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, 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.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

THE PAST: THE WOMB OF THE PRESENT

THE PAST: THE WOMB OF THE PRESENT

By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang

 

Presently, “Be in the moment,” is a fashionable Buddhist saying. Equally popular is the more poetic version, “The past is history, the future is a mystery and the present is a gift; that is why it is called the present.” For reducing anxiety and for better focus on an immediate task, these sayings can be powerfully useful. Perhaps for those reasons, a good insight can run amok when we reflexively generalize it to every occasion. For example, to say, “Don’t live in the past,” or “Don’t be influenced by the past,” does not mean the past is irrelevant. Our past is to us as the great library of Alexandria was to ancient learned minds. “Knowledge is Power,” says Sir Francis Bacon, and the past represents our storehouse of knowledge. The Buddha underscores the relevance of the past by saying, “All that you are is the result of all you have thought.” This is not limited to ideas, but includes our perception of our actions. Furthermore, Aristotle says, “You are what you habitually do.” Our habits are the skills and knowledge we use to develop our talents into strengths, which make them available in the present moment. A strength is the ability to provide consistent, near perfect performance in a given activity. All we have in the present moment for determining our best action are gifts from our past.

Yet, how easily we can diminish the crucial importance of the past by associating it mostly with things undesirable or obstacles in our way toward a better future. As an iceberg’s greater volume is beneath the surface of the sea, so is our reality more past than present. According to Process Thinkers, reality comes in droplets. This means it comes into being and immediately perishes. This is based on the discoveries of quantum physics. Our minds cannot detect this change or process any more than, in watching a moving picture, we can detect the discrete fixed frames of unmoving pictures run at a certain speed to give the illusion of movement. Thus is the illusion of the present being continuous.

By not understanding that the present moment is like an undetectable flash of time before it becomes the past, we may assume everything we are doing today is the present and yesterday’s activities are the past. If so, we may be living in a continuous illusion, not appreciating that the past is the womb of the present.

Yet, as fleeting as the present is, it is our awareness of our reality that can reset the past for more favorable support in creating our future. Here, Mind is the actor. Mind interprets the present moment and calls upon our past (our knowledge and experience) for relevant insights for surviving and thriving.

Life is a holistic endeavor and, although there is value in breaking down our perspective of time into past, present and future, our reality includes this as a total system acting as one. By such means we will find our most harmonious relationship to this web of existence we call reality. Thus, although our lives are mostly our past, it does not make the essential spark of awareness called the present less important. It makes it a part of a whole--a system that is at its best when it works actively as past, present and future.

 


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

 

IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang

 

Winter reminds us of how little things seem to change. In some regions, under the cold white snow, who would suspect that a springtime is already forming deep beneath the surface of appearance? We wish for new things without seeing any obvious movement or change. Secretly, we may find a warm corner of our mind and strain our ears to listen to Ernest Holmes’ “Change your thinking, change your life.” 

 

At times, there may not be much evidence that something is happening. Mind is like the frozen winter. What is silently at work cannot be seen. Must God work in mysterious ways? Why don’t things work as spontaneously for us as they did for Jesus and the prophets? Such thoughts cause us to worry about our level of faith even as we realize that to worry is the antithesis of faith. It is a catch 22. Yet, with persistent belief that my thoughts will change my life, my life does change for the better without me noticing it.

 

Sometimes it seems that problems in the past tend to suggest that I cannot do what needs doing. After failure, defensive response works like a protective scab after a cut. Yet, countless people have failed before and come rushing back to a successful life as if it were their destiny. Perhaps they were right. If not, why would Ernest Holmes say, “Never limit your view of life by any past experience.” 

 

If we are to heed Dr. Holmes’ advice, then what alternative responses can we make. Two thoughts spiring to mind immediately. The first is to learn from your past mistakes. The second is to remember your relationship with the Cosmic Presence we call God. This memory is for bringing to the present moment the truth that, “With God all things are possible.” The important aspect of this statement is not to become a philosophical discussion, debating whether God can do all things. The assertion is to get the mind out of its ego-made box, and release it to the infinite sky where it will naturally fly. There, from the realm of infinite possibilities, we will see beneath the frozen snow of judgment, or appearances, that there is a whole world of creative movement occurring.

 

With a spiritual inclination, we may be tempted to meditate, contemplate and pray unceasingly, but not to act on our own behalf. “Let go and let God!” Ernest Holmes, the master of creative thought gives this direction, “Seek to make your work a prayer, your believing an act, your living an art. It is then the object of your faith will be made visible to you.” 

 

We have come full cycle in the art and science of improving our lives. We must be willing to change our minds, not to limit ourselves by the past and to seek to make our work a prayer, our believing an act, and our living an art.

 

By such means are our lives improved.