It’s no secret that the path to greater spiritual understanding - and a better life because of it - is not always an easy one.
As I get older and wiser (and admittedly I have been a very slow learner) I find that the less I struggle the more good just shows up, even without asking for it. Especially without asking for it.
The spiritual principles that allow us to live intentionally better, fuller lives are, in and of themselves, simple things, although they do require a high degree of personal commitment, discipline and practice that many of us are just not willing to employ. But, in the end, the reality is, the reward is so great, and the alternative so disturbing, the effort is easily worth it.
Children often grasp at the appearance of short-term gain over the solid rewards of long-term goals. So, a sure sign of spiritual maturity is our willingness to go with what we know to be true over what might seem to be better in the moment.
When life presents us with a challenge, one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines to put into practice is that of looking inward FIRST. The natural immature human tendency is to try to work on an outward effect in our lives, rather than an inward cause. We see the effect more quickly, so we want to go there to hammer out the solution.
But this is literally irresponsible. We are not taking responsibility for what only we ourselves are responsible for. It is a spiritual law that we are responsible for all that we experience, and this is a hard principle to swallow, let alone embrace.
Now it is critically important to understand that this responsibility for what we experience in our lives is not blame! It is not our fault that we are responsible for our own troubles and maladies. But we are not passive victims in our lives, where good things and bad things just happen to us, though good luck or sad misfortune, and there is nothing we can do about it. In spiritual truth, we are empowered, not victimized, and we have a great deal more to do with our life experience than we may want to believe.
But if we are not aware that the solutions to our troubles are intertwined with their causes right inside our own minds, or if we don’t believe that to be the case, then we truly make ourselves victims.
Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over a man who cannot read.”
There is no difference between dying of thirst because we don’t have any water than to die of thirst because we don’t know it’s two feet under our very own feet.
We have know about spiritual laws (principles) and to understand how to access them in order to benefit from them.
After studying the inner workings of the human mind for many years, Carl Jung, the influential founder of analytical psychology said:
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."
That means that all spiritual knowledge – and therefore the solution to every apparent problem - is always already right where we are, because God is all-knowing (omniscient), and God is within us. The “kingdom of heaven” is within us. But it is as easily the kingdom of heaven as it is the dungeon of hell. We create both. This is the wisdom of the ages. So, the best place to seek a solution will also be the place where it arose. Quantum physics teaches that cause and effect are intertwined; two faces of the same coin.
So, what’s the practical application of this knowledge and wisdom that create own experiences of life?
A good spiritual motto to help create the habit of going inward is, “pray first.” Before we react or respond to any disturbance in our lives, let’s first go to the Consciousness inside us and declare the spiritual truth of the matter, which is that the perfect resolution to any trouble is always already here.
In the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, this is the Big Lesson Dorothy learns. Here’s how she puts it:
"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!"
Our “heart’s desire” is to know our own spiritual selves. When we are confronted with discomfort, disturbance or unpleasantness, we think we’ve lost something and if we could just “find” it the solution we would restore our peace. But what if what we’re seeking can never be “lost” because it’s always within us – in our “own backyard”?
To quote my favorite Greek sage, Anonymous, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
This is especially true when somebody really upsets us. Rather than blaming an outside effect, as though we are some sort of powerless victims, if we take just a moment and allow the gateway to peace to be opened, we are empowered to realize that what bothers us “out there” must actually live inside us.
Now, we are all human. If we get caught in the emotional turmoil or confusion of a particularly troubling moment, of if we’re just not paying attention, we need to let ourselves off the hook (reject the habits of blame and shame) and forgive ourselves. Gently. We can always do better next time.
There is no failure, only an acceptance of our “Heart’s Desire” to know the truth, to know God. And we can claim it anytime, anywhere, no matter what the apparent disturbance, for it is truly never anywhere other than in our own backyard.
What kind of God were you raised with?
Was it a distant, judging, somewhat vindictive God.
Was it a kind of Santa God? That’s the God with the long white beard, sitting high up on a cloud, looking down on humanity, giving us wonderful gifts on the one hand (when he feels like it) and smiting us with thunder with the other hand (again, when he feels like it).
It’s a somewhat creepy, if not terrifying God.
You know how the Santa song goes:
They do not come from God. They were invented by people (mostly men), for whatever reason, and at the core of the world’s religious traditions, including the Judeo-Christian traditions, there is a readily available truth about God that is not only positive and full of love and compassion; it makes more sense.
So, let’s go back to the basics of what we in New Thought believe about God and what we teach.
We believe New Thought is an intelligent, effective, proven path to health, happiness and success in life. We also believe at the heart of every world religion, there are universal spiritual principles, which we refer to as “the golden thread of truth.” We teach these principles and practice them to the best of our ability.
We do not believe there is only one “right way” to worship, or experience God. All spiritual paths, practices, beliefs and behaviors entered into with a sincere heart, that do not harm anyone are deserving of respect.
We believe that we are all unfailingly governed by invisible mechanisms of consciousness, which we call spiritual principles, or laws. Just as with physical laws, spiritual laws always enforce themselves. We are not punished for our sins; we are “punished” by our sins, for sins are simply the consequences of impersonal spiritual principles we have not respected. If you do not respect gravity (a physical principle), you will experience a consequence, and it could be serious, even deadly. Same with spiritual principles.
We do not believe that God judges us, based on our behaviors, or even on our thoughts and feelings, then rewards or punishes us accordingly - sometimes.
We believe God is good, and only good. God is good in the absolute, meaning God’s qualities are only qualities of good. God is only light; there is no darkness in God, so God cannot harm or judge us. It’s impossible.
We do not believe God commands us to follow many rules that specify or condemn particular behaviors, or that blame and shame are tools of God, even when used in God’s name.
We believe that the Supreme Consciousness we call “God” is nameless and genderless. For convenience you can use whatever name feels appropriate to you. In the western culture, we generally use God, but there are numerous other names, all of which are valid. Some simply use “Spirit” or “the divine,” but use whatever works best for you.
We do not believe that any one religion holds the “correct” name of God, and that others do not, or that any name is forbidden.
We believe that God is everywhere, including within us. This is called “Omnipresence” and it’s a cornerstone of the divine truth inside the religions of the world. Because God – and all that God is - is everywhere, God is within us. Has to be. So we can commune with the divine whenever we want, just by using our very own consciousness.
We do not believe God is “out there” somewhere, and you need a special mediator to communicate with God. So many people are searching for God. But searching for that which is everywhere is like a fish swimming in the ocean searching for water. We don’t search for God, we recognize God.
We believe in practicing non-judgment. Since this is a spiritual principle, it is impossible to judge another being without ourselves being judged. According to physical law, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In spiritual law, what thoughts beliefs and expectations you put out, come back to you in equal measure.
We do not believe any religion, including New Thought religions, have a special waiver over this immutable spiritual principle and can judge other religions without ramification. Any group who judges others, will be judged themselves.
We believe that heaven and hell are states of mind (or consciousness), which lead directly to our experience of life. What we think and feel work to create all of our experiences. Healthy, constructive use of spiritual principles creates a “heaven” – a life of fulfillment and satisfaction - while unhealthy, destructive use of spiritual principles creates an experience of “hell.”
We do not believe in God’s judgement after we die, where we are sent to hell if God judges us bad, or to heaven if God judges good. Since consciousness cannot be destroyed, and we are ultimately consciousness, we are eternal beings. For humans there is no death, except in our physical experience. Therefore, there is no “after” for which to wait. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness we create right now, and so we can create a new state of consciousness anytime we choose. This is where the term “New Thought” originates.
We believe that evil is the result of embracing the inaccurate belief that we are separate from God or separate from each other. Since there is no opposing power to God, there is no evil as a conscious entity, such as Satan or the Devil.
But let’s be clear about this:
We believe that evil unquestionably exists. While people do engage in destructive, counterproductive and harmful behaviors, this is more reasonably considered evil behavior, not a thing (or a being) in and of itself. And, again, it is always the result of an erroneous thought - a belief in separation.
According to a good many historical scholars, these scriptures were written at a time and by a culture long past, and have since been translated, re-translated, copied, rewritten and infused with the bias of many scribes over time. We believe much of what appears in the Bible requires spiritual interpretation rather than just a more historical approach. The Bible, as with all sacred scriptures, is not as important for what it said as for what it says.
We do not believe in the Bible as a text to be taken strictly literally, or the “inerrant word of God”, but as a deeply mystical and allegorical guide to the operation of spiritual principles throughout history, and in our daily lives. We provide a good deal of experienced education and guidance in this area.
This is but a summary of our basic beliefs about God, religion and spirituality.
I remember when I first learned, many years ago, that what we call The Bible is not what it seems.
First of all, it’s not a book, but a library of books. And those books were written by many different people, and frequently not the people whose names appeared on the book. And these writers, probably mostly men, had agendas and points of view, also not made clear at the outset. They told stories and invented myths that supported their own points of view.
These facts do not illustrate a deception; it’s just the way things were done a long, long time ago. Later I learned that these biblical stories, like all great art, told a lie to tell the truth.
But is it the truth?
I would argue that it is the truth – in many ways, the painting depicts a truth better than if we were looking directly at the woman sitting in front of us.
What we’re looking at, when we look at the Mona Lisa, is Leonardo Da Vinci’s rendering of a woman with a slight smile. It is Leonardo’s opinion.
Does that make it a deception? Obviously, Da Vinci is doing his level best to pretend that the picture is a woman.
Back to The Bible…
What we read in these ancient scriptures today, thousands of years after their original composition, has been copied, re-copied, edited, augmented and then translated into English. Sometimes more than once, from more than one language.
Such is the case with pretty much every document in the Christian scripture, most of which were written in a version of Greek, called Koiné (COIN-ay) Greek, by Paul – the founder of what became Christianity.
By the time we get to Jesus’ own words, for example, somebody – probably several somebodies – tried to remember what he said – in Aramaic - and kept it in their heads for decades before either writing it down or dictating it to someone else. In any event, it got translated into Greek, and written down again. Then, years later, that was translated to Greek and, over time, different versions diverged, and stuff was edited and added to, again according to the religious, social and political agendas of the writers. In 1611 that was translated into English – or rather the official scholarly English of the 15th century, and that’s how we got the King James Bible.
Fast forward to today, and you get something like 900 translations of the Bible into English.
So, there is no official, “inerrant word of God” called “The Bible.” There are only versions of other fragmented versions of dubious origin.
But, like any great work of art (like the Mona Lisa), the truth rises up out of these scriptures and we can see it and hear it. It’s a miracle that the meanings inside so much of Jesus’ teachings survived all these centuries. We can only wonder what did not.
This is why it’s so important to look at the amazing spiritual principles being taught in this amazing literary collection of and understand the truth they contain. When we do this, it’s important from time to time, to uncover the meaning being told to us by understanding a bit about the translation process that got this scripture to our English eyes.
Let’s look at one incredibly important word in the Bible – arguably the most important word it contains: FAITH.
So much of what the Bible teaches has to do with this word, especially in the teachings of Jesus.
There’s a huge problem with the translation of this word from the original languages of Aramaic and Greek into English.
In English, we generally use the words faith and belief interchangeably. But spiritually they mean very different things.
Belief is a noun – a thing. The verb for belief is believe. That’s the action version of the noun, belief.
Now let’s look at FAITH.
Faith is the noun – the thing. And so what is the verb - the action word for faith?
Well, in English, there isn’t one.
When we translate from the Greek (for which there is a verb for faith), we must substitute believe, because we have no other word to use.
If there was a verb for FAITH, it might be FAITHE (rhymes with bathe).
What is this so important?
Because the words have different meanings to begin with, and to simply miss the action word for faith – the verb - leaves us with a weaker version of the word.
If you look up the definitions of belief and faith in a dictionary, you will find that belief is “an opinion”, whereas faith is “belief multiplied by confidence and action.”
So, belief is weak enough that it doesn’t necessarily require action. It doesn’t require than anything happens. But faith is actionable. It requires something happens.
The words are not interchangeable.
Faithing is what makes the difference between demonstrated, answered prayer – something that happens - and nothing. Without an actionable mindset, one that invokes the very picture of things in motion, prayer is just an empty wish. And that action word is missing from our language.
Think about it.
Now, obviously you don’t need to say – or even know – the word, faithe to experience answered prayer. But you must at least have its mental equivalent.
I believe this is just one of the many reasons so many prayers go unanswered. People may believe healing is theoretically possible, but not faithe enough to rise to the level of expectation.
So, you may be asking, “How do I generate such a level of faithing?”
Since faith requires action, take some kind of action. Action exercises your “faithing muscle.”
My twelve step friends are great at this. I once heard one say, “Bring your body; your mind will follow.” In other words, “Keep going to the meetings and eventually that action will lead to your action of sobriety.”
And here’s one of those powerful spiritual lessons from Jesus that survived:
Notice that ask, seek and knock are all action words.
The Divine never refuses the “show me” prayer. It’s the ultimate “ask.” It is the most readily answered prayer known to humanity.
So, ask, seek and knock. And expect an answer. Through the process of active faithing, the world would change overnight.
Nona Brooks, one of the great early Divine Science teachers said, “Our lives are answered prayers.” She also writes:
Use your inborn, intuitive faithing to set an intention to embody an active consciousness of faith. You’ll soon know exactly what to do.
Expect wonderful things in your life in every single moment and watch what happens!
Fresh polls by organizations such as the Pew Research Center and Gallup, Inc. show that the number of Americans who do not identify with any particular religion continues to grow. However, they also report that many identify as being spiritual in some way.
Of these religiously unaffiliated Americans, 37% classify themselves as "spiritual but not religious." They have not all become atheists. They have not lost their faith in God, although they may be redefining what “God” actually means to them. Many of these "church refugees" say they are done with church, but not with God. They are not leaving spirituality, which they feel is personal and intuitive; they are leaving traditional church religion, which they have found to be impersonal and dogmatic.
Put another way, it’s not "church" that bothers them so much as what is expected of them there. Quite a few actually love the community connection they get in their church, and their departure is a very reluctant one. Quite a few are looking for an alternative approach to a spiritual life – one that makes sense to them, doesn’t make everybody else wrong, and doesn’t claim to be the only "right way" to experience the divine in their lives.
A "spiritual but not religious" philosophy that has been offering that alternative for more than a century can be found in the churches and centers of the New Thought movement. For many, these organizations offer a fresher, deeper meaning to the traditional Christian teachings; one where spiritual principles are taught instead of spiritual rules and regulations. This approach to spiritual living resonates very strongly with spiritual but not religious people looking for a less dogmatic, more accessible religious philosophy. New Thought churches and centers such as the Centers for Spiritual Living, Unity and Divine Science, provide a more tolerant, personal and inclusive blending of changeless ancient wisdom and practical, modern spiritual living.
The New Thought movement began at the end of the 19th century as an alternative perception of traditional Christianity. In this view, attention is given to the teachings of Jesus, rather than the teachings about Jesus. He is not considered the literal, special Son of God, but rather a powerfully gifted, mystical way-shower; a great example, rather than a great exception. Since its inception at the end of the 19th century, New Thought has expanded its original Christian viewpoint to accept that all religions have some degree of truth and some degree of error, but there is no one "right way" to experience the Divine in our lives.
However, although New Thought contains within it the meaningful principles of spiritual life in so many different religions, it is not simply a faddish grab-bag of new age trends.
New Thought is not new age, and its denominations are very well structured. They have solid curricula that have been providing a proven track to run on for more than 100 years, and they produce highly competent ministers and leaders. So many people who find their way to a New Thought community are pleasantly surprised that such a spiritual teaching exists. They frequently express that they feel they’ve finally "come home."
I know I have.
About Rev Shaun Furlong
Shaun Furlong is an ordained minister in Religious Science and Divine Science. He strongly believes the path to happiness and fulfillment is one of courageous self-exploration and personal spiritual experience. Anyone who appreciates clarity and wit on his or her spiritual path will enjoy his engaging and illuminating talks, classes and workshops. More>