Friday, May 29, 2009

What is Unitarianism? Video

For those of you who don't know me personally and wonder what I look and sound like: here I am:

Well done to the DUWIT folks for getting us some good videos on YouTube at last.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spiritual evangelism

"Religious people have so often pretended to have all the answers. They have seen their mission as being to persuade, to enforce, to level differences and perhaps even to impose uniformity. There is really something of the Grand Inquisitor in most religious people. But when religion begins to bully or to insinuate, it has become unspiritual because the first gift of the Spirit, creatively moving in [human] nature, is freedom and frankness; in Biblical language, liberty and truth. The modern Christian's mission is to resensitize [their] contempories to the presence of a spirit within themselves. [They are] not a teacher in the sense of that [they are] providing answers that [they] has looked up in the back of a book. [They are] truly a teacher, when, having found [their] own spirit, [they] can inspire others to accept the responsibility of their own being, to undergo the challenge of their own innate longing for the Absolute, to find their own spirit."

John Main (1926-1982)

Friday, May 01, 2009

How does Unitarianism bring about spiritual transformation?

We often talk about "Unitarian beliefs" when we talk about Unitarianism, which is somewhat ironic given we're non-creedal. I often think we're not entirely sure what non-creedalism means. Anyway I'm starting to think that it's the wrong sort of question. I'm more interested right now in what techniques Unitarianism offers for spiritual transformation. There are different ways of asking this: How does Unitarianism help me to walk closer with my God? How does Unitarianism liberate me from my suffering? How does Unitarianism dissolve the illusions I have built up in my head and help me confront the Really Real? These are the deep questions a religion must eventually deal with, and I worry we're not very good at dealing with them, which is the reason for our failure.

Yet the Unitarian tradition I believe does offer some spiritual guidance on going deeper. I've identified a few of these ways below, in no particular order. These techniques may not be unique to Unitarianism (indeed most spiritual techniques are universal) but they are distinctly Unitarian, though overlapping with much else.

Look within
The Unitarian tradition has often said that the Divine is within: "the realm of God is within" Jesus said. What this means, crucially, is that there is not some book or teaching its necessary to get hold of to understand the nature of reality. Truly looking within (deeper than the superficial ego) we can find God. Someone can go a whole life without hearing the gospel or the dharma and still "get it." Although for most of us, having teachers helps, but only in pointing us back to ourselves.

Communion with nature
Whether in the form of Transcendentalism or paganism Unitarians have always found God in the natural world (or found that God IS the natural world). Going to church doesn't make you a Unitarian, you have to go to the forest too. This is one of the most reliable ways to receive spiritual refreshment and transformation.

"All truly profound thinking becomes religious" said Albert Schweitzer. The struggle to work things out, to explore religious questions, to explore the universe is itself a spiritual practice. Doubting may even be more spiritually useful than believing, as doubting suggests a process, while believing is a static state of affairs. The divine is found in deep thinking.

Loving the world around you
This spiritual insight is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, though it isn't always acknowledged as such by Unitarians. "How can you love God without loving your sister? You can't." Whatever highfalutin spiritual techniques you have, even if you spend hours meditating, it's all for nothing unless it leads to love for others. Love for others is a spiritual practice, and it deepens other spiritual practices. Love extends beyond the purely personal to include the political.

Spiritual transformation is brought about by a process of integrating every part of the human self: the soul, the mind and the body. You should not leave your doubting mind or your sexual body at the door of the church as you do something for your soul. All parts of ourselves need to be accepted and integrated. It is spiritually harmful to deny a sexual orientation or a doubting mind.

It is only by truly and deeply listening to the other (and not just to ourselves) that we can hear the voice of God. A process in which we speak honestly, and are heard, and listen fully to an other creates a place where we meet the divine. This is a challenging process that we're not always good at. But perhaps this is a spiritual practice that we need to take on more fully.