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Understanding the Time in Which We Live Dr. Rodney H. Clarken Northern Michigan University
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 2 This presentation is an adaptation of paragraphs 1-29 from One Common Faith, a statement commissioned by the Universal House of Justice, The original material has been simplified or shortened with some parts quoted verbatim, with the purpose of presenting the main ideas more succinctly without changing the meaning.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 3 Human consciousness is changing Early in the 20 th century, materialism replaced religion as the dominant belief system of society. Happiness was believed to be materially based: the result of better health, food, education and living conditions
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 4 Dogmatic materialism: a Western ideological worldview, that grew to dominate most of the world. marginalized spiritual and religious views and their roles in human affairs. ensured no competing voice would challenge its economic exploitation of the worlds resources.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 5 Yet, spiritual and religious beliefs are experiencing a resurgence in importance, partly the result of the anxiety, discontent and emptiness created by the failures of materialistic beliefs. are seen as the forces needed for and capable of generating self-discipline and restoring commitment to moral behavior.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 6 A revival of spiritual searching has begun. Some positive effects: search for justice, peace and spiritual identity and purpose; reorientation of religious communities to more spiritual practices and purposes Some negative effects: seeking through substances, cults, UFOs, occult, New Age and self-discovery excesses, charismatic exaltation, mythologies
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 7 The reawakened interest in religion is the product of historical forces that steadily gather momentum. Their common effect is to erode the certainty that material existence represents ultimate reality that was bequeathed to the world by the twentieth century.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 8 Bankruptcy of the materialist enterprise is a c ause of this reawakening For well over one-hundred years, progress was identified with economic development and with its capacity to motivate and shape social improvement. Its most extreme form, scientific materialism produced regimes of totalitarian control that justified abuses to create a new kind of society they believed would ensure not only freedom from want, but fulfillment for the human spirit. After eight decades of folly and brutality, the movement collapsed.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 9 More humane but equally bankrupt materialist systems of social experimentation, described as modernization, are based on the belief that people are essentially self-interested actors in matters pertaining to their economic well-being. However, evidence is to the contrary: they have led to the breakdown of family life, soaring crime, dysfunctional educational systems and a catalog of other social pathologies.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 10 Social and economic development during the last fifty years has been the largest and most ambitious collective undertaking on which the human race has ever embarked. Its humanitarian motivation matched its enormous material and technological investment, but though it brought development, the gap between the well-being of the small segment who enjoy the benefits of modernity and the condition of the vast populations mired in hopeless want has widened into an abyss.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 11 Modern consumer cultures creed is essentially no more than the triumph of our animal impulses. Moral failings mutate into necessities of social progress. Selfishness becomes a prized commercial resource; falsehood reinvents itself as public information; perversions of various kinds unabashedly claim the status of civil rights. Under appropriate euphemisms, greed, lust, indolence, pride-even violence-acquire not merely broad acceptance but social and economic value.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 12 Material prosperity and the scientific and technological advances necessary to its achievement are important, however, divorced from humanity's spiritual and moral development creates a sickness in humanity that is approaching the stage of utter hopelessness.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 13 Global integration, largely through communication technologies that facilitate interpersonal and intercultural exchanges and greater access to information by larger audiences, stimulates reflection about reality and undermines previously held misconceptions which has lead to a questioning of established authoritiesreligion, morality, government, academia, commerce, media and scientific opinion.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 14 Global consciousness has also developed from mass travel on an international scale and enormous migrations of millions of refugees that has cause people of every background to be exposed to cultures and norms about whom their forefathers knew little or nothing, exciting a search for meaning that cannot be evaded.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 15 Through shared discoveries and shared travails, peoples of diverse cultures are brought face to face with the common humanity lying just beneath the surface of imagined differences of identity. Whether stubbornly opposed in some societies or welcomed elsewhere as a release from meaningless and suffocating limitations, the sense that the earth's inhabitants are indeed one family is slowly becoming the standard by which humanity's collective efforts are now judged.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 16 Universal upheaval Loss of faith in the certainties of materialism and progressive globalization inspire a longing for understanding the purpose of existence. Basic values are challenged. Parochial attachments are surrendered. Once unthinkable demands are accepted.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 17 Religion is the primary force of spiritual and social reawakening and development throughout history. is a source of a knowledge that totally embraces consciousness. causes an experience of transcendence that has been reported by generations of seekers. inspires breathtaking achievements in music, architecture and the other arts. elicits incomparable qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and self-discipline. generates universal codes of law, regulating and elevating human relationships.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 18 The scriptures have not changed, the moral principles have lost none of their validity, the lives of heroes and saints are no less meaningful than centuries ago, the words of the Messengers of God still touch the heart and speak intimately to it. Why, therefore, has the current search for truth has not turned with confidence to religion?
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 19 Though religious truths remain valid, the world has changed The spiritual guidance required to live successfully and confidently today has no precedent. Countless changes affecting every aspect of human life have brought into being a new world of daily choices for both society and its members. What has not changed is the inescapable requirement of making such choices, whether for better or worse. It is here that the spiritual nature of the contemporary crisis comes into sharpest focus because most of the decisions called for are not merely practical but moral.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 20 Different beliefs and practices can result in either defensiveness, resentments and conflict or questioning: If people whose beliefs appear to be fundamentally different from one's own nevertheless live moral lives that deserve admiration, what is it that makes one's own faith superior to theirs? Alternatively, if all of the great religions share certain basic values in common, do not sectarian attachments run the risk of merely reinforcing unwanted barriers between an individual and his neighbors?
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 21 The established religious systems of the past cannot assume the role of ultimate guide for humankind in the issues of contemporary life. cannot revise their scriptures and history to meet current concerns without violating the legitimacy derived from the authoritative words of their Founders. will create disenchantment and exacerbate sectarian conflict if they attempt to make arbitrary changes.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 22 The dilemma is both artificial and self-inflicted. Our misconceptions about religion, human nature and social evolution are so fundamental as to severely inhibit the most intelligent and well- intentioned endeavors at human betterment. In order to respond adequately to the spiritual needs our time, we will have to gain an in-depth understanding of the issues involved using our imaginations to meditate, ponder and reflect in an unfettered search for truth.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 23 Religion is conceptualized many ways 1.Organizationally: the multitude of sects currently in existence. 2.Theologically: one or another of the great, independent belief systems of history. 3.Experientially: simply an attitude to life, a sense of relationship with a Reality that transcends material existence. 4.Ritualistically: a regimen of daily ritual and self- denial. But religion transcends all these limited conceptions.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 24 Reconceptualizing religious truth God is an the unknowable Essence and attempts to capture or suggest the Reality of God in catechisms and creeds are exercises in self-deception. The instrumentality through which the Creator of all things interacts with the ever-evolving creation God has brought into being is the appearance of Messagers of God.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 25 The Messengers of God are equal. cannot be-encompassed within theories borrowed from physical experience. reveal the knowledge, will and attributes of God. enable the soul to come into intimate association with a Creator Who is otherwise beyond both language and apprehension.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 26 Religion, thus conceived, awakens the soul to potentialities that are otherwise unimaginable. helps our natures become progressively imbued with the attributes of the Divine world. can free those who believe from the limitations of time itself, eliciting from them sacrifices on behalf of generations centuries into the future. empowers the soul in this world and worlds beyond to be a moving impulse to the evolutionary process and the advancement of civilization.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 27 Belief/Faith is a necessary and inextinguishable urge of the species that has been described as "evolution become conscious of itself". [Julian Huxley, cited by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1959), page 243.] is an impulse that will not be denied and, if it is artificially blocked, will invent objects of worship, however unworthy or debased, that may in some measure appease the yearning for certitude.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 28 In short Through the ongoing process of revelation, religion demonstrates its integrity and freedom from the contradictions imposed by sectarian ambitions. The work of each Messenger of God has an autonomy and an authority that transcends appraisal; it is also a stage in the limitless unfolding of a single Reality. Because the purpose of the successive revelations of God is the awakening of humankind to its capacities and responsibilities as the trustee of creation, the process is not simply repetitive, but progressive, and is fully appreciated only when perceived in this context.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 29 In conclusion: Religion is the principal force impelling the development of consciousness. As the human race in all its diversity is a single species, so the intervention by which God cultivates the qualities of mind and heart latent in that species is a single process. Its heroes and saints are the heroes and saints of all stages in the struggle; its successes, the successes of all stages. May we all become the inheritors of humanity's entire spiritual legacy, a legacy equally available to all the earth's peoples.
© 2006 Rodney H Clarken 30 Contact information and acknowledgments Contact information: Dr. Rodney H. Clarken, Director of Field Experiences and Professor, School of Education, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI Tel: (office), (home), Fax: , Website : instruct.nmu.edu/education/rclarkenhttp://www- instruct.nmu.edu/education/rclarken Acknowledgment: I want to state my appreciation for the assistance and input of Dr. Sheri Dressler in editing this presentation.
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