Summer Solstice 2007: Innovation and Tradition in Religion

This past spring, an arsonist destroyed the Church’s meeting house. It is now a two-story skeleton of blackened bones, wrapped round with a single yellow caution strip, as if that were the only thing holding it up. Around it, the forest, lawn and garden are lush with summer growth.

ire18Near the top of the hill stands the husk of a tree, struck by lightning. It was also smitten this spring. At the base of the tree, one of the Church’s members cut a crop-circle-like maze in the tall grass with a weed whacker, and placed a salvaged soot-covered statuette in its center. Before the Solstice ceremony, and late into the evening afterwards, the children played games in the maze, and chased lightning bugs.

The Nature Church has been purified by fire.

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Review of Life on Purpose

Earlier this month I was presented with the opportunity to read a new book called Life on Purpose — Six Passages to an Inspired Life, by Dr. Brad Swift. Swift’s story is an inspiring one: twenty years ago he was a successful veterinarian, with no apparent problems in his professional or personal life, but he very nearly committed suicide because of uncontrollable feelings of suffering, emptiness, and worthlessness. He was saved from the brink by a good friend, and since then his climb has been — by his own admission — slow and erratic, but inexorable. His life now is centered around his foundation, the Life on Purpose Institute, and his “Life on Purpose Process” taught by him and the coaches he has trained.

This Process is what you’ll find in this book.

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Midsummer – Interview with Apollo

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Apollo is one of my primary guides, and was the original inspiration for this blog. Over the past year, I’ve worked at improving my connection with him, to become a clearer conduit for solar energy. It’s been an amazing ride…

Midsummer is the point of Apollo’s maximum power, and it’s also the first anniversary of this blog. There seemed to be no better time to share some of Apollo’s thoughts and reflections. This interview was gathered together from a number of separate meditation sessions as well as automatic writing.

The setting is a grassy, windy hilltop in the sun. We are sitting on a stone bench just outside Apollo’s temple — a small Greek affair, little more than a dome supported by columns, covering a small pool with water rippled by the breeze and dappled by sunlight through nearby trees. The temple is at the edge of a dark green wood, but we are facing away from that, watching the wind play in the tall grass, and the sunlight glittering on the sea beyond the hills.

Like many famous people, Apollo is not as tall as you might have expected. He is muscular, but certainly not overbuilt, and he rarely wears anything. His skin at this time is bronzed, glowing as though with a recent tan; earlier in the spring, when he was as new-born, his skin was actually flowing molten gold. His hair is brown and curly, short-cropped; and his eyes are black as night, studded with swirls of stars.

DJ: Good morning! Thanks for coming by today.

Apollo: Thank you! My pleasure.

DJ: First off, let me ask you this: was this interview your idea, or mine?

Apollo: The very fact that you’re asking that question means that you’re making a lot of progress in aligning your energy with mine. Congratulations! The answer is: it was my idea. And it was also your idea. As you open yourself up more and more, you will find it harder to distinguish your thoughts from mine.

DJ: That seems a little… uh… creepy.

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Other Voices — Slade on Spiritual Innovation and Religious Tradition

Guest blogger Slade Roberson participates in DruidJournal’s Other Voices Conversation about the Interface between Tradition and Innovation in Religion.

Are you one of the spiritual but not religious? You’re not alone; and that ought to be encouraging, in and of itself.

Religion without spirituality is a scary prospect. Your sense of spirit is what matters most — it infuses tradition and religion with soul. Spirit is the source of raw creative power that transcends the details — it’s the Stuff tradition is made of.

Selective Eclecticism
That means I potentially believe in everything a little bit. I feel that religious traditions represent the overall harvest of spiritual innovators who have gone before. Traditions provide an All You Can Eat Super Buffet Mega Bar with unlimited refills, bottomless salad bowls, and free breadsticks. Given that infinite selection, you can gorge yourself on one dish, or you could try a bit of everything. But there’s really only so much you can consume — there’s only so much nourishment you require.

You pick a few of your favorites, acknowledge the abundance in gratitude, and leave sated — knowing next time you can always mix it up and try something different, or come chow down on your personal tried and true favorites.

You could eat the same thing over and over again and never run out, you could sample something different with every trip, or some infinite combination in between.

We can all go to the mega bar with an empty plate and return with heaping platefuls as unique as our mazy fingerprint whorls and our psychadelic iris swirls.

It’s all good. It’s all God.
You are the way by which universal consciousness — Source — the Creator — experiences Itself. Your Spirit is your plate — language is your utensil.

Choosing Your Religion
Once upon a time, I invited Jeff Lilly to guest author on Shift Your Spirits, with an introduction to his series How to Choose A Religion.

There’s only one option Jeff left off his list, which I joyfully added — Create One!

Your Life as Creative Masterpiece
Change is the one thing we can absolutely count on in this Universe. God is Change. God is infinite creativity. Your creativity is your link to divinity. You are God — act like it.

Art is a discipline where the student and the teacher are the same person. Your life — your individual expression of spirit — is your creative masterpiece.

An artist or a writer may study the old masters — learn all the rules in order to break them — practice tried and true techniques to learn how to use the tools. If you are a writer, you read other writers, you study other texts, you learn language, you expand your vocabulary, but in order to contribute, to make something new, there is no perfect map to follow. There is no blueprint or checklist that arrives at a work of art or a piece of literature. To follow the craft of another to the letter… you simply end up in someone else’s life. You’ve simply tracked another’s path. You’ve created a great copy, at best.

Only So Far
You may have noticed that I do not discuss religion or argue theology on Shift Your Spirits — what you may not know about me from reading my blog is that I do not — I no longer — study specific traditions or faiths. I do not at this point even actively research or even read what other people have written — with the exception of my peers in this medium — other spiritual bloggers who share my goal of creating — introducing — re-seeding — the collective wisdom with unique, original contemplation.

That’s not to say I have not studied religion in the past — I am ordained three times over — I have degrees in language and holistic ministry — I don’t sign my posts with the Rev. Slade, although I am technically — legally — a member of the clergy. Those kinds of scholarly distinction are not meaningful to me at this point in my life, nor are they critical to my mission. I admit that my degrees and ordinations were mostly ego-motivated, or based in the fear of being judged. While I was busy proving and convincing, I wasn’t creating, I wasn’t adding anything to wisdom — it was all background and preparation.

Real authentic spiritual work — innovation — begins where the paths of tradition end.

When you reach the end of a trail that only takes you so far, get out your machete — your sword — your mighty pen — take a deep breath and start your hacking and blazing deeper into your mission.

The only way out is to go so far IN…

The Menu of Tradition, Translated
When someone tells me she’s a member of a specific religion, I hear that to mean she’s chosen to stay seated at the table, order from the menu of set dishes and controlled portions, that she has requested that someone bring her supper to her, for her. For whatever reason…

I am not threatened by that, nor do I even judge it. When someone describes herself as spiritual, I am delighted to hear that she’s chosen the All You Can Eat buffet, has brought her plate to stand in line with me and see what’s available before she decides what she wants to eat, in the moment.

The Menu of traditions is safe — it may be filled with your favorites comfort foods — you may find plenty of nourishment when ordering from the Menu of religious traditions. I don’t presume the reasons why someone has made this choice.

When engaging another person in matters of faith, the only thing I look for or ask is “Does she have a plate?” Because the Questions are all that matters — the questions are the point; answers are a delusional expectation.

Spirit is a Mystery; anyone who tells you that he KNOWS something to be True about spirit — and I mean, literally, beyond a matter of speech or personal expression — he is lying — to you, but also to himself. Anyone who believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” — who knows, as opposed to having faith — sets himself up for, at worst, hypocrisy, at best, disappointment.

When I say “I know” what I really mean is “I have asked, and this is what resonates with me.” It’s always an inkling. Just because words are historically old — whether divinely inspired or not — they entered the page by a human heart and hand, just as these did.

My goals start with a sampling of many traditions, as inspiration — now I am innovating, creating, and inviting you to do the same. The formula is simple: Study the Masters; then become One.

See, the Tower of Babel myth was not a story of punishment — man in his godlike wisdom gets too big for his britches and gets knocked down to the size where he belongs. No, no, no — God graduated man to the next level of challenge — diversity is the cornerstone of innovation and evolution. Diversity and the infinite potential of creative change within the Bigger Picture is the strength of any system.

Without that infinite potential of creative expression, God would not need so many of us. The Universe in all its infinite abundance would not have been set in motion.

What is tradition if not really old innovation? If Spirit were a blog, traditions would be the most popular posts, categories, and tags. The biggest, oldest, most populated world religions would be the big swollen links in the tag cloud. Sacred texts would be the posts with the most comments.

Innovation begins as heresy. If someone calls you crazy or a heretic, take it as a compliment — you must be onto something! The changes you introduce can inspire others to adopt a similar method; when enough people incorporate a new thought into their consciousness, it eventually becomes elevated to tradition.

Tradition is an innovative recipe that stuck around long enough to become a favorite — and for people to forget its origin in Mystery.

Let’s Mix in Another Metaphor
Why? Because I’m inspired to break the tradition of this article’s established food-trough metaphor by introducing another sample.

The Dartboard of Traditional Faith
Picture a dartboard where each section represents a faith, established tradition, religion — however you want to populate the variety of belief.

Which section is your faith? You’ve chosen the bulls-eye to represent your center. If you’re innovative and liberal, you might be bold and say all the concentric red rings in the center represent your expansive, liberal new faith.

That’s a pretty tight spot to target — you’ve set yourself up with a challenging definition of piety that relies on a lot of bulls-eyes and not much else.

  • What are the odds?
  • How do you judge the darts you throw that come close, but just outside that center?
  • Do they represent your misses, your blasphemies, your failures?

[Groan] — awwww, too bad.

Guess which part of the dartboard I’m calling as my target faith?

The whole damn thing!

All I have to do is hit the board — ANY section on that dartboard — and I can cheer and celebrate. What are the odds that I will “win” this game, by simply expanding my choice of faith to include all of them?

The dartboard, the plate, and spirit are similar in shape and scope.

Individual dishes, recipes, answers, and tightly-focused rules are limiting.

Back to the dartboard — I mean the drawing board — wait, no, the Table
If you find yourself seated among a group of people all dining on the exact same thing — and that fellowship brings you comfort, that tradition gives you strength — if you’re there because you love meat-and-two-vegetables and you have a blast communing with other fans of meat-and-two-vegetables — eat up!

However, if you find yourself at the Meat+Two Table, being berated for your extra side dish of macaroni salad — having to answer to your choice of variation, or being told that you can’t consume anything extra — that you’re not allowed — perhaps you are sitting at the wrong table.

Don’t feel you have to defend it — don’t waste your spirit and spoil your meal and suffer through indigestion engaging in a dysfunctional family argument over broken bread.

You’re welcome to come sit at our table — where the only thing we say is grace — a prayer of thanks for the abundance — and one other simple command:


Seek Wisdom — Practice Love

Slade's signature

Communicating with Spirit |
He writes about how to Shift Your Spirits — transforming the life you’re already living into the powerful spiritual mission you know it’s suppose to be. And how to use Spiritual Blogging to broadcast your mission on a global scale.

Voices in the Empty Tower

School’s out!

My second grader is now officially a third grader. We had a huge school-wide picnic in the blazing summer heat. Looking out from under the chestnut tree at the top of the hill, eating a fresh cool salad, there was short grass in the foreground, tall grass a little beyond that, rolling farmland a bit further out, and then the forested Holyoke Range, hazy and blue in the humidity, presiding silently over the raucus proceedings.

All the adults kept accidentally calling the kids “second graders”, and the kids kept screaming out “third graders!”

hangedgodTomorrow we’re headed to Boston for my wife’s ten-year college reunion. Then we’re driving a bit further, out onto Cape Cod, for a week of camping by the beach. (Yes, with four small children. Don’t worry, we’re professionals.)

So I’ll be away from the computer for a spell, and I realized that this would be an awesome chance to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: bring some Other Voices front and center here. I did some guest blogging for Pagan Sojourn back in January, and Slade and I have exchanged articles, and each of those experiences was extremely positive for all involved. The cross-pollination of ideas and readers and writers is exciting and invigorating for everyone.

Below is a list of the generous bloggers who have graciously agreed to step in to fill my silence, along with a snatch of their voices:

Over the next week, these big-hearted souls will be posting on topics of their own choosing when the spirit moves them. At Erik’s suggestion, some of them are planning to write about the tension between innovation and tradition in religion — a fascinating topic, and a potentially explosive one, as history has shown. But whatever they write about, I thank them all from the bottom of my heart! I can’t wait to see what they will post.

Men go abroad to wonder the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

–St. Augustine


[Note: I just realized that my beautiful “Other Voices” page was gutted when I upgraded WordPress last week. My apologies to those whose work was represented there — I didn’t backup things properly, it appears, and I will have to reconstruct it from scratch after my vacation.]

Meet a Guide: Free Guided Meditation

The meditation is in mp3 format, is 22 MB, and lasts 18.5 minutes. There is a link here and also at the bottom of this post.

For me, meditation provides the simplest, richest, and most effective window into whatever issues are most urgent and troubling in my life. It doesn’t matter what I’m struggling with — meditation almost always helps. I’ve used meditation for:

My goodness! I wasn’t expecting the list to be so long when I started making it.

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