A few weeks ago during my Sunday talk I mentioned that the Unity (and New Thought) perspective is a theology of consciousness as opposed to a theology of belief, which is how I characterize most traditional religious perspectives.
The difference between a theology of consciousness and a theology of belief is that the experience of the Divine is mitigated by consciousness or beliefs. Whereas, in most theological traditions, the aspects of religious doctrine, ideology, dogma, and beliefs constitute both the context and content of one’s religious experience. In Unity and New Thought, however, there is little doctrine because our teaching is less about what to believe and more about understanding how belief works in consciousness. Another distinction is that we differentiate identity from beliefs. We know that we HAVE beliefs, but that our beliefs are not the Truth of us—they are just something that we have.
This is a major distinction between classic New Thought teaching and religious doctrine–we have beliefs, but beliefs don’t have us (at least that’s how it’s suppose to work in theory).
Beliefs are like windows through which we view our experience. In other words, beliefs filter our perceptions and inform our meaning making. Consciousness is less about what’s out there, but rather it is the inner context within which seeing and meaning making happen.
When you have a theology of belief, if you believe that there are powers against you, you can legitimize whatever actions you believe are required to protect yourself. With a belief in adversaries comes the justification to be on the lookout for potential offenders. Yet, given the same circumstance, if you have a theology of consciousness, it is incumbent upon you to examine how you are being with what you are having because BEING eclipses believing when being and having are differentiated.
(Jane says I need an example here.)
Believing and being are one and the same when we have created an identity out of a belief. For instance, if we are having some form of insufficiency as our experience, there is likely a corresponding limiting belief underlying it ( I am not enough, for instance). If there is some part of us that believes “I am not enough”, our sense of I AM (Being) is entangled in the belief. Being and believing are one and the same when we live as if the belief is the truth of us. However, once we have differentiated or made the distinction: I have a belief that I am not enough, but that is not the truth of me, that is simply a belief that I HAVE. The belief is not me. Once this distinction is crystal clear, our Being (consciousness / I AM) can now eclipse whatever belief we might have. In psychological terms, we have objectified what was subjective (or hidden) and are thus able to create an alternative perception and meaning consistent with what is the truth or what is Principle.
Keep in mind that our brain doesn’t know the difference between an imagined hammer and a real one. Yet, our consciousness knows the difference. Consciousness has the power to override emotional circuitry when we clearly differentiate who we are from what we are having as our experience.
In the theology of belief, beliefs in and of themselves are considered truth. Once the adherent subscribes to a particular dogma or belief system, that person’s identity becomes entangled in whatever ideology is running their self-system. They have lost themselves in their own BS (belief system) (oh, you thought I meant something else 🙂 )
Since what you HAVE is not the truth of you, you can free yourself from the stresses, anxiety, even suffering during those occasions when you do not have what you want or when you have something that seems against you (therefore, something that you don’t want). If in the having or not having of something, your well-being is affected, you are no longer functioning from the theology of consciousness–from your spiritual center–but from the theology of belief where your experience of having or not having has you.
The challenge we have in “transforming lives” is that we are really helping people discover a more evolved theology and therefore a more principled context within which to make meaning. We are helping people to understand their own self-system and how their brain (body-mind) is a believing machine. We are giving them principles as spiritual currency rather than trading in beliefs for the promise of a greater sense of well-being or an improved outer life.
I think it is important that our spiritual communities truly understand the difference between the theology of consciousness and the theology of belief. Once people really get that their beliefs are merely structures in mind that receive their authority only from the attention given to them, it is possible to bring beliefs and consciousness into a functional partnership. There is nothing inherently wrong with beliefs other than they are not the truth or our identity. As we know, the problem is not so much what someone believes, but rather that there is no discernment with respect to the substance of what is believed in the context of Principle. Absent of this discernment process, we live in blind faith about what is real and the inherent truth of our worth.
Anyway, something to think about.