Both freedom of religion and freedom from religion were sought
and found by many at the end of the Oregon Trail. Gently but steadily
subverting organized fundamentalism like water dissolves rock, individualism
and eclectic spirituality seep, leak and spread everywhere in this
community. A read-through of this newspaper demonstrates the plethora
of religious options one can assemble into a collage of personal
spirituality, if the need is felt.
We prize our freedom from others domination, hard won through
any number of therapists, workshops and self-help books. M. Scott
Peck, a popular guide in the 80s, graphs the spiritual development
process simply through four stages: Stage One, the enchanted childhood
of unconscious one-ness; Stage Two, the anxious discovery of separation
and reaction to it by conforming to the law and order of the herd;
Stage Three, individualistic rejection of Stage Two; and Stage Four,
a blessed integration of spirit, self and other in voluntary associations.
Those in unconscious and fear-driven stages one and
two fill authoritarian spiritual communities. By contrast,
liberal religious institutions that allow self-determination
inevitably graduate their members into individualism. This is why,
with a few charismatic exceptions, freedom-loving congregations
in all traditional religions are losing ground.
Are you, for instance, giving your energy, money and time to sustain
a community of any sort? And why should you sacrifice, compromise,
tie yourself down when you have outgrown all that, when you know
how to find what you need anytime in the psycho-spirit-metaphysical
The truly avant-garde always ask themselves, whats next?
Next, in the realm of world religion, is that many seekers will
inevitably find something to settle on that is larger than themselves
- some vision of concrete community to contribute to or even to
co-create. Understanding the care, feeding and commitment required
to nurture a healthy voluntary association is one important corner
of our new field of learning. As this new understanding thrives,
non-domination spiritual communities will then begin to flourish
in many forms.
These volunteers, who in their freedom are ready for the next stage,
are bringing their chosen spiritual communities great gifts. Like
bees that have buzzed from flower to flower, theyve mixed
up the pollen from many plants. Inside Christianity, for instance,
we have already assimilated Buddhist meditation, earth-based spirituality,
Jewish holidays, Reiki healing, Hindu metaphysics, Sufi dances,
and recognized Christ as the eternal Tao.
Welcome to the interfaith Age of Aquarius! As tyrants fall in the
outer world, each of us has the freedom in our inner worlds to define
our own image of god. But todays pioneers are on the trail
of creating and sustaining voluntary associations where individuals
find fulfillment in community. When enough of our energy shifts
from reactive (and necessarily selfish) individualism to the next
stage of development - when the seekers find, and the bees return
to the hive - all religions may be surprised to find themselves
savoring some very rich honey.
Thomas and Gabrielle Chavez are co-convenors of Christ the Healer
UCC, an all-embracing Christian community that meets Monday nights
at 7pm at 6th and Watson Streets in Beaverton.503-650-4447.