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I am Wayne Dyer, and I am well.  In fact, I am perfect health, and, by the time this program is over, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what those words really mean. This show is called Wishes Fulfilled. It’s based on a book that I have just completed.

The video really begins at 2:40 following a statement about public television which is sponsoring the program.

I spent the last year or so in writing it, researching it, living it, practicing it, and have come to a place in my heart where I know that it’s really not so much about what you want in terms of what you manifest, it’s who you are. You manifest what you become as a human being, and this program is about teaching you to become the highest-consciousness being that you can be, to be aligned with your source, to be aligned with God.  And when you are, you become a creator and a co-creator in your life.

I’d like to open this program with a poetic offering from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and he also wrote a poem that I used earlier in my life, in one of my earlier books, Real Magic. Listen to the words and ask yourself if, if they really, if they really mean something to be true for you, if you really believe in what the poet is offering here.  He says, what if you slept and what if, in your sleep, you dreamed, and what if in your dream, you went to heaven, and there picked a strange and wonderful flower.  And what if, when you awoke, you held that flower in your hand.  Ah, what then, the poet asks.  Do you believe that it’s possible to bring something from the world of the formless, from the world of a dream, into the world of the physical.  The poet was speaking metaphorically, but I am not.

This is really a program about applying those words in your own reality.  Most of us were raised to become ordinary, and I’m not putting down ordinary, but ordinary is just not good enough for me.  Ordinary is you go through your life and you fill out the forms, and you pay your taxes, and you do what your parents tell you, and you’re honorable, and you’re honest, and you’re a good citizen, and then you die.  Extraordinary is something very, very different.  This is about recognizing within yourself that there’s something very, very extraordinary that you haven’t been trained to believe in, to come to a place where you can apply it and put it into your life.

And I want to say to you that I have been working in my life at living an extraordinary life, and so many powerful things have happened to me I’ll be sharing with you throughout this program.  But more than that, you can go way beyond ordinary.

You can go way beyond just being average.  There’s not an average person watching this show.  There’s not an average person in this room tonight.  All of us are extraordinary.  We just have to come to believe it.

There was a friend of mine, her name was Portia Nelson.  Portia passed away a few years back.  She lived up in Seattle.

And she was at a seminar and they ask her to, and they ask everyone, to write on a five-by-seven sheet of paper or card the five chapters of their life.  They only wanted to give them five-by-seven cards because they didn’t want them to get too wordy.  And Portia Nelson sat down and wrote these words about the five chapters of her life, and I thought I would share them here with you.  They’re so beautiful.   She said, chapter one of my life, I walked down the street.  There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I fall in.  I’m lost.  I’m helpless.  It isn’t my fault, and it takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter two of my life, I walk down the same street.  There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. It isn’t my fault, and it still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter three of my life, I walk down the same street.  There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it there.  I still fall in.  It’s a habit.  My eyes are open.  I know where I am.  It’s my own fault, and I get out immediately.

Chapter four of my life, I walk down the same street.  There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.

Chapter five of my life, I walk down another street.

Isn’t that great? Portia Nelson.

I walk down another street.  And this is another street.  Look, it’s called New Street, Old Street.  Walking down another street means leaving behind ordinary, and when I use the word ordinary, it has deep and profound meanings to me.

Ordinary just simply isn’t enough.  Ordinary is when you want to become average and to fit in. But to get to extraordinary, what you do is you have to consult the invisible place within yourself, and this is called your soul.

And your soul, well, I jotted down a few words about the soul, based on a lecture I heard from a great teacher of mine who lived in Bulgaria. He was an initiatic science teacher, and his lecture was very profound, and I wrote these words after listening to one of his recorded lectures.  He said, the ideal of the soul, the thing it asks for is neither knowledge nor light, nor happiness. The ideal of the soul is space, immensity.  The one thing your soul needs is to be free, free to expand and reach out and to embrace the infinite.  Yes, the ideal of the soul is infinity.  It is miserable when it is circumscribed and restricted.  It is a fragment of the universal soul, which is infinite. That’s what I speak about here in this program.

The need to move beyond just fitting in, the need to move past being circumscribed, the soul does not like when you get fenced in, when it is told what to do, when it’s told it has limitations, when it’s told it can’t become that. And so many of us go through our life with these enormous limitations that we’ve placed upon ourselves that have been handed to us from the time that we were little boys and little girls.  If you look on the screen, you’ll see something that is very important and powerful to me.

I was swimming not too long ago up in Minneapolis. I went to see my daughter, Tracy.  And up and down I would swim the pool, and every time I would look up, I would see this written on the wall, and I thought, as I was preparing to do this program, this is just so important and significant.  If you would like to accomplish something, you must first expect it of yourself.

And my question to you is, what do you expect of yourself?  Do you expect to be able to perform miracles, to attract into your life the kind of prosperity that you are entitled to?  Do you expect that you can manifest the kind of relationships that you would like?  In order to be able to have these kinds of expectations for yourself, you have to make a dramatic change, a dramatic shift.  You must change what’s possible for you and what you believe is possible for you, but the question becomes, who am I?

Here, I’ve been teaching philosophy for 40 years now, either at the high school level, or junior high school level, or university level, graduate school, and now on stages all over the world and in front of audiences such as this watching at home and here this evening.

Who are you? And what is real?  My teacher in India, his name was Nisargadatta Maharaj.  He was asked the question, Swami, what is real, Master, what is real?  And his response was, that is real which never changes.  So, what part of you is real by that definition?

Who are you that never changes? So many of us believe that we are our bodies. I don’t know about you, but this body that I’m in right now is changing all the time, very fast, as a matter of fact.  In fact, I, Wayne Dyer, the I that is I, have been in many, many bodies since I incarnated for this first time here on this planet, right here, 71 years ago.

So, I was in a, oh, my goodness, look here. What happened to that body? And there it is, there’s another body that I was in, and there’s another body.  And, oh, there’s my brother, Dave, and there I am on the right, another body.  And then I was in, look at that haircut.  They did it with garden shears in those days but I lived in foster homes.  There I am, look at that hair.  Can you believe that?  Is that, is that possible?  And then I was in this body, and then I was in this body.

And I have been in toddler bodies, baby bodies, teenaged bodies, macho bodies. Mustache bodies.  Endless bodies I have been in with my little ones and my eight children. And the fact of it is that, when you think about it, when I was in the 20-year-old body that I was in, I really thought it was real.  Didn’t you?

I mean, even the body that you’re in, all of you look at your body and think, well, let’s see, I was in a 20-year-old body, and is it real, was it real?  Well, you believed that it was real, but I’ve been looking for that 20-year-old body for 50 years now.  I can’t find it.  And the fact of it is, the body that you’re in right now is not who you are, because it doesn’t meet that fundamental definition of what is real. What is real is what never changes.

The fact is that who you are keeps occupying new bodies every single moment that you are here on this planet.  There was a great poet, her name was Emily Dickinson.  I feel like she was, must have been a sister, a soul mate of mine.  She once had a poem, she said, holding up a handful of dust, she would reach down and say, this quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies, and lads and girls, was laughter and ability, and sighing and frocks and curls. This passive place, a summer’s nimble mansion where bloom and bees fulfilled their Oriental circuit, then ceased like these.

That’s who all of us are if we identify ourselves with our body.  The fact is that everything in this physical universe doesn’t meet the definition of what is real.

Who you are is that soul that I spoke about a few moments ago, that soul that says, I want to expand, I want to be free, I want to go to a place where I understand that who I am is birthless, deathless, changeless, and live from that place, because what this involves fundamentally is reprogramming yourself from the belief system that has been your ego, the part of us that has come to believe that who we are is what we have, and who we are is what we do, and who we are is what other people think of u like ou reputation, and who we are is separate from each other, and most egregiously, who we are is separate from God, from our source.

And so we’ve been raised and taken out into the world and said, go out there and prove who you are by achieving, by accumulating, by getting other people to like you.

I wrote a book and did a film not too long ago called The Shift and in there I spoke about and used these words: The direction we take in life is far more important than the place that our ego parks us in this present moment, that who we are is this divine infinite being that keeps occupying new bodies, endlessly, until we leave this body and then move on, and there is no beginning, there is no end, there is only now, each and every one of us.

So the soul, the part of you that is extraordinary, the part of you that came into this world and knows, I can be anything, I can do anything, I can accomplish anything that I place my attention on, because if you want to accomplish something, you must first just expect it of yourself, and this means changing around the expectations that you’ve been conditioned to believe are your dharma, or are your destiny, I am limited, I am not entitled to prosperity, I am unable to deal with my physical ailments, I need something else, I need to take pills in order to do it, I need to have somebody else do it for me, that within each and every one of us there is this marvelous knowing that is really and truly God ourselves, each and every one of us.

Over the years, I’ve written many books, 37 of them to be exact.  This, what has come to become really clear to me in the last few years of my life is that there really are, there really are two selves within each and every one of us.  Muktananda called the ego, the part of us that has edged God out, e-g-o, edged God out, the false self.

And the false self is this part of us that is not authentic.  It is, it is the ego.  This false self is the part of us that is always trying to, trying to win, trying to own things, trying to prove itself.  We send our kids off to school and we tell them, you know, be ahead of everybody else, win no matter what, and so on.  And they have a tendency just to believe that who they are, are these bodies, even though the body they’re in is going to change, and you’ll never be able to find it again.

And then there’s within each and every one of us a higher self.  And this higher self is, is really the soul, it’s really the spirit, it’s really, it’s really God.  But these two selves are sort of constantly at, they’re not at war so much with each other, but there’s a, there’s this battleground that we have within us.

I’ll give you an example of it in my own life. Somebody on the Internet, a guy named Watkins, has put out a list, because there’s lists for everything, the 100 Most Spiritually Influential People Alive, and they put out this list, a hundred people. And they rank from number one to 100.  And I’m on the list.  Not only am I on the list, but I am, according to this list, and they’ve got all this criteria on how you get on this list, I am the third most spiritually influential person alive.

How about that, huh? So the spiritual part of myself, my soul, the higher place within myself, says to me, this is not relevant.  You’re not any better than anybody else, just because somebody has put you on a list.  In fact, you shouldn’t even be, you shouldn’t even know about that list.  And perhaps the people who are most spiritually influential aren’t even on that list and don’t even want to be on the list, because they don’t care about those kind of rankings and comparisons and so on.

But then there’s the ego over here that says, what do you mean, number three? Well, what’s going on with that?  And who are these people who are more spiritually influential than you?  And how are you going to take them down?

So there’s this sort of constant thing about, it shouldn’t make any difference, who I am is, you know, is the same as everyone else, we all come from the same place, and we all return back to the same place, but then the ego says, let’s see, the two people ahead of me on this list, one of them is Eckhart Tolle but he had Oprah. And she’s only number eight on the list anyway, so.

And he got on there every week, and that’s not fair, so and then there’s the Dalai Lama and I figure Eckhart and I maybe can get together and take the Dalai Lama out of this thing.  Or maybe I should align with the Dalai Lama, and anyway.

The ego is doing this, this number on us.

But there’s also the part of us that is divine. And this is the place that I’m addressing here in this program.  There’s a quote from Joel Goldsmith. Joel wrote so many great books. A Parenthesis in Eternity was one of them.

And this is what Joel said. He said, then there are those who reach a stage in which they realize the futility of this constant striving and struggling for the things that perish, things which, after they are obtained, prove to be shadows. It is at this stage that some persons turn from this seeking for things in the outer realm to a seeking for them from God.

And that’s who you tuned into today, on this program. I have left this pursuing things, and money, and fame, and winning, and being better than others.  It’s taken me awhile, but it has been, it has been a powerful journey. As a matter of fact, I had said to my ex-wife, I said, can you imagine, did you ever in your wildest dreams, could you ever have imagined that you would be married to the third most spiritually influential person alive?  And she said, I just, she said, they didn’t call me when they made that list.  And she said also, she said, I don’t want to upset you, dear, but you’re not in my wildest dreams.

Yeah, all right.

So moving to this higher place is, is really understanding that in, in the second chapter of Wishes Fulfilled, I call it the higher self, and it gets defined very specifically by this great Bulgarian teacher, his name was Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov.  And he’s, he was teaching what’s called the initiatic sciences, and I have had his teachings show up in my life in a very powerful way. I’ve studied his writing.

I’ve listened to many of his recorded lectures that took place back in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s and, and I brought a quote of his that I’d like to share with you.

Our higher self is perfect, omniscient and almighty, a fragment of God himself, a pure, transparent, luminous quintessence.  And that, within each and every one of us, there is a place inside of each and every one of us that is all knowing, that is almighty, that is actually a fragment of God.  He then went on to say, the creator has planted within every creature a fragment of himself, a spark, a spirit of the same nature of himself.   And thanks to this spirit, every creature can become a creator.

And this means that instead of always waiting for their needs to be satisfied by some external source, human beings can absolutely look inwardly by means of their own thoughts, their own will, and their own spirit, to obtain nourishing, healing elements that they need.  This is why he said to all of us, the teaching I bring to you is of the spirit, of the creator, and not of matter, a spark, a spark that is in each and every one of us.

And this spark I want you to be able to recognize, because that spark, I’d like to see you have it grow from just a tiny little spark, which means you can hardly see it, to a fragment, to a piece, to a larger chunk, if you will, to a section, so that this spark within you, that you see up here, is growing and growing and growing, until it absolutely becomes even more than you imagined.

T. S. Eliot, the great American poet, said, we shall not cease from exploration, but at the end of all of our exploring will be to return to the place from which we originated, but to know it for the first time.  I paraphrased that, it’s off a little. To know it for the first time.  I think that T. S. Eliot might have been speaking about death, but I’m not.

I think that we can come to know this place from which we originated, the place to which we return, all of us, by allowing this spark to become something bigger than just an occasional thing where you extend an act of kindness someplace, or you have it at the church, or at the mosque, or at the synagogue on a holy day or a holy observance, that it can become your way of being.

There was a great teacher in India, his name was Vivekananda.  Vivekananda came to the West as a young teacher, a very profound teacher, and he was asked the question, but how do you do this?  How do you, how do you access this higher self?  How do you make this your reality?  And he said these words to his devotees, and I say them to you.

He said, in the springtime, go out and observe the blossoms on the fruit trees.  He said, the blossoms vanish of themselves as the fruit grows, and so, too, will the lower self, the false self, the ego, vanish as the divine grows within you.

It’s about allowing yourself to recognize you must have this spark, because this is what you came from, and this is what you’ll return to.  And as this spark becomes a fragment and becomes a section, and becomes larger and larger, you reach what I call, in Wishes Fulfilled, the third chapter, the highest self.

And what is the highest self?   This is the one that’s going to surprise you a bit.  The highest self is the self that you haven’t been trained to believe in.  You’ve been trained to believe in your ordinary awareness.  Your highest self is where you begin to recognize your connection to your source, to the Tao, to the divine, to God.  There were three very important teachings that came to me before I put this program together and before I wrote Wishes Fulfilled.

The first was a, a book by a man named U. S. Andersen, U. S. Andersen, passed away in 1986, a very profound teacher.  And he wrote a book called Three Magic Words, which I have had people tell me you must read.  So it’s, it’s fairly heavy reading but the kind of reading that I love.

And there’s 12 chapters in the book, and you get to the 12th chapter, and you keep waiting for the three magic words because he doesn’t say what they are.  And at the end of each chapter, there’s a meditation.  And in this meditation, you practice and put into the awareness within yourself of recognizing the highest place within yourself.  And ultimately, at the very end, he said these words, Chapter 12, the very end of it.

It’s called The Veil Removed.

This is the ineffable secret, the ultimate illumination, the key to peace and power.  You are God.  Those are the three magic words.  If you will accept this towering truth, and dare to stand atop this magnificent pinnacle, universal consciousness will be revealed to you from within.  God is there.

It is he who peers from behind your eyes, who is your own consciousness, who is your very self.  You are not just a part of God, you are altogether God, and God is altogether you.  Now, that’s scary stuff for a lot of people.  We weren’t raised to believe that.

I’m not saying that you ought to go out into the world and say, excuse me, but, uh, you know who you’re talking to, that I am God.  And the reason that we laugh is because we think of God as the God that we’ve created in our own image, the God of the ego, the God who’s angry.  The God who wants special favors, the God who has the ability to heal, but withholds it.  But there’s another word that Jesus used in the New Testament, and this is the God I speak of, quoting him.  God is love.  And he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

God is love, pure, unconditional, blissful, divine love.  That’s who you are.

The second great teaching was a man named Neville.  Neville Goddard, passed away in 1972, lectured over in California, particularly in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s I read his book, The Power of Awareness, seven times.   I gave it to each one of my children at Christmas a couple of years ago.  And they called me up and they said, Dad, it’s great, but I don’t understand it, it’s a little heavy.   And I said, well, then maybe it’s part of my dharma to make it a little clearer.  And Chapter 27, the last chapter of his book, The Power of Awareness, it says this.

In all of creation, in all of eternity, in all of the realms of your infinite being, the most wonderful fact is that which is stressed in the first chapter of this book, you are God.  You are the I am that I am.  You are consciousness.  You are the creator.   This is the mystery.

This is the great secret known by the seers and prophets and mystics throughout the ages.  This is the truth that you can never know intellectually.  If you want to understand something intellectually, what you must do is analyze it, come up with a formula for it, study it, look at other experts about it, and come up to a conclusion.  If you want to understand something spiritually, you must first experience it.  You must come to know this within.

In the New Testament, which I read completely before I wrote Wishes Fulfilled, Jesus is about to be stoned.  And he says, why would you stone me?  And they say, because you blaspheme, you are a man and you claim to be God.  And Jesus responds, in his words, is it not written in your laws that I have said, you are Gods, all of you.

We are all Gods.  We have within us, not the God that so often we are taught is outside of us, but the God that is love, the God that is perfect love, the soul that wants to expand because it is infinite and doesn’t want to be restricted.

And I came across some great teachings that were sent to me.  They showed up, as we often think they show up as accidents, but you come to realize that there are no accidents in this universe.  Everything that takes place is, had the pieces moved around by something bigger than all of us.

And so it was called The “I Am” Discourses.  And I quote from The “I Am” Discourses.  The first expression of every individual, everywhere in the universe, either in spoken word, silent thought or feeling is, I am, recognizing its own conquering divinity.

The student, me, you, all of us, endeavoring to understand and apply these mighty, yet simple laws, must stand guard more strictly over his thoughts and expression in words or otherwise.  For every time you say, I am not, I cannot, I have not, you are, whether knowingly or unknowingly, throttling that great presence within you.  These words, I am, I opened up this program with the words, I am well.   I am perfect health.  And where do you think they came from?  What do these words, I am, mean?

A very quick retracing of the story of Moses.

Moses, this little baby, who was born at a time when the Pharaoh had ordered all male children to be drowned in the Nile, and Moses’ mother took this little baby, put him in a basket and floated him down the Nile.  Moses was discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses as her own son, and the Pharaoh’s grandson.

But along in his late teen years, he got into a conflict and ended up seeing one of the Israelite slaves being mistreated, and he ended up killing him.  So Moses had to take off, because he was afraid for his own life. And he went out into the Sinai, and there married Zipporah, and had children, and was out as a shepherd.  And as the Torah tells us, as it says in Exodus, he comes across a burning bush one day that is not being consumed.

And the bush speaks to him.  And rather than even misquote this, even a little, I brought from my hotel room.  You wouldn’t steal the Bible, would you, Wayne?  No, I’ll put it back.  So the bush speaks in Exodus, Chapter 3, and says, Moses, Moses, and the first words that Moses says to God are, here I am.  Then he said, do not draw near here, this place.

Take off your sandals and your, for your feet, for this place where you stand is holy ground.  And God speaks to Moses and says, I want you to go to the Pharaoh, and I want you to free your people.  And Moses is going, well, wait, wait, hold on here.  Who am I, and who are you?  Moses says to God, who am I, that I should go to the Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?

So he said, I will certainly be with you, and this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you.  When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.

Then Moses says to God, indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and I say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they say to me, what is his name, what shall I say to them?  And God says to Moses, I am that I am.  And he said, thus, you shall say to the children of Israel, I am has sent me to you.  This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.  My name is I am that I am.

Now every single time that you use the words, I am, you are citing the name of God, right from the holiest books. And every time you say the words, I am weak, I am poor, I am unlucky, I am unhappy, I am sick, I am unable to attract into my life what you want, you are desecrating the name of God.  God did not say, I will be.  My name is, I hope things work out well.  My name is, maybe things will show up that I wanted, but possibly not.

He said, I am that I am.  You must be conscious of how you use these words, I am.  I am strong.  I am well.  I am content.  Even if your senses tell you something different, I am.

And as we move now into the meat of this program, you’ll see that putting the words, I am, in front of something into your mind and imagination is a very powerful way to attract into your life, recognizing your own divinity.

I am God is not blasphemy.   It is your identity.

In my study of the work that I mentioned earlier, particularly the work of Neville, and the work of U. S. Andersen, and The “I Am” Discourses, I came up with, in putting that all together, five, what I call five Wishes Fulfilled foundations for being able to attract into your world and become the kind of person that you expect yourself to be. Remember what I said about the quote on this wall of the swimming pool.

If you want to accomplish anything, which means to become an extraordinary level of consciousness person, you must first expect it of yourself.  You must see yourself and be unafraid to say to yourself, I am connected at always, at all times, to my source, to the divine mind, to the Tao, to God, to that which is the creator of all.  I am a part of it.

And the first of these five foundations I call imagination.  Imagination.  Many of our greatest thinkers have spoken about the power of imagination.

William Blake said that, what is now proved was once only imagined.  Now think about the importance of that.  If you want to have something show up in your life, the kind of person you would like to become, manifest something new into your life, something powerful, whatever it might be, you obviously must first be able to imagine it.  Your imagination, this is yours and yours alone.  You can place anything into your imagination that you want to place there.

Independent of what anybody else says about it, independent of what your senses tell you, independent of all the evidence that may be to the contrary, you can place into your imagination an I am that represents what you would like to attract into your life and make it come into fruition.  Einstein’s most famous quote, one of his most famous observations, he said, imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world.

Placing these I ams into your imagination I had a, some of you, I’m sure, know about it because it’s been all over the papers and so on, a diagnosis of leukemia, a couple of years ago.  And for awhile, I kind of began to believe some of the things that were being told to me about what happens when you have this particular kind of leukemia.

And I have, instead, in the last year or so, had some of the most amazing, astonishing things happen into my life, where I have felt just so, I was just so alive and so strengthened, and so fully connected to my source, knowing, I mean, basically, I have a knowing in here that life itself is a sexually transmitted, terminal disease.

Okay?  I mean, that’s basically the fact, all right?  So I’m not saying that all you have to put into your imagination an I am that says, I am, and you’re going to live forever. It isn’t, that isn’t, but every moment that you do have, until you are called, can be a moment of exquisite, extraordinary power, living from that place, and that’s the decision that I made.  I have never felt so powerful as I have the last several years, since I recognized the power that I have in my imagination to place something there and live from it.

Einstein once said, if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales.  If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve taken to writing children’s books, to give children an opportunity to explore that thing called their imagination, from the time that they’re just little boys and little girls.

And what I have in my imagination is a do-not-disturb sign, and it’s like mentally inside, I’ve placed that in there, I do not, anyone to disturb or try to change around anything that I have placed in there about what is possible for me.  So you never want to place into your imagination any thought that you would not want to materialize.  You never want to allow in your imagination to be contaminated by the way life used to be.

Your imagination is yours.  Don’t let any other people influence you. Never allow people’s ideas about what is possible or impossible for you to occupy your imagination. I’ve called it, throughout my life, I’ve called it being a scurvy elephant.

When I was in the third grade, I was living in a foster home out in Mount Clemens, Michigan, and I came home from school, and I talked to Mrs.Scarf, and I said, Mrs. Scarf, what’s a scurvy elephant? And she said, where did you hear that? And I said, I don’t know, Mrs. Pool, my third-grade teacher was talking to the principal, Mrs.Smith, and she said, Wayne Dyer was in this classroom, and called me a scurvy elephant.

So she got on the phone, and she called up, and the principal said, oh, that’s Wayne, he gets everything mixed up. She didn’t say that he was a scurvy elephant in her classroom, she said that he was a disturbing element in her classroom.  A disturbing element is someone who has in their imagination the possibility that they can do anything, that all things are possible.  Again, it’s one of those great lines from the New Testament, with God, all things are possible.

Now you tell me, what does that leave out?  What does all things are possible leave out?  That doesn’t leave out the possibility that we can defy gravity, that we can soar, that we can heal ourselves, that we can create magnificent prosperity in our life, that we can change the world.

I said at one of the breaks here, to the audience here tonight, I really believe that if this message gets out there into the world, we can shift the  consciousness of this planet.  If enough of us begin to believe, we’re placing into our imagination a world that we want to live in that has no limitations and that is based on living from a place of love and kindness and God-consciousness and spiritual awareness, divine mind at work.

I believe it’s possible.

Einstein, once again, this man of imagination said, logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.  That’s the first of these Wishes Fulfilled foundations.

The second foundation is very significant and very important.

I call it, Living from the End.

This is one of the harder ones for people to get, but I’d like you to go, again, to the New Testament, look at Romans 4:17, in the presence of him, whom he believe God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did, and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.

Those are very important, significant words.  You have to be able to call the things which you have not seen yet materialize and manifest into your physical world. You have to be able to say to yourself, I call those things that I would like to become as if they already do. And you place into your imagination, fearlessly, the I ams which you would like to create for yourself.

And when it’s time for me to write another book, I don’t even know what it’s going to be.  I just know that it starts germinating inside me, and it’s like a calling, it’s like a passion. And I’m over there at my writing space, and before I do, I come up with the title, and before I even write one word, I, I did it with this book, Wishes Fulfilled, this, I take a jacket, which is, this isn’t even my book.  And I take this jacket, and I ask the art department at Hay House if they will please design a book with this title, and I put it around another book, which that I have done, and I set it on my writing space, next to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Jesus Christ’s picture, and Paramahansa Yogananda, and my children, and the people that I love deeply and profoundly in my life, and I look at it with three white candles that I light every single time I sit over there, and I look at that jacket, and I, it’s as if I call those things.

The book does not exist.  I call it as if it did.

When my leukemia diagnosis came in, the information that was sent to me continuously was it’s incurable, this is something that you can’t change.

And I would say to my children, who would send me this stuff, I’d say, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t send me that kind of stuff.  And they’d say, what do you mean?  Why do you, why, Dad?  Why wouldn’t you want us to send that?  It says that right in there.  I said, what part of I am well is it that you don’t understand?  Because I have placed that into my imagination.

I have a wonderful quote by the man I’ve cited before, his name is Neville, and it goes like this.

He says, disregard appearances, conditions, in fact, disregard all evidence of your senses, that is, what your eyes and ears tell you, that deny the fulfillment of your desire, whatever it is you want to attract into your life.  Disregard appearances, conditions, in fact, all evidence of your senses that deny the fulfillment of your desire.

Rest in the assumption that you already are what you want to be, for in that determined assumption, you and your infinite being, your extraordinary self, which is what this program is about, are merged in creative unity, and with your infinite being, God, all things are possible.  God never fails, and you are a piece of that which never fails.

And you are going to move beyond just being a piece, and just being a fragment, and just being a segment, until it becomes your overwhelming knowing, that you have within you this divine capacity.  You don’t need evidence of your senses.

I wrote a book a few years back, the title of it, I had to get my publisher because they didn’t understand it, they called back, they said, I think you got this wrong.  I said, no.  It’s called, You’ll See It When You Believe It. Not the other way around.  People will say, well, I’ll believe it when I see it.

It doesn’t work that way.  You will see it when inside you have a knowing.

And Neville also said, therefore, to incarnate a new and a greater value of yourself, you must assume that you already are what you want to be, and then live by faith in this assumption.  Now this flies in the face of so much of what you’ve been told, because you have a tendency to believe that what your eyes and ears tell you is reality. But this is what we know by our senses, just this little tiny fragment.  I can’t even get, you know, it’s like a millionth of a millimeter, and all that is unknown is in the invisible, in the imagination. And most of our attention is focused on, this is my beliefs and my disbeliefs about what is possible and what isn’t possible, are here, and it’s an endless, an endless universe. So placing I ams into your imagination is one thing, it’s an intellectual act.

Living from the end means that you call the things which do not exist as if they did.

You begin to say to yourself, you don’t have to say it to anyone else, you don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to get anybody else’s approval, you don’t have to look on the Internet, you don’t have to do anything like that.

I have had such a magical experience. While I was writing Wishes Fulfilled, I had, I had so many divine things come into my life.  I had a man who lives down in Brazil, in Abadiania, named John of God come into my life, in a way that was so profoundly life-changing that it’s almost hard for me to find the words to express it.

At the same time, I had a woman come into my life, a woman from Bulgaria. This country is just on me.  She’s here tonight.  Her name is Mira Kelly. And she brought with her something off of the Internet about a near-death experience, about a woman in Hong Kong whose name is Anita Moorjani.  She’s an author, a Hay House author now, and she’s written a book, a powerful book. And I read this story about Anita, and it seems that on the 2nd of February, in the year 2006, this woman was wheeled into a hospital in Hong Kong.  She had been sick for five years.  Her organs had all shut down.

Her family was gathered at the emergency room, her husband, who is here tonight, I’m honored to have met, beautiful man, named Danny.  And the doctors had told her family and her husband that these were her last hours. She was down to 86 or 88 pounds.  Anita emerged from her coma, some 30 hours in a coma, and she has a story to tell that is so compelling, she’s here from Hong Kong to share with you some of the lessons that she learned while she was in this comatose state and what she came back to teach us.

She’s one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever been privileged to know, and honored to support, and write a foreword for her book, and she’s here with us today, and I’d love you to meet her.

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Anita Moorjani, please, come up.  Be seated.

Moorjani: Thank you.  Hi, good evening, everyone.

Dr. Dyer: Tell us, Anita, you’re in a coma, your husband is whispering in your ear, your mother is there, your brother’s on his way to see you, everybody’s waiting for you to take your last breath.  What were you observing, and what did you learn, and what did you come back to teach us?

Moorjani: Wow.  There’s so much there.  Even though I was in a coma, I was actually aware of everything that was happening around me.

I’m sorry, I still get emotional when I think of that state.

It was, it was five years ago, but I still remember it as if it was, it was yesterday.  I was in a coma, but I was aware of everything the doctors were doing.  I was aware of my husband.  My mother was crying.  She was, because the doctors had told them that, that I only had a few more hours to live, my organs had shut down, and these were my last hours.  And, and I wanted to assure them that, that I was feeling fine, that I was feeling great, but I couldn’t.  I, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t communicate with them.

And each time it felt as though I was getting involved in the drama, and my emotions were being pulled towards feeling for my mother and my brother, at the same time, it was as though I was being pulled away, and it was as though my energy, or my awareness, or consciousness was just expanding.  And it was just expanding and expanding, and just getting bigger and bigger.  And it felt as though I could feel what everybody was feeling.  I could feel what my husband was feeling, what my mother was feeling, and the doctors, as they were running around trying to, trying to save my life.  And then I became aware of what I can only describe as unconditional love.

It was as though I was, it was as though I was just surrounded, or embraced, by this unconditional love.  And when I say unconditional, I mean really unconditional.  It was like I didn’t have to do anything to prove myself or to be anything, or I was loved unconditionally, regardless.  It, it was as though, even, even things that I could have perceived to have done wrong in my life, it wasn’t as though I was being judged.  There was no judgment whatsoever.  There was only compassion.

It was like compassion, and it was like I understood, in that state, why, why I would do whatever I did in life.   It was, everything I did was out of the limitation of being in a physical body.

Dr. Dyer: So you were looking at your body, and you were given a choice, is that right, whether to get back into this sick, sick body.

Moorjani: That’s right.

Dr. Dyer: Or not.

And what did you do?

Moorjani: I became aware, actually, I became aware of the presence of my father.  He had passed away 10 years before me. And I also became aware of my best friend, who had passed away two years before and I had missed her desperately, because she was like a sister to me.

Dr. Dyer: And did you feel, when you were in that near-death experience state, in that coma, watching it, that coming back also meant that you had something to teach everyone?  And what was it that you felt you had to teach them?

Moorjani: I felt that I had to come back because there was a greater purpose.  Because at first, I didn’t want to come back into my body, because my body was so sick, and it, there was just so much unconditional love on that side.  It’s really, really hard to leave, so if anybody has lost anyone, I can completely understand why they would stay there.   But also, I seemed to get the message.  I seemed to understand that it wasn’t my time, and I had a mission.  I had a purpose, and I had not yet fulfilled.

And I seemed to understand that, even in order to fulfill my purpose, I wouldn’t have to really go and figure it out, or I wouldn’t have to pursue anything.  I would just have to go back and live fearlessly and just not be afraid to be myself, and that’s all I had to do.  I also sensed that my husband and I still had a purpose to fulfill.  My husband is, he’s truly my soul mate, because he was there talking to me all the way through, talking in my ear, and holding my hand, and I was aware of that.

Dr. Dyer: You learned some very important things.

Was it like just about being positive, to be a positive thinker, was that?

Moorjani: No, in fact, being positive is not enough.  I used to always be positive, because I was a people-pleaser.  I used to always stay positive, because I never wanted to bother anyone or trouble anyone.  I learned that more important than being positive is being yourself.  I learned that that’s actually the most important thing, is to be yourself, because that’s why we’re here.   We’re here because we’re, we’re facets of one.  It was as though we are all one.  Without my body, it felt as though I was connected to everyone and everything.

Dr. Dyer: Was fear a big part of your life and had something to do with this?

Moorjani: With being ill.

Dr. Dyer: Your being sick?

Moorjani: Yes, fear was a big part of my life before I was sick.  I used to live a life in fear, a fear of not being good enough, fear of everything, fear of illness, fear of not meeting other people’s expectations, and, but my near-death experience taught me that there’s nothing to fear.  In fact, when I was given the choice, I felt I reached a point where I had the choice of whether to come back or not, and it was my father and my best friend who actually said, now that you know who you truly are, go back and live your life fearlessly.

Dr. Dyer: And have you been doing that?

Moorjani: Yes, I have.

Dr. Dyer: Ladies and gentlemen, Anita Moorjani.

Dr. Dyer: Thank you, thank you.  It gets better and better, honestly.  It’s hard to top Anita Moorjani’s story, but the lessons are very, very profound here.

The third Wishes Fulfilled foundation is called, Assume the Feeling of the Wish Fulfilled.

Assume the Feeling of the Wish Fulfilled.

So here’s where we are.  We have used our imagination.  We have placed something into our imagination as an I am, which is the name of God.

I am strong.

I am healthy.

I am kind.

I am prosperous.

I am getting the job that I’m applying for.

I am, whatever it might be, I am.

And then you have practiced calling it as if that which does not exist as though it did.

And then you move now from the world of the intellect, because understanding something intellectually is very different than understanding something spiritually.  To understand something spiritually, you must experience it.  And in order to experience it, you have to experience it in your imagination as an I am, but you must be able to feel it.  Our feelings are the things that take place in our body.

It says, Neville says, and I have this on the, next to my bed, where I live in Maui, make your future dream a present fact by assuming the feeling of the wish fulfilled.  So whatever it is that you would like to experience in your life, this, remember, your imagination is yours.  Everything that now exists was once imagined.  Therefore, everything that is going to exist must first be imagined.


Henry David Thoreau had probably the greatest definition of success that I have ever heard. He said, if you advance confidently in the direction of your own dreams, and endeavor to live the life which you have imagined, you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  It will chase after you, if you can place into your imagination what it is that you would like to attract, and begin to feel it.

Listen to Neville.

This is one of my most favorite quotes from The Power of Awareness.

That which you feel yourself to be, you are.  And you are given that which you are.  So, assume the feeling that would be yours, were you already in possession of your wish, and your wish must be realized.  So live in the feeling of being the one you want to be, and that you shall be.

Every feeling makes a subconscious impression, and unless it is counteracted by a more powerful feeling of an opposite nature, it must be expressed.

Your feelings are different from your thoughts.

Your feelings are what you experience in your body.

A dominant of two feelings is the one expressed.

I am healthy is a stronger feeling than I will be healthy.

I am healthy says, I feel healthy, and I feel healthy.

I feel great.

I don’t determine if I am well on the basis of what it says on a piece of paper, or on the basis of what somebody else out there tells me.

I live my life feeling within my body that I am strong, I am capable, I am able.  And that is not just something that I say.  It’s not just an affirmation.  An affirmation is an intellectual exercise.

This is a spiritual knowing within that I am well, I am content, I am prosperous.

But the words that Neville used there are the subconscious.

Every feeling that you have makes a subconscious impression upon your body and upon your awareness.  Now, you need to understand this subconscious mind of yours.  Your subconscious mind rules your life.  Ninety-six to 97% of everything that you do is done as a result of your subconscious mind.  And when your subconscious mind gets programmed, it goes ahead and responds to whatever it is your conscious mind has placed into it.

I was 18 years old.  I was in the United States Navy for four years.  And they sent me to a school in Bainbridge, Maryland, to become a radioman and a cryptographer.  And we spent an hour a day, every day, for the first three or four weeks we were there on a typewriter learning Morse code.  Okay?   And my conscious mind had to program my subconscious mind.  Now, this subconscious mind of yours is operating all the time.  You’re sitting here watching a television show.

You got up, you picked up your remote control, you turned the channel on, you got dressed, you ate lunch, you went to the bathroom, you go to work, you get into your car, you drive to work, you put, you don’t think about what I’m going to do.  And everything that is going on in your life, everything, everybody in here in this room, you know, you got here through your subconscious mind.  You didn’t have to think about every single thing that you were doing, but there was a time when you did, in order to learn that.

This habitual, subconscious mind of yours rules your life.

So I’m 18 years old, I’m taking Morse code.  Di-dah-dah, here’s the alphabet, a little bit of it anyway, di-dah, dah-di-di-dit, dah-di-dah-dit, dah-di-dit, dit, di-di-dah-dit, dah-dah-dit, di-di-di-dit, di-dit, di-dah-dah-dah, dah-di-dah, di-dah-di-dit, dah-dah, dah-dit, dah-dah-dah, di-dah-dah-dit.

That’s A through P, check it out.

That’s 53 years ago, and my subconscious mind is still keeping track of the dah-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah dah-di-di-dit di-di-dah.

You’re doing the same thing, only you don’t use Morse code, but you’ve programmed your subconscious mind with di-di-di-dit dah-di-dit, I can’t do that, di-di-dit dah-di-dit, I’m not very attractive, di-di-dit dah-dah-dit, I’m overweight.

I can’t do, make things happen.

And it’s di-di-dit dah-di-dit dah-di-dah, still there, 53 years later. You, and you go through your life with this subconscious programming with a, with an awareness that you are not in charge.  You’re not able to extend or transcend this, this way of thinking.  This subconscious mind of yours is most impacted by your feelings.  A change of feeling is a change of destiny.

A change of feeling is a change of destiny.

Write it down.  Stick it on the wall next to your bed.  If you came into where I sleep, you would see that.  I look at that all the time.

I want to practice putting into my subconscious mind the assumption of the feeling of what it is that I would like to attract into my life as if it already existed and to feel it.  Not just to think it, but to feel it.  Neville’s law of assumption says this.  If this assumption about what you would like to become is persisted in until it becomes your dominant feeling, the attainment of your ideal is absolutely inevitable.  You must first assume the feeling of a wish fulfilled in all aspects of your life.

So, you have to say to yourself, what does it feel like to be prosperous?

What does it feel like to be content?

What does it feel like to be well?

And I had to remind myself of that when I had this leukemia diagnosis.

I had to remind myself, I was, I was down about 30 minutes, until I realized that virtually everything that shows up in my life has been a blessing, virtually everything.   All of the struggles, whether it’s in, you know, addictions, or whether it’s in living in foster homes and being abandoned, whether it’s my wife and I separating and the pain of that, whatever it might be.

A dear friend of mine was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She passed away a few years back, and she was the one who wrote so much about death and dying.  She had a wonderful and important message for us.  She said, if you shield the mountain from the windstorms, you’ll never see the beauty of the carvings.  And the beauty of the carvings comes from being able to be in a state of gratitude for the storms that show up in our life, just as much as the things that we would like to have show up in our life.

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You have to start retraining your subconscious mind, and your subconscious mind, it responds to what it is that you suggest to it.  Now, the intriguing thing about your subconscious mind, your habitual mind, is that it can’t make a distinction between what it is that you are feeling as a result of what you have placed into your imagination and assumed the feeling of it, and what you are experiencing every day in your life.

If you tell, if you go around feeling unhappy, depressed, miserable, sad, whatever, if you, your subconscious mind says, oh, so this is what it is that you would like to attract into your life, and the universal subconscious mind, to which we were all connected, that we call the creative source of the universe, the divine mind, God, the Tao, whatever you might want it to be, that it will begin to offer you experiences that match up to what it is that you are feeling, so your body responds to what it is you place into your subconscious mind.

You have to retrain it, because 53 years later, here I am, dit dah-di-di-dah di-dit dah.

It’s like, it’s there, but that’s innocuous.  That’s not, that’s not going to hurt anything.  But if I’ve programmed into my subconscious mind feelings of, poor me, I can’t do anything about my life, other people are responsible for the reason why I can’t get myself happy and healthy and, and so on, if I, if I live with that kind of consciousness within me, you’re going around feeling it all the time.

Your feelings, your feelings create the destiny that you want.

If this assumption is persisted in until it becomes your dominant feeling, the attainment of your ideal is absolutely inevitable.

And what’s the paramount feeling that you want to have?

The feeling of, exactly, the feeling of love.  Love is the feeling you must assume.

This is the message that Anita brought to me and brought to all of you, that when you place a feeling of love, which is all there is, it seemed to me, on the other side. Is that right, Anita?  I mean, it’s just, it’s just nothing.  She tries to describe this, and I’m pushing her.

Here, I’m 71, I’m cramming for my finals, I mean, I want to know, what’s it like over there?   You know, we all want to know that.   And all she says is, it’s just pure love.  It’s just, it’s a love that you are bathed in, if you will.  Bathe yourself in that kind of love.  Live from that place and know God is love.

The fourth Wishes Fulfilled foundation I call Attention.

This is really crucial.  Your imagination is able to do all that you ask in proportion to the degree of your attention.  So what kind of attention do you place on your desires?

Let’s say, well, I’ll give you an example, the one of, of myself, with this business of this chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

My kids just got me this wonderful gift.  I hadn’t had it before.  They wanted me in the 21st century.  It’s called an ipad.  I just got, I just got my first e-mail address, and I’m not telling anybody what it is, because.  So, but it’s just this wonderful, they’ve got this wonderful feature that I really think we should have in life, and it’s called trash.   Which I had never seen before.

They were explaining this to me.  So anything that comes in that you don’t want, you just push this little button, and it’s just like this.  And it goes like this, whoop.  It actually moves, and you can, and it makes a little sound, whoop.  And then there’s a little button over on this side that says delete.  You know?

So it’s something you put into the trash, and then you hit delete, it’s gone forever.  That’s the kind of way you want to use your attention.

There are two kinds of attention, according to Neville, the subjective attention and objective attention.  Subjective attention is different from objective attention.  You want to use subjective attention, not objective attention.  Neville says, there’s an enormous difference between attention directed objectively and attention directed subjectively, and the capacity to change your future depends on the latter.

Whatever you have placed into your imagination, you always go to your reality and call that which does not exist as if it did.  I am.

And you, I have a rule about it, it’s don’t complain and don’t explain.  You don’t have to explain what you have placed into your imagination.  It is totally yours.

One of my great teachers in my life, in my early doctoral years, was Dr. Abraham Maslow.  He said, become independent of the good opinion of other people.

Trust yourself, subjective attention. You, and only you, capital Y-O-U, are the subject that impacts the burning desire in your imagination.  You are living and feeling as if your future dreams are a present fact.  Objective attention, you become the objectified result of other people telling you what you can’t do, what’s impossible, and so on.  Subjective attention, mine is mine.

I have an image that I use.  I call it the superglue method.  And when I have an intention about what it is, including doing this program, when I have an intention about making this program a reality, and it involves a lot of money and a lot of, a lot of expense, a lot of people, a lot of things have to come together.  It involves going over into my writing space every single day, never giving up on it.

For even if I don’t feel like writing, four or five hours every single day, because I superglue, I superglue my intention into my imagination, and I don’t allow anybody else’s opinions to do anything to distract from that.

I don’t care if they tell me I can’t do it, or if it’s impossible, or it’ll cost too much, that we can’t do.  My intentions are superglued there, and I have that do-not-disturb sign placed on my imagination, and it is mine.

Use this.

Don’t allow anybody else’s opinions, don’t allow what it says on the Internet, don’t allow the research, don’t allow what anybody out there tells you is possible or not possible for you.

I just want to reemphasize that this really works.

I mean, it really does work if you just put in the minimal effort that I’ve been speaking about, about realizing how powerful your imagination is and assuming the feeling of what it is you want to be, as if it already were your reality.  A change of feeling is a change of destiny.

The fifth foundation, before I go to it, you may have noticed my little hat here, right?  How about that?  I just took a group of people to Assisi, Lourdes, and Medjugorje, three great spiritual places where miracles have taken place.  And I got one of these hats, and I don’t think I’ve taken it off since.  It’s my new uniform.

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The fifth foundation, the Wishes Fulfilled foundation, I call it Now I lay Me Down to Sleep.

And it is about the most practical of all of the five Wishes Fulfilled foundations.

This is something that you can do when the show is over tonight, when you go to bed.  In the Book of Job, there is a very important statement.  The statement says, in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men while slumbering in their beds, then he opens the ears of men and seals their instruction.

Your subconscious mind is most comfortable when you are unconscious. You are unconscious when you are in your sleep state.  And in your sleep state, your subconscious mind is busy at work.  And it’s so important, these, I call it the last five minutes of your day.

So you get into bed, every day you get into bed, it’s, you get ready to go to sleep, and you are now about to, you’re in that state between being awake and being asleep, where you’re getting drowsy and, and you are going to marinate for the next eight hours in your unconscious subconscious mind.

You are preparing your marinade.

And the question is, how do you want to prepare yourself for having your instructions sealed?  Your ears are opened, and your instructions are sealed.  So, most people use the last five minutes of their day, as they’re about to enter into sleep, to review all of the things that they don’t like, and all of the things that didn’t work, and all of the people that hurt their feelings, and all of the stuff that is going on in their life that they wish weren’t happening.

This is their worry time.  This is the time when you fill your mind with all of this stuff, and then you go off into sleep and he opens your ears and seals your instructions while you are slumbering.  That’s right out of the Book of Job.  So what you want to do is reverse this practice, because your subconscious mind is listening to how you are asking the universe to provide for you what it is that you would like to attract or manifest into your life.  And if you fill your subconscious mind with all of the things that you don’t want, that you don’t like, that make you unhappy, that make you depressed, that make you worry, then your subconscious mind, which is impersonal, and remember, it can’t make a distinction between what it is that you are feeling as a result of what you place into your mind or what is actually happening in your life.

It doesn’t distinguish one from the other.  It’s totally impersonal.  It’s just open to suggestion.  And here you are, suggesting to your subconscious mind, which will, when you awaken, you will align with the universal subconscious mind, the one mind, you know, there’s millions of people out there in the world, there’s millions of you watching this program, and you can see the difference between each and every one of you on the basis of your appearances, but there’s only one mind.

That’s what the great spiritual texts all teach us.

So now, if you, if you program your subconscious mind to tell your, to go over all the things you don’t want, all the things you don’t like, all the things that shouldn’t have happened, all the ways that you were mistreated, all about how terrible the economy is, and you know, we live in a fear-based world.

You want to shift away from that kind of consciousness and use the last five minutes of your, of your day to program your subconscious mind with what you have placed into your imagination with your I ams.

I am well.

I say it to myself every night, especially when I get into that, that state, you know, that weird state, where you’re sort of half awake and you’re half asleep and you know you’re heading towards that, sort of that subconscious place, and I just remember what it says in the Book of Job.

I don’t want my instructions sealed by going over, I am sick, I am poor, I am unhappy.

I just say, I am content, I am lucky.

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t say, oh, good God, morning.  It’s the reverse.  I say, good morning, God.

You know, it’s like, being grateful rather than being in that place where the things that you don’t want are what you have programmed your life to be.

I always think of this as, you know, like you have a currency, and, and if I were to give you currency to go out and purchase what you, what you want, and every place you went you took this currency that you have to purchase what you want and you purchase what you don’t want, and then when you get home and you wonder why your house and your life is filled with everything that you don’t want, it’s because you’re insane.  That’s just insanity.  It is.

I mean, why would you take what, the currency that you have to buy what you do, that, that’s there for what you do want and spend it on what you don’t want?  When the currency that you have for attracting into your life what you would like to have are your thoughts and your imagination and your, and your I ams, your God-consciousness, why would you use it to say, I am unable, I am unlucky, I cannot, I will not?

You’re throttling, that’s what it says in the “I Am” Discourses, you’re throttling that great I-am presence that is located within you.

And so, the last five minutes of your day, as you’re about to marinate for eight hours in your subconscious mind, with your unconscious state, you want to go into that state, even if you just, even if your senses tell you, oh, this is, well, you’re just fooling yourself and so on.  You don’t want to use your senses and the Internet and other people’s opinions, what you see, what you hear.

You want to let go of all of that and recognize that anything that you want to attract or create for yourself in your life begins with what you have placed in your imagination and have assumed the feeling of that wish fulfilled, and now you’re going to practice it, because you want, I’ve been trying to get, I mean, getting stuff out of your subconscious mind is a big job.

It really is.

People, most people are just not willing to do what it takes.  I still can’t get the Morse code out of my subconscious mind.  I need to have a major deprogramming thing.  There’s that exit sign, di-dah-dah-dah-dah, di-di-dah, it’s always there.  But that’s just harmless.

What isn’t harmless is, you know, placing into your subconscious mind all the things that you’re reviewing about what you don’t like, about what didn’t happen, about who mistreated you, about how sad you are, about how this can’t happen.

You are a creator.

Neville put it this way.

He said, the feeling, which comes in response to the question, how would I feel were my wish realized, is the feeling which will monopolize and mobilize your attention as you relax into sleep.

How would I feel were what it is that I would like to attract and create, and I don’t care what it is, whether it’s about the, the, the condition of your body, the disease state that you’re in, the fact that you’ve been overweight for, for three centuries or three decades or whatever it is the fact that you’ve been addicted, you ignore it, even if you’re drinking the coffee and doing the drugs and, and, and drinking alcohol or eating the sugar and so on.

Ignore what your senses tell you.  Ignore what, what you see on the scale.

Ignore all of that, and say, I am sober, I am healthy, I am well-being, I am content, I am happy, I am perfect health, because ultimately, that’s how you will attract it.  You have to be able to see the wish fulfilled already in advance and call those things which do not yet exist as though they do.

Now, as I get ready to conclude this program of love, there are two really significant things.

You’ve gone to sleep.  You’ve programmed your subconscious mind.

And I want every one of you, every one of you watching this show, I want you, when you get into bed tonight, just try it tonight, instead of using these five minutes to review what you don’t want, review everything that you’ve placed into your imagination.

And keep this in mind.

When people say to me, and they say it to me all the time, what if I do everything that you say and it doesn’t work?  It just doesn’t work.  The student should constantly remind yourself, if it doesn’t feel natural, if it doesn’t feel natural, it isn’t going to work, okay?

Now I was being interviewed on a national television show by a guy who is about five-foot-seven and weighed maybe 140 pounds, and he did this long, intensive interview with me, and he said, you mean to tell me that if I do everything that you say, that I can become a linebacker for the New York Giants professional football team, because he lived in New York?

And I said, does it feel natural for you to be a linebacker for the New York Giants?  Does that feel natural to you?  And he said, no, it doesn’t.  And if it just doesn’t feel natural to you, then all of the rest of this is just a waste of your energy.

Now the question isn’t whether you’re going to become a linebacker on a professional football team, but does it feel natural for you to say, I deserve prosperity? Does it feel natural for you to say, I deserve to be in a state of well-being, I deserve for my body to weigh exactly what I want it to weigh, what it is supposed to weigh?

Does it feel natural for you to say, I am beautiful, I am strong, I am capable, I am loved?

If it doesn’t feel natural, you’ve got a real problem going with your subconscious mind.

You’ve got a Morse code in there, di-di-di-di, I am fat, di-di-di-dit, I am poor, dah-dah-dah-di, I am unable.  You have to start reprogramming your subconscious mind to say, I came from a place of well-being, I came from a place of perfect health, I came from a place of love, and I am well-being, I am wealth.

Now on the other hand, there are some people, like there’s a basketball player out there in the NBA, his name is Muggsy Bogues.

Muggsy Bogues is about two-foot-three.  No, he’s about five-foot-seven or five-foot-eight, and he can dunk a basketball.  He’s five-foot-seven and he can dunk a basketball.  I’m six-foot-two, I can hardly see the rim.  But somehow, for this man who is five-foot-seven, it felt natural for him to be able to elevate his body and grab onto a rim that’s 10 feet off of the ground, and it feels natural for him and he’s able to do it.

And there are so many examples of people who have accomplished things that they have never had a belief system that it was impossible for them.

So for every single one of us, the intention needs to be, it feels natural to me, even if I don’t know how to do it, even if I have no experience with it, even if it’s something that everybody else has told me isn’t, I can’t do, you need to be able to say to yourself, yes, I feel natural being happy, being loved, being prosperous, being all the things that I placed into my imagination.

The second thing that I’d like to say in conclusion is that, I was trying to manifest something into my life, and I did everything, but it still wasn’t working.  And then I re-read the “I Am” Discourses, and one of the things that it says in Discourses that is very, very powerful is that, as long as you are having any thoughts of condemnation, criticism or judgment towards any of God’s children, you are throttling the great I-am presence within you that is God.

And I realized that my attempt to manifest what I wanted for myself into my life involved some judgment, some criticism, and even some condemnation toward someone who had done things that I felt that that person shouldn’t have done.  And when I let go of the judgment, and I let go of the condemnation, and I let go of the criticism, almost instantly what it was that I was looking to manifest showed up in my life.

You can’t have any thoughts towards any of God’s children that involve criticism, judgment or condemnation.  We are all just doing what we ow how to do, and we can’t ask any more of anyone.

Those of you who have followed me over the years know that one of my very favorite songs is Amazing Grace.

It’s a very powerful song.  We have to walk down a new street.  There it is, a new street, and not just for ourselves but for the planet and for our children.  There’s a wonderful prayer that the Native Americans would say.  When we walk upon the Earth, we place our feet very carefully because we know that the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground, and we never forget them.

Sometimes I think we have forgotten them. Sometimes I think we forget that we are borrowing our planet from them.  This is theirs, and they’re just letting us use it.  This, on this stage with me, I’m proud to say, is the San Diego Children’s Choir.  And I would like to tell all of you, ladies and gentlemen, the story about the song you’re about to sing.

This song was composed by a man named John Newton, who lived back in the 18th century.  And he was in the business of selling human beings into slavery.  He was 22 years old and he was a slave-ship captain.  And in this hideous practice that was so commonplace in the 17th and 18th centuries in the British and American Empires, he was taking people from West Africa on his ship to the New World, to South Carolina, to be sold into slavery.

And halfway across the ocean, he encountered a storm, and he heard, from the wailing of one of the people that was to be sold into slavery, the sounds, and he took out an envelope and he wrote on the back of this envelope the words to a song, I once was lost and now I’m found.

I once walked down an old street, and I’m walking now on a new street.  And in one moment, his life was changed.

And the storm passed, and legend tells us that he turned his ship around and he went back to Africa, and he released all of the people who were still alive, and then he took his ship to a place in England, called Bristol, and gave up being a slave-ship captain and became the most ardent spokesman for the abolition of slavery and was almost single-handedly responsible for ending this horrible, nefarious, hideous practice of selling human beings.

And it all happened in one moment, one instant, one quantum moment.  Any of us can change our lives in one moment and reverse the old street and begin walking on a new street.

So the San Diego Children’s Choir, we’re so proud to have you come out here and conclude this program on Wishes Fulfilled and they’re going to sing for you Amazing Grace.

wayne dyer wishes fulfilled

San Diego Children’s Choir: ♪♪Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.

One Today

Richard Blanco


One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,
buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

obama 13

obama 11

obama3 2013

obama 10

The Secular City 25 Years Later


by Harvey Cox

Dr. Cox is Victor S. Thomas professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of such books as The Secular City, The Feast of Fools, The Seduction of the Spirit and Turning East. Cox wrote this essay for Macmillan’s republication of The Secular City. This article appeared in The Christian Century, November 7, 1990, pps. 1025-1029. Copyright by The Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at Article prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

I wrote The Secular City after having lived for a year in Berlin, where I taught in a church sponsored adult education program with branches on both sides of the barbed wire. The wall was constructed a few months before I arrived, so I had to commute back and forth through Checkpoint Charlie, whose familiar wooden shack and warning sign— “You are leaving the American sector”—have now been placed in a museum. Berlin had been the home of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many of his friends and co-workers were still there. So we talked a lot about Bonhoeffer that year, especially about the musings he set down during the last months of his life about the hiddenness of God and the coming of a “postreligious” age in human history. In the tense and tired Berlin of the early 1960s that made a lot of sense.

In retrospect, of course, it is easy to see that human religiosity is a much more persistent quality than Bonhoeffer thought it was. Nearly everywhere we look in the world today we witness an unanticipated resurgence of traditional religion. The renaissance of Islamic culture and politics, the rebirth of Shinto in Japan, the appearance of powerful Jewish, Hindu and Christian “fundamentalisms” in Israel, India and the U.S.—all these have raised important questions about the allegedly ineluctable process of secularization. But where does that leave us?

If anything, I believe these developments make the central thesis of The Secular City even more credible. I argued then that secularization—if it is not permitted to calcify into an ideology (which I called “secular- ism“)—is not everywhere and always an evil. It prevents powerful religions from acting on their theocratic pretensions. It allows people to choose among a wider range of worldviews. Today, in parallel fashion, it seems obvious that the resurgence of religion in the world is not everywhere and always a good thing. Do the long-suffering people of Iran believe that after the removal of their ruthless shah, the installation of a quasi-theocratic Islamic republic has turned out to be a wholly positive move? Do those Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for a peaceful settlement of the West Bank bloodletting believe that either the Jewish or the Muslim religious parties are helping? How do the citizens of Beirut and Belfast feel about the continuing vitality of religion?

The truth is that both religious revival and secularization are morally ambiguous processes. Both heal and destroy. We still desperately need a way of welcoming diversity that does not deteriorate into nihilism, and a sober recognition that neither religious nor secular movements are good or bad as such. Both can become either the bearers of emancipation or the avatars of misery, or some of each. Wouldn’t a modest sprinkling of secularization, a de-religionizing of the issues, come as a welcome relief in Ulster, and help resolve the murderous tensions in Kashmir and the Gaza strip?

I can understand the people who are encouraged by the worldwide revival of religion today. The victims of atheistic and antireligious regimes are just as dead as those of clericalist terror. But the people who welcome the re-emergence of the rites and values that give people a sense of dignity and continuity—a bar mitzvah in Warsaw, churches reopening in Smolensk, thousands of American college students thoughtfully exploring comparative religion—sometimes forget that a revival of religion is never an unmixed blessing. The same somber icons of St. Michael and Our Lady that sustained Russian believers through the winter of Stalinism and its aftermath also provide the anti-Semites of Pamyat with their most potent symbols. How do we weigh the promising new interest in Judaism among so many young people in America against the fumings of Rabbi Meyer Kahane? Shinto is another case in point. The spirit of respect for the past and reverence for the land that enables the Japanese to adopt modern technologies without destroying their environment also feeds an ominous sense of special destiny and a revived emperor cult that democratically inclined Japanese are watching with extreme misgivings.

The thesis of The Secular City was that God is first the Lord of history and only then the Head of the Church. This means that God can be just as present in the secular as in the religious realms of life, and we unduly cramp the divine presence by confining it to some specially delineated spiritual or ecclesial sector. This idea has two implications. First, it suggests that people of faith need not flee from the allegedly godless contemporary world. God came into this world, and that is where we belong as well. But second, it also means that not all that is “spiritual” is good for the spirit. These ideas were not particularly new. Indeed, the presence of the holy within the profane is suggested by the doctrine of the incarnation—not a recent innovation. As for suspicion toward religion, both Jesus and the Hebrew prophets lashed out at much of the religion they saw around them. But some simple truths need restating time and again. And today is surely no exception.

In rereading The Secular City after a quarter of a century I smiled occasionally at its audacity, the way a father might chuckle at the shenanigans of a rambunctious child. Its argument is nothing if not sweeping. By page 12 of the introduction the reader has been wafted through a dizzying tour of nothing less than the whole of human history, from tribe to technopolis, from Sophocles to Lewis Mumford, from the Stone Age to Max Weber. And all of this before chapter one. Then comes a theological portrait of the “coming” of the secular city in which Barth and Tillich and Camus and John F. Kennedy jostle each other in what might have seemed to all of them a somewhat unfamiliar proximity. The next part of the book is devoted to what I called “revolutionary theology,” a phrase that, at least in those days, struck people as a world-class oxymoron. It is followed by an attack on Playboy magazine, which I called “antisexual,” that drew me into a furious (at first) and later tedious debate with that magazine’s publisher. A lot of territory to cover in a 244-page book.

The final section is a polemic against the so-called “death of God” theologians who were au courant at the time. I portrayed them, correctly I think, as remaining obsessed—albeit negatively—with the classical god of metaphysical theism, while I was talking about Someone Else, the mysterious and elusive Other of the prophets and Jesus, who—like Jacques Brel—was very much alive although living in unexpected quarters. I have never been able to understand why, after having unleashed this guerre de plume against the death-of-godders, some critics persisted in including me among them.

In any case, the death-of-god theology had an unusually short half-life, whereas the issue I tried in my youthful enthusiasm to tackle—the significance of the ongoing battle between religion and secularization—rightly continues to stoke debate and analysis. To illustrate the dilemma from my own Christian tradition, how many Mother Teresas and Oscar Romeros does it take to balance a Jim and Tammy Bakker? And how do we measure Pope John II’s courageous vision of a “Europe without borders” against his worldwide crusade against contraception? So much good and so much mischief is done—as it always has been—in the name of God. Perhaps the suggestion I made at the end of The Secular City, which sounded radical to some readers then, is still a good one: we should learn something from the ancient Jewish tradition of not pronouncing the name of the Holy One, live through a period of reverent reticence in religious language, and wait for the spirit to make known a new vocabulary that is not so tarnished by trivialization and misuse.

I actually said a little more than that, and the final paragraph of the book may be worth recalling because it prepared the way for the theological movement that was to pick up where The Secular City left off. On that last page I speculated on the significance of the puzzling fact that, according to the book of Exodus, when Moses asked for the name of the One who told him to lead the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian captivity, the Voice from the burning bush refused to give it. Moses was to get about the business of liberating his people. “Tell them ‘I will do what I will do’ has sent you,” the Voice said. That, apparently, was enough. The name would come in God’s good time. Reflecting in 1965 on this astonishing episode, I wrote:

The Exodus marked for the Jews a turning point of such elemental power that a new divine name was needed to replace the titles that had grown out of their previous experience. Our transition today … will be no less shaking. Rather than clinging stubbornly to antiquated appellations or anxiously synthesizing new ones, perhaps, like Moses, we must simply take up the work of liberating the captives, confident that we will be granted a new name by events of the future.

Although I was only dimly aware of it at the time, in this paragraph I was actually proposing an agenda for the next stage of theology, one which was taken up with a brilliance and daring far beyond my hopes, first by Latin American theologians and then by others throughout the world. For between these concluding lines, which crystallized the thrust of the entire book, can be detected what were to become the two basic premises of liberation theology.

The first premise is that for us, as for Moses, an act of engagement for justice in the world, not a pause for theological reflection, should be the first “moment” of an appropriate response to God. First hear the Voice, then get to work freeing the captives. The “name” will come later. Theology is important, but it comes after, not before, the commitment to doing, to what some still call “discipleship.” This inverts the established Western assumption that right action must derive from previously clarified ideas. Liberation theology’s insistence that thought—including theological thought—is imbedded in the grittiness of real life is one of its most salutary contributions.

The second premise of liberation theology is that “accompanying” the poor and the captives in their pilgrimage is not only an ethical responsibility, but that it provides the most promising context for theological reflection. Not just “history” in general, but the effort of excluded and marginalized people to claim God’s promise is the preferred “locus theologicus.” As the Catholic bishops of Latin America put it in their influential statement of 1968, one must think theologically from the perspective of a “preferential option for the poor.” It is not hard to see now, although I was scarcely able to see it then, that the next logical step after The Secular City was liberation theology. But the link between the two was neither simple nor direct.

At first I was puzzled at how much attention the Spanish translation of my book, La Ciudad Secular, received from Latin American theologians. They criticized it vociferously, but they also built on it. They invited me to Peru and Mexico and Brazil to debate it. But as I listened to their criticisms I became convinced that they understood it better than anyone else, maybe even better than I did myself. Still, they made use of it in a way I had not anticipated. Gustavo Gutiérrez, whose controversial book The Theology of Liberation appeared a few years after mine, clarifies the connection best. In the economically developed capitalist countries, he explains, secularization tends to take a cultural form. It challenges the hegemony of traditional religious world views, calls human beings to assume their rightful role in shaping history, and opens the door to a pluralism of symbolic universes. In the poor countries, however, secularization assumes quite a different expression. It challenges the misuse of religion by ruling elites to sacralize their privileges, and it enlists the powerful symbols of faith into the conflict with despotism. In the Third World, as Gutiérrez puts it in one of his best-known formulations, the theologian’s conversation partner is not “the nonbeliever” but rather “the nonperson.” This means that among the tarpaper shantytowns of Lima and São Paulo the interlocutor of theology is not some skeptical “modern man” who thinks religion stifles thought; rather, it is the faceless people whose lives as well as faith are threatened because tyrannies grounded in some religious or nonreligious mythology strangle them into an early death. The distinction Gutiérrez makes shows that he is applying the same praxis-oriented approach to theology I advocated in a different religious and political environment. Liberation theology is the legitimate, though unanticipated, heir of The Secular City.

Heirs, of course, go their own way, and there is one part in my book that I wish had played a larger role in the subsequent development of Third World liberation theologies. In one section I argued that in the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe it was not religion but communism that needed “secularizing.” Here I wrote from direct observation. I had personally seen the bizarre attempts of communist regimes to set up ersatz confirmation, wedding and burial services. I had noticed that in Poland, smothered under an imposed Sovietized culture, it was the Catholic intellectuals who were the most outspoken advocates of “cultural pluralism.” I can still remember the young Czech pastor who told me in 1964, four years before the Prague Spring, that he opposed communism “not because it is rationalist but because it is not rational enough … too metaphysical.” By entering into an honest dialogue with the Marxists who ran their countries at the time, Christians, he said, were trying to force the communists “to be what they said they were, socialist and scientific, and to get them to stop trying to create a new holy orthodoxy.”

It was these courageous Christians, I believe, who eventually saw the fruit of their patience blossom in 1989. Unlike some other believers, they refused either to flee to the West or to knuckle under to the regimes or to retreat into “inner immigration.” They opted to stay, to participate, to criticize, and to be ready when dialogue became possible. They were also practicing a form of liberation theology, staying in a difficult situation and accompanying an oppressed people in the long quest for freedom. When an interviewer asked the pastor of one of the churches in Leipzig that had provided the space, the inspiration and the preparation for the East German revolution of November 1989 what the theological basis for his contribution was, he answered that it was “Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Latin American liberation theology.”

There is much continuity. But there are also many important contemporary theological currents for which I can find little foreshadowing in The Secular City. For starters, in reading the book again in 1990 1 winced every time I saw the word “man” blatantly wielded to refer to any body and everybody. The first page of the introduction: “The world has become man’s task and man’s responsibility. Contemporary man has become the cosmopolitan.” And so on. I would feel better if I could claim that it was, after all, only a matter of blunderbuss pronouns, that today my language would be gender inclusive. But I know it cuts deeper than that. The truth is that The Secular City was written without the benefit of the two decades of feminist theological scholarship that was to begin shortly after it was published. What difference would it have made?

A lot. In fact, knowing what I know now, I would have had to recast virtually every chapter. How could I rely so heavily on the themes of disenchantment and desacralization, as I did in the opening section, without coping with the obvious fact that these historical processes—which I saw in a positive light—suggest a certain patriarchal domination of the natural world with which women have been so closely identified in Hebrew and Christian religious symbolization? More basically, I have learned since 1965, often from my own students, that we can no longer read the Bible without recognizing that it comes to us already severely tampered with, expurgated, and perhaps even edited with an eye to perpetuating the authority of men. I have learned that many of the classical sources I was taught to rely on so heavily, from Augustine to Tillich, sound very different when they are read with women’s questions in mind. And my last chapter, “To Speak in a Secular Fashion of God,” would have had to take into consideration that employing exclusively male language for the deity has contributed to the marginalization of half the people of the world.

But even on the issues later raised by feminist theologians, The Secular City contains some hints and anticipations. The chapter that, to my amazement, became the most widely discussed and quoted is titled “Sex and Secularization.” It contains the aforementioned onslaught against Playboy which exposes the pseudo-sex of the airbrushed centerfold, the ideal woman pimply adolescent boys prefer because she makes no demands whatever. They can safely fold her up whenever they want to, which is not possible with the genuine article. It also lampoons the Miss America festival as a repristination of the old fertility goddess cults, reworked in the interests of male fantasies and commodity marketing. Was I at least a proto-feminist? Not on a par with current feminist cultural criticism, but not too bad for 25 years ago, and for a man.

There is another important theological current that at first seems strangely missing from The Secular City but whose absence, in retrospect, one can understand if not forgive. The American city is the principal locus of African-American theology. It was not until a few years after the publication of my book, however, that black theologians began making that fact evident to the wider theological community. It is all the more surprising that I overlooked African-American religion in 1965 since I was personally caught up in the civil rights movement. I had first met Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1956, during the summer of the Montgomery bus boycott. At the time I was chaplain at Oberlin College in Ohio and I invited him to come speak. He flew in a few months later and we started a friendship that was to last until his death in 1968. As a member of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference I marched and demonstrated in both the North and the South. I responded to the call to come to Selma, was arrested and jailed briefly in Williamstown, North Carolina, and took some of the responsibility in organizing the SCLC’s effort to desegregate St. Augustine, Florida. All through these years my family and I lived in Roxbury, the predominantly African-American section of Boston.

Still, it was only later, with the advent of the Black Power movement and the coming of black theology, that I began to take seriously what the modern American city meant to African-Americans. Again, if I had thought about this very carefully at the time I could have foreseen some of the reservations black theologians voiced about The Secular City. Its controlling metaphors of “the man at the giant switchboard” and “the man in the cloverleaf,” which were meant to symbolize the communication grid and the mobility network of the modern metropolis, seemed implausible to people who had been denied both mobility and communication, and for whom the city was often not a place of expanded freedom but the site of more sophisticated humiliations. It became clear to me only as the years passed that The Secular City reflects the perspective of a relatively privileged urbanite. The city, secular or otherwise, feels quite different to those for whom its promise turns out to be a cruel deception.

In the years that have passed since The Secular City was published much has happened to the cities of the world, including American cities, and most of it has not been good. Instead of contributing to the liberative process, many cities have become sprawling concentrations of human misery, wracked with racial, religious and class animosity. The names Beirut, Calcutta, South Bronx and Belfast conjure images of violence, neglect and death. Ironically, the cities of the world have often become the victims of their own self-promotion and the failure of the rural environs to sustain life. Millions of people, both hopeful and desperate, stream into them to escape the unbearable existence they must endure in the devastated countryside, but what do they find?

If Mexico City spells the future of the city, then the future looks grim. Lewis Mumford, who began his life as a celebrant of the possibility of truly urbane life, became disillusioned before his death in 1990. He once wrote that when the city becomes the whole world the city no longer exists. That prediction now seems increasingly possible. By the year 2000 Mexico City will have nearly 32 million residents, of whom 15 million will eke out a marginal existence in its smoggy slums. Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta, Manila and Lima will not be far behind, all with populations between 10 and 20 million, with half the people in each city locked into ghettos of poverty. Indeed, in some African cities such as Addis Ababa and Ibadan, somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of the population will live in shantytown squalor.

In the cities of the U.S. we have not fared much better. Real estate values gyrate, making millions for a select few, while homeless people, now including increased numbers of women with children, crowd into church basements and temporary shelters. The already marvelous cultural mix of our cities, spiced by the recent arrival of increasing numbers of Asians and Latin Americans, could enable us to prove to the world that ethnic diversity is a plus. Instead, in some cities at least, we hover on the edge of a technicolor war of all against all: white against black against yellow against brown. And the whole picture is worsened by the diminution of the middle class and the increasing chasm between those with too much and those with too little. One is sometimes tempted simply to give up on the city.

We should not. One of my main purposes in writing The Secular City was to challenge the antiurban bias that infects American religion (at least white church life). How many times did I hear, as a child, that “God made the country, but man made the city”? This is a gravely deficient doctrine of God. We need a spirituality that can discern the presence of God not just “In the Garden” as the old Protestant hymn puts it, but also, as a better hymn says, “Where cross the crowded ways of life, / Where sound the cries of race and clan. . .”

The Bible portrays a God who is present in the jagged reality of conflict and dislocation, calling the faithful into the crowded ways, not away from them. Nothing is further removed from this biblical God than the inward-oriented serenity cults and get-rich-now salvation schemes that inundate the airwaves and pollute the religious atmosphere. Here Bonhoeffer had it exactly right. From behind bars he wrote that we are summoned as human beings to “share the suffering of God in the world.” If the divine mystery is present in a special way among the poorest and most misused of his or her children, as the biblical images and stories—from the slaves in Egypt to the official lynching of Jesus—constantly remind us, then allegedly religious people who insulate themselves from the city are putting themselves at considerable risk. By removing ourselves from the despised and the outcast we are at the same time insulating ourselves from God, and it is in the cities that these, “the least of them,” are to be found.

I have no intention of rewriting The Secular City with benefit of nearly three decades of hindsight. I cannot. Even if I could, it would be pointless. After it was published I experienced what literary critics often point out, that any work of art—a poem, a painting, even a book of theology—quickly escapes its creator’s hand and takes on a life of its own. Within a few months of its modest first printing (10,000 copies), and even though it was scarcely noticed by reviewers, the book began to sell so briskly the publisher moved to multiple reprintings. Soon it appeared on the bestseller lists—unheard of at the time for a book on theology. Sales moved into hundreds of thousands. The publisher was astonished, as was 1.

I cannot pretend not to have enjoyed those initial years of unsought notoriety. I was attacked, feted, commended, analyzed, refuted. A publishing house that had brusquely refused the manuscript when I first submitted it thoughtfully telephoned to ask if I was planning to write a sequel. The book seems to have become a special favorite with Roman Catholics, perhaps since it came out just as the Second Vatican Council was ending, and they were eager to test the new atmosphere of free inquiry. Even Pope Paul VI read it and, in an audience I had with him later, told me that although he did not agree with what I wrote, he had read it “with great interest.” Professors began requiring it in classes. Church study groups took it up. Within a couple of years the book’s sales, in all editions and translations, were approaching a million.

What did I learn from all this? For one thing, that most theologians and most publishers had severely underestimated the number of people who were willing to spend good money on serious books about religion. The Secular City may well have marked the end of the unchallenged reign of clerical and academic elitism in theology. Laypeople were obviously ready to get into the discussion. In fact, they were demanding to be part of it and were unwilling to allow theologians to continue to write books just for each other. Whatever one may think about the ideas in The Secular City, they are neither simple nor obvious. The book cannot be read with the television on. I do not take credit for having called forth the vociferous and critical laity we now seem to have in every church, and perhaps especially the Catholic Church, who make so much marvelous trouble for ecclesiastical leaders. But I like to think that The Secular City helped create the climate that forced church leaders and theologians to come down from their balconies and out of their studies and talk seriously with the ordinary people who constitute 99 percent of the churches of the world.

0f course, there are things I would do differently today, not only in how I would write The Secular City, but in virtually every other area of my life. “We get too soon old,” as the Pennsylvania Dutch aphorism puts it, “and too late smart.” Knowing what I do now about the Jewish religious tradition, I would not counterpose law and gospel as captivity to the past versus openness to the future, as Rudolf Bultmann and a whole tradition of German theologians taught me to do. The law too, I have come to see, is a gift of grace. I would also try not to base my theological reading of current world history so narrowly in my own Christian tradition, but would try to draw on the insights of other traditions, as we must all increasingly do at a time when the world religions elbow each other in unprecedented closeness. After all, Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus had already created cosmopolitan world cities when Western Christendom still consisted of backwater villages. We may have something to learn from them about transforming our urban battlefields into communities that nurture life instead of throttling it. We need all the help we can get if Mumford’s dystopian nightmare—a planet transformed into a vast urban non-city—is to be avoided.

Was The Secular City a harbinger of postmodernism, as one writer recently suggested? The word itself did not exist then, and I am not sure I know what it means today. But if it suggests a willingness to live with a certain pragmatism and provisionality, a suspicion of all-encompassing schemes, a readiness to risk a little more disorder instead of a little too much Ordnung, then I think the book qualifies. Nearly ten years after The Secular City Jonathan Raban published a book titled Soft City: The Art of Cosmopolitan Living. It is sometimes cited as the first clearly postmodernist text. If it is, it may be significant that when I read it, a few years after its publication, I immediately felt I had found a compatriot. Raban says:

. . . the city and the book are opposed forms: to force the city’s spread, contingency, and aimless motion into the tight progression of a narrative is to risk a total falsehood. There is no single point of view from which we can grasp the city as a whole. That indeed is the distinction between the city and the small town…. A good working definition of metropolitan life would center on its intrinsic illegibility.

This “illegibility” is part of what I was getting at. It is one of the principal features of the new secular world-city we are called to live in today, bereft of the inclusive images and all-embracing world-pictures that sustained our ancestors, We will always need those orienting and value-sustaining symbols. But today we must learn to appreciate them in a new way because we know in our bones that no one of them, and not even all of them together, can provide a point of view by which the totality can be grasped. In short, living in the city should be the school of living in the postmodern, “illegible” world. It should be a continuous lesson in “citizenship,” in how to live in the world-city. But we still have not learned. As Raban says,

We live in cities badly; we have built them up in culpable innocence and now fret helplessly in a synthetic wilderness of our own construction. We need … to make a serious, imaginative assessment of that special relationship between the self and the city; its unique plasticity, its privacy and its freedom.

It’s true: “we live in cities badly.” But we must learn to live in cities or we will not survive. We are missing our big chance, an opportunity that God or destiny has provided us and which, if we muff it, may never come up again.

Tucked away on page 177 of The Secular City comes a little-noticed paragraph that perhaps I should have used as an epigraph for this essay, or maybe it should be put in italics. Secularization, I wrote, “is not the Messiah. But neither is it anti-Christ. It is rather a dangerous liberation.” It “raises the stakes,” vastly increasing the range both of human freedom and of human responsibility. It poses risks “of a larger order than those it displaces. But the promise exceeds the peril, or at least makes it worth taking the risk.”

All I could add today is that we really have no choice about whether we take the risk. We already live in the world-city and there is no return. God has placed us in this urban exile, and is teaching us a more mature faith, for it is a quality of unfaith to have to flee from complexity and disruption, or to scurry around trying to relate every segment of experience to some comforting inclusive whole, as though the universe might implode unless we hold it together with our own conceptualizations. God is teaching us to approach life in the illegible city without feeling the need for a Big Key.

This does not mean we have to become nihilists. Far from it. Several years ago a friend told me he thought the implicit concept underlying The Secular City is the good old Calvinist doctrine of providence. At first I balked, but I have come to believe he is right. We live today without the maps or timetables in which our ancestors invested such confidence. To live well instead of badly we need a certain strange confidence that, despite our fragmented and discontinuous experience, somehow it all eventually makes sense. But we don’t need to know the how. There is Someone Else, even in The Secular City, who sees to that.


BOB ABERNETHY, host: Now, a profile of writer, liberal activist, and Harvard University theologian Harvey Cox on the occasion of his remarkable retirement ceremony after 44 years of scholarship and teaching. The celebration had everything—good weather, old friends, short speeches, laughter, and music, all starring the honoree.

That’s Cox, the Hollis Research Professor of Divinity, on the tenor sax with his big swing band the Soft Touch. The chair Cox has held was endowed in colonial times, when some professors got to graze cows in Harvard Yard.

REV. PETER GOMES (Minister in the Memorial Church, Harvard University): Pasturing cows in those days was equivalent to parking privileges today.

ABERNETHY: For this occasion, Cox borrowed a cow whose name turned out to be Pride. Cox pretended that he had been worried that a cow so named might be inappropriate for an event at the divinity school, but then another professor reassured him.

PROFESSOR HARVEY COX: He said, “Harvey, at Harvard we do not consider pride to be a sin.”

ABERNETHY: There was a tuba ensemble, a speech in Latin, and many tributes to Cox’s lifetime of combining the study and teaching of religion with a commitment to liberal activism—and, of course, the more or less contented cow and signed copies of Cox’s latest book, The Future of Faith. We talked with Cox about what he sees as religion’s surprising strength.

COX: The resurgence of religion around the world and the various religious traditions, which is unexpected, global—there were people who were predicting the marginalization and even disappearance of religion in my early years as a teacher. That disappearance, that marginalization did not happen. It’s a basic change in the nature of our civilization. It will continue.

ABERNETHY: Except for fundamentalisms, Cox says, in all religions.

COX: Fundamentalisms—I use the word in the plural. I do not think that they’re going to last out much longer.

ABERNETHY: For Cox, that includes the religious right.

COX: The last couple of elections have exposed the religious right as really kind of being in part a paper tiger. They just didn’t produce the votes. I think they are in considerable disarray and, frankly, I’m not mourning over that.

ABERNETHY: Meanwhile, especially in Christianity, Cox sees a shift away from beliefs and hierarchies to an emphasis on individual faith.

COX: I call it an age of the spirit, the yearning for some kind of personal experience, even the yearning for some kind of, let’s call it, an ecstatic encounter with God or with the divine.

ABERNETHY: Cox sees this most clearly in Pentecostalism, which he calls the fastest growing branch of Christianity. He also says Pentecostalism is now balancing its well-known exuberance with more and more social service.

COX: This combination of social ministry and experiential worship is a dynamite combination.

ABERNETHY: Within Protestantism, Cox takes some of the blame for the decline of many of the old mainline churches.

COX: The clergy, and I take some responsibility for this, having been involved in it for over 40 years, was trained in Christian thought, Christian philosophy, Christian theology and not enough in how to nurture the experience of God, the experience of the spirit and encounter with Christ.

ABERNETHY: As Cox looks at the US, he sees a huge social problem.

COX: A rampant culture of market-consumer values really has a grip on many people in America. Everybody seems to be driven by, especially, the lure of advertising, which says you ought to have this, you really need this, you owe it to yourself to have this and that. I think the role of religion at this point is to make very clear that this structure of values, of consumer values, is not coherent with Christianity, with the gospel, with the life and example of Jesus. That’s not what he was talking about.

ABERNETHY: Cox condemns the so-called prosperity gospel, preaching that says if people are faithful God will make them rich.

COX: Can you imagine that kind of sermon coming from the mouth of Jesus himself? No. I mean, it’s a rank contradiction. It’s really, let’s call it by its name—it’s a heresy.

ABERNETHY: Cox has been a popular teacher. One year a thousand students signed up for one of his courses. It is the students now who give him a lot of hope.

COX: The change that I’ve seen is the enormous growth in the hunger and interest in religion and spirituality among students at this university. It’s phenomenal. When I first came here we didn’t even have a religious studies program at Harvard College. I notice increasingly among my students, both undergraduates and students in the divinity school, a deep suspicion of this life of accumulating, consuming, to the soul, the dangers to the soul of consumerist values. Let me tell you that the urge to graduate from college, like this one, and immediately go down to a Wall Street investment firm is greatly shrunken this year from what it was last year.

ABERNETHY: At his retirement ceremony, Cox’s wife Nina was beside him. She, too, is a scholar and professor. She is also Jewish. Cox is an American Baptist. They have a college-age son.

COX: We did not want our marriage to be one of these religion-free zones.

ABERNETHY: So out of respect for Jewish law and custom when the mother is Jewish, their son was raised Jewish. Cox became his Judaism teacher.

COX: We have successfully shared in each other’s spiritual traditions, and it can be done, and it’s also very enriching. I really believe that I understand Christianity better having participated in Jewish life—and remember, Jesus was a rabbi—than I would have if I hadn’t done that.

ABERNETHY: Cox also told a bookstore audience this week about religions borrowing from each other.

COX: I’ve been to three or four synagogues recently where they have quite obviously introduced forms of Buddhist meditation within the synagogue service. When we have the opening chant here let’s hold it for a very long time, the way you might hold “Om”—but they say “Shalom.”

ABERNETHY: As Cox studies the variety of religions in the world, he says he has made a big adjustment.

COX: I have learned how to think about Christianity as one of the possible religious and symbolic ways to approach reality, among others. The plurality of religions in the world is a check on any one of them, including ours, not to get too pretentious and think that we have the whole truth. One of the most dangerous things in any religion is to identify my understanding of the truth, my take on it, with the truth itself. The truth itself is something out there, it’s absolute, but my take on it is relative. God is larger than this. God is much larger than any particular understanding of God.

Harvey Cox Extended Interview

Read more of Bob Abernethy’s September 15, 2009 interview in Cambridge, Massachusetts with theologian Harvey Cox:

Q: Let me begin by inviting you to sum up, if you would, the central idea of The Future of Faith.

A: Let’s say it’s a tripartite thesis in this book. One is that the resurgence of religion around the world and the various religious traditions, which is unexpected, global—there were people who were predicting the marginalization and even disappearance of religion in my early years as a teacher. That disappearance, marginalization, didn’t happen, and in various religious traditions, almost all of them, there’s been a resurgence for complicated reasons. I do not think that is a mere transient phenomenon.  I think it’s a basic change in the nature of our civilization, that it will continue, and so, therefore, programs like this one probably have a future. You deal with religion and ethics. The second part of the thesis, however, is that fundamentalisms, I use the word in the plural, which have often been associated with this resurgence of religion, at least in the popular mind, are on the decline. I do not think that they’re going to last out much longer. It’s a recent phenomenon, began in the early 20th century and has appeared in various different religious traditions, always as a kind of a reaction against something that’s going on in that tradition. They claim to be very traditional, but they’re not. It’s really a modern movement, and I think there’s evidence that, in every one of the religions, they are on the decline. The third part of the thesis, and I think it’s one of the most important, not the central part, is that we’re seeing a change in what I call the nature of religiousness, that what it means to be a religious person, or frequently now people will say a spiritual person, they have some questions, occasionally, or often, about the word “religion.” We’re seeing a fundamental change there so that it means something now different than it did 50 or 100 years ago, to say nothing of 500 years ago. And that’s the main thesis of the book. It’s a a mixture of some of the things we’re talking about here as well as some autobiographical illustrations—my experience with liberation theologians, my experience with Pentecostals, with the Catholic Church, in fact with the present pope, and also my early years of formation in a Baptist evangelical congregation. I think it’s important when people are reading about issues as important as this that they know something about where I’m coming from when I’m saying these things and what life experiences have led me to make the kind of statements that I have here.

post03-harveycoxinterviewQ: So how is it changing? Tell me what the elements are of this new thing that you see.

A: For Christianity, in particular, to single it out among the various world religions, there’s a movement away from a more belief-and-doctrinal formulation of religion into a more experiential, practical, you might even say pragmatic understanding: How do I get through the day? How do I get through my life? What resources do I have—spiritual resources? There’s a very distinct move in that direction away, from hierarchical kinds of structures in religion toward a more egalitarian form of religious organization. I think the major evidence for that is the enormously new and important role that women are playing which they didn’t play 50 years ago, and there are other evidences for this egalitarian tendency.

Q: Let me take you back to the emphasis on faith and the movement of the spirit and the presence of the spirit in people’s lives, or the hope for it, and contrast that to 1,500 years in which beliefs and doctrines were primary.

A: I contend in this book that for roughly the first 300 years, early Christianity was a faith movement. They didn’t have creeds until the early fourth century, until Constantine. They didn’t have hierarchies. There was enormous variety of different expressions of Christianity which we’re now uncovering, with the different scrolls that are found, have been there all that time. Then, around the early fourth century, with Constantine in particular, there was a massive movement toward hierarchy, a clerical elite, and a creed. Now remember that the creed was insisted upon by the emperor. Not by the bishops, not by the pope. He wanted a creed so he had a uniform expression of Christianity as an imperial project. He wanted something that would bring the empire together. Now it didn’t work that well for him. Nonetheless, I think the creedal understanding, that is, the rather doctrinal and hierarchical understanding, goes back to that very, very unfortunate term under Constantine, which then set the pattern for the next centuries. Now we’re in a new phase in which that is no longer the case, a third phase.

Q: Define for me, if you would, just what are the principle components of this turn toward emphasis on faith?

A: I call it an age of the spirit, with the age of faith in those early years, and then the age of belief, and now this movement toward an age of the spirit, because the spirit indicates, at least in Christian history, the personal, communal, even subjective element as opposed to the hierarchical and doctrinal element in Christianity, and that’s where everything is moving, I think, clearly. The fastest growing movement in Christianity today is the Pentecostal charismatic expression of Christianity—vast variety of them. Nonetheless, what they have in common is an enormous emphasis on community and spirit and experience, and that’s drawing a lot of people away from these previous forms.

Q: Why do you think that is? I mean, why is there this emphasis on the spirit now, as opposed to creeds and beliefs?

A: Well, I think that, given the fact that we are often deprived, in modern technical society, of very much chance for deep, personal experience—we pass each other by in elevators—the yearning for some kind of personal experience, even the yearning for some kind of let’s call it an ecstatic encounter with God or with the divine is there, and the Pentecostals offer this, and they offer it in a community where people support and take care of each other, where there’s also healing. A lot of people are drawn in by the healing. So I think it combines elements that have an enormous appeal. It has no hierarchies. That’s why it branches out in so many different directions.

Q: But you have said that this is not just among Pentecostals, that this movement of the spirit, this emphasis on the spirit, is very broad.

A: It is very broad. I think in the mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church the emphasis on community and experience, and also the language of the spirit—and one of the favorite ways for women theologians and ministers now to refer to God is using the language of spirit, because the traditional language of the sovereign God and so on seems, and is, rather hierarchical and masculine.

Q: People have said when they’re referring to this experiential part of the heart it is often described as the heart versus the head—that for a religion to be healthy, it has to have both the spirit and some kind of structure, creeds, or beliefs, to hang all the rest of the feelings on.

A: I agree with that completely, and I think what we’re seeing now is a compensation for centuries in which the main emphasis was on doctrinal assent, hierarchical control suspicious of laity and lay movements, and now we’re seeing a kind of reaction to that, if you will, which inevitably is going to have to find some balance. I study the Pentecostal movement pretty carefully. The younger Pentecostals now are saying, “Hey, we ought to deal with the head a little bit here, too, you know,” some doctrinal or philosophical basis. So you’re noticing that, and they’ll work on that, as well. But what it is is really a complementary movement.

Q: I was particularly interested in your idea that the so-called apostolic succession after Jesus  wasn’t something that right back to his giving the keys of the kingdom to St. Peter, but it was something that was created by human beings some centuries later, and I’m wondering if you could describe how that happened and then tell me, particularly, how you think that affects the authority of the Catholic Church.

A: Well, I think the evidence is now in that the whole idea of apostolic authority, apostolic succession, came in much later, let’s say in the 200s and 300s, when Christianity was growing and people were looking around for some way to assert, especially the early bishops, their own authority, and you can see this emerging. The bishops would say, “Well, I go back to Matthew” or “I go back to Peter,” and they would even construct or write gospels and statements that were really—we would call them forgeries. They didn’t have that term in those days. And the interesting thing now is we’re beginning to find these things. You know, that whole stash of documents in Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, and all those things, which are late. They’re not early. They’re not the apostles doing that. But it was an invention. It was an invention to secure the authority of the church leaders who needed to have some kind of historical backing. I think it means a rather serious rethinking of the basis on which churches that claim the apostolic authority continue to assert their authority. Now, whether they are going to do that or not is another whole question. But when you find out that the historical basis for this is a little shaky, does that affect the way you exercise authority today? I think it should.

Q: Not only how you exercise it, but how the rest of us look at it. Does the scholarship you refer to undermine the authority of the Catholic Church?

A: Well, yes. I think it does. You know, there was a document around just about the time of the Renaissance called the Donation of Constantine. You may have heard of it, and it was supposed to be a document by which Constantine gave a lot of the property in central Italy to the church, and they used that to claim the church’s sovereignty over that. It was proven to be a forgery, and the Catholic Church made the adjustment, and eventually they gave up, many years later, secular sovereignty over central Italy and in some ways the moral authority of the pope became greater after he didn’t also have to be a secular sovereign. I think the Catholic Church can adjust to this quite well, and maybe it’s a very good thing that they have this coming. Now, I don’t know. I’ll be interested to watch, but they have to deal with the fact that the early historical grounding for apostolic succession is really no longer held by most scholars.

Q: In 1965, you published a book called The Secular City in which you thought that the role of religion in modern city life was becoming pretty less important than it had been, and some people said you were wrong about that assertion.

A: The original title of that book was God in the Secular City. Most people don’t know that, and the thesis of the book was the decline of institutional religion should not be viewed as a catastrophe, because God is not just present in religious institutions. God is present in all of creation, in other kinds of movements and institutions and to be discerned, presence of God to be discerned there and responded to.  The publisher said no “God in the Secular.” It’s too complicated. Let’s just call it The Secular City. So I’ve lived with that title now for—that was 44 years ago, and I have learned a few things since then. I wouldn’t swear by every sentence in that book. Nonetheless, the central thesis of the presence of God in all of creation and historical institutions, culture, and politics and family I would certainly hold to enthusiastically and say that what I say in this book is the decline of creedal Christianity and hierarchical Christianity is also not a catastrophe. Maybe it points to a really important renewal of facets of Christianity that have been repressed over many, many years. I think it does.

Q: What are the implications of an age of the spirit for everybody who’s religious?

A: Well, I think it means, among other things, that we’ll be seeing, and should be welcoming and affirming, a much wider range of expressions of Christianity. I’ve often been thought of as normative over these 1,500 years of what I call Constantinian Christianity. We see it happening frequently, now, all around the world, especially since Christianity is no longer a western religion. That’s a central and important change in the composition of the Christian world—dates back to only about 20, 25 years. The majority of Christians in the world are no longer in the old steer of Christendom in which Constantinianism was the rule. So we see all kinds of very interesting new theological and liturgical and ethical movements emerging, often around what we used to think of as the periphery. But it’s not the periphery anymore.

Q: And what are the implications of that for the influence of religious life?

A: Oh, I think the influence of religious life is continuing. Not necessarily institutional, hierarchical religious life, but the influence of people who are religiously informed and inspired and supported in communities, working in various kinds of even nonreligious structures and movements. I think that’s on the increase and will continue to be.

Q: The spread of this kind of emotional Christianity throughout the southern part of the world—what do you think that implies for the future of Christian practice in the United States?

A: You know, the term “emotional” doesn’t quite do it.  I would prefer personal, experiential. Emotion is part of that, but the experience of community and hope and of affirmation is part of it, too, but they are experiences. I think it’s already having its impact. Somebody has talked recently about the reverse missionary movement of Christians coming from South America, or especially Korea, into the United States and influencing American—or Africa, most recently, African religious movements coming in and influencing American Christianity. I think that’s really going to be a big development in the future.

Q: Influencing it in what ways?

A: Well, toward a more communal and more experiential direction, largely. There may be other influences as well, but I think that’s mainly the way it will influence.

Q: In your teaching and writing career, you’ve been well known as someone wit an uncanny ability to spot new developments in religious life. One of them, certainly, was liberation theology.

A: Liberation theology emerged in Latin America as a way of understanding Christianity, a new way of understanding it from the perspective of those who had been excluded and not part of the clerical elite or the theological elite. They talked about the preferential option for the poor—not just doing something for the poor, but helping the poor to understand the claims they can make on the basis of the gospel. I have a chapter in the book on that as illustrative, precisely of this movement away from the control of hierarchies and creeds, because the basic structure of liberation theology, or what they call the ecclesial base communities, small groups of people, tens of thousands of them, all over Latin America and in other places, getting together, sharing, reading, sharing food, singing, studying biblical texts and thinking about how that would apply in their own lives, and it made, and continues to make, a very significant impact not just on that continent and not just among Catholics. It’s going strong, especially among people who had their first experience within these base communities and are now in other kinds of institutions, especially political, and journalism and education and things like that. That’s where its impact is being felt at this point.

Q: We talked about Pentecostalism a little bit. What are the real implications of that for us?

A: The most important development in the world Pentecostal movement is a movement toward social ministries. They didn’t used to be interested in that in their early years. They were really very much fixed on “my own experience” and, really, getting to heaven. There’s a recent book on Pentecostalism in which the author has coined the term progressive Pentecostalism. They went around and studied congregations all over the world, especially in the nonwestern world, and found that the ones that were involved in community service, in clinics, in hospitals and schools and all of that mainly were Pentecostal and charismatic churches. And they said this is the major trend now. This is what’s happening. So this combination of social ministry and experiential worship is a dynamite combination, and I think that is really going to be influential on North American and, eventually, even European Christianity, which, we all know, needs kind of an injection of life at this point, and it could happen there as well.

Q: Why did the mainline Protestants suffer such a decline over the last 20, 30 years?

A: Well, I think one of the reasons is the mainline churches did allow themselves to drift toward a more hierarchical, less communitarian structure—away from where they were, let’s say, 50 years ago. People need to have a sense of belonging, and that wasn’t there. It was a little bit too audience-oriented: There’s the pulpit there, and here’s the congregation and a choir performing for—now the Pentecostals: everybody sings. Everybody testifies. Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody gets into the act,” and it’s richly participatory—if you want to be a participant.

Q: I’ve heard it argued that they became too intellectual and not enough spirit.

A: I think that’s another way of saying the same thing. The clergy—and I take some responsibility for this, having been involved in it for over 40 years—was trained in Christian thought, Christian philosophy, Christian theology, how you deal with the problem of the modern world and all of this, you know, and not enough in how to nurture the experience of God, the experience of the spirit and encounter with Christ, and so the churches which have brought that back in, I think, are finding that it appeals to people.

Q: And what about the place today of what we call the religious right?

A: By religious right I think of a particular political expression of conservative evangelical Christianity, and I think that movement, if it indeed ever was a movement, is now divided and declining in many ways. The agenda used to be driven by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and a couple other people. That whole generation is now either dead or really gone, in one way or another, and you have a whole variety of people now in the evangelical community, and they have a political agenda which is far more diverse. I mean, you think of the evangelicals for ecological causes, or the ones who got together to sign the petition against torture, and the opposition to the war in Iraq, where a lot of evangelicals became involved. I don’t consider that a religious right. I consider that religious involvement in the public sphere, which they ought to be doing. I mean, as Christians and as citizens, you ought to be involved.  But I think the last couple of presidential elections and by-elections have exposed the religious right as really kind of being, in part, a paper tiger. They just didn’t produce the votes. They were really kind of angry—the fact that they didn’t get a Republican nominee that suited their profile. And I think they’re in considerable disarray, and frankly I’m not mourning over that.

Q: Let me ask you to look around the country and size up what you see going on there. A lot of people think that there’s been a rise of selfishness that perhaps was of basic reason for what happened to Wall Street, what happened with sub-prime mortgages and in other parts of life. What do you see as the problems in this society right now? We’ll get to religion’s role. What’s wrong?

A: It’s the best of times and the worst of times, I think, and I’ll explain that in a minute. But there is no doubt that a rampant culture of market and consumer values really has a grip on many people in America, and therefore accumulating, getting things, getting ahead is for many kind of a principle life goal. I’m told we work harder in America than any country in the world. Productivity is up. But everybody seems to be driven by, especially, the lure of advertising, which says, “You ought to have this. You really need this. You owe it to yourself to have this and that,” and therefore mounting credit card debt, and these people who buy houses on mortgages that they’re not going to be able to afford. I think the role of religion at this point is to make very clear that this structure of values, of consumer values is not coherent with Christianity, with the gospel, with the life and example of Jesus. That’s not what he was talking about at all, so we in the religious community need to take a much more critical, even confrontational, role about this, I think, than we have in the past. There have been moments in the history of American Christianity in which there has been a more confrontational role between Christian values and the values of consumer society. Reinhold Niebuhr, one of my great teachers, was really a great spokesman for that, But that seems to have faded out as the churches have largely simply adjusted to this, even taken over some of those kinds of advertising techniques and consumerist values. But I think we have to get tougher about that and really remind people that this is not what we mean by a Christian way of living.

Q: There is what’s called a prosperity gospel, and lots of ministers preach that God will reward you with everything you want.

A: Yeah. Can you imagine that kind of sermon coming from the mouth of Jesus himself? No. I mean, it’s a rank contradiction, the prosperity gospel. When Jesus says blessed are those who serve and have compassion on the poor, beware of riches, it’s very hard to get into the kingdom of God—passage after passage. It’s right there. You don’t have to look very far for it. The contrast is quite stark, and yet you’re right. There are ministers and preachers who pick up on this prosperity gospel, promise this to people, and I think it’s really, let’s call it by its name, it’s a heresy and needs to be pointed out as such.

Q: You spoke about religious leaders needing to stand up to consumerism. What do you want the churches to do?

A: Well, I think it does start with the ministers and priests in the pulpit, with the congregations, and then I think churches have to speak publicly, and some of them have, about the dangers to the soul of consumerist values, the lethal danger that the accumulationist light poses for you spiritually. There has to be more of that, which is really quite the opposite of the prosperity gospel. I said this is the best of times and the worst of times. I notice increasingly among my students, both undergraduates and students in the divinity school, a deep suspicion of this life of accumulating, consuming, and a realization that a truly spiritual life is going to be more simple and more oriented toward building community rather than competition with the other guy to see who gets ahead. It’s a canard about all young people, that they’re all “me first,” “I first” oriented. I don’t think that’s true. There are many who are. But let me tell you that the urge to graduate from college, like this one, and immediately go down to a Wall Street investment firm is greatly shrunken this year from what it was last year. We’re learning something from this—that this is not only economically, but spiritually a dangerous way to think of your life. I think there’s real hope in a younger generation coming along with that viewpoint.

Q: You’ve been teaching here for 44 years, since ‘65. You’ve seen a lot, you’ve written a lot, you’ve studied a lot, you’ve taught a lot. What are the most important things you’ve learned?

A: I have learned how to think about Christianity as one of the possible symbolic ways to approach reality, among others. I used to think of other world religions as kind of exotic, and they’re out there, and they’re kind of curiosities. Now I have made a big adjustment, I think, in my life, and many people are, to say this is the way we see it. Other people see it other ways. This doesn’t invalidate, at all, our way of understanding reality. Rather, we have to look for the common threads, common values, and with these other folks, with Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims, even secular people. That is how to live with radical pluralism. The other big change that I’ve seen is the enormous growth in the hunger and interest in religion and spirituality among students at this university. It’s phenomenal. When I first came here, we didn’t even have a religious studies program at Harvard College. Didn’t exist. We had a very small divinity school. Since then, we have a religious studies program. We can’t add enough courses to respond to all the interest. Furthermore, if you clocked how many students here, on any given weekend, are worshipping, one way or another either at a church or a synagogue or a mosque or Memorial Church, there are more now than probably in the history of the college—a vast variety of ways of worshipping, and being spiritual, religious. It’s not singular. But—there it is. And I think they’re very interested. It’s intellectual curiosity. It’s also personal quest. And we have a responsibility, I think, to help them with that. I’m talking about the students now. But I think it’s also true in the public at large, maybe especially in the younger cohorts of the public at large.

Q: On this question of being open to the wisdom in lots of other religious traditions: If a Christian says, well, I’m a Christian, but of course that’s just one way among many others, what does that do to that person’s confidence and passion about his own faith?

A: Well, it requires a transitioning. It requires a maturation. I think we all grow up with serving ourselves, the center of the world. Then we learn that there are other centers gradually. Not only do I not think it diminishes the validity or power of the faith, in some ways I think it enriches it. I wrote a book about this some years ago called Many Mansions. You know, Jesus says at one point, “In my father’s house there are many mansions.” I would even argue that the plurality of religions in the world is a check on any one of them, including ours, not to get too pretentious and think that we have the whole truth. One of the most dangerous things in any religion is to identify my understanding of the truth, my take on it, with the truth itself. The truth itself is something out there, it’s absolute, but my take on it is relative. Otherwise, I’m guilty of the sin of pride. I mean, I identify my view with God’s view. God is larger than this. God is much larger than any particular understanding of God.

Q: So I can be just as faithful, I can be just as active.  I can be just as convinced of the importance of what I’m doing with my life if I say mine is just one tradition among many others?

A: Some of the most faithful and zealous Christians I’ve run into in the last 20 years traveling around the world are precisely those Christians who are living in India, Korea, China, Indonesia, Africa where they are surrounded by people of other religions. It has not in any way diminished how they feel, or their faith. They believe that they have unique contribution to make. It’s different from these other. But it hasn’t diminished it at all. In fact, in many ways it’s enhanced it. And I have a feeling that’s the way it’s going to go.

Q: You are an American Baptist married to a Jewish woman. You have one son by that marriage, and I think a lot of people would be interested in how you accomplish the religious education of your son when the mother is Jewish and you are Protestant?

A: Well, as you can imagine, my wife, Nina, and I talked about this a lot before we were married. We did not want our marriage to be one of these religion-free zones. She’s a serious, practicing Jewish woman. I’m a serious Christian. And we decided that what we would do was to try to learn about and participate in each other’s traditions to the extent that conscience permits. And so that’s what we’ve done. And we also decided before that I would respect the Jewish custom, and indeed Jewish law, that the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish and should be raised with that understanding of himself or herself.  And I said, “Look, I agree with this. I endorse it—on one condition: that I also, maybe mainly me, will be responsible for his religious education and formation.” And I was. When he had his bar mitzvah, she’s the one who sent out the invitations and prepared the reception. I was the one who prepared him in studying his Torah passage, and he gave a wonderful exposition of his Torah passage at the bar mitzvah. Now I have to say that, of course, as the son of a Protestant Christian theologian, he got very interested in Christianity and is, I would say, very sympathetic to it and has studied, at Princeton, early Christianity and some recent thought. He’s interested in the phenomenon of religion at large. But he considers himself Jewish, with this interest in religion in general and Christianity, of course, as his father’s particular way of life. So we think it worked out very satisfactorily. Both of us are quite pleased with the way it’s gone. And when I am asked by people about this, “What would you have done if you were Jewish and you’re marrying a non-Jewish woman?” I don’t know. That’s a theoretical question, because the child would not then, by Jewish custom and law, have been Jewish. That would have to be negotiated otherwise. But that’s the way we did it and are continuing to do it. We mark the Sabbath every week, with the lighting of candles and prayers. I go to the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. She comes with me to various Christian festivals, as does Nicholas. We have successfully shared in each other’s spiritual traditions, I think, and it can be done, and it’s also very enriching. I mean, I really believe that I understand Christianity better for having participated in Jewish life—and remember, Jesus was a rabbi—than I would have if I hadn’t done that.

Q: How do you pray? What are your practices? How do you attend to these things through the day?

A: I start the day with a prayer, just turning the day over to God, thanking God for this day. We have prayers at all of our meals, a mixture of Jewish prayers and Christian prayers, depending on how we feel. We mark the Sabbath. I have told my friends I’m in search of the perfect congregation. I haven’t found it yet. So I’m one of those people who bounces from one congregation to—I’m somewhere every week, but I go back and forth between the Baptist church which I belong to here, and an Episcopal church in our neighborhood, a black Pentecostal church, and sometimes Memorial Church, the university church here, and I get something from all of them. I feel a little guilty that I’m not sort of committing completely to one of them. But that’s how I do it.

Q: You have the reputation of being a pretty staunch liberal theologically and in every way.  Is that fair, or has it changed at all over the years?

A: I’m a chastened liberal, as they say, both theologically and politically. I have been greatly enriched in my fairly liberal understanding of Christianity by my evangelical boyhood, by very significant experiences among Catholics, especially liberation theologians, and others, by my experience with Pentecostals. So I’m an unusual kind of liberal in that—maybe that’s what a liberal should be, one who can affirm and learn from a lot of different sources. But I suppose the label is still a useful one, yeah, and not one to be shied away from.

Q: Have you become more committed to that position as the years have gone by?

A: More committed to the position of being open to learning from various sources? Yes, yes, I have. I started early with that, and it’s really kind of a hallmark of who I am. I think you have to be anchored, though, and I’m really pretty anchored in a form of Protestant Free Church Christianity. That’s pretty secure. That allows me, then, to be open to think other things that I can participate in without feeling that I’m floating away. I have something secure as an anchor.

Following are some of the thoughtful and interesting responses to his writing:

  • Oliver Lea says:

I contend in this book that for roughly the first 300 years, early Christianity was a faith movement. They didn’t have creeds until the early fourth century, until Constantine. They didn’t have hierarchies.”

But Creedal statements and doxologies are found even in the Bible.  Creeds were developed, not in response to Constantine’s overtures, but towards heresy.  Orthodoxy emerges in tandem with heresy – the Church formed a more concrete idea of what is WAS by discovering more and more about what it WASN’T.

Didn’t have hierarchies?  Clement of Rome (96ad) speaks of a church hierarchy, even saying that “the laymen is bound by the rules set out for laymen”.  Ignatius of Antioch (110ad) goes even further, saying that the Christian must submit to the Bishop as a type of the Father, the Presbyter as to Christ, and the Deacons as to the college of apostles, and that “A Eucharist is only valid if it is celebrated by the bishop, or by someone he has entrusted the job to.”

I think the evidence is now in that the whole idea of apostolic authority, apostolic succession, came in much later, let’s say in the 200s and 300s”

Buh?  Clement of Rome again speak of apostolic succession.  Irenaeus in 96 AD speaks against the Gnostics, saying “The true knowledge [Gk:gnosis] is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere.”

Apostolic succession does indeed go right back to the beginning.

It astounds me how liberal historials can flagrantly ignore the evidence which has been around for so long.

  • David Dunaway says:

    Whatever the case may be with apostolic succession, I find this interview with Dr. Cox inspiring.  I struggle to remember that the world I encounter on a day by day basis – that is to say, the world within about 20 miles of my house – does not adequately represent the larger world of Christianity.  In my corner of the woods, the main questions are whether the Bible may be read literally and why nobody wants to go to a mainline church any more.  These are tiresome and depressing conversations.  Intereligious dialogue is waaaay out there.  You can’t find a COEXIST bumper sticker on a car that doesn’t have twenty more counterculture stickers surrounding it.  Our fastest growing religion is soccer.

    What I admire most about Dr. Cox is his openness to all of the ways that God comes to us and his courage to act upon his religious beliefs.

  • cyberdisciple says:

    Commenters should make sure that they have read Cox’s new book before they critique his statements in this interview.

    Cox handles the works of Clement, Ignatius, and Irenaeus in his book. Are these works evidence for a widespread hierarchy at an early date? Or do they show that their authors are interested in establishing a widespread hierarchy?

    Our knowledge of early Christianity has changed greatly in recent years. We now know that it was a much more diverse movement than has been usually portrayed. The Pre-Constantinian authors that insisted on apostolic succession and a widespread hierarchy are just one part of it. They foreshadow the interests of the Constantinian-era bishops and so their works were accepted and transmitted by the official church. Other works were not.

    Cox draws on the research that has contributed to the changed picture of early Christianity.

  • Grant says:

    This guy has absolutely no idea what really happens in Pentecostal churches. They are incredibly hierarchical and the way to get ahead in the pecking order is to babble louder than anyone else, out do others with fantastic imaginary visions and claim that God spoke to you about extraordinary things having to do with money and health in other people’s lives so that they will want to hear more from you. Been there, done that, bought the tee shirt, not interested any more. Give me no more vain and manipulative fads. Just give me Christ.

  • Diantha says:

    All churches have some sort of hierarchy, it’s human nature to have this in any organization. Cox seems to refute the idea of having hierarchy “rule” his own spiritual life, thus he is unwilling to commit to any one congregation. I agree with this approach. There is some participation at various levels and with a wider diversity of people. Various spiritual groups offer him a wonderful learning experience. The commitments of his life are fulfilled with his wife and son, and his association with University. Faith is a process of discovery, and beliefs or dogmas are part of that process. James Fowler wrote an excellent book, “Stages of Faith,” in which he described six stages of process in how we handle our faith. If culture does not impede us, our moving on to and through the next stages to more mature mind processes of thoughts about our faith will happen. Beliefs and dogmas are strongest in the earlier stages of faith, and this mirrors human cultural and mental cognition historically. As we mature, we go toward “universalizing” faith. Harvey Cox’s book offers us some insight into such a process theology.

  • Steward Smith says:

    I first read Harvey Cox at seminary in 1971. I have been a school teacher and a pastor and finally settled in as an Air Force Chaplain for 24 years.  I loved my time in the pastorate but it was not without challenges.  I simply felt a stronger sense of community in multi denominational settings.  The pleurality of ministry in the AF as a chaplain has deeply enriched my faith.  Military Chaplaincy in the AF has been referred to as “an experiment that should not work.”  Well, it does and it is one part of the Church that stands as an example to the rest of the world that we can not only coexist in ministry but also learn from all the other faith groups.  The  most challenging faith groups (Chaplains) to minister with are those from hierarchial traditions on one end of the spectrum and fundamentalists on the other end.  It’s challenging but do-able.  The AF Chaplaincy has moved toward more of a “servant mentality” as Chaplains and chapel congregations try to minister to young Airmen and their families where they are because most aren’t attending chapel services on Sunday.  My experience as a Chaplain in the AF exemplifies what Cox refers to as a “move away from the hiearchial beliefs and doctrine toward experiential and practical” ways to cultivate spirituality. People really do want a faith experience that answers the real questions of life, ” How can I get through the day and my life? What are my spiritual resources?” The future of faith as Cox so ably describes in this book gives me renewed hope for my life, the rest of society and the critical part the Church at large can play in getting beyond hierarchies and arguments about, ” who is right vs who is wrong.’ and ministering to people who need  spiritual, Christian resources to live their lives with meaning and purpose.  Thank-you Harvey!

the source is the same

the same source

Rethinking secularism:

Religion is not a standalone category

posted by Timothy Fitzgerald

The invention of “religions” in the modern discursive form is also the invention of the secular state and the modern idea of “science” as essentially different from “religion.” In any given context of modernity we are always dealing with “religion” in various binary oppositions, which are all dependent on the bottom-line distinction between religion and whatever is assumed to be non-religion, now referred to rhetorically as the secular. In discussions about religion, its separation from, and thus relation to, other discursive non-religious domains such as science, politics or economics is usually only acknowledged tacitly and in passing, if at all, conveying (say) an untroubled and unquestioned sense that religion and politics or religion and science or religion and economics are essentially distinct, and thus in danger of getting confused.

Tomoko Masuzawa is always an interesting writer and I would like to register my agreement with her when she says elsewhere on this website:

My suggestion… is that we seriously consider the possibility that the story of secularization, on the one hand, and the discursive apparatus that has hitherto sustained our notion of religion, on the other, might be two essential body-parts of a single beast; and that this may be why we cannot tweak, upgrade, or discard the notion of “the secular” without questioning the other part.

This argument has been made by others (for example, Talal Asad) and also myself in several articles, published debates (some of them related to Japan) and three recent books. I discussed the mutually parasitic relationship between “religion” and other categories such as the secular state, “politics,” “society” and other secular discursive domains in a book called The Ideology of Religious Studies, where I argued that:

…the category religion is at the heart of modern western capitalist ideology and […] it mystifies by playing a crucial role in the construction of the secular, which to us represents the self-evidently true realm of scientific factuality, rationality and naturalness.

It was the theme of a conference I organized at the University of Stirling in 2003 called “Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Contexts.” From this conference came a book of essays by 12 different authors. In 2007 I also published another monograph developing this view in considerable historical detail, entitled Discourse on Civility and Barbarity. What I believe Masuzawa’s insight entails, methodologically, is that discourses on “religion,” which operate on the assumption that it is a stand-alone category with its own distinctive referent, are at base conceptually flawed (hence the central problem with her in other respects fascinating book, The Invention of World Religions).

My argument is that “religion” is not a stand-alone category with its own distinctive referent but is unintelligible without simultaneous cognizance of those practices which in any strategic context get put in the category “non-religion,” which is the bottom-line meaning of “secular” in modern rhetoric. This binary opposition of religion::non-religion is a modern invention, and in stark contrast to the much older Anglophone binary between Religion as Christian Truth and all those irrational pagan practices which are at best mere parodies of true religion. This latter, older discourse is no longer dominant, yet it continues, and all constructions and readings of “religion” are consequently ambiguous to say the least. The modern so-called “scientific” concept of generic religion is actually a transformation of a much older, Christian, ironic usage referring to pagan superstitions as parodies of True Religion.

The line between the two terms of the modern rhetorical construct [religion – secular] is porous so neither term has any self-evident meaning, though the derivations of the term “religion” in Christian history, and especially Protestant Christian history, opens a gate for a stream of Christian-derived ideas which have been projected as generalizable attributes. This may explain why Europhone people all seem to know, or rather assume they know, instinctively what the meaning of religion is. Masuzawa’s sub-title picks this feature up well: “…How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism.” The assumptions about the universality of “religion” have been preserved in the plural language of “religions.” However, this ideological transformation of the universal and singular (Religion means Christian Truth as opposed to pagan barbarity) into the multiple species “religions” of a single genus “religion” is also a transformation in what it means to be Christian. Whereas the singularity and universality of Christianity encompassed the church-state and authorized its own science and its own “political” practices, today to be Christian is to practice a personal and essentially private right licensed by the non-religious nation state.

In actual cases it is an opposition which is asserted energetically, as when for example the Archbishop of Canterbury is scolded by the media for making statements which are too “political.” Or when a Mullah is described as being really a political leader using religion to forward his political agenda, as though “religion” and “politics” can stand in for one another only under camouflage. The religion-secular binary usually takes specific forms of separation and mutually-displacing opposition, such as religion versus politics, or religion as distinct from the state, or religion as opposed to science, or religious education against secular education/law etc. As I have shown in considerable detail in my own work, none of these terms has any essential meaning, they are constantly subverted in a range of practices in all societies where the distinction is part of the dominant ideology, and yet the boundaries between them, and the contested places where they ought or ought not to be distinguished, are defended passionately.

These rhetorically-constructed distinctions between the religious and what falls outside religion (which logically must be non-religion, or domains and practices which are deemed to be non-religious) are supported by other problematic binaries such as natural and supernatural, inner and outer, spiritual and material, soul and body, private and public, metaphysical and empirical, faith and knowledge, and arguably female and male. All of these binaries, taken on their own, one by one, are inherently problematic, but they operate in circular fashion to keep the semantic chain rolling. Each binary displaces the other in a continual displacement of meaning.

The dominant use of terms like religion and secular have changed radically since the 17th century in line with other profound shifts in our constructions of the world; yet they are taken not only in religious studies but throughout the academy and in popular discourse as eternal verities, as though the claimed essential distinction between religious practices such as tea ceremony or sung evensong and non-religious practices such as giving a dinner party or performing an opera is part of the natural order.

Why is it so important to impose this ideological division universally? And in what sense has it been taken universally, either in the UK or in Japan?

I would like therefore to take issue with Morris Augustine, who responded to Tomoko Masuzawa earlier. I respect his knowledge of Japan and note he has lived there for 35 years. My own stay in Japan was only 13 years, though I return every year. But the problem lies in knowing what is meant in both English and Japanese by the key terms used. When Japanese people tell Morris Augustine that they are very happy with the separation of religion and the state, is everybody clear what is being separated from what? I have had disagreements with learned colleagues about the problem of describing and analyzing “religion” uncritically in the Japanese context, and one of these debates is available on the internet (However, I may have been over-generous regarding the theoretical sensitivity of anthropologists in this arena, for anthropology is also a contributory agency for recycling “religion” discourse. I also find problems with the attribution of “religion” to the UK, so I deny that this is an orientalist projection.).

For one thing it should be noted that the Japanese male literate elite were aware in the 1860s or 70s that they were deemed a semi-barbarous nation (rather than outright savage, based on the classification of societies or nations used widely in the 19th century by anthropologists such as E.B. Tylor, lawyers, missionaries and generally), and that if they wanted to achieve the degree of civility of the advanced countries such as the US, Britain or France one of their tasks was to adopt a written constitution which separates religion as a private and voluntary right from the secular state as the hallmark of a modern Nation. This gave rise to a debate among the Japanese elite about which word should be used for “religion,” since it was not self-evident what religion meant to the Japanese in their own terms. This was not because there was anything lacking in the Japanese language or way of life, which was undoubtedly every bit as sophisticated and rich as that of Euro-America. It was just that Japan was different, just as most colonized polities, or those threatened with colonization, were different in significant respects from each other and from Europe.

Anybody who has lived and worked in Japan, as Morris has, will agree that many things today which have been adopted by Japanese institutions as a result of what many Japanese people describe as outside pressure (gaiatsu) have been transformed and operate in significantly different ways in Japan, including capitalism, democracy and the exercise of power. For most Japanese people at the time of the opening of Japan in the Edo and Meiji periods “religion” meant Christianity, and that was foreign to Japan. It smelled foreign (stink = kusai) like butter. At first it seems that in the Meiji Constitution of 1889 and the Imperial Rescript on Education (1890) the newly invented state Shinto was classified as national morality and in structural terms took the equivalent place where the “secular nation state” stood, in the sense that, whereas “religions” were now to be identified and classified as private voluntary organizations, national morality and complete obedience to the Emperor was a public duty. This ideology was called Kokka Shinto, or State Shinto. In short, the Japanese had to invent “religions” and also what they understood in Japanese translation by a modern secular nation state, Kokka Shinto, simultaneously.

Of course the imported terms of the religion-secular distinction, and, crucially, their translation into Japanese language, have become institutionalized in Japan, not only in the US written Constitution of 1946 but also in government policy, academia and the media. On the other hand, there are many aspects of Japanese life, many significant everyday practices, which look like ritual, which is one of the strongest contenders for a definition of religion. What I think this aspect of everyday life shows us is that human practices do not fall easily into two great baskets, the religious and the secular, the religious and the non-religious.

Yet the same is true of modern Britain. Whether we are talking about Japan, Britain or any other nation, does it for example make sense to ask if nationalism, patriotism, and the rituals of the national flag, are religious or secular? Is the Nation State (which nobody has ever seen) not a transcendental entity which receives regular ritual veneration from all branches of the establishment, live sacrifices in our war heroes, and arguably a form of worship by the whole nation at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London? Is there an essential difference, as in the difference between a religious act and a non-religious act, between dying for one’s country and dying for one’s God? It would be perfectly normal and meaningful English to say that “the opera singer is devoted to her art and worships Mozart,” nor would it be unnatural to add “she religiously practices the scales everyday.” Why should such perfectly current English be seen as merely metaphorical speech? On what grounds? What is it a metaphor for? In the case of Japan, the “religions” called Shinto or Confucianism are (I would suggest) modern reifications which are more intelligible as deeply embedded elements in everyday Japanese practice, cultivated in the schools, universities, and corporations, practices which constitute a profound conception of human relations, deeply affect pedagogy and domestic life, and reproduced in all institutions, a rich plethora of ways of behaving and expressing values that cuts across the religion-secular dichotomy and show us that we do not need this category except as a problem that needs analyzing. When I asked my Japanese students, as I often did in both English and Japanese, if they were interested in religion, a typical reply was that they did not have any real relation to religion, which seemed associated with Christianity for them. What about visiting the shrine (jinja) or the temple (o-tera), or participating in a festival (o-matsuri), all of which form part of the construction of the “religious world of the Japanese” in many text books? Typically the answer would be that that isn’t religion, that’s Japanese traditional custom. What constitutes religious behaviour as distinct from secular custom and tradition seems arbitrary and not self-evident.

When is etiquette closer to secular or religious practice? Or is this distinction completely useless for understanding etiquette, since arguably it is both and therefore neither? Is the tea ceremony a religious ritual (as was argued in an anthropological journal, the JRAI) or a non-religious ritual? One point I would like to make here is that different Japanese people in different contexts (like all different humans in all different contexts) will say different things, depending on their education, relative degree of seniority, language being used, and what they think you want them to hear. To say, as Morris Augustine does, that “the Japanese people love their Constitution, including its separation of the government from religion and its guarantee of freedom from religion” is not untrue but is a big generalization and begs many questions about what is being asserted and loved, and what is being separated from what. Many Japanese, like many British and US citizens, would probably be prepared to die for their ancestors and their nation. Is patriotism a religious or a non-religious emotion? Is the wonderful attention to detail in the giving and receiving of gifts in Japan a religious ritual or a secular, economic exchange? One could extend the examples in many directions, for Japan, UK, USA, India and many other collective representations, including, for example, the elaborate rituals performed within the “secular” Houses of Parliament in London, or the extended rituals surrounding the election of a new President of the USA.

What I have tried to do here is suggest the inherently parasitic relationship between whatever is deemed to be called religion and what is deemed to stand outside religion, and which is imagined to come into some kind of external, contingent relation with religion. As Masuzawa rightly suggests, both parts of this “single beast” need to be handled at the same time, so that its complete shape comes into view. Only then can we understand the power of “religion” as a rhetorical construction to mystify us, and its ideological structure and uses.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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May 2020



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory