“We have already seen that the kingdom is within all of us. … Those who do enter the kingdom are those who have come to recognize the reality of the inner world and to respond to its demands upon them for consciousness. This must always be an individual act of recognition; it cannot be accomplished so long as we are identified with a group. Yet most of us find our sense of identity only in our membership in the Church, the nation, the political party, or the gang on the street corner.” (John A. Sanford, The Kingdom Within)
A friend recently gave me a copy of Sanford’s book, whom I quickly recognized as a kindred spirit. This was a pleasant surprise considering he was an Episcopal priest and I was ordained in Unity. I severed my ties with Unity, in part for my perception of the organization’s move away from focus on the individual awakening to its not so thinly disguised move toward social activism. I entered the movement when it could be summed up in Emerson’s statement: Every man is the inlet and may become the outlet of all there is in God. I left it summarizing itself something like this: As individuals we are strong, but as a group we are powerful. The first advocated finding one’s center of power in God. The second has shifted to finding one’s center of power in the group.
Though I was somewhat saddened and initially resistant to this change, I have let things take their course. The principle of individuality will never change with the times. The distractions of those re-created dreams of achieving that ever-elusive Utopian collective that promises equal power to all does nothing to alter our natural spiritual architecture, or our yearning to return to it.
The individual is forever the inlet and may become the outlet to all there is in God. There will always be that minority of people who understand that the soul rises from the Infinite. They will seek the group, but not for empowerment. They seek it for the thrill and satisfaction of knowing they are not alone, not aliens dropped here from another planet, but healthy human beings who refuse to lose touch with the cosmic heart that makes them tick. Encountering a kindred spirit deepens our resolve to go even deeper, does it not?
The spiritual journey is one each person must make alone. Though we are witnessing a major attempt worldwide to do so, we cannot ride in on the coattails of any group. The soul’s authenticity does not permit it. With the advent of social media, the pressure to conform may seem stronger now than ever before. Under the pretense of progress, the scramble to acquire whatever it takes to join is causing the erosion of basic values on an unprecedented scale. How far we can wade into this shallow muck of conformity remains to be seen, but I sense many are getting weary of the slog.
The wide gate of conformity is always open, but so is the narrow gate of individuality. If I were given the choice between being the gatekeeper of one or the other, I would choose the narrow gate. True, there are no bustling crowds of chattering people to keep us entertained. But the ones who do come through are real. My favorite people have always been the real ones.
I think John Sanford was a real person. I was going to email him until I realized he passed in 2005. I have a genuine appreciation for people like him who devoted his energy to a book about the importance of being real. This was his take away from the teachings of Jesus. And, it’s certainly mine.