Tag Archives: Unity

Summer Solstice: The Sacred Union of Father Sun and Mother Earth

Rising or setting sun and clouds, over water

This talk was delivered on Friday, June 19, 2015 as part of the Summer Solstice Service at Unity Campus St. Petersburg. It was followed by a chant of the mantra: “The Kingdom of God is within me; The Queendom of God is among us.”

Astronomically speaking, Litha (Midsummer, Gathering Day, Summer Solstice) is the longest day of the year, representing the Sun God at his full power and utmost potential. In the sky overhead, ruling from on high — in his chariot, shining down upon us, giving light, heat and life to our Goddess, Mother Earth.

The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun seems to be literally frozen at its zenith overhead.

Father Sun and Mother Earth seem locked in this warm, life-giving embrace. And time has seemed to slow down so that we may honor that embrace and that consummation — the intimate relationship between God and Goddess, masculine and feminine.

Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning parts of the year. Each solstice (and equinox) marks a “turning” of the comic clock. To many cultures, the solstice can mean a limitation or a culmination. A climax or demarcation on the calendar. And even in summer’s beginning, we find the seeds of summer’s end. Each day the Sun recedes from the skies a little earlier, until the Winter Solstice (Yule) arrives and the days begin to become longer again.

Tonight, we honor the arrival of the Summer season, and celebrate the sacred union of God and Goddess, in which both of their energies are poured into the service and the substance of life.

We’ve done a lot in recent times to revive and give footing to the idea of the Divine Feminine. and rightly so. Spiritually and socially we have shifted to a place where female-ness is allowed it’s own voice, it’s own place at the table with integrity and without having to compromise any of its qualities or values.

Matthew Fox said, “If we liberate the Divine Feminine, she is deserving of a worthy consort — a cleansed and detoxified and resurrected Sacred Masculine.”

This union is of course reflected and manifested in our relationships. How we treat one another. Our partners, our spouses, our children, our co-workers, even strangers. It is a constant dance, sometimes tug-of-war, with one party exerting power or will in one moment, and the other party bending and allowing. But a healthy relationship is not one-sided. A healthy relationship is dynamic, is constantly growing and flowing, and allows for rhythmic exchanges in this power struggle.

We’re not talking about gendered men and women, we’re talking about the masculine and feminine energies that show up in us all.

Keeping those energies in a constant flow, a constant balance. Allowing them to feed, sustain, nurture each other as well as to challenge and push against each other when the time is right. Continue reading

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The Easter Experience: Our Ability to Rise

st leos unity chaplains

On April 11 through 13, I spent the weekend with the Unity chaplains on a retreat at St. Leo Abbey in Dade City, Florida. We spent three days there deepening our practice of prayer and compassionate listening, and getting to know one another in a sacred and peaceful environment.

We also spent time alongside the monks at the abbey (a Benedictine order that has been in Florida since 1882). We joined them for morning prayers, we tried to follow along as they chanted in Latin, we shared meals with them, and we shared the silence.

Experiencing the Benedictine liturgy and prayer service, made me realize that the order (who have given up their possessions, their finances, and in some cases, their family) maintain a lifestyle that many people have only ever seen on film or read about in books. The monks at St. Leo (though they may have iPhones and modern footwear under their tunics) are only a few steps removed from the time when the altar was set against the back wall of the cathedral and everyone faced the same direction — including the priests — in worship of a theistic, otherworldly God.

Being there with the chaplains of Unity, a movement founded in 1889 in Kansas City, Missouri by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, put this in stark perspective. Unity’s form of “practical Christianity” and metaphysics would not exist at all had it not been for earlier forms of orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. But, it also cast our other activities there in a strange and sometimes surreal light. As part of the retreat, we performed Native American smudging rituals, we called in the Four Directions, we spent time journaling, drumming, singing, and performing releasing rituals proclaiming the Christ Consciousness within us all while standing hand in hand in the moonlit shadow of that ancient sanctuary. I’m sure we were quite a sight for the more conservative and dogmatic monks of the old way.

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A Spiritual Internship: My Journey as a Chaplain

Joran Slane Oppelt - Chaplain

Last weekend, I committed to a year-long chaplaincy at a local church.

For those that are unfamiliar, the purpose of a chaplain is to hold sacred space alongside the pastor, minister or spiritual leader – by assisting with prayer and/or meditation requests, making calls on the members of the congregation, and attending regular group meetings.

It’s basically a spiritual internship, with rounds to make and hours to satisfy, but primarily it’s an opportunity to develop my skills as a compassionate listener, and continue to hone my chops as a reverend and as a shaman. It’s truly a responsibility that I was honored to take on, and the inner rewards are many.

In the weeks leading up to the retreat, we had been advised to re-focus our efforts toward self-care, as it’s difficult to lead and open yourself to others when you haven’t done the work yourself. I had been dealing with some personal shadow work and some issues around “letting go.” Meditating on what it meant to lead and be led, and on how my roles as musician, father, marketer, husband, reverend, son, etc. all fit together.

The weekend-long retreat took place on the church property, located in St. Petersburg, and I was joined by 23 others who were drawn to the chaplaincy for various reasons, or were renewing their annual commitment (one woman was going on her 7th year). We were told the theme for this year’s retreat was “angels,” and I tried not to visibly roll my eyes. After all, I told myself, “angel” is just another word for a guiding energy from the bardo (or causal) realm, and I would surely be safe from any metaphysical mumbo jumbo as long as I interpreted my experience from a pragmatic (read: integral) perspective and listened from the compassionate centers of the heart.

It started off simple enough, with a lot of sharing and getting to know one another over communal meals and team-building activities. But on the second day, it started to become clear that I was truly in the right place at the right time.

As we were fully immersed in three hours of silence, taking turns in the labyrinth and in a sanctuary filled with musical instruments, we all drew Archangel Cards and were sent to the rose garden to write in our journals. I’m not sure what anyone else drew, but I drew a card labeled “Victory,” marked by the Archangel Sandalphon. Sandalphon is one of two angels (the other being Metatron) that, according to legend, started life as a mortal man and was allowed access to archangeldom for his numerous good deeds on Earth. Sandalphon’s chief purpose was to gather up the prayers of humans and send them as a glowing orb of white light to God.

“Victory,” I thought. Victory, indeed.

Not only am I blessed with a loving wife and family, but the serendipity of things continues to reveal itself to me in unexpected ways. Cards like the one I drew seemed less random when I realized that my path wasn’t so much a road, but a new mode of being. A state of perpetual insight and intuition, and also a stage of development that is tuned to the highest ethical ideals, the highest and most inclusive forms of consciousness. In other words, this new way of looking at the world is recognizing that you are an expression of Divine energy. That when you reflect on the Cosmos, you are staring at the best and most beautiful parts of yourself.

Not only was I tapping into the unfolding of cosmic consciousness – of which our own unfolding is but a small part – but I was learning to articulate these states and stages in the language of the heart. Continue reading


The Case for Christ Consciousness

“The most important Gospel you’ll ever read is the one that you write.” – Reverend Russell Heiland

sacred-heart-harry-clarke

Maybe it’s because Christmas is approaching or possibly because I’ve neglected this topic for too long — tip-toeing around the various masculine forms of spirituality — but today, I want to talk about Jesus.

What I don’t want to do is discuss his love life or his blood line. I don’t want to get into the metaphysics of the Trinity or the virgin birth, or his death and resurrection (we’ll save that for Easter), and I definitely don’t want to talk about original sin. That, we can leave checked at the door. Permanently.

I would, however, love to talk at length about what Jesus — this middle eastern man with a rebel spirit and pathological contempt for authority — was able to accomplish in his short life. But there’s one problem. And it’s a pretty big one. Jesus’ life may not have happened at all. At least, not the way we might think.

Did Jesus Exist?

There’s a curious 40-70 year span that occurs between Jesus’ death and the time that the apostles and their descendants were “inspired” to write the Gospels. That, combined with the fact that more than half of the Gospels weren’t even written by men alive during Jesus’ time, gives one cause for wonder. I, myself, wonder if I would trust the acquaintances of my friends (even if I considered them “disciples”) to correctly quote me two generations later about something as important as what I believed to be the “good news,” the living Word of God.

There’s also the ancient and familiar origins of the Jesus myth itself. The story of Jesus was not new to people at the time. In fact, Jesus’ life story has so many elements in common with other (and pre-existing) Mediterranean and Middle Eastern god-man hybrids — like the Persian story of Mithras (whose birth was attended by three shepherds), the Egyptian legend of Osiris (who was assassinated by conspirators, defeated death and returned to rule the afterlife), the Greek Dionysus (who celebrated a “last supper” with twelve trusted associates before his execution) and Zoroaster (also from Persia, who was “born of a virgin mother” and come to “crush the forces of evil”). Even the Hindu deity Krishna (thought to have lived anywhere from 3228 to 3rd Century BCE) is thought to be the inspiration for the Jesus myth (his father was a carpenter, his birth was marked by the appearance of a star, he healed the sick and the lame).

Any (or all) of these stories could prove to be the inspiration for the Jesus mythology, but not vice versa. In fact, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) wrote, “This, in our day, is the Christian religion, not as having been unknown in former times, but as having recently received that name.”

So, if Jesus’ life was simply a more effective re-telling of re-hashed pagan and Occident stories and legends, then why does he matter? And, if we could separate the mythology of Jesus — of which so much has been added to after his “death” — from the message or teachings of Jesus, what might distinguish him, philosophically, from the hordes of other virgin-born messiahs of the day?

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