Showing posts with label First principle study group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First principle study group. Show all posts

Monday, November 26, 2018

First Pinciple Study Group - Class four - What makes you tick?

This is the fouth class our of eight in the First Principle Study Group. In the first class we talked about the meaning of the concept of Atonement. In the second class we considered Fall/Redemption theological model as compared to the Creation Spirituality model. In the third class the idea of the witness rather than the body, the mind, the emotions, the social status as being the object we call the person was described. In this fouth class we shall consider what makes a person tick and the idea of differentiation.

If you ask most people, "What makes you tick?" They not only can't tell you, they have no frame of reference to articulate a coherent story. In this class we will consider two ways.

The first way to answer the question, "What makes you tick?" is to reflect and write down the ten most important things that have happened in your life to make you the person you are today and the way you view the world.

Irvin Yalom, the Existential Psychiatrist, calls them "criticial incidents." They could be big things or small things. They could be good things or bad things. They could be things which at the time they occured you knew they would be critical to how you view yourself and the world or perhaps you didn't realize this until some time later.

Make your list and discuss it with someone you trust and is interested. It sometimes is helpful to do this again a few weeks later and you will find that a core list of things stay on your list while other things may change.

A second way to answer the question is to consider your psychological legacy. This psychological legacy is made up of the values, beliefs, opinions, and practices which you grew up with in your family of origin. This is often described as (surname) way of doing things. Usually these values, beliefs, opinions,  and practices are unconscioius and we often believe that other people share these same values, beliefs, opinions, and practices.

We often don't consider our psycholgical legacy until we have, or think of having, children of our own. Will we raise them the same we were raised or will we raise them differently? Some of the values, beliefs, opinions, and practices may have been good for us and we want to pass them on to our children or, perhaps, we consider some of the values, beliefs, opinions, and practices as being unjust or abusive and we said to ourselves, "I am never treating my child, the way I have been treated." Whether we keep the values, beliefs, opinions, or practices or change them, we have made a conscious decision and have taken what Dr. Murray Bowen, a pioneering family therapist, calls a "differentiated position." How are we different from our family or origin? Are we our own person who stands on our own two feet, has a mind of our own, is captain of our own ship, and master of our own fate, or are we just going along with the herd?

Becoming aware of our psychological legacy, and making choices about it, gives us tremendous power to create our own life and live with integrity. Bowen said that we could put "differentiation" on a 10 point scale from 1 to 10 with Jesus and Buddha making it all the way to 10. Jesus and Buddha were enlightened human beings, fully realized and actualized. Most of us never make it much past 5.

Make your list of ten critical incidents and share it with some one

Consider your psychological legacy. What were the rules and roles that governed the expression of the primary emotions in your family of origin: mad, sad, glad, and scared. Have you kept these methods of emotional managment or have you changed them as you have matured?

How did your family do forgiveness? Gratitude? Anger? Love?

To what extent do you agree that an unexamined life is not worth living?

To what extent do you think it is a good thing that people know what makes them tick?

Should self knowledge be a part of our schooling curriculum?

Should adults be encouraged to examine their lives periodically and report the results of their examination to someone?

To what extent is self knowledge and important part of spirituality?

Monday, November 19, 2018

First Principle Study Group - Class three - What is a "person?"

The first principle of Unitarian Univeralism is based on a covenant to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The question to be considered is: What is this object we have named “person?”
Is a person their body? No, their body is constantly changing.
Is a person their mind? Decartes is famous for saying “Cogito ego sum,” I think therefore I am, but thoughts change constantly.
Is a person their emotions? Again their emotions fluctuate and change all the time.
Is a person their personality? No, their personality often changes for various reasons.
Are they their social status and the roles they play? No, they also change frequently.
So if a person is not the body, the mind, the emotions, the personality, the status and roles, what is the person?
The person is the witness. The witness is that part of a person which observes the person’s functioning in all of the domains.
Some people have a more highly developed witness than others. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, this is called “self knowledge.” To what extent does a person understand what makes him/her tick?
At a spiritual level, a mature soul recognizes that (s)he is part of the interdependent web. The person is a social construction which can only be understood and appreciated in a social context, in relation to other people.
In A Course Of Miracles, “Son of God” refers to the plural aggregation of all of humanity.
At advanced stages of spiritual development, the ego is dropped and there is a merging with the Ground of Being. The Buddhist monk, in the joke, asks the hot dog vendor to make him one with everything.
The energy which animates our egoistic manifestation is eternal and lives in the Universe eternally.

         There are many sides to our personality which we are aware of in our different relationships and roles we play. We are one person with our parents, another with our partner, another with our children, another with our co-workers, another with our friends, etc. Who is the real you? Who is the you that rises above these roles and relationships? Describe it as best as you can.

To what extent have you set your ego aside and gone with the flow on the spiritual path? What helps you move into and stay in this space?

To what extent have you been able to meditate and achieve a state of “no mind”?

To what extent do these ideas matter to you? 

To what extent is it important to you to rise above the mundane concerns on the path of the ego?

To what extent do you desire to find peace and joy which comes from rising above the every day concerns of the material life?

This is the third class out of 8 on the first principle of Unitarian Universalism. Class materials are published every Monday.

Monday, November 12, 2018

First Principle Study Group - Class #2 - The Fall/Redemption theological model and the Creation Spirituality theological model

            The first principle states that we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Many of us raised in the Christian tradition were taught that we are born with our souls contaminated by the Original Sin and to be acceptable to God we have to be baptized to remove the stain. In other words, there is a meta narrative promulgated that people are inherently inadequate and defective.

            Father Matthew Fox one of the founders of what is called Creation Spirituality took an opposite position on the issue and maintains that we are born with the Original Blessing not in Original Sin. We are creations of God and in the Genesis story God, at the end of the six days of creation surveys all that He has done and proclaims that what He has created is good.

            The perennial psychology which is composed of the teachings of all the great religions tells us that in every human being there is a Spark of the Divine. We are taught that we each are an extension of God’s love of His/Her creation.

            The problems start with our human conditioning or socialization as the sociologists call it which can facilitate our growth and development but also traumatize us, abuse us, and instill warped understandings of who we are as a person. As we grow, we lose our innocence and learn that there is evil in the world that produces suffering, anguish, and grief. Into this experience of pain and suffering comes religion which tries to explain the causes of our suffering, our human condition, this “veil of tears” as the Catholics call it, or Maya as the Hindus call it and promises us that the religion and the religion’s representatives have the power to relieve our suffering or at least mitigate it.

            Prescriptions are given for how to live, and prayers to say, and regulations to be complied with if we are to be “saved” from our painful existential condition. All along, the idea that we have a self, and ego, that is real is assumed and reinforced.

            In Unitarian Univeralism, members covenant together to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and this principle raises at least two further questions: from whence does this worth and dignity come, and what is this object called a “person.?
            In this course we will be exploring these questions and attempt to understand from where and what worth and dignity arise, and what comprises a person who possesses this worth and dignity.


  1. What stands out for you when you compare the "fall/redemption model" with the "Creation Spirituality model?
  2. What do you think about the idea that there is a "divine spark" in every human being?
  3. What do you think about the idea that human innocence is extinguished by social conditioning?
  4. What practices and beliefs have you been taught by religion or secular society that will save you from suffering, condemnation, and death?
  5. What gives human beings "inherent worth and dignity" if you think they have it?
  6. What comprises the "self", the personal identity which we create, that seems so real?
  7. How has your identity, or your sense of self changed over time?
  8. Is this self which has changed over time real or an illusion?
Skill development
Take one of the characteristics of comparison of the Fall/Redemption Model and the Creation/Spirituality model  and apply it to your own life describing how it has affected your beliefs, your feelings, and your behavior. Once you have created a coherent description, share it with an intimate other or interested person. (The ability to articulate a coherent narrative about the beliefs that have influenced one's life, leaves one in a position of "agency", that is the ability of choose what beliefs a person wants to keep or change in one's life.}


As you compare the Fall/Redemption Model and the Creation Spirituality model, which aspect of this comparison matters the most to you? Which aspect do you think matters the most to the society and culture in which you live? How is this value expressed and manifested in your life and the life of your society?

Monday, November 5, 2018

First principle study group - Class #1 - The Atonement

UU A Way Of Life ministries is offering a 8 week study group on the first principle. The discussion guides will be published every Monday for 8 weeks. The guides can be used for individual study, reflection, and discussion, and in groups.

First Principle guides us towards the
This first reflection entails the tribal history of homo sapiens where one group often perceived other groups as competitors for the scarce resources needed for survival. Some brain scientists theorize that human beings are neurologically programmed to defend and attack the “not us”.
Religions have thrived on their exclusionary tactics and appeal to humans that they are special while the” not them” are a threat of some sort to be excluded from the circle of the group if not extinguished.
Jesus taught something very different when He said we should love our enemies. Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote something very different when they acknowledge the worth and dignity of every person.

The first principle of Unitarian Universalism,is to covenant together to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Homo Sapiens is a long way from incorporating this principal into our daily lives and our social policies. Slavery is a part of our American history, and racial discrimination, misogyny, homophobia, anti-semitism are still parts of our daily lives. Religious denominations practice exclusionary policies damning unbelievers to hell to attract passionate believers to their churches. Perhaps it is good sign that church membership in the United States and Europe is dropping because these dysfunctional practices no longer retain adherents.

How slavery and anti-Semitism can not only occur,  but flourish,  in the cradle of civilization and Christian countries is a question about mysterious forces in our individual and collective psyches which we have not made conscious and managed in healthy ways. Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. In order to do this, we need to understand these unconscious forces in ourselves and in our collective groups more clearly so that we can change them for the better. How can we do this?

Homo Sapiens is a long way from incorporating this principal into our daily lives and our social policies.

It is the premise of the UU A Way of Life that there are ways to move ourselves and humanity closer to what Christians have called "the Communion Of Saints" and which the Universalists believe includes all of humanity, everyone. When we have risen above our egos and acceptance of the oneness with Life we will have arrived home. Let us continue on our quest by accepting the Atonment and practicing forgiveness which manifests what  Jesus suggested when he said, "Love one another."

Universalists have understood as a foundational belief that recognition and acceptance of the Atonement is necessary to overcome our attachments to the things on the path of the ego and embark on the path of the Spirit.

Here is an explanation of the Atonement by Dr. Kenneth Wapnick as taught in A Course In Miracles.

Questions for consideration and possible discussion:

  • 1.      What do you think about the idea that humans are biologically programmed to believe that they are nothing but bodies and so must defend and possibly attack those who they define as “not us”?
  • 2.      What do you  think about the Universalist idea that all human beings, having worth and dignity, will go to heaven?
  • 3.      What do you think about the idea that human beings like to think of themselves as “special egos” and like to degrade other people to make themselves feel better about themselves?
  • 4.      What do you think about the Atonement as a necessary step to heal the separation and to attain God consciousness? 
  • 5.      Who is it hard for you to forgive and include in your circle, and why?
  • 6. To what extent does the idea of atonement as Dr. Wappnick describes from A Course In Miracles resonate with the UU principle of inherent worth and dignity of every person?
  • 7. Where are you in terms of applying the atonement principle in your life?

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