Layout Image

Spirituality and Religion (Part 2): The Polarity of Structure

Boxes, breakdowns, and breakthroughs…

Sage, a spiritual entity channeled through Mary Ann Robbat in Lexington, spoke to us frequently about “boxes”. You’re living in a box of your own creation, she would say, and don’t even know it. You need boxes. You’re human; you’re not ready to take on the flow of the universe in a completely unstructured way.   But since you create them yourselves, how much can you expand the box you’re living in?

Structure is a system of interconnected, interdependent parts that form a greater whole. Every structure is designed to serve a particular function. Structures are intrinsic to all creation: physical, biological, and social. Our minds are structured by beliefs, patterns, habits, and connections of thought and feeling. Some of these inner structures are conscious and some unconscious. Either way, they can be helpful or harmful, depending on how they support our wellbeing, or limit our possibilities. And, to one degree or another, every structure does both. (This is one of those polarities I wrote about last time.)

The space you live in is a structure. If it solid and secure, it serves your wellbeing in obvious ways. The family you live in is a structure. If it’s open, honest, and loving, it’s equally obvious how it serves you. And if it’s not…well, you know.

Structures connect with other structures to form systems and mega-systems. The water system in your house is connected to the town water system, which is connected to the reservoir and the rain: the system we call the water cycle. All of creation is an interconnected, interdependent structure. The water cycle was a brilliant idea. Nice job, God!

Natural structures and systems evolve and change with the environment. In fact, the impulse for evolutionary growth and change is part of the structure of the universe. (See the lessons on conscious evolution.) Structures that are no longer relevant to the changing environment break down. Others adapt and grow, developing new and unexpected capacities. Thus the scaly reptile becomes the feathered bird. Some structures break down and others break through. In fact, the breakthrough always includes some degree of breakdown, although is more gradual. It’s a natural process.

Man-made structures, however, have some intrinsic issues. Unlike the Creative Intelligence of the universe that worked out the water cycle, our understanding of how our world really works is limited. Often our structures can’t keep up with changing environment. We become vested in a particular structure, rather than the function it’s trying to support. I think big oil is a great example. It’s pretty clear that those companies (a structure of individuals, lest we forget) are vested in oil, rather than optimizing energy functionality in a world we now understand in a new way. A structure that is much less supportive of our wellbeing results.

Okay, but so what…what’s this got to do with religion and spirituality?

The same is true of our inner structures, with the added complication that many of them are unconscious (or subconscious, if you prefer). This is what Sage was trying to tell us. We react to what we experience based on a set of internal structures that we don’t fully understand. We behave in ways that are predicated on unconscious belief systems that unnecessarily limit us. We become attached to internal and external structures that are no longer functional in a new environment. This causes fear and anxiety when they break down. We limit our breakthroughs, by clinging to what is familiar and doing what is habitual.

Religion – any religion – is of course a structure. The usefulness of that structure, like any other, is how well it serves us. Do the spiritual, ideological, organizational, social, and financial structures bring new life and new possibility? Is the system focused more on the function it supports – spiritual and emotional wellbeing – or on the structures that are already in place? Are the foundational beliefs universal and inclusive? Do they serve to unite, or separate, humankind from its spiritual nature? Is the organization sensitive and responsive, while remaining true to itself?

The answers to these questions vary from person to person, congregation to congregation, and religion to religion. But I think it’s safe to say that, all too often, the answers to these questions are negative. The level of rigidity, exclusiveness, dogmatism, ritual, and resistance to change are often too high to serve the function they were originally intended to support.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is a path to an evolving understanding of the structures that support healing and growth. It is a process of understanding the structures that are at work within us, letting go of what does not serve, and consciously creating new ones that do. Spirituality is a gentle exploration of the inner realm and alignment with the universal. It is a journey to complete responsibility for what we are co-creating.

Spiritual communities are organized around supporting the individual on their path, rather than a specific set of beliefs and practices. While there exists a great commonality, each individual is encouraged to explore and experience that which best supports their wellbeing and fulfillment. Conscious connection with their spiritual dimension is encouraged in each individual. And the view is holistic: every aspect of being is integrated into the whole. This is what we’re creating at Shine.

Steve 11/11/15