach – our basic theology. We define God as Creative Intelligence that is present everywhere, and is all powerful and all Good.
God is not an old man in the sky fighting a big battle with a smaller man in a smokin’ red suit from down below. God is neither male nor female but encompasses everything. Since God lives fully present in each of us, we all have equal access to the Power For Good and we can all use it.
Women have been the leaders in our teaching since the very beginning. One early leader, Emma Curtis Hopkins (1855-1925), is credited with being the founder of New Thought by many scholars. I am in that camp. I believe Hopkins was the true founder because she clearly articulated the ideas of the teaching as religion and her writing is still taught in our churches.
Others say Phineas P. Quimby who learned about Anton Mesmer’s early hypnotism and experimented with the principles of mental healing was the founder, but although he believed in mental healing, he did not believe in organized not religion. It was his student, Mary Baker Eddy, who combined his mental healing techniques with religion and who founded Christian Science. Her churches are not considered New Thought.
Emma Curtis Hopkins was a former school teacher who was a divorced woman with health and financial problems. Hopkins studied with Eddy and split away to form her own teaching. Over a period of years, she built a wide-spread work and earned the title, Teacher of Teachers.
She taught thousands of people including the founders of the three major New Thought denominations; Unity, Divine Science and Religious Science. She also taught Anna Rix Militz who founded the California-based Home Truth and many others who founded large works at that time.
Emilie Cady was in Hopkins’s first class and Cady is author of the famous Unity text, Ten Lessons in Truth. Later Hopkins taught Unity founders Myrtle and Charles Fillmore . She also taught Malinda Cramer, and the other founder, Nona Brooks, learned from a student of Hopkins. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins later in her life.
I have always been fascinated by Hopkins and her colleagues because they lived in a time when women were pushing for the vote and for equal opportunity. Most of these New Thought pioneers were divorced or widowed women who travelled from town to town, staying in people’s homes and teaching any beginners they could attract. They were truly very brave.
Some of them, like Hopkins, were charismatic enough to draw big crowds (as much as a thousand) and even start schools. Others labored in the vineyards with little notice, crisscrossing the nation by railroads and opening minds and hearts.
They were teaching philosophy and religion in a time when most women worked at uneducated, menial jobs and/or housework. They were harbingers of the New Age of Women. Some, like Helen Wilmans and Hopkins, were active in the Women’s Movement and others were simply active women.
Wilmans was active in the labor movement as well as creating a mail order books, lessons and distance prayer business in the town she built in Florida. She was hugely successful for a while and known as a political activist as well as a prosperity teacher. No one knows much about her today.
Emma Curtis Hopkin’s fame remains but people don’t know she taught leaders of the Suffrage Movement. Of the 22 graduates of in her first graduating class, 20 were women. One was Helen Wilmans. Two others were the very active, well known suffrage activists, Louisa Southworth and Elizabeth Boynton Harbert.
What’s more, Hopkins Metaphysical Association had a booth in the Women’s Pavilion of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair!
Over the years, I have heard many comments bewailing the lack of men in our churches (mostly from women). Almost no one comments about the wonder of having so many fabulous women leaders. We need to look at that and pay more attention to our history.
While the Christian Science and Seventh Day Adventist Churches were American religions founded by women during the same era, those leaders who the founders were male. Our leaders have included both genders throughout our history. The first president of the International New Thought Alliance was the noted writer and magazine editor, Elizabeth Towne.
Some people know that Quaker women played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights but not many know that New Thought women were also involved. Other people associate the Unitarian-Universalist Churches with social action and that is certainly true. It is also true that they had very few women ministers until the 1960’s.
Both Unitarian and New Thought teachings are descended from the Transcendentalists and we both claim Emerson as one of our ancestors. I am also very proud to also claim early feminist, Margaret Fuller, first editor of the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial as my ancestor as well.
Unitarians and the Quakers have been well known for their social activism, while we have been quietly making history for the last century and a half. When I began studying Religious Science, the President of Religious Science International was a woman named Earlene Castellaw. Dr. Arlene Bump was president later. The Rev. Dr.Cathy Hearn headed United Religious Science for many years.
I believe New Thought people should be very proud of our women’s history heritage and make it known. I still have a few copies of a book I wrote ten years ago. I plan to rewrite one of these days and add more about these ideas and new facts. Meanwhile, contact me if you are interested. The book is called New Thought – New Woman, a survey of Women and Spirit from Goddess to New Thought.
Why was I led to this teaching?
How do I feel about a majority of women in my Center?
Am I proud of our New Thought history?
Do I have friends I want to tell about our history?
I just read the novel, Skylark written by my friend Carol Carnes and I am delighted and amazed at its depth and power. Creating a first novel worth reading is quite a feat. It is especially difficult for someone who preaches for a living. I was surprised at how good it was, although I’ve known Carol is brilliant ever since I first met her about thirty years ago.
She wrote the original book, Skylark, in a few long sittings back in 1997 and then she put it away. Then, more than ten years later, she edited it for publication. This is a very different book from her best-selling metaphysical book, The Way In, or her daily Science of Mind blog – firstname.lastname@example.org – that many of you subscribe to.
Skylark is fiction that takes place over a period of many years, jumping back and forth, from the Fifties to 1998. It traces the story of a very fascinating heroine, Harriet, who is an artist with a witty but sharp tongue. There are a lot of interior dialogs and many of them are laugh-out-loud funny.
The novel is not autobiographical but Harriet has a lot of Carol in her because she simultaneously makes you laugh and think. There is a whole cast of supporting characters, including Libby, her dead friend who was Queen of the Rose Parade, and Buddy, Libby’s black musician husband.
Like many first novels, it is a bit jumpy in time and setting. That makes it a little difficult to follow in places, but it is well worth reading. Not only do you get a fascinating look at growing up in the Fifties – just before Civil Rights hit the news, but you get a philosophical question and answer interior dialog that will delight anyone interested in New Thought.
Believe me, this book is not one of those simplistic New Thought semi-novels like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Shack, or The Alchemist. This is a grown up, fascinating novel that would delight any intelligent reader. There’s a lot coincidence, reminiscent of Dickens, in the plot. That might turn off some critics but in New Thought, we know coincidence is often how the Law of Attraction works so it didn’t disturb me. I don’t think it will bother any of you either.
I loved Harriet and all the supporting characters. It really is a delightful read if you like fiction. It is a serious book and the subject matter includes child sexual abuse, racial tensions, recovering adopted children, and women’s issues in the days before Betty, Friedian, Gloria Steinem or bra burning.
The book really is a “coming into ourself ” tale for the main character and many of us will identify with the heroine. Harriet has a compelling issue with being “seen”, and accepting success. I was right there with her on that one, as many other readers will also will be.
The glue of the story is the author’s love of jazz. Carol clearly loves her music and she knows every lyric and artist of that era. The pages are filled with references to The Lighthouse, Miles Davis, Billy Holiday and others. Her story is infused with jazz. Her writing style is like a jazz composition. Harriet even has a pet bird is named Coltrane.
It’s always a little scary to read a novel written by a friend. What if you don’t like it? What will you say? I truly liked the book and want to recommend it to you whether you can remember that era or not. It is a window on a time that people thought was peaceful and quiet. Actually, big, big change was right around the corner. Carol has it nailed.
Part of the reason I liked the book so much is that it brought back memories. I can remember when we listened to “race music” on the radio. I’d forgotten all about Hunter Hancock and his radio show but I listened to him in the Fifties. I had also forgotten names of artists like Big J. McNeely and some others who blasted their way into fame. We didn’t all listen to Frank Sinatra or Pat Boone.
I also loved reading about the 1950’s Pasadena days of old money and debutantes. I’m older than Carol but many of our memories coincide. There were several references to trendy clothing styles. When the girls in the book were wearing spaghetti strap dresses, I was the manager of Taffy’s Dress Shop at the Coconut Grove’s Ambassador Hotel. The spaghetti strap was Taffy’s signature style.
Carol also does a fine job with the New York City art scene at a much later time. Actually, her characters, issues and settings are all very authentic. It is a joy to read about a time that you lived in and find the writer knows what it was truly like. I hate reading about those days when the writer was born yesterday. Why shouldn’t they take a leaf from Carol’s book and write about yesterday?
Skylark is a great read, written by one of our finest ministers. If you read fiction, you’ll enjoy the book immensely. If you are a New Thought person, you will enjoy the philosophical discussions Harriet has with herself and her friends. If you are looking for another happy ending you may be surprised.
You can buy it from lulu.com or her website www.carolcarnes.com. $18.95.
Have I read any good books lately?