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Copyright © Anagarika Eddie 2012. All rights reserved.

A good friend of mine, a Methodist, asked his minister if people who didn’t believe in Jesus were destined for hell. The minister thought for a moment and said, “God is love.” This reply is a sign of the shifting landscape of spirituality.

Successful spiritual institutions have always reflected their followers’ level of conscious awareness. This is so because spiritual institutions are not isolated. When they become isolated, the conservatism they hope will preserve them is exactly what destroys them. Followers seldom challenge their spiritual institutions when they intellectually outgrow them; they just walk away.

As humanity evolves, and its level of understanding expands, the current institutions and their doctrines have no choice but to evolve as well. We are no longer ignorant people living in middle age muddle. If institutions don’t adapt, they will be discredited and replaced by institutions that satisfy the hunger of an evolving consciousness. This has happened throughout history, and it’s happening now.

This new consciousness is not a choice for people, or something to be stamped out; it is inevitable, unstoppable. Attempts to stifle it will be temporary at best and eventually unsuccessful. It will be wiser to simply adjust, because armed with this new consciousness, an individual’s religion will be thoroughly tested and investigated from a standpoint of free inquiry, no longer from a standpoint of blind belief and intimidation. The world is not becoming less religious; it is becoming truly religious.

Truth, that enigmatic quality of lasting peace and security in our hearts, cannot be imparted from an outside source; it must be experienced. Spiritual institutions that dictate, and then expect us to follow blindly, will no longer be tolerated. Just as democratic societies love political freedom, those of the new consciousness will demand spiritual freedom as well, where each individual will discover his or her own truth inwardly without fearing the judgment of an outside, authoritarian power. If you look carefully, you can see this happening all around us.

The old consciousness, which is a throwback to medieval belief systems handed down by authoritarian Gods, is giving way to new spiritual freedom. Controversies throughout the world reflect this change of behavior where ruthlessness is clashing with an arising sensitivity and intelligence. Falling in love with a religion, then defending it against all opposition, is as illogical and emotional as a lover who imagines dangerous rivals encircling his beloved, and risks his life to protect her. Fortunately, this form of lust is usually only short-lived obsessions for those with a developing new consciousness.

Institutions, including spiritual ones, which adjust to the needs of this new, evolving consciousness of individuality and freedom will thrive. Those dragging their feet and fighting it will not. This will not happen overnight. Many will continue to look upon all of this as blasphemy, but those who examine things carefully will see the implications clearly, and prepare themselves for the coming changes.

Acceptance of this new reality is only beginning. The infighting and disagreements will be no different from clashes of cultures in the past, where new ideas were looked upon initially as so threatening that the messengers were shunned, sometimes killed. Eventually, new ideas ease their way into a society that can’t quite accept them, but are intrigued nevertheless and acknowledge the new ideas as cultural jokes. Finally, new concepts are accepted seriously when the culture reinvents them as their own original ideas to fit into their particular beliefs, as they must.

This shift in consciousness is happening now. The human longing for creativity, historically reserved for the few artists, writers, and those of inspired occupations, is going mainstream. The need to be creative is overwhelming the need for pleasure and security. Artists think nothing of living in their cars while painting their masterpiece, writers hammering out pages in one-room apartments oblivious to worldly pursuits, while truly spiritual people are going deep inside, taking the time, the risk, and the sacrifices involved to understand themselves, to understand what Truth really means, to come face to face with God just as the prophets throughout history had done. Why accept second hand spirituality from something read or heard?

Material things so valued in the past no longer will weigh us down so much. A certain level of material comfort will always be necessary, but now, more importantly, we will demand our time to create. No longer will it be, “How much money can I make?” but rather, “How can I make ends meet while I support my passion?” Will society as we know it change? Yes. Will crime decrease? Of course. Will we be a stronger and happier society? Definitely. We see this happening in small ways already. What passion could be more creative than one of authentically finding out what God really is for oneself, instead of being spoon-fed and mislead about Him by unenlightened, self-righteous sermonizers?

Many ignore warnings that rich men have a better chance of passing through the eye of a needle than getting into heaven. The fact remains, however, that a rich man cannot relate to a poor man. He patronizes those less fortunate, but secretly, or even openly, fears them, seeing poverty as a threat, a reminder of what he could become because his values embrace only power and wealth. As a new consciousness evolves, however, we will become increasingly vulnerable and sensitive to the pain of those less fortunate, less intelligent, less endowed with creative energy. Those whose consciousness is slower in evolving will fight to maintain the status quo (to keep “economics” the real present day world religion), but nevertheless, a freedom from the mass hysteria that too often now represents our beliefs, will certainly evolve.

Christ and the Buddha recognized the blinding influence of wealth and organized religion, and gave us examples to follow. They were literally beggars, turning their backs on the established religion of the day armed only with enlightened minds. Currently, how many are prepared to follow them, that is; become enlightened? Who welcomes financial hardship and psychological upheaval in exchange for a spiritual life that, as promised by these two unique men, holds out the real possibility of total inner freedom instead of guilt and fear?

But because we lack faith, few have experienced an authentic spiritual life; we really don’t believe the teachings of the Buddha and Christ. They tried to tell us about spirituality, but we weren’t paying attention; we opted to take the easy way out — we built religions around these men instead of following their ways and finding true spirituality within ourselves – and we got what we deserved; a shallow understanding of spirituality. We don’t intuitively feel it. We prefer to noisily talk and think about it while going about the business of amassing fortunes and worldly relationships, instead of reaching in the silence toward God.

St. John of the Cross describes the risks of fame and fortune in his masterpiece; “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”: . . . “and the fourth degree of evil that comes from joy of worldly things is: And he departed from God, his salvation. This man has made money and things of the world his God, and David said, ‘Be thou not afraid when a man shall be made rich, for when he dieth, he shall carry nothing away, neither riches, nor joy, nor glory.”

Clearly, we have refused to believe what was being taught; spiritual self-sufficiency through our own efforts. We refuse because it is easier to just believe. If we are born in India, we believe as a Hindu. In Thailand, as a Buddhist. In the US as a Christian. We believe what our parents taught us because putting forth the effort or time to see for ourselves requires courage and work. We are too busy with everything except God. We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk, however, this is all changing; if you look closely, you can see the signs everywhere. The new consciousness is beginning and you can be a part of it.

It is always your choice.

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.