When the world is shaking with political upheaval it is easy to become distressed and overexcited. Unfortunately our vibrations of distress and agitation only make the situation worse.
We live in a huge interconnected energy field and people’s emotional and mental vibrations roll through this field like waves in an ocean.
If we are sensitive to these energy waves, then distressing mass events can influence us in a negative way, causing anxiety and depression. Even if you have a strong and upbeat disposition, you can be wobbled into temporary discomfort.
So what is the answer to our discomfort?
There is an aphorism which has arisen recently in spiritual circles which says, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough meditate.’
Yes I agree that is a good call. Centre yourself. Use your breath. Ground. Self-soothe. That will stop us from adding to the psychic pollution.
But I also want to look at it from a different angle and ask: What would serve the community of life? In times of danger and consternation, what can we do to look after others?
In response to that ethical question I suggest that the appropriate response is a commitment to be seen, to confront bullying and to protect minorities and the vulnerable.
There is here another relevant spiritual aphorism: ‘There is no merit in meditation when you can stand up and prevent abuse.’
But this requires courage. Coeur. Rage. Rage of the heart.
This ethical and righteous rage needs to be mindful, intelligent and wise. It also needs to be fuelled and inspired. The ultimate source of fuel and inspiration for our ethics and righteous hearts is our connection with . . . what shall we call it? …. The benevolent life force. God. Spirit. Goddess. Tao. Source. Life itself.
There are over one hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe. The size of our universe is beyond comprehension. It is an immense energy field. In this context our planet is tiny. Humanity’s energy field is a speck, a blip, in the cosmos.
So when faced with humanity passing through one its regular upheavals, we need to feel the wonder and goodness of life, and not just humanity’s distress.
It is crucial spiritual practice that we expand our sensitivity and our awareness, so that we feel the energy and vibrations of the cosmos. It is crucial that we use our own particular gateways to connection whatever they are: Jesus, angels, Goddess or just an awed sense of the glory of the cosmos. Feel the natural world of earth, moon, the sun, the stars, the vast mystery.
Thus we connect with and are fuelled by the awesome flow and good energies of earth and universe. We are not wobbled by the disturbing vibrations of a disturbed humanity. In the words of Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well … for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.’
Then, at the very least, in times of social distress – centred and inspired – we radiate a benevolence, calm safety and goodwill that encourages the good in others. We do not add to the distress with more agitation.
And, at best, we have the courage to front off bullies, protect the innocent and continue to build heaven on earth.
WILLIAM BLOOM, the back of this book tells us, is the UK’s leading mind, body, and spirit teacher, and a meditation master. He lives in Glastonbury, was for 25 years on the faculty of the Findhorn Foundation, spent a two-year spiritual retreat amongst the Saharan Berbers in the High Atlas mountains, and for ten years directed the Alternatives programme at St James’s, Piccadilly.
Nevertheless, to my surprise, I enjoyed this book. My initial fear that this would be New Age writing at its worst – shallow, syrupy, self-obsessed, and lacking in moral values – was soon dispelled. Modern Spirituality, Bloom assures us, has strong values and respects and draws from every world religion. Bloom’s target audience is surely not those who read the Church Times, most of whom would wish to preface ‘spirituality’ with the word ‘Christian’.
Many people are repelled by religion, and by the Christian Church in particular. One fifth of all Americans say that they are spiritual but not religious. Generation X, the generation born after the post-Second World War baby-boomers, long to be loved (so the polls tell us), to be connected with the wonder and energy of life, to be part of an authentic community, and to become caring, wise, and compassionate. They hunger for God, but are unsatisfied by traditional expressions of church.
These people will resonate with the three golden key practices of Bloom’s modern spirituality: connection, reflection, and service.
Bloom divides his book into a discussion around those three key practices. The author comes across as a good person with much experience and wisdom to impart, an excellent teacher who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.
He gives many examples and anecdotes to illustrate his points. One struck me especially. During a one-day course that he led for 50 Anglican clergy, he asked them to list all the times when they most easily connected with the beauty and mystery of God. Not one of them listed prayer; and no one listed the eucharist.
For those whose religion has become divorced from their spirituality, and who are prepared to step outside their religious safety zone, this book will provide some helpful and refreshing surprises.
Holy water is often used to cleanse objects and spaces.
What follows is my recipe for making it. This is based on a classical method I learned years ago in an esoteric group – so long ago that I cannot remember which group.
What is most important is the basic structure. Feel free to adapt it in the way that best suits you.
Half a glass of water
Half a teaspoon of salt.
Their source does not matter, but you may prefer to use ones that come from wells and springs or are natural/organic.
In whatever way works best for you, centre yourself and connect fully with Spirit/Tao/God/dess whatever you call the benevolent flow of the universe.
Allow that connection to come fully through you so that it radiates through your hands.
Place the palm of your hand (right hand if right-handed, left if left-handed) over the water and sense the benevolent energy flowing into every atom and molecule of the water.
With slow and calm intention, think or say the following words:
Hello, creature of water. In the name of All That is Benevolent and Good, I bless you. I cleanse you. I exorcise you of all elements of evil and negativity, so that wherever you are scattered all elements of evil and negativity may depart.
As you say these words, you can increase the potency by drawing a symbol in the water using the energy from your palm. If you are Christian, you might use the cross; if Jewish, the Star of David; if Hindu, the OM; if pagan, the equal-armed across; and so on. It is customary to draw it three times.
Do the same – all of 3 above – with the salt. The only difference is that you address it as ‘creature of salt.’
Then drop some of the salt into the water. Again it is customary to do this three times. And if you wish, you can drop it into the water at the same time following the pattern of the symbol – eg the cross – that you were using before.
Then scatter the salt wherever you want to do the cleansing. Children love to do this.
In my opinion, the major potency of the blessed water lasts a few hours.
Afterwards whatever is left you can simply pour into the earth somewhere.
All through my life I have believed that I belong a group of souls – a swarm, a flock – destined to change the spiritual culture of our planet. For many years I felt we were doing well, but today I also have doubts. These doubts were recently triggered into clarity when I came across the provocative statement of the social activist, Frantz Fanon, who wrote:
Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.
That is a powerful assertion and it is healthy to ask ourselves the questions. How, my friends, are we doing? Are we fulfilling our mission or are we betraying it?
I want to share some thoughts and feelings around all this.
First, I want to emphasise how powerfully I feel this sense of a shared destiny â€“ to birth a new spirituality. I also want to assert how proud I am of what has been achieved. In the midst of so many global challenges, it is worth celebrating the spectacular success of the spiritual and cultural transformation thus far.
We need only to remember what it was like a few decades ago all across the planet. Look at the old culture into which we were all born. Fifty years ago the dominant and normal elements included:
The Old Culture
The repression in general of all women.
Respect for men regardless of whether it was merited.
Suspicion and repression of anything metaphysical and occult.
Respect for age and seniority regardless of whether it was merited.
Respect for social status regardless of whether it was merited.
Racism, sexism and homophobia taken for granted.
The savaging of natural environments with no awareness of the consequences.
Respect for traditional faiths and their representatives, usually ignoring most of their deviant behaviour.
As a group we then incarnated with a total inability to tolerate those elements. Everything about us rejected those repressive and unjust structures.
The revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was peaceful but powerful. Feminism, the ecological movement, flower power, rock music, gay liberation, movies and the new age movement shattered the old hierarchies. A new, liberated and egalitarian culture landed all across the world in democratised and industrialised states. Conservatives may bemoan the loss of values in the 1960s, but they ignore the quantum leap forward in basic freedoms.
We did well! In the language of Star Wars, the Force was with us.
All of this was not just the result of inevitable social and cultural politics. It is also, many of us believe, the manifestation of great spiritual changes. The zeitgeist, God’s great plan, Gaia’s next emergence, the cosmic rays of liberation, the astrological shifts, the impulse of unconditional love to incarnate more deeply – whatever you call it – is playing through us.
We are surfers, elements, on a cosmic wave.
And so many people have joined in!
The rigorously researched statistics are astounding. The World Values Survey is the most thorough academic research work of social trends. It shows that the majority of people – the majority! – in the West have moved away from traditional religion and traditional authority structures. They have adopted a more general and open-hearted spirituality and a more relaxed approach to cultural controls.
The transformation has become a mass movement and is embedded in modern global culture. In the UK, for example, every national newspaper now carries a large and regular section on holistic health and spiritual development. A recent poll showed that over half the country believes in angels. The richest woman in the US, Oprah Winfrey, has made her bucks and fame from taking an open-hearted, emotionally intelligent, holistic spiritual approach. Holism has recently been given state recognition as a faith community in Norway.
Everything we believe in – everything that was considered so marginal only a few years ago – has become mainstream. Eileen Caddy’s medal from the Queen, for example, is also evidence of this.
But in the middle of this substantial cultural change I believe there are several worrying problems that we need to address. And I mean us – not anyone else. We have to look carefully at them because I believe that we are the leaders of this movement and that it is absolutely necessary for us to deal with the challenges, or there is a risk of the movement ultimately failing. By failure I mean the usual historical pattern of religious impulse: a wonderful spiritual inspiration, pure and radiant with integrity, becomes corrupt.
Let me identify some of the problems I see, trusting, as in good therapy, that naming the shadow elements is in itself a useful and redemptive act. And, of course, I have to acknowledge that I am fully involved in all these difficulties and that I claim no innocence, but I trust that my story here is shared. So here are a few of the symptoms that require some tender loving care.
Remember those precious insights and objects that we cherished and freely shared the rocks from special places, the religious ornaments, tribal musical instruments, the insights about new tools for spiritual transformation, the companionship of spiritual advice freely given and received, the pilgrimages and retreats, the herbs and compounds?
Commercial forces and globalisation are, to a degree, taking them over. Spiritual insights, tools and support have become cash commodities. They compete in today’s marketplace and are frequently valued according to how popular they are and how much cash they generate. Practitioners and sharers of these great things, therefore, may be seduced by the glamour of success, lose touch with the free source of their inspiration and become hijacked by materialistic self-valuing.
Without wise guidance and encouragement in our new spiritual environment, many people adopt the new spirituality and think that it is only about achieving happiness, health and success, and fulfilling their personal development and personal needs. They do not appreciate that spirituality is about expanding consciousness, redeeming suffering and manifesting love.
At its most vulgar, meditation, prayer, compassion, renunciation, sacrifice and self-reflection may have lower spiritual status than a well-decorated home, the ability to use quick-fix strategies, organic clothes, flat stomachs and lovely skin.
Another more subtle problem is the continuation of spiritual elitism, cultism and prejudice, whilst pretending to be part of a universal and all-including spiritual movement.
We can see this in the behaviour, for example, of some people who belong to particular schools of therapy, meditation, shamanism, esoterics, meditation, mysticism, philosophy and are unable happily to welcome criticism of their particular method and belief. They often also are snobs and actively exclude or excommunicate other approaches, usually with the traditional passive-aggressive smile of pained superiority and pretended compassion common to most adherents to a belief hierarchy.
There is this tendency, then, amongst some of us to enjoy the community of the new spirituality and use it for emotional sustenance which is good but we may then betray it with our lack of that authentic open-mindedness and open-heartedness that releases all fixed beliefs to the universal ocean of mystery. We may protect our corner and pretend to be engaged and modern.
Then there is the hazard of self-engrossment. The important growth of psychological literacy and the therapeutic movement has led many people into being so interested in their own private stories that they forget the collective suffering and the collective endeavour.
And when they do relate to the communal problems, their attitude is often just to appropriate the drama, project into it their own sense of victimisation and simply complain, criticise or target. Have we stopped transforming our culture and become caught up with only transforming ourselves? And just as bad are some of us making a living out of training people to train people to be self-engrossed, thinking that we are benefiting the collective but actually colluding with narcissism and alienated individualism?
There is also some fatigue and laziness. The revolutionaries and idealists of the past may now be now more concerned with the value of their homes and where their slippers are. We may have achieved some comfort or status – and we do not want to lose them. We think and feel that we have paid our dues, as if age and seniority give us some licence to disengage from the noble struggle.
There is also some fear and collective anxiety due to past-life or archetypal memories of religious persecution. This may lead us to being over-sensitive to criticism and cultural pressures, endlessly seeking consensus or approval, when perhaps we should be asserting our truth and our utopianism more publicly. At worst, it may freeze us into inertia.
All of the above are totally understandable. They are part to the human condition and, writ large or small, in all of us. They are just part of the territory.
My sense now however is that it is time to unstick ourselves from all that stuff and to mobilise for another sustained and dynamic out-breath.
Whilst writing this piece I did an interview for the main BBC radio religious programme about my new book and the new spirituality, which many of us are calling Holism. (It’s an appropriate word.) A patronising and dismissive bishop preceded the interview, describing us as well meaning seekers who might possibly at some point find the truth. The interviewer himself was also patronising and aggressive.
I managed the situation because I have done many of these interviews and confrontations, but I was given pause for thought because the producer of the programme had agreed in advance not to set up the usual polarity and argument, but to have a more appreciative enquiry. Despite the agreement, there was the usual ambush.
In terms of popular culture I am certain that Holism â€“ the new spirituality by whatever name it is known â€“ has landed and claimed its space. But where are its leaders? Where are its values being clearly communicated? Where can people go to understand how crucially all of this affects our global community? Where is the moral guidance and the confident articulation of the ethics and conscience?
This, I believe, is the next step of our mission confidently to articulate and manifest in local and global citizenship the values and essence of a universal and multifaceted spirituality. There is a mass movement emerging out of Gaia and humanity, and it requires clear voices to assert its meaningfulness, relevance and value.
I believe that with careful self-reflection, with psychological sensitivity and with a clear appreciation of social and ecological realities, we need to be proudly radiating and expressing our messages. We will all have different ways of explaining and understanding it, but its essence for all of us is clear. This new spirituality is the expression of wonderful values concerned with Love, Connection and the Sacred nature of all life. It is do with community-building in families, with neighbours, in our towns, countries and the globe towards a local and planetary society of justice, peace and the creative fulfilment of all beings.
On a new turn of the spiral, we need to engage with the music of the zeitgeist playing through every cell of our beings. We need to turn the volume up on our idealism, up our brilliant desire to create heaven on earth.
In supermarket queues, bars and cafes. At work, at home, at leisure and in voluntary organisations. With strangers, with friends and with relatives. On school and hospital boards, in local and national politics. Wherever and whenever we are. Within ourselves to anxious or lazy aspects of our own psyches. We need to feel, incarnate and assert that we live in an inclusive, powerful and benevolent cosmos of unconditional love, that everything is sacred and precious, and that the purpose of our lives is to build a global community of harmony, justice and abundance for all.
If we do not assert this message and create the changes, who will?
It is we who must do this because there are new generations coming up behind us. They are not the same group of souls as we are. They have a different mission. It is our job, not theirs, to complete what we began and to provide the space for their next steps. Are we leaving behind a legacy of which we can be proud? Are we laying the foundations that will serve our grandchildren and generations to come?
To repeat Frantz Fanon’s question: Are we fulfilling our mission?
The word enthusiasm, as many of us know, comes from en-theos, to be filled with the divine within. So there we are. I am ready for more enthusiasm. For more engagement. For more confidence and divine wilfulness. For more alignment. For more understanding of whom we are and what we are meant to be doing. It may be risky. We may make mistakes. But what a great feeling – to fulfil the mission!
People emerge out of theÂ Earth in the same way that leaves emerge from trees.
I like to view the great spiritual teachers in this way. They were not transported in from some other star system or dimension, but also emerged from Earth. Christ and Buddha, Mary and Kuan Yin, emerged as examples of humanity’s fulfilled potential for compassion and consciousness.
One of the most common and recurring religious themes is that humanity will be saved and brought to its next stage of evolution through the appearance of a yet another great prophet or world teacher. In Christianity, Christ will come again. In Buddhism, the Maitreya Buddha will incarnate. In Judaism, the Messiah. In Islam, the Imam Mahdi. And across the new age movement, there are all kinds of prophesies about new gurus, avatars and interventions.
I am open to all these ideas – I always welcome help! -Â but to be honest I am also suspicious of them. These prophecies suggest that humanity is dependent on outside intervention and that we cannot make it by ourselves. Maybe so, but I have another experience. I know the world is full of selfishness and suffering, but over and over again I see people growing and transforming. Especially in crises and challenges I see people developing. I therefore have faith in our species to achieve spiritual maturity and fulfilment based in our own efforts.
So I prefer another idea and prophesy, which is that humanity as a whole is the new saviour and that collectively we are the new Messiah. Or to put it in another language, the Christ consciousness, the Buddha consciousness, the Gaia consciousness, will not be manifest through just one single person, but will manifest through many of us. It will be a group event.
This collective event is sometimes described with words like ‘higher vibrations’ and ‘ascension’. It is also sometimes described as an event that will be restricted to a small elite and that the rest of humanity will perish. I remember once hearing a spiritual teacher suggest, drawing on the symbolism of the New Testament, that we should all welcome a nuclear third world war because it would result in 144,000 special irradiated people who would pioneer a new humanity on a new earth in a new dimension. Scary.
But that is only one example of the many melodramatic prophesies about humanity’s future. As my readers will know, I am happy to contradict any prophesies which suggest some kind of global disaster. I may be wrong, but I am suspicious of any kind of spirituality that is communicated with threats. More than that, the history of religion is very sobering. It shows that decade-by-decade, almost year-by-year, there has always been some group warning that the end of the world is nigh.Â The end is nigh! Prepare to meet thy doom!?Â This has been the source of many wonderful cartoons.
There is another way of understanding a collective change in humanity, which many other teachers, such as Alice Bailey and the Orbs, describe.
Some of you may be familiar with the classic meditation exercise called the Master in the Heart. In some spiritual schools, this is the very first technique that is taught. In it we slowly and calmly build up a picture and sense of a perfect being. We then place and develop this being in our hearts, allowing it to radiate to influence us and the world around us.
Done every day over a period of time, this is a powerful exercise. Gradually the practitioner absorbs the vibration of the exercise and integrates its influence. It becomes increasingly real. The individual indeed develops an open and radiating heart.
An open and radiating heart! Now that, for me, is a real change in vibration and in consciousness. Watch anyone, including you, opening their heart. The atmosphere immediately becomes more caring and compassionate. Our consciousness expands and there is instinctive generosity.
Opening our hearts is perhaps the single most important thing that any of us can do.
It is not noisy behaviour. It does not glitter and it does not seek attention. The higher vibrations of the heart are not, in my opinion, intense or electric. They are softer, deeper, more considerate and caring. And powerful.
I began this piece by saying that I liked the idea that the Earth births us in the same way that a tree births leaves. To follow this metaphor, when a heart opens it is like a bud opening on a tree. In fact, esoteric anatomy describes the heart chakra as being like a flower with several petals that open and then begin to spin, radiating heart energy. Each petal of the heart chakra represents a different aspect of love: compassion, care, attention to detail, service, self-sacrifice, courage and so on.
When all the petals in our heart chakra are spinning, when our hearts are fully open, then we are not only channels for compassion and love, we ourselves are actually generators of compassion, power stations of goodwill.
This is like a tree blossoming in Spring. One new leaf, one new bud, is a miracle of nature. But it is the destiny, the essential nature of the tree, to be full with blossom, a whole canopy of tiny flowers creating a single image of beauty. Deep roots, a powerful trunk and a celebration of radiance.
This too is surely the destiny for the whole of humanity. Not just the occasional visiting messiah. Not just the occasional emergence of a saviour -Â but the collective opening of our hearts.