Epiphany: Seeing an Urgent Truth Revealed

The word epiphany comes from the ancient Greek verb “to reveal.”  The church holy day of Epiphany celebrates the Magi seeing the presence of God—the spirit that created the universe—revealed in Jesus.  The church season of Epiphany is about recognizing that same spirit’s manifestation not only in Jesus but in other people, in nature and in ourselves.

The word epiphany in everyday use means an “aha!” moment.  To have an epiphany is to have an insight that feels like an urgent truth revealed.

Right now humanity is facing a multidimensional global emergency.  We need epiphanies, and we need the spiritual wisdom that the church tradition of Epiphany can reveal, to help us resolve these crises.

Epiphanies pave the path to a new consciousness.  We can help our entire culture move along that path by sharing our own epiphanies of the Spirit’s guidance, and our insights into the purpose for our lives, and our glimpses of the light shining ahead that beckons us toward a healthy, just and sustainable way of living on earth.

The Hubble telescope is a metaphor for what epiphany calls us to do—peer into the depths of the universe within and around us and send back what we find.

This is an extraordinary half-hour film.  You can watch it by clicking on the image above, but I encourage you to read the background about it first at https://deepfieldfilm.com/.  Particularly read about the composition of the music, which is equal in importance to the breath-taking images.  The music is designed to follow the history of the Hubble telescope and to reflect the experience of humanity receiving Hubble’s epiphanies.  The choir that you hear in the vocal portions is made up of over 8000 voices of all ages from 120 countries, and you will see some of their faces at one point in the film.  It is as if the earth itself is singing, and we are merely the part of the earth that was created to attain this universal consciousness and sing its song.  The video is intended to spark epiphanies in us and be a religious and transformative experience.

We need epiphanies now, both ancient and modern.

The Christian tradition of Epiphany comes from the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew where the Magi follow a star to the child Jesus.  The Magi were a combination of contemplatives and scientists.  They were priestly holy people and wisdom seekers who were steeped in the most advanced observed knowledge of nature.  They believed that the spirit of the universe was trying to communicate with humans so they studied the skies for signs and listened to voices in their dreams.

We can look to similar sources for the epiphanies we need.  The spirit that created nature speaks through other life forms to help us understand what it needs from us in order to sustain life.  The spirit that evolved our consciousness speaks to us from our depths and helps us keep evolving.

We need to be both scientists and contemplatives to catch the epiphanies the spirit is trying to give us now.

We need to cultivate our heart’s core, our inner Golden Room, the place within us each where we meet the spirit, where we find the ability to perceive intuitively what God or the universe is saying.

It takes courage to open ourselves to urgent truths because they can be painful.  The second chapter of Matthew describes how Herod responded when he realized that the Magi had disobeyed him.  He sent soldiers to slaughter all the children near Bethlehem two years old or younger.  Humanity’s failures to follow the spirit’s way of universal love can be excruciating to see.

Even beautiful epiphanies require courage to embrace, though, because they lead us into the unknown, which we fear.  They change our consciousness, and they ask us to act in new ways that go against our cultural norms and comfort zones.  Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to save themselves from Herod.  Imagine that.

The epiphanies of ancient spiritual tradition and modern insight are aligning now like Jupiter and Saturn, like the star of Bethlehem.  They offer hope that we might yet save the earth from the crises that humanity’s failure to follow the way of love has created.

We exist for a purpose.

Why did the spirit of the universe that orders the galaxies and created life on earth evolve human consciousness?  The Hebrew wisdom teachers pondered this question thousands of years ago and recorded their epiphanies in the creation stories of Genesis.

God put us in this garden “to till it and keep it.”

We exist to serve life.

Over the millennia we have come to understand that this means our life, but not just our life.  Our family, but not just our family.  Our nation, but not just our nation.

The most urgent epiphany for the twenty-first century is that the creation is truly one, and we need to declare allegiance to all life, especially to the most vulnerable, including strangers and enemies and the ecosystems on which life depends.  We need to think locally and act locally with love and care, but also with an awareness that humans are no longer residents of their local place alone.

This planet is our one and only garden, a small, fragile home we share with all life.

If you travel to the moon and look back at earth you see that it is a beautiful, lush oasis, and tiny compared to the vast desert of lifeless space.  The nearest planet that has the potential to be a garden like earth is 4.2 light years away, which doesn’t sound that far until you do the math and realize that our fastest rocket traveling 20,000 miles per hour would take around 140,000 years to get there.

This planet holds our only chance to survive.  If we wreck it, we have nowhere to go.  If we cannot learn to get along, if we cannot live ethically, if we cannot love and have compassion for one another here, we won’t do it anywhere.  If we cannot change in this generation, humanity may not exist for another generation to try again to get it right.

Every one of us contributes to a cumulative human impact that now literally outweighs all other life on this planet combined.  An estimated fifty-one trillion microplastic particles pollute the waters of the oceans, and they have been found in the waters of the womb as well, and in the air of our cities and the air of our lungs.

Our impact on the earth in one place can lead to a pandemic that infects all places.  The deterioration of the climate from our way of living threatens every species.

Our allegiance to all life as one makes it the urgent responsibility of us each to act in ways corresponding to the emergency we are in—arguably the greatest emergency humanity has ever faced.

The most urgent thing we are called by the universe to learn now is how to manage a planet.

I was thinking the other day about how the “eco” in economy or ecology comes from a Greek word meaning house.  That night I had a dream that I was trying to sell my home.  An authority—a realtor or banker—kept telling me bad news about my house’s value.  First it was devalued because of racism—it had been built partly by enslaved people.  Then it was devalued because of economic inequity—the paid workers brought home a tiny fraction of the what the bosses received.  Then it was devalued because of environmental exploitation—it both wasted and used too many resources.  The list went on until the value was less than nothing—I would have to pay the next owner of my house to take it off my hands.

To manage a planet we first need to manage our own egos—our selfish ambitions, our fear and greed.  We need to learn how to have a wise, mature level of consciousness that is capable of loving all creation as one inextricably united self.

If we can evolve to that new level of consciousness as a culture, then we will naturally learn how to manage our lives as individuals and as societies in such a way that we nurture the life-sustaining health of every ecosystem.  We will naturally live by the Golden Rule and love of neighbor with compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed.  Racial, economic and environmental justice will naturally happen.

Epiphanies pave the path to a new consciousness.

This leads us back to the need to be like the Hubble telescope, with our heart’s Golden Room wide open to the epiphanies that the spirit of love and life and light is trying to help us see.  We need to expand the vision of our hearts and minds, what the ancient Christian tradition calls metanoia, and we need to share widely and compellingly the epiphanies that our expanded vision sees.

Part of what we need is a new story, based on a new understanding of who we are and what our place is in the universe.  Below is the trailer for another remarkable film, this time using words for its narrative.  If you have not experienced it, prepare yourself for more epiphanies and another step on the journey toward the new consciousness humanity needs.

Click here to find your way to the full film and other related resources.

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Resolution We Can Make

“The feast of Christmas is the celebration of divine light breaking into human consciousness…. The joy of Christmas is the intuition that all limitations to growth into higher states of consciousness have been overcome. The divine light cuts across all darkness, prejudice, preconceived ideas, prepackaged values, false expectations, phoniness and hypocrisy…. The kairos, ‘the appointed time’ is now.… Now is the time to risk further growth. To go on growing is to be at the cutting edge of human evolution.…”  Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

This is the calling of every human. To paraphrase the popular wisdom of Richard Bach: Here is a test of whether your consciousness is done evolving: if you’re alive, it isn’t.

The quote above by Thomas Keating was from one of his early books.  Late in his life he spoke at a conference as if continuing the thought:

“Jesus goes on to say…, ‘Everybody who’s a human being is a candidate for this and has the resources to do it, if they will take the trouble to learn how to…let God be God in us.’ And so he says, ‘Anyone at all who brings himself or herself to nothing will find out who they are….’ Who are we at the deepest level? Have we a self at all, or are we really the manifestation of the Divine…? So, the plan is to be God in the humblest kinds of ways. That seems to be the program for this life, so why not…put everything into it that you have?”   Incarnation Continua, from the 2015 Return to the Heart of Christ Consciousness Conference, Boulder, Colorado

We need to put all we have into the transformation of our consciousness right now.  It is a matter of life or death for our nation, our species and all life on earth.

The reason why is that “Transformed people transform people,” as Richard Rohr says.  Transforming ourselves is the place to start in our efforts to transform the world.

World transformation is of the utmost urgency.  We need human civilization to evolve to fulfill the wisdom of all the spiritual traditions that agree on certain fundamental principles that make life ethical and sustainable like the Golden Rule, love of neighbor and universal compassion.

We need to evolve to a new collective consciousness that sees the oneness of all people, creatures and ecosystems on this planet and that recognizes our need for justice, equity and a sustainable harmony between all people and between humans and the earth, as the Earth Charter describes.

Therefore we need to evolve to that consciousness ourselves as individuals.

The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Christian calendar are all about that evolution.

The secular celebration each December 31st includes the ritual of making resolutions.  The most important resolution we can make right now is to dedicate ourselves to the process of personal and world transformation. In other words:

Resolve to evolve.

The wisest have been calling for this since the days of the Hebrew Prophets, Greek philosophers and spiritual teachers in Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist and Indigenous traditions.

Gus Speth quotes many recent voices including Vaclav Havel, Aldo Leopold, Erich Fromm, Thomas Berry and Mary Evelyn Tucker in his lead essay in the book, The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities.

Gus says, “What these authors and many others are saying is that today’s challenges require a rapid evolution to a new consciousness. That is a profound conclusion. It suggests that today’s problems cannot be solved with today’s mind.”

So how can we evolve as quickly as we must, both as individuals and as a global culture? Continue reading

Gandhi’s Path of Higher Power: From Zero to One

This post includes two four-minute clips from the classic 1992 Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi.  The first sets the context for the Salt March that was a turning point in the Indian struggle for independence.  The clip at the end of this post shows more of the March itself.

“There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effect.  This comes when he reduces himself to zero.”  (Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in Eknath Easwaran’s book Gandhi the Man p114)

The Indian National Congress issued its declaration of independence on January 26, 1930 and raised a new national flag.  The masses of the Indian people were ready for an uprising.  It was a conflagration waiting for a match.

Yet the British Empire did not flinch.  The Indian National Congress made demands and pursued negotiations, but it was clear that the British were not ready to give up or even compromise significantly.

The pressure for change among the people was gaining in intensity.  Everyone knew that either a massive nonviolent action would take place or violent revolution would break out.  All eyes turned expectantly to the ashram and humble rooms of Mahatma Gandhi, but no word came forth.  Days stretched into weeks, and Gandhi made no indication of what would come.  The media accused him of playing his cards close to his chest, of purposefully building suspense to get the world’s attention.

But Gandhi was telling them the truth when he said he did not know what action he would take.  He was praying and waiting.  He was meditating, listening, asking for God’s guidance, and he would not do anything until he felt a clear calling from the Spirit.

In the end it came to him in a dream: Continue reading

Our Task

If you haven’t seen this beautiful short film, please give yourself a treat and spend a half hour immersed in its quiet drama and wisdom.  You will be glad you did.  It puts the rest of this post in proper perspective.  The earth is tiny, it is our one and only home, and we will survive only if humanity realizes this and acts as one people, at one with our planet, making it a safe, healthy home equally for all.  If we can undergo that transformation of our heart and consciousness, as these three astronauts did, we will transform the world.

 

Our Task by Thomas Cary Kinder

Dedicated to Gus Speth, who formulated the wisdom on which this post is based in his essay in The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities. The concept and structure of sections i. through vi. are his, the words are mine.

Prelude: We Responded

Let future descendants of the human race say
that when our generation saw the unfolding ruin
of the stable earth that had made life possible
and the rising threat to the free,
just, equal, democratic societies
that humanity had evolved over hundreds of years,
we responded by laying down our lives to save
all that goodness, and to become better.

i. We Shared Our Awareness of the Threat

We were crisis-driven, and aware that to change course
we needed to change hearts and minds.
We were aware that our established ways had failed
and the spiritual wisdom of the right way to live
had become not an ancient distant dream
but an urgent practical necessity.
We saw that the past visions of an ideal future
had to be fulfilled in our present moment
or life on earth would not survive.
We used our voices, nonviolent action
and all forms of art
to raise awareness of the threats
and to unite ourselves
in shared compassion and concern.

ii. We Chose Wise Leaders

The leaders we followed sought not self-aggrandizement
or partisan advancement, but humble wisdom,
aware that no one person or side could solve this alone,
that we needed to work together across divides,
and that we needed more than human power,
we needed a higher power, the spirit of life,
the way of nature within and around us, to help us evolve.
Collective wisdom showed each practical step of the path;
courageous leaders led us boldly down it.

iii. We Gained New Vision and a New Story

We realized humanity could not make needed changes
without a changed consciousness that could see our oneness,
an enlightened way of perceiving ourselves and all life and earth,
a deeper understanding of what the meaning of life is
and what humanity could become.  We needed to discover
how we could fulfill as a society the ideal love of neighbor
that spiritual and philosophical leaders had taught
for three thousand years. We needed a new story
of the journey of the universe rooted in ancient traditions,
letting their shared dreams guide and inspire us,
and tapping into advanced social, physical and life sciences,
opening doors of pragmatic possibilities unimagined until now.

iv. We Formed a United Movement toward a Shared Goal

We saw ourselves as one people on a journey
out of exile across a wilderness to a new Promised Land.
We saw that we were working toward the same goal,
whether our first concern was one ecosystem or another,
one cause of justice or another, one tribe or another,
we were one people, one movement,
and we needed one another.
We could get there only as one.

v. We Communicated Compellingly

We used all the skill and technology that we had.
We communicated the new positive vision and story,
the urgent calls for action, tirelessly, creatively, by word of mouth,
by example, by broadcast and book, by worldwide web.
We shouted it from rooftops, from street corners,
from every pulpit and lectern. Children found their voice.
They led when adults remained dumb.

vi. We Created Working Models, Living into the Vision

We lifted up existing models.  We created new models.
We began living as if already in the Promised Land,
as if already one, as if already nonviolent, harmonious,
just, equal, compassionate, loving, kind.
We began building a golden civilization
brick by brick by the golden rule
and we did not stop until the ancient dream at last
stood gleaming on a restored and rejoicing earth.

Postlude: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for…”

Let future generations look back from that renewed world
and say that we were the ones
who made the change, who made it possible,
who threw off the shackles of selfishness, of ego,
of competitive pride and greed,
and who took the leap into the realm of love
that humanity was born to create.
Let them say that the crises of 2020
were the final labor pains of a new world,
the final push.

That urgent push is our task.

If you only 60 days to save the world…

Less than 60 days now…

I invite you to look deeply into this photograph.  I’ll reflect on it below.

The spirit of life is in every cell of this morning glory with its drive to survive and thrive.  The spirit of life is in the roots and leaves and it is especially in the golden heart of the flower where the seeds of the future take shape.  Solutions to life-threatening problems evolve in that golden room such as innovations the plant must undertake to deal with a changing climate or persistent virus. 

The innovations humanity needs to undergo are not genetic, but they, too, need to come from our heart’s core.  That is the place within us each where the spirit of life inspires the collective evolution of human consciousness to meet our life-threatening problems.  We need to look deeply into that golden room, listen to the still small voice of the spirit and act on what it guides and empowers us each to do.  That is our greatest source of hope for this time.

Thousands of registered Life Planners around the world begin each life plan by asking three questions in the EVOKE process that my brother, George Kinder, developed:

  1. I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money [and time] to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is…how would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams.  Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.
  2. This time you visit your doctor who tells you that you have only 5 – 10 years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live?   Will you change your life and how will you do it?
  3. This time your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself:  What did I miss? Who did I not get to be? What did I not get to do?

Today Americans need to reframe that second question.  Instead of having five years to live, we have less than 60 days to save our democracy and save the world.  We have until Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020.  Many people on both sides are framing this election as a matter of life and death, and I believe they are right.

So the urgent Life Planning question now is, if you have only until November 3rd to save our democracy and the world, what will you do in the time you have remaining?  Will you change your life, and how will you do it?

Take a few minutes or an hour to think about that, and then if you feel inspired, please share with us your intention for these days by clicking on the Comment button below and writing in the “Leave a Reply” box that will appear.

Then consider the third question, once again reframed for our situation.  The shock is not that you have one day to live, the shock is that you wake up on November 4th and learn that the side lost that you believe could have saved our democracy and world.  Take a minute of mindfulness to note carefully the painful feelings that arise.  Then ask yourself: What more do I wish I had given?  What more do I wish I had done?

The original 3 Questions have both spiritual depth and practical power.  George Kinder is a Buddhist teacher, a student of psychology and literature and the first winner of the Financial Planning Association’s Heart of Financial Planning Award.  He has been named “One of the top Icons & Innovators in the financial planning industry,” and “The first of 15 transformational advisors whose vision most changed the industry,” and he has been inducted into the Financial Planning Magazine Hall of Fame.

Accolades have come to him for one reason: these three questions and the actions we take based on our answers have the power to change our lives, and have done so for tens of thousands of people.  They lead us to our deepest heart’s core to find what the spirit of life is calling us to do and be.  They release our creative and entrepreneurial gifts.  They motivate us to help life around us improve and evolve in ways that lead to greater life and love—exactly what you would expect when the spirit of life is freely flowing through us.  The results of these questions have changed the world.  Now, perhaps, they can save it.

I hope and pray that you will listen to your heart’s core and that you will make the changes necessary to give all the time, energy and resources you can in this time of greatest need.  Please use the days left before November 3rd to save our democracy and world.

If you have questions about how to fulfill what you feel called to do, feel free to use the comment feature below and ask for what you need. Thank you!

 

This Website’s Purpose Redefined for a New Time

Dear Readers,

The Welcome Page of this website now has a new statement of purpose.  You can read it here.  Please use the share buttons at the bottom of the page if you think people you know would be interested in this.  Thank you!

This Website’s Purpose

Summary:

“Who is there big enough to love the whole planet? We must find such people for the next society.”  E. B. White, “Intimations,” December 1941

This website has a passionate purpose: to help us become big enough to love the whole planet, not just in theory but in practice.  It seeks to help us become citizens who have the vision and the will to create the next society that is founded on a shared love of the whole world.

The passion behind this website is the same that you can hear in Greta Thunberg’s voice, or the Black Lives Matter protests.  We have reached a crisis point.  We have no more time, we cannot pass this on to any future generation.

There will be no future generations if our generation does not reply to E. B. White’s question, “Who is there big enough?” with the answer, “We are!”  But how can we become such people, and how can we change the world quickly enough?

I hope you will find inspiration, support and practical help for accomplishing that here.

The Call to Transform

E. B. White was by far not the only voice ever to call us to transform ourselves to a more enlightened consciousness that can see the true oneness of all life and to transform the world into a place of oneness and love of neighbor as self.

The wisest humans of every culture and spiritual tradition have called on humanity to make this transformation.  The voices began at least twenty-five hundred years ago at the dawning of the Axial Age and have continued with increasing urgency—Greek philosophers, the Hebrew prophets, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu teachers, Christ and the contemplative Christian tradition, Sufis and indigenous wisdom-keepers.  In the 20th Century Albert Einstein, Dorothy Day, the Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were only a few of the many who cried out for our transformation.

Today Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousefzai, Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, Joanna Macy and Mary Evelyn Tucker and thousands more are telling us it is now or never—we have reached the crisis point where human consciousness and society must undergo this transformation or face the real possibility of extinction.

Gus Speth sums this crucial wisdom up beautifully in his book The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability.  Speth co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute.  He Chaired President Carter’s Council on Environmental Quality.  He was Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  Here is what he says:

“Many of our deepest thinkers and many of those most familiar with the scale of the challenges we face have concluded that the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness. For some it is a spiritual awakening —a transformation of the human heart. For others it is a more intellectual process of coming to see the world anew and deeply embracing the emerging ethic of the environment and the old ethic of what it means to love thy neighbor as thyself. But for all it involves major cultural change and a reorientation of what society values and prizes most highly.”  (To read similar words from others click here.)

We have very little time.  The next decade is our chance to limit the scale of the environmental crisis and create a sustainable, just and peaceful global society.  Much excellent, detailed work has been done to envision what a healthy civilization and planet would require.  Bringing about world transformation seems achievable, but as Gus Speth says, “only in the context of…a new consciousness.”

We may elect leaders who will work on world transformation, but for them to have the power to overcome opposition and make the changes we need will require a new dominant cultural consciousness.  Building that support and political will seems like the harder task.

This website will focus especially on how we can transform our individual consciousness, the foundation for cultural and world transformation.

The co-founder of Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating, says, “If one is truly transformed, one can walk down the street, drink a cup of tea or shake hands with somebody and be pouring divine life into the world…. The essential thing…is the transformation of one’s own consciousness.”  (Mystery of Christ p. 275)

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself…. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation…”  Hua Hu Ching 75, attributed to Lao Tzu 

“If you want a golden civilization, you must start with what is golden inside of you. If you want a civilization that will thrive for a thousand years, you must start with what is timeless inside of you.”  George Kinder, A Golden Civilization and a Map of Mindfulness

How Can New Consciousness Evolve Now?

The Tree Sprouts New Branches, Human Consciousness Evolves, the World Is Transformed

One year there was solid bark, the next year a new branch had burst through where no one could have expected it.

I was clearing a field once and liked where a maple tree was growing, but it had been shaped by the old thicket and was bent over toward the light.  A neighbor knew trees better than I did and insisted I was foolish to think it would straighten up and flourish, but I was happy in my foolish hope and left it.

He was right, the old trunk did not change direction entirely, but it sprouted a new branch like the one above, and that branch grew straight up and soon became the new lead trunk.  The old, bent trunk diminished to be a side branch.

We face a crisis in human evolution that threatens to destroy the world that has carried us to where we are today.  We are in danger of turning our planet into a habitat in which humans cannot survive and, along the way there, turning our civilization into a crucible of survivalist fear and violence in which the human spirit cannot thrive.

We do not have at this time the collective will to change our ways and act for the long term well being of our habitat.  We do not take the necessary actions as a society even when we hear the urgent cry of scientists, see the first stages begin of the suffering to come and acknowledge the wisdom of the religious traditions calling us to care and act.

Our hope is that the human spirit can rapidly evolve to have that collective will.

We know it is possible because humanity has evolved through crisis points in the past.  Whole new branches of insight and understanding and new ways of living have sprung from the solid bark of old ways.

We have hope, and that hope resides in our hearing the calling within our hearts as we look at what is happening in the world, and then exploring where that calling leads.  The hope is for our individual transformation that will give us the wisdom and power to transform the world. Continue reading

The Calling to the Golden Room

Sometimes it takes many calls to convince us of a calling.  The Hebrew judge and prophet, Samuel, needed three callings and the help of old, wise Eli to work through his confusion.  Jonah needed God’s voice, a storm at sea and the belly of the whale to overcome his resistance.

The Rev. Samuel Schaal, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Texas, approached me at a Life Planning workshop in the fall of 2011 where I had shared the vision of the Golden Room.  He asked me if I would write it down for him, because he felt it could be useful for others.  It was just one more in a long series of calls spanning two decades, but it was the one that finally convinced me that I had a calling to bring this project to life.

It came along with a growing sense of urgency.

Photograph by Lesley Wellman

Continue reading