Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Butterworth applies the same theory of ill-health towards lack of prosperity: it's a matter of consciousness, and our outer life is merely a reflection of our inner consciousness [p.8; p.100; p.118]. And to be clear, it is our "consciousness that attracts things" even though prosperity is not only about acquiring possessions [p.9]; It's how we live and think. Butterworth subscribes to Fillmore's premise that we are surrounded and supported by God-substance, the source of all ideas and all things eventually manifest. When we align our consciousness with that truth, we will never lack because it is through our consciousness that substance will flow as we need it [p.27]. He uses the panentheism analogy of the fish in water that never lacks for water yet is not even aware that is in water. This analogy is a common one yet it ultimately breaks down because it assumes that the fish cannot be taken out of the water, which it can.
As in previous publications, EB reminds us that miracles do not exist, only divine law. And when we use divine law [i.e. change our consciousness] we discover we can bring things into manifestation. However he warns against becoming an "economic hypochondriac", addicted to manifesting every object we may covet [p.80]. Our emphasis should not be on manifesting possessions which is often the goal of many prosperity teachings, but on deepening our awareness and expanding our consciousness and eventually we will become the demonstration [p.39]. And what does it mean to "become the demonstration?" Perhaps it is being the "whole experience of healing life, satisfying love, abiding peace" and the "life more abundant." [p.10]
But what of actual money? What of unemployment and debt? As this country and most of the world struggles to regain a firm footing after what is considered to be the worst global financial crisis, do EB's teachings still have relevance? After all, he wrote this book in 1993 at the dawn of the longest period of economic expansion in US history, characterized by a balanced budget and a federal surplus. I remember it as a time when there were more jobs available than employees to fill them. Today the reverse seems to be the case, and even churches, including Unity churches, have suffered great economic hardship. EB's response is this: "the economy is little more than a barometer that registers the highs and lows of consciousness [p.116]" So once again it is a call for a shift in consciousness, this time on a much larger scale. To shift unemployment the first step is not to look for a job but to change one's self-image from "unemployed" to "ready for work." [p.121] Psychological semantics? Perhaps, or the first of many steps to shifting consciousness to a place of receptivity to the flow of the universe. Money is also a reflection of our consciousness, a "symbol of limitation or of limitlessness [p.154]." He writes that brooding over a lost job or financial dilemma will blow the situation out of proportion, and "when you are grounded in the field of limitless substance then you may be broke but you can never be poor [p.127].
Some keys to true prosperity: a grateful heart, giving, and tithing. Gratitude is a "causative energy" [p.95] that changes our thoughts, feelings, and consciousness [p.97]. According to EB giving is a divine law articulated by Jesus in Luke 6:38 ["Give, and it will be given you."] and is fundamental to achieving prosperity. EB's view on tithing is somewhat surprising. He does not consider it a divine law but rather a discipline to get us into the habit of giving [p.187]. He highlights the potential dangers of "tithe-your-way-to-riches" thinking [p.188] because it is not a substitute for a giving attitude, which is more an act of consciousness that intellect. He refers to the whole tithe quoted in Malachi as our whole being, not just our monetary tithe. EB even recommends testing the difference between rigid adherence to tithing ten percent and "spontaneous freewill giving [p.194]." The former is an immature approach while the latter is a consciousness-shifting way of life.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
THE UNIVERSE IS CALLING [TUIC] can be described as Eric Butterworth's treatise on prayer. It was first published in 1993, just 10 years before his death. Had his views changed since his earlier publications? He still speaks from a place of authority of having the inside track to the religion "of" Jesus as opposed to the religion "about" Jesus. It almost seems comical that Butterworth posits his interpretation as what Jesus really meant, rather than another new thought interpretation. It is also interesting that he wrote a book on a subject as fundamental as prayer so late in his career. Was it not an issue earlier in his career? Or had he taken that long to arrive at his own place of clarity?
There are some recurring themes in TUIC about prayer. One such theme is the idea that we do not pray to God, or for God, but from a consciousness of God [p.23, 152, 162]]. We use prayer to recenter ourselves into the flow of the creative process that is God. Another is that prayer is a scientific proposition: if done correctly it will produce results. Subsequently there is no such thing as a miracle, but applications of Divine Law. Butterworth presented this idea in an earlier publication Discover The Power Within You. He makes a perceptive analogy: "Scientists do not 'discover' laws of nature, they invent them to describe the facts they find [p.27]." Since God is the ever-present "wholeness of life" there is no need to think of any other outcome than our wholeness. Given that proposition, is it a fair assumption to make that he would say many of us are not praying correctly?
Butterworth seems to contradict his own firm stance on the scientific cause-and-effect simplicity of prayer when he speaks of Grace. He writes: "God's desire to express through you and as you is so great that you never completely reap the harvest of error, and you always reap more good than you sow [p.42]." Does this not hint of some external other-than-us influence? Perhaps, but he explains this by saying it is our consciousness that raises the outcomes of our thoughts to a higher level. In Butterworth's view, our life is the result of our consciousness; our body, our weight, our health, our relationships [p.37]. This is a core Unity thought, and perhaps a difficult one to accept. Is it an answer to the age-old question of theodicy...why do bad things happen to good people? In other words, we may think people to be good, and perhaps they are in action, but their consciousness trumps it all? If so, would there really be a place for Grace as he defined it? He revisits this issue of our consciousness when he addresses praying for others [ch.10]. Again, it is a matter of having our consciousness in the right place, which is not on the problem but on letting go and letting God.
Although stressing prayer is more a product of consciousness, Butterworth provides steps to aid in developing "right" consciousness [p.95]. The three-step formula is as follows:
1. Relax and let go of the problem.
2. Get grounded in silent communion.
3. Project the energy built up in the silent time through affirmative words.
He also gives specific approaches for different situations such as prosperity [p.157], decision-making [p.158], and business . He stresses that making a ritual out of the process defeats the purpose, we should let our consciousness be our guide [p.162].
And what do we do after prayer? Prayer, after all, is not about eliciting a response from God but changing our consciousness as it relates to the situation at hand. So should we pray for specific outcomes? And what do we do as we wait? Butterworth invites to know that waiting is not a matter of time but again a matter of consciousness; staying "plugged in, tuned in, and turned on" to our true spiritual nature [p.167]. A reader could infer that he supports the idea of praying for specific outcomes because he does not outright say we shouldn't. He reminds us instead that our challenge is to see things right not try to set them right [p.168] and to trust the process [p.173]. Finally, we give. We give knowing that as we put into the flow we receive from it in return [p.173].
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Discover The Power Within You [DPWY] was first published in 1968, and is considered by many to be Eric Butterworth's [EB] best known work. It may well have been titled "My Treatise On Jesus." In DPWY Butterworth does not so much examine the life of the historical character called Jesus as much as he dissects and interprets Jesus' teachings and actions. He maintains that other theological and Christian interpretations are the 'Religion about Jesus' whereas his interpretations are more the 'Religion of Jesus' i.e. what Jesus really meant. The immediate problem with this premise is that any writing of what Jesus meant, including the Gospels, are but interpretations of the author, as seen through the author's lenses. So while we in Unity may prefer Butterworth's explanation of Jesus' teachings, we must be careful to acknowledge that it is simply another interpretation, not the right interpretation. We might also deduce the lenses through which Butterworth viewed the works and words of Jesus based on what he wrote. For example, when he writes that we are not going to gain "divine fulfillment" in a single lifetime [p.13] we can assume he believed in reincarnation, and he intimates that Jesus did as well [ch.17].
His theological view of Jesus is the cornerstone of the text. EB believed that Jesus was a fully human being who fully awakened his Divine nature, the Christ. In fact EB places little or no importance on Jesus' birth, one of the central facets of traditional Christian Theology. He also does not devote much time to speculating on the catalyst for Jesus' transformation; he acknowledges that it happened and the happening is what is worthy of focus [p.6-7]. And even with the shift that Jesus made from his humanity to his individuality, EB still treats him as human. He refers to Jesus as a teacher who made demonstrations of power [p.8] that are not really miraculous because we all have the potential to do them. Indeed, EB's claim is when we discover the power of our divinity in the "unexplored depths within" just as Jesus did, we can do all that Jesus did. True to Unity's view, EB sees Jesus as the way-shower of our potential.
That being said, however, he appears to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus which he refers to as the "Great Demonstration." [ch.16] He gives metaphysical meaning to the event with phrases such as "a man can rise above limited experiences and he can go forward through any dark hour to a new beginning." [p.205] Yet he also writes: "He believed it [his Divinity] so completely that even death and the tomb could not hold him" [p.12] and "Through the resurrection, Jesus proved conclusively that the life of God is indestructible, changeless and eternal [and that] through the resurrection principle man can overcome death. We may not not understand it or even believe it, but some of our scientists today are hinting at such a possibility." [p.205] He does not make reference to the science he mentions or give an explanation of how he uses the word "overcome." He does invite us to reexamine our concept of immortality which exists outside of time and is beyond time. It is the Christ of us, our divinity which is immortal. I think there is a struggle in EB to reconcile the belief in the literal resurrection and the universality of our inherent divinity that would allow us to repeat such a feat. After all, and despite his best efforts, Unity's co-founder Charles Fillmore died as well. Like any good metaphysician EB does not dwell on the detail of whether or not the event happened, but rather what is the deeper message for us today.
Similarly with miracles, EB asks us to not so much try to believe they happened but to redefine our concept of miracle. In his view, nothing can circumvent the natural changeless laws of the Universe [p.176], so it's really a case of not yet reaching the mental or spiritual understanding to comprehend what may seem "supernatural." He uses the example of an eclipse, and we know that individuals are brought back to life constantly in hospitals around the world. He tells us that the real "miracle" is remembering the idea that Jesus demonstrated: there is an ever-available infinite supply of substance, of creative ideas, for us to lay hold of when and where we need it [p.177]. Should we doubt his belief in Unity's message, there are moments when he comes across as an absolutist. He maintains that contagion [e.g. a cold, lack] begins in the mind, and by quickly saying "No!" we can stop the chain of events [pg85]. This seems an attempt to negate the natural order and purpose of germs and viruses, a seeming contradiction to his explanation of miracles stated in the previous paragraph.
EB's stance against the traditional/fundamental Christian message is apparent. He writes that Christianity is "not and end in itself" and "conversion is not the end of the road." [p.15] He speaks of the "open rebellion" against the traditional "straight and narrow" tact of the traditional message which leads to being "strait-laced and narrow-minded." [p.16] He rails against the crucifix with a "defeated and emaciated Jesus" as the symbol of Christianity [p.191]. This seems more directed at Catholicism since most other Christian denominations favor the empty cross, and empty tomb for that matter.
I believe Discover the Power With You will continue to be one of Eric Butterworth's and Unity's definitive publications. It is not a particularly scholarly or theological work, but a reflection of one Unity minister's [and perhaps Unity's] view of Jesus' place in the movement's doctrine.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I have to say that it's not often that I get excited about a class project. I'm not throwing other projects or classes under the bus, and they have been both provocative and inspiring. Yet when this project was announced via email, I literally gasped with excitement. A tip of the hat to my metaphysical theology professor Rev. Dr. Thomas Shepherd for creating such an out-of-the-box option as a 'Butterworth Blog' for the class The Theology of Eric Butterworth.
The object of the class is to examine the works of the revered Unity minister Rev. Eric Butterworth and discover what he was really saying. I'm a big fan of Butterworth's writings. Discover the Power Within You, probably his best known work, was the book that brought the traditional Christianity of my upbringing into alignment with Unity's message. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus' life and his massage as it related to Unity.
The object of the blog is to post my discoveries as we explore the books and have our class discussions. I don't think there is anyone in the Unity movement who doesn't hold Eric Butterworth in the highest regard, myself included, and because of his legendary status I never took the time to critically examine his works. Not critically in the sense of what is wrong, but from an objectivity separate from the admiration and the respect he readily deserves.
Truth be told, I'd rather do ANYTHING than write a 20 page paper. Ironically, the requirements of the blog will demand that I write more than 20 pages yet if you read my own personal blog RANTS TO REVELATIONS [shameless plug] you already know I love blogging and I will no doubt be more willing jump into dialog this way. So check back weekly for new posts, and remember...it's always better with butter[worth].