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Evolving Community Consciousness
by Thomas and Gabrielle Chavez

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 80’s, 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 marketplace?

The truly avant-garde always ask themselves, what’s 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, they’ve 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 today’s 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.