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From Spiritual Feudalism to Spiritual Sovereignty

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Last week, I made a distinction between a Christian orientation and a Christing orientation. This distinction is at the heart of what is required for America to evolve to the next stage of its maturity. Today, I explore this in the present day context of fundamentalism.

The political structure of America is one that demands conscious maturity in our voting citizens. It requires that we step into our own sovereignty - our ability to be intelligent masters of our fate, wise selectors of our representatives, and caring stewards of the future. Government of, by, and for the people requires skills that can only be developed via growth in consciousness.

Hitler was democratically elected. We often forget that. The Germans abdicated their sovereignty, and they got a brutally destructive form of fascism that came close to engulfing the world. In our own country, Benjamin Franklin said, when asked what had been created at the Constitutional Convention, "A Republic. If you can keep it."

Democracies do not come with a guarantee of their survival. And many astute observers agree that American democracy has never been as imperiled as it is today.

Rather than review the signals of that danger, which are chronicled elsewhere, I want to focus on the roots in our national consciousness. Why is that after 230 years, numerous wars, and the great economic successes of this century that the foundations of our democracy are degrading?

While the consolidation of the media and the dominance of big business certainly play essential roles in this, one of the most important causes of the degradation is the rise in the political power of Christian fundamentalism and the psychology that underpins it. I say that without disrespect for the path of Christ. I believe that his life and teachings are one of the most important advances in consciousness this planet has seen. The challenge is that this wondrous being, who came to light the path to our own awakening, has been channeled into a church system based largely on a very different psychology.

The psychology that underpins that worldview is what spiritual teacher Saniel Bonder calls "spiritual feudalism." It is grounded in the belief that most of us do not know enough to choose our own path or find our own way. We must be led by anointed leaders and sanctioned hierarchies, with clear rules and regulations. We are like ill-intentioned serfs who must be regulated by lords or masters to behave correctly. The terminology of much Christian religion reinforces this psychology. "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me" for example, imprints a master-servant relationship with Jesus.

This is not by accident. The beliefs and structures of Christian religion were largely shaped in imperialistic and feudal eras. It was a religious form designed to work with the politics of domination, with hierarchies of priests designated as intermediaries for supplicants to contact God. Some of the core tenets of Christianity were explicitly created for political purposes under the Roman empire. With the waning of that empire (except for the Catholic Church), Christian religion underwent important reformations and evolutions, but the underlying psychology endures.

The reasons for this legacy go beyond this article but, in short, I believe the radical transmission of Christ proved magnetic enough that people would subject themselves to a relationship of permanent serfdom out of the belief that they could become closer to his state of being. The power of his spiritual transmission made it more attractive (and easier) to co-opt for political purposes.

Today, the surge of political power of the Christian right has created an increasingly dominant voting block that is governed by an inherited psychology of spiritual feudalism. That voting block will generally act in alignment with what it sees as intrinsically good - namely, its traditional beliefs and values. For many, this system of morality and meaning has been a great savior so it's not a leap to think it will help others as well.

The problem is that a modern democracy cannot survive when governed by a psychology of spiritual feudalism. Serfdom psychology does not adequately train people in their ability to make wise decisions for the whole (which necessarily includes honoring people with different value systems). Serfs are also easy to manipulate by mercenary elites, as if often the case today.

That said, the great failing on the other side of the divide is that many intellectually astute progressives are unable to sufficiently understand the power of the Christ transmission. They react to the feudal psychology on the surface and end up dismissing the heart of the path of Christ. Their brainy discussions of meaning and purpose often lack a reverential core and thus leave many good-hearted people unmoved.

Given the preponderance of Christians in America and the enormous sway they hold, we need to advance a new psychology of spiritual sovereignty that deeply honors the importance of Jesus Christ as a guide. That, in turn, can lay the groundwork for a true spiritual democracy. The lack of sacred depth in much of the left will not win the day, whereas the lack of a truly democratic psychology in much of the right will undermine what is most beautiful about America. If we want a more evolved America, we will need a more evolved Christianity, one that has bowed down humbly before the majesty of what Jesus realized while being willing to stand beside him in democratic brotherhood and spiritual sovereignty.

Sacred America Series #7
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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