The next several blog posts will explore historical, psychological, philosophical and experiential responses to the question, Why Incarnational Spirituality? Also, in the process I will explain who I am and why this blog, my personal exploration and interpretation of Incarnational Spirituality, matters to me.
Why then does this world need yet another belief system? Why Incarnational Spirituality, still another updated take on this ancient theme? Don’t the bibles and spiritual texts already written cover everything we need to know? Doesn’t that creation myth alluded to above contain more truth than anything I could ever find in a watered down, re-imagined version?
Interestingly, my initial response is to quote a passage not from David Spangler, spiritual teacher and one of the founders of Lorian Association, but Jungian psychologist Ira Progoff. In the 1960s, Ira began developing a journaling process to help people begin to reach more deeply into their individual lives and bring forth self-actualization and fulfillment.
The introductory chapter of the book Intensive Journal Workshop (entitled “The Scope of Personal Renewal”), helps me lay a foundation for my answer because it responds to the need for spiritual understanding grounded in the personal as much as the transpersonal.
When I returned to civilian life after my army service in World War II, I often lost myself in unhappy contemplation of the destructive elements of recent history. In one decade from 1935 to 1945, civilization had come precariously close to destroying itself. I found myself especially reflecting on the massive burning of books that had taken place during the Hitler era. Again and again I asked myself what would have happened to civilization if the ritual Nazi burnings of the books had been continued until all the recorded wisdom of humankind had been destroyed.
I answered that question in two parts. The sciences, I concluded, would be retained in the technology of the engineers. Science would be preserved, although in a stunted form, if only because science is necessary for making weapons of war and for producing commodities to sell. But what of the sacred scriptures, I asked. Suppose all the Bibles of the world, were burned, the Old and the New Testaments, the Tao The Ching, the Upanishads, the Koran, and all the others. If that happened, what would befall civilization?
…Finally one night the answer came to me. It came as a simple practical statement spoken in everyday tones. We would, the voice said, simply draw new spiritual scriptures from the same great source out of which the old ones came.
In that moment I became aware of how vast and self-replenishing are the resources of the human spirit. The fires of Hitler could burn the sacred books, but they could not destroy the abiding depths out of which those scriptures had emerged. I heard also the words of the Polish rabbi chanting as he was being buried alive: “Green grass lives longer than Nebuchadnezar.” God’s smallest creations will outlast the power of tyrants. And this is because, as Walt Whitman knew, the simple leaves of grass come from the same infinite, re-creative source as the depths of the human spirit, from which the wisdom and the strength of civilization also come.
That understanding opened a new range of hope for me. Humankind would not be destroyed. No matter what foolish, destructive acts people would perpetrate on the physical level, new fountains of life would continue to rise from reservoirs deep within. Recognizing that there are indeed infinite dimensions to our universe, the immortality of life began to be a fact for me.
Soon another realization arose in me. If mankind has the power to draw additional spiritual scriptures out of the depth of itself, why do we have to wait for a tyrant to burn our Bibles before we let ourselves create further expressions of the spirit? If it is indeed true that each human soul contains a Bible within itself, may it not be that each person contains the possibility of new spiritual events and awarenesses taking place in his and her own experience? Perhaps there are new Bibles, many new Bibles, to be created as the sign of spiritual unfoldment among many persons in the modern era. It may indeed be that the creation of multiple spiritual scriptures, and especially the extension of old scriptures, is an event that needs to happen in our time as part of the further qualitative evolution of our species.
Though there is no direct link between Ira Progoff’s work and Incarnational Spirituality, I do feel that Ira’s Intensive Journal Workshop, a tool for people to interact with and affirm the grand design within their ordinary lives, is a response to an Incarnational impulse in the world seeking expression. But Ira’s life’s work in general–his personal response to this inner call–upholds the inherent capacity of the self seeking attunement to the Divine (as well as mirrors back to Divinity it’s art of creation.)
In his own way, Ira affirms that every aspect of life experience–even a blade of grass, an ordinary human life–is holy. To my mind, study of Incarnational Spirituality also begins with this understanding.