By Tilmann Haberer
‘I am spiritual, but not religious‘– many people make this distinction. They describe themselves as spiritual and maybe they mean by this that they follow a more or less intensive discipline such as Yoga, Vipassana or Zen. Or maybe they lay the Tarot. Perhaps they also believe that, for them, the existence of a higher order is self-understood. However, this higher order has little to do with the god spoken about in religion. For the established religions – in particular Christianity, Islam and Judaism in our part of the world – have gambled away our trust, which, for centuries, was taken for granted. Of course there are reasons for this. One of the most important of these must be that, historically, the churches often played a very disreputable role. Crusades, burning of witches, persecution of heretics and those with different beliefs, religious wars, the conquering of Middle and South America with fire and sword! The list is endless, as endless as the streams of blood and tears that the churches have caused over the course of the centuries. This list carries forward to the present day; the abuse scandals scream to heaven.
Many people also experience the church as boring and irrelevant. Those seeking a spiritual dimension search in all sorts of places, but most certainly not in the church. In fact, it seems as if the entire spiritual development of the last thirty or forty years has taken place completely outside of the church and of Christianity.
I have worked for a long time in different, evangelical church communities. I have witnessed the exodus of youth and the middle generation from church services and traditional parish events. They did not find what they were seeking in the church. Those that remained were very traditional thinkers and believers. They shared a mythical view of god. They believe in a god who rules over all, who answers prayers, intervenes in the course of the world or not, as the case may be. Miracles, the breaking of the laws of nature, were seen as possible. The belief was that everything is possible for God, though one could not quite imagine how this would work. One just had to believe in it.
Not even a hint of the modern theology, which I learned at University, had filtered through to the parishes. Those, for whom the traditional, mythical view of god was inadequate, left the church and either believed nothing anymore, or searched elsewhere. I remember a Yoga teacher that I once knew. He was raised in the evangelical tradition, but then found his path with Guru Bhajan. For some reason or other he was still a member of the evangelical academic community, but was intending to bid them farewell. “Why should I stay with them?” he asked me, “and why should I remain in the church? What has the church got to offer me?” In those days I was neither smart enough nor confident enough to ask: – “What have you, and people like you, to offer the Church?”
This would not have been just a cheap retort. It is actually an open question: Do people who have acquired deep experience in other religious and spiritual areas have a message for the church? Have they something to offer? Could they help to further develop the deadlocked doctrine? Would it not be very strange if the great western spiritual traditions were gridlocked in a medieval view of God and the world: if there were no possible development towards a modern, post-modern, integral and holistic understanding; if the essence of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were intolerant, myth-fixated monotheism? Many people have the following view of western religions: – fundamentalist, fossilized and lifeless in their core, authoritarian, hypocritical and unable to open up.
Frankly, if it were really like this I would consider it would be fatal. Were there not the possibility within the Christian belief to further develop beyond the traditional-mythical stage, to take on a modern, post-modern or integral shape, it would mean that the genuine western spirituality would be cut off at the era of Enlightenment. The person wishing to be a Christian would have to engage with a medieval or more ancient world view; critical thinking would have to be surrendered at the church door and patterns of thought accepted, that had absolutely nothing to do with his day to day life as a modern or post-modern human. Were there not the possibility for the large western religions to further develop, this entire branch of human consciousness would, in the end, be a failure.
I became familiar with Ken Wilber’s ideas in his book‚‘Grace and Grit’ in 2004. Immediately filled with enthusiasm, I asked myself: – Why have I never heard anything about this in my church? No-one seemed to be familiar with these exciting ‘Integral’ ideas. However, the reverse was also true; the Integral movement had not engaged with western religions for a long time. Ken Wilber, in his early books, refers exclusively to Buddhism and Hinduism. Initially it did not occur to him to seriously consider Christianity as a spiritual giant. Since then, however, this has changed. Christian and Jewish masters such as Thomas Keating, Marc Gafni, David Steindl-Rast or Richard Rohr lecture at the Integral Institute, and Ken Wilber himself has published a DVD with the title ‘The Future of Christianity’, together with Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk. Also, an on-line course on the ‘Integral Life’ with the title ‘Coming Home’ has recently commenced, wherein an Integral-informed Christianity is introduced.
There are also rumblings amongst the Christian grassroots. Many are on the search for a modern shape to their belief. The book Gott 9.0 – Wohin unsere Gesellschaft spirituell wachsen wird (‘God 9.0 – In which direction our society will spiritually grow’) is an expression of this search and an attempt to incorporate the development lines of the western spiritual traditions into the Integral area. It is an introduction to evolutionary, spiritual thinking, which builds upon the insights of Ken Wilber and the system of Spiral Dynamics. Or, put another way, it is the application of the Integral approach to Christianity. The response to ‘Gott 9.0’ has been astonishing and pleasing. Many theologians, and people, who are as yet still engaged in the Church are writing to the team of authors and are delighted and inspired. While we are a long way from being able to speak of a movement one can notice a large group of people in the Church who are, at last, prepared to leave the traditional-mythical castle of Christianity and explore new paths and discover new fields.
The Christian’s view of God can, of course, be developed. In the Bible there is already documentation of a development of the view of God from the archaic, power hungry god of the old testament, to the loving father of whom Jesus speaks.
In the categories of Spiral Dynamics – a system which portrays the evolution of the individual, as well as humanity as a whole, in illustrated steps represented by colours – the development can be described as follows: –
The developmental level of the first Homo sapiens, who has just emerged from the apes, or the stage of the newborn. It concerns basic survival. View of God: – God is the source and the spring of life, nourishing maternal breast, no differentiation as yet from the universal Mother Nature. Picture of Jesus, naked and endangered.
Archaic-magical development level. Everything is alive, i.e. has soul (animism). There are good and evil spirits, who can, with the appropriate magical rituals, be influenced. The coherence of the tribe is of vital importance. View of God: – God of the tribe, the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Picture of Jesus, the miracle worker who heals the sick, can walk on water and propagate bread.
Consciousness Level of heroic sagas: – Nibelungen, Iliad and Odyssey. It is about power, conquest, raids. View of God: The God of war, who helps Israel to conquer the land and gives the order to exterminate the opposition totally. Picture of Jesus: – the exorcist who fights with Satan, but also cuts the tie to the family in order to attain a higher goal.
Consciousness level of global riches and world religions. Law, higher order, morality, conscience, sin and forgiveness, hierarchical organisations are fundamental elements. View of God: – God is the Only, the Almighty, the highest King and Lawmaker, the strict judge. Picture of Jesus: – the rabbi who does not abolish the law, but fulfills it, the liberator from sin and death.
Up to this point everything is familiar. This is how we know the Christian God. And for many this is how it remains. But, of course, the development continues.
Rational consciousness level, the modern age. Ruling authorities are critically questioned. Personal success. Achievement and freedom play a central role. Science and technology flower. View of God: All that is supernatural is critically questioned, right up to the statement ‘God is dead‘. Those who do not wish, or cannot, give up god no longer seek outside of themselves, but turn inwards. First movement towards meditation and mysticism. Picture of Jesus: Jesus is seen as a good person, a revolutionary or a moral teacher, or as the ruling victor, with whom one builds up a personal relationship of reverence, emulation.
Pluralistic consciousness level, post-modern. What counts now is consensus instead of competition, the outsiders and the disadvantaged are included. Equality becomes an important subject. Environmental consciousness develops, the dominance of science and technology are questioned. Psychology and psychotherapy experience a boom. View of God: – the charitable, motherly god/goddess, all religions worship the same god, though it may be in different ways. Picture of Jesus: the friend of women and children, the gentle Jesus, the inter-religious bringer of peace.
Integrative consciousness. Complex synopsis of different consciousness contents. Paradoxes are not only tolerated, but loved. Yellow is the first of all the consciousness levels to develop an understanding of the distinctiveness and the irreplaceable value of all the previous levels. View of god: – new understanding of the paradoxical statements concerning god, such as the Trinity (God is three in one). Picture of Jesus: – Jesus Christ the godly being, (the cosmic Christ), amalgamates in a paradoxical way with the human.
Holistic consciousness. Everything is inseparably linked to each other. Every part contains the whole. Multi-perspective, fractal. World ethos, intercontinentally connected, virtual communities. View of God: – God as pulsating process, who draws evolution from the future, God as poet of the world. Picture of Jesus: – the cosmic Christ, Christ in each person. Jesus as a model for the god-humanity of each individual.
As yet unknown new level: – god is our ‘Can Be’.
Seen in this way, Christianity absolutely has a future. If the Christians manage to break out of the construct of their blue picture of God and open themselves to the development of their view of God and the world, they can even take on the role as the motor for a change in consciousness; to serve as a conveyor belt for the change with which the community is carried to higher consciousness steps (this is Ken Wilber’s hope)
This is by no means unthinkable. It is not only the blue view of God that exists in the Church despite the fact that it appears so to many. The mystics have already shown the way in the middle ages. For example Meister Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross describe experiences, that still speak to us today, and which are similar to the eastern and mystic ways. But scientific theology had already said goodbye to myth in the middle of the last century. The Bible is no longer regarded as the unquestionable authority (blue), but rather as the witness of people, which can and must be handled like any other literary document (orange). For modern theologians God does not rule over the world, rather, he is in the depth of reality. Creation did not take place in seven days at the beginning. It is executed daily in every millisecond, as God is the living power of evolution. He acts as the cosmic principle of Eros and yet he is also more. He is not only to be the found in the breadth of the cosmos, but also in the depth of the human soul. And Christianity is no longer the one and only way to salvation, but one path amongst many, which finally leads to the same goal, the merging of God and man.
It is incredibly important that the established religions become aware of these developments occurring in their midst. Not only because they will die out like the dinosaurs if they don’t, but also because there are a growing number of people who hunger for a new view of God. Who, if not the Church will have the task to satisfy this hunger in our region, this hunger which requires nourishing with an easily digested food, not with the old, hard crusts of bread of the traditional belief systems? The myth is important as a foundation – every person will, as Ken Wilber always emphasizes, be born in beige, and the biblical myths are good and appropriate at a certain phase in development. But most people in our cultural circle have developed far beyond blue towards orange, green and yellow. Religion must keep up with this development. This it can do, if it allows itself to change.
|Tilmann Haberer (born in 1955) studied evangelical theology. After eighteen years as a vicar in various church communities he took a seven year sabbatical from his church employment and worked as freelance minister, journalist, author and translator. In 2005 he returned to church employment and is now the evangelical leader of the ecumenical crisis and life counseling service Münchner Insel. In 2010 he published the book Gott 9.0 – Wohin unsere Gesellschaft spirituell wachsen wird together with Marion Küstenmacher and Werner Tiki Küstenmacher. Visit www.gott90.de|
Tuesday, October 11th, 18th, & 25th
The average person stops evolving at age 26. Developmental psychologists have long studied when the average adult stops developing or Growing Up. Not too promising, is it?
Can you imagine living the rest of your life developmentally stationed at age 26?
No, we can’t either.
Because according to the deepest insights of all of of the great thinkers and traditions of Spirit — pre-modern, modern and post-modern — growth is both the greatest human pleasure and the very purpose of our life on this planet.
To phrase it in the language of the mystics: To live is to evolve. To evolve is to grow. To grow is the deepest joy and highest purpose of our human life.
Luckily, we have organizations such as the Center for World Spirituality dedicated to evolving consciousness through transformative teachings and practices to make sure no one gets left behind in the game of evolution.
Those of us on the cutting edge of spiritual development have heard a lot of about the the momentous leap forward that happens when we radically evolve or “grow” our level of consciousness. And we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to take this momentous leap alone.
We’re committed to taking this next momentous leap forward together, with you, during our Growing Up to the New Enlightenment: A Three-Week Telecourse with Founding Director of the Center for World Spirituality, Dr. Marc Gafni.
Dr. Marc Gafni has dedicated himself to uncovering these teachings through 30 years of scholarship, practice, and deep inquiry.
Said simply, the more you Grow-Up, the more your Evolutionary God-Self comes online. And indeed, realizing your Evolutionary God-Self is what it means to Grow Up to the New Enlightenment.