Dr. Arthur Chang, author of “The New Positive Spirituality: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Everyday Life,” defines positive spirituality as the practice of positively embodying God’s attributes of love and law and using them in our lives to bring our desires into physical reality.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

THOUGHT: THE MAGIC WAND CHANGE

 

THOUGHT: THE MAGIC WAND CHANGE

By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang

                                                                                                                 

One of the five unavoidable givens is “Everything changes and ends.” There is no way to stop change. As fish live in the ocean, humans live in a reality of change. Meister Eckhart said, “God is that great underground river that no one can dam up and no one can stop.” Eckhart, the great medieval mystic, may well have described change as God’s nature, despite the paradox of ancient tradition that thinks of God as changeless. In this era, process theologians assert that God, though changeless in some aspects, does change in others. If we argue that God is love, where love is the compassionate responsiveness between two entities, then how can God love us if God cannot feel us individually? In loving us, God must feel us. To feel is to change.

 Thought is our magic wand of desirable change. Humans are not helpless pawns being moved about by a super mind. We have the freedom to think and to change situations we do not like for better ones. The present is the result of our past thoughts. The future, which is open, will be the result of our present thoughts. Thought will make these changes possible. George Bernard Shaw said, “Some men see things as they are and ask, “Why?” Others dream things that never were and ask, “Why not?” Dream is intuitive thought. Thought moves us from limited to unlimited possibilities. Thought is our magic wand for bringing desirable change. Even after twenty-seven years in prison, Nelson Mandela remained true to the thought of freedom for his people, who were living under apartheid in South Africa. Freedom seemed impossible, but it was achieved.

The magic is not simply thinking about the changes we wish to make. We do not just think about food and become satisfied. The magic is in knowing the path to our goals, or destinations, our purpose. Life is actively changing and we are part of its activities. Our thoughts do not change our situations as much as they change us to see new possibilities in our situations. Change is process. That is the nature of life. The process is governed by unchanging laws, which are the only unchanging things in our reality.

Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi is echoing the Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, who said, “The way to do is to be.” Our thought must be integrated with who we are and what we do. It is not just that we think; the magic of the wand of thought is that it translates into action—our action in the world.

Ernest Holmes says,

“When you want to do a big thing, get the mental pattern, make it perfect, know just what it means, enlarge your thought, keep it to yourself, pass it over to the creative power behind all things, wait and listen, and when the impression comes, follow it with assurance. Don’t talk to anyone about it. Never listen to negative talk or pay attention to it, and you will succeed where all others fail.”

The mental pattern is the magical pattern of the wand of thought. We must accept it and know it has a reality in our universe. This means it is in accord with the way universal laws work. It works for us by working through us. This is the power back of the creative process that life is. To wait and listen is to sharpen our senses to the intuitive inspirations that will come and following them with assurance. This means to act; to do your part knowing the universe is doing its part. As Mandela did not spend his time listening to negative talk, you, too, will find success if you are true to yourself, using the magic wand of change.

Monday, June 20, 2022

 GOING BEYOND YOUR LIMITS

By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:41-42)
Boundaries are indispensable, defining patterns in life. Nonetheless, while they function to keep us safe, they also can impede or enhance our growth. When we consider the lessons from the Bible’s Eden myth, or from scientific evolution, our presence in the universe makes sense to us largely because of its definite pattern of growth. Not to grow is to stagnate and ultimately to die prematurely. Stagnation is a loss of meaningful boundaries. Growth is our process of purposive becoming. Boundaries attained in growth are temporary shelters affording us an essential feeling of stability as we go from one phase to another. To be alive in this world is to grow. To grow is to learn and to create.
Process theologians argue that God does not define our purpose. God gives us an aim. The aim is goodness. To have the freedom to choose our boundaries means to choose our purpose. If that work were already done for us, there is no freedom. Our lives would be predetermined. How, then, could there be freedom if we could not choose our future? The condition of freedom requires an open future. In this sense, God is not controlling our experiences in the world. However, God has provided the potential for us to make meaning boundaries or concrete decisions. Furthermore, God is forever providing us with options from which we can choose.
Are there spiritual and mental laws? There are! To create our future, we must work with these laws. In our world of constant change, laws or principles are the only immutable aspects of reality. Knowing how universal laws work, our belief systems construct shelters of consciousness attractive to our desires. Contrarily, our beliefs can also repel what we desire. The Law of Attraction is also the Law of Repulsion. Consequently, this law will attract our desire, or repel it. This makes life quite an adventure, and each individual is responsible for his or her unfolding future. It is because we are largely free to choose our boundaries, that good and bad acts are both possible. When we ask, “Why did God allow this or that to happen?” this attitude works on the supposition that we are not responsible for our choices and future, that we are not free and that the future is not open. God cannot give us freedom then take it back when we feel endangered or overwhelmed.
Working with the Law of Mind is not magic, although it sometimes may appear that way. Furthermore, because we are interrelated beings, we have an important element of responsibility toward others in our world. For example, we cannot rightly justify that our homeless population is totally responsible for their misfortune, any more than the wealthy are totally responsible for their good fortune. Both are part of a system which must be constantly adjusted for justice.
Individuals acting separately cannot solve systemic problems totally. Only individuals acting in concert in the shelter of compassion can solve them. Moses’ prescription was “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is immortal advice. It still applies to social injustices and hurts. An effective system is constantly making boundaries that work for all, not just for some. The selfish, individualistic boundaries will eventually evoke the Law of Repulsion, such as evidenced in the French Revolution, slavery, and mass shootings. These are avoidable wounds which we can prevent. Jesus gave a hint of our interrelatedness in the opening quote.
Limits or boundaries are not bad occasions of experience. However, we need to look at the kinds of boundaries we are making and see if they will lead to our growth and our positive becoming. If they do, we are well on our way. If they do not, it is time to make a better decision. In this way, we are going beyond our limits, and everyone will be blessed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

THE CHRISTMAS BIRTH NARRATIVES OF MATTHEW AND LUKE

By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang

 

It appears many people who love the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus are unaware that of the four Gospels, only two tell this incredible story of virgin birth, angels, wise men and King Herod. Among those who know the story, some may be surprised to learn that they are two fundamentally different stories even as they have much in common.

 

For example, Luke’s Gospel tells of Joseph and a pregnant Mary journeying to Jerusalem during the reign of Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor. This was about six CE, or six years after the date celebrated as Christmas day. In the Gospel of Matthew, in which King Herod plays a central role, Herod ordered all Jewish babies killed in order to ensure that the messiah, who had the right to Herod’s throne, would be killed. History tells us that Herod died in four BCE—four years before the traditionally accepted date of Jesus’ birth. There is a ten-year difference between the two renditions of this astounding birth. Matthew has Joseph and Mary already living in Bethlehem and not finding rest in a stable as Luke stated.

 

If we recognize that these stories are mythic themes or faith statements by these writers, we will realize that the stories are about much more than ordinary time. By mythic themes, filled with paradoxes, I mean stories addressing the world of soul rather than that of history.

 

Carl Jung notes, “Myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul.” Myths have served various functions in different cultures across time. One of the more common of these functions has been to provide individuals with a template, or model, to assist in their psychological maturation and development. Scripture, as partly mythic renditions, teaches how to find our way back to the Source and our true relationship to it. C. S. Lewis says, “The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.”

 

Appreciating that scripture employs mythic themes, which are for moving us out of our everyday logical sequential minds, will allow a new clarity for living to come into being. This alternative awareness will provide us with the necessary wings to fly in the miraculous sky of infinite possibilities, where the limits on earth become possible in heaven. On descending to our ordinary, terrestrial life, we will be gifted with an extraordinarily transformed consciousness.

 

Here we will, also, experience a virgin birth of understanding that life does not depend solely on the mind that only reads the objective world. As George Bernard Shaw said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

 

Spirituality is the core of creativity. By literalizing its teachings, we will reduce spirituality to mere morality. As important as this is in achieving and sustaining a social order, the more important function of spirituality is its potential to ignite the fire of creativity and blaze new trails for the greater expressions of this life. The paradoxes of spirituality are not to be solved; they are to be contemplated. These contradictory Christmas narratives are rich in symbolic meanings even while appearing illogical historically.

 

Mythologist Sir James Frazier said, “All versions of a myth are important.” Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

 

I have covered many of these symbolic meanings in my talks. These are only a few of the paradoxes of the Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke to be contemplated. This Christmas, read Jesus’ birth or Christmas stories poetically and symbolically as we do at Founder’s, and see how much they will contribute to your spiritual depth.