Source: World Network of Religious Futurists
http://www.wnrf.org/cms/spiritua.shtml

Esoteric Futures
A Spirituality for Tomorrow
By Rev. Carol E. Parrish-Harra, PhD, Aug 8, 1998

This address was presented on July 21, 1998 to the World Future Society upon receiving the Earl Award. Rev. Parrish is the author of numerous books, her latest being Adventures in Meditation -- Spirituality for the 21st Century, a three volume set.

Thank you, Dr Kirby, colleagues, and distinguished guests. As I proudly accept the Earl Award, I consider conversations of the last few years with people of various faiths about the challenges facing religion in our modern world.

Standing at the door of a new millennium, our choices not only affect our personal lives, but also the collective life of humankind. As the old world dies, a new one is being created. Just as technology has forever altered our world, new and inner shifts are transforming our perception of our relationship to the world and of the true self that dwells therein.

Religion has provided dogma, doctrines, disciplines, laws, commandments, and practices to steer an advancing people over the centuries. For generations, each collective had its territory, purpose, and culture. This is no longer so.

No longer are defined territories valid. Fear and stereotypes lock us into place. Having faced one another and noted our differences and idiosyncracies, we have discovered a profound sameness! With curiosity and open minds, we realize the "human" within traditions once ridiculed, feared, or resisted.

Religion is to empower us, to lead us to spiritual maturity so that we recognize ourselves and each other as "souls," or whatever term our tradition employees.

Just as a plane's racing jets increase the momentum and thrust until the plane can lift off, the momentum and thrust of our faith prepares us to soar to holy consciousness. This momentum is experienced in a variety of practices: prayer, meditation and contemplation, discernment, intuition -- all become the turf of the mystic.

The daring religious creative is not unlike the daring scientist who ventures into ridicule to prove the benefits of his invention or pet theory. There is a point of breakthrough when absolute conviction takes over and drives the scientist toward the goal. Similarly, the power of our relationship to God transforms the practitioner into a mystic.

As we mature under the care of our tradition, that which awaits within begins to flower into its divine nature. All religions address the inner nature and its potential. All sacred scriptures point to a moment of contact that transforms a life. Certainly the many crises of today's world reveal our need for new answers and different responses.

Religion prepares you for a future of higher consciousness. We need more Mother Teresas, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzers, and other heroic models to lead us toward the future. We need bold souls who hunger and thirst for righteousness to hold us to a higher vision as we wade through challenges of our human nature.

We catch a glimpse of greatness occasionally. Every era has its futurists who stand apart and speak words little understood, but which resonate through time.

One such religious futurist was born in 1182. Often deemed a religious fanatic, Francis of Assisi rebelled against the dismal attitude of religion, saying new values were needed. Francis valued each life for its uniqueness; his whole message witnessed to love and respect for all life.

Now Saint Francis, celebrated as a reformer and visionary, serves as the patron of today's ecologists. Ahead of his time, Francis taught the primary fruit of love is joy and that right relationship to all life in true spirituality.

Francis and his few embodied a social revolution. His futuristic thoughts created the first peace corps movement. His Third Order of Secular Franciscans went about without army, vowing to "do no harm, live within their means, and shun excess."

A contemporary futurist, Dr. Edgar Mitchell has traveled a dramatic path since his moon-walk in 1971. As the astronauts turned toward Earth, he sensed a profound knowing of "universal connectedness." He was sure the universe was a conscious entity and that a deliberate process was occurring. Now he was eager to reconcile his church background and his MIT education.

In his book, The Way of the Explorer, Dr. Mitchell writes that Extraterrestrials are probably not hostile. I quote, "By the time a species is capable of exploring the deep cosmos, they have surely learned more about themselves that we, and the value of benevolence. It's safe to say they will be intelligent creatures who already fully recognize that all life is connected, although it may have different form and appearance."

Every era, in fact, every generation produces its progressive thinkers -- the shakers and movers of their time.

The moment comes when we are no longer satisfied with religion as we have known it; a cultural binding to sustain moral codes is not enough. We cry out to know God more intimately. Regardless of tradition, we seek a shift from cultural code to personal revelation. Religion has a work to do: it is to move us to spirituality, to an awareness of our essence, that essential inner nature.

Acknowledging the contribution of each is the fruit of spirituality, Empowering each to contribute his or her gift to the whole is the way of the wise.

We discover religion is both an art and a science. In our scientific phase we created and defined dogma' dictated doctrine, and broken our traditions into multitudes of denominations or sects.

Theology represents the rational science factor; seeking spirituality we embrace the art of religion. Spirituality evades dogma, distrusts doctrine, runs free to rework understanding in hard-to-define ways. Spirituality dances with insights and delivers glimpses to be contemplated before application. Spirituality cannot be taught; it is caught!

A university student found himself in a train beside a seemingly well-to-do peasant. The man was praying the rosary, smoothly fingering the beads.

"Sir, do you believe in such outdated things?" asked the student. "Yes, I do. Do you not?" responded the old man, The student burst into laughter: "I do not believe in such nonsense. Take my advice. Throw the rosary out the window and learn what science has to say."

"Science? I do not understand this science. Perhaps you can explain it to me," the man said politely, some tears in his eyes.

The student saw the man was deeply moved. To avoid further hurting his feelings, he said. "Please give me your address and I will send you some literature to help you on the matter."

Fumbling in his coat pocket, the man handed the boy his visiting card. Glancing at it, the student became quiet and bowed his head in shame. On the card he read; "Louis Pasteur, Director of the Institute of Scientific Research, Paris."

The urgent needs of our era challenge today's deep thinkers to surrender safe waters for a higher vision. The goal beckons to each to experience holy moments.

Exploring inner awareness is fairly new terrain. Evidence of the soul-sick abounds. Hospitals and prisons house those who sought breakthroughs by false means. Drugs equate to artificial, mind-altering "medicine.'" When hopeless, any prescription will do. Crime lures those lacking self-worth. Ignorance restricts some to dull hopelessness.

The spirituality is self-exploration and self-mastery, not the pursuit of phenomena. But one may move through little-known currents to reach new heights. Encouragement abounds, proclaiming the potential awaiting just beyond the familiar. While lives lie in psychic havoc, when ego refuses to bow to a higher power, embracing the simple and the pure with tenacity brings transformation.

Rapid changes are in store for humanity, for we have intellectually matured beyond a literal translation of our world. No longer simplistic, we can be simply kind. We can desire harmony and release rigid pictures of how it has to be into the flow of evolving life. We are all concerned about family values, broken homes, children without health care, the large number of homeless. It is frightening to realize the kind of care children receive is the kind of care they will give in the society of the future.

As thinking spiritual leaders gather anywhere around the globe, the problem of hostilities bred by past rigidities becomes a topic of concern. Artificial values and lifestyles promoted by television frighten caring people of India and Russia, as well as concerned people here. Healthy relationships between males and females, as well as differing segments of society soon becomes a part of presentations and conversations.

Prejudices have locked people into compartments for centuries. Believing one is better, favored, or safer separates and barricades. Such belief systems feed hostilities and fuel religious wars. Religious futurists must assist ecumenical relationships, knowing that such concepts encourage many but frighten others.

To assist races, nations, and religions to healthy relationships is of highest priority. Somehow it is more acceptable to think of scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in medicine than for centuries-old doctrine to shift. Yet religion must evolve to meet today’s challenges.

Regardless of our particular allegiance, we must remember religions die, many have. Some seeds fall on fertile soil, some on rock. Some will be nourished, others will blow away and die. They await within each of us; though in a soul-sick society, few recognize this. The psychology of wisdom traditions suggests the art of inner knowing -- that is, realizing God's Will in one's life -- will be sought more intensely in the new era than it was in our scientific era.

Humanity has built a center for faith and faith experiences within the scope of devotion; today we strive to create a place of "inner knowing" -- a facility for a more conscious and "knowing" relationship with the Creator. Education has prepared us to be a thinking, perceiving people, and religionists of today truly do desire a conscious awareness of God's love, will, and wisdom in their lives.

Just as religion is often about dogma, spirituality is about joy. The forthcoming era beckons us to seek our potential, but all of us cannot reach this by the old familiar route. When creativity awakens, the artist or the mystic moves from intellect to intuition; just knowing becomes a reality .

Of course, we do not all start from the same point. Just as talents and trials differ, our creative essence will be set free in distinct ways as well. Registering various levels of maturity, souls require different nurturing.

In our journey from religion to spirituality, we move from law to love, from personality to soul consciousness. Just as the frog egg brings forth a frog, the apple seed an apple -- made in the image and likeness of the Creator, we are "godlings." Just as we limit our Creator by holding only one image -- either Father or Mother -- we too have a diversity of talents and gifts to reflect back to the Source. It is obvious God loves variety, and each fragment gets to personify a glimpse of the One.

Spirituality is God's game. We cannot explain it; we cannot own it. We can only enter into the dance and rejoice in it. Religion has three great struggles to confront. The first is to help the peoples of world realize we are all one family with all the experiences of a large family. To become whole we must assist one another. How to respect other traditions while honoring one's own begs a response from each aware one.

Second, renewed hope will come as more people realize religions have prepared us for a next and wondrous step; spirituality, perceiving the deeper meaning of "the Father and I are one," can be realized.

The third mighty step facing the field of religion, and the world society as well, is to recognize the blessing the advent of women to leadership brings. A hundred years from now, no one will understand what was so fearful about the acceptance of woman into ministry.

The Christian tradition is in the midst of a second Reformation and will emerge to grow in bold new ways.

The third millennium of the Christian Church will be the millennium of the Mother. As we observe the technological wonders of our world, we see the power God has invested in humankind. Now, we stand at the new millennium, and we must recognize the value of the contributions of both males and females in recreating a healthy planetary vision.

By embracing the feminine side of nature with renewed respect, we expand our concepts of ways to know, whether called E.Q., innate, or intuitive. Acknowledging such knowing will bring healing of attitudes and right relationship -- within levels of self, with one another' and with the world in which we live.

As we access the mysteries of the feminine nature, I suggest we will find that play is the missing ingredient in most adult lives -- not play as defined by another or by an analyst, but play as defined by one's inner self.

Creative people play. They embrace life with a daring that others caution against. While others carefully calculate time, dollars, and effort, creative people greet God with new ideas, engage in dialogue, and allow themselves to become vulnerable to the fiery touch of Spirit. Whether praying, writing, painting, or serving, they delight in the essence of life called spirituality.

In these days, we have no way of knowing what seeds we plant. As futurists, perhaps we need not ask that question but only witness to the truth that is our own. we gather to share ideas and insights to scatter both hope and warnings into the minds of humankind.

Profound thinkers do not wait for approval; their own "knowing" must sustain them until others catch up. But share we must, for we would disappoint ourselves if we did not make our voices heard. Change does not come without agents who point out limitations.

Religions of the world have achieved a great work. On the new frontier, 21st century mystics will contribute to every field of human endeavor. The new impact of the holy will revitalize human life to bring about a dynamic new era for all of humanity.

Carol Parrish REV. CAROL E. PARRISH-HARRA, Ph.D., is the founder of Sancta Sophia Seminary (1978) and Sparrow Hawk Village (1981), a spiritual community in the foothills of the Ozarks, near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. After a near-death experience in 1958, she began an earnest search for a new perception of spirituality. Today, she is a master teacher of teachers, international lecturer, and author of ten books. The latest of these are Adventure in Meditation--Spirituality for the 21st Century, each of three volumes earning the Athena Award for Mentoring, and The New Dictionary of Spiritual Thought, containing 1100 concepts of today's most important Western and Eastern esoteric and spiritual concepts. One review stated, "No other reference book today provides the clarity and depth of insight into the timeless wisdom teachings, going beyond intellectual understanding to touch the innermost heart and soul."

© 1998-2008 by World Network of Religious Futurists.

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