Universal Life Church Seminary
Course on Spirit-Quest
Notes on Discourse #1 Setting Spiritual Goals
Initial overall reaction: Much of the material is aimed at a younger, less mature student.
You take charge of your life instead of your life taking charge of you.
In my years of counseling adolescent first-time offenders, I have made it clear that in their early childhood they were the object of their parents and teachers decision-making about their lives so that it was likely they felt life simply happened to them they were the object of the sentence whose verb was to live. But the process of maturity and becoming an adult is a process of learning the decisions are theirs to make they are the subject, not the object, of the sentence. Thus, while they are naturally experiencing the drive to break away from parental and other authority, it is important as they do so to make two important changes in mind-set they will set them free:
1) If they are the behavior-setters, they must accept the role of critic and be personally proud of their behavior. They are the only persons who will always be there wherever they go. They are ultimately going to evaluate themselves on the basis of their own choices.
2) They must no longer concentrate on what they are breaking from and begin to set the goals and directions for their lives so that behavior is not merely random and rebellious, but directed and measurable against these goals, bring them a source of pride and self-esteem as they reach closer to them.
I have always felt that simply scolding or threatening brings resentment and a broader chasm between the offender and his society. Healing and positive redirection requires identifying common goals and acceptance direction and focus on the future rather than on the past.
Defining My Spiritual Goals
There is a difference between setting action steps toward a vision of a successful life and defining spiritual maturity (goals) in terms of material action steps. I suppose this difference is the point being made in the comparison of multiple attempts to define spiritual goals. But, at my age, this process has long been reviewed.
I have often asked myself, if a genie came from a jar in my possession and granted me three wishes, what would I reply. My first wish was good health for a long lifetime (because it would empower me to pursue other goals). The second was for great wisdom (for the same purpose). These two would empower me to acquire whatever else I would need. But having one wish remaining, and knowing there might be many other reasons to be granted a wish, my third wish would then be to be granted three more wishes! Should this be rejected by my genie, I would then ask for the material wealth to undertake the many personal and social projects I would be developing.
However, these wishes are not piritual goals, and in themselves do not address the interaction of my self and the cosmos which defines the interconnection we think of as spiritual. One of the most interesting experiments I have read concerned two large plants that were in the care of a gardener. He withheld watering them for some time, creating a œthirst which was emotionally recorded in the changing Kirlian auras and Crescographic emissions of the plants. Then, he began to water one of the plants. He expected that plant to show â€œpleasureâ€� in its changing image. But both plants reacted. The plant ignored became excited by its exclusion. The plant being watered showed stress and concern that its â€œcompanionâ€� was ignored! Many experiments have shown how plants and animals react to positive and negative â€œpsychologicalâ€� stimuli, to harmonious and disharmonious music, etc. Humans, who egotistically believe themselves to be better than any other organism, have not only failed to recognize their interconnectedness with the cosmos, but pointedly suppress all the mental processes that would develop this sense in an insistence on rationality from earliest childhood learning onward.
My spiritual goal has therefore been to realize, be increasingly sensitive to, and to achieve unity with the cosmos from which I received my life and strength and to which both shall ultimately return: a unity which would form a balance with the equally natural drive for the persistence of the Self (often called self-preservation). It is the failure to seek and accept this balance that has led many to the sense of alienation and false notions concerning good and evil, haunting our philosophies and our religions.
Now that all that is said (!), life goals have included such items as: (a) to master my chosen profession (which has not always been the same); (b) to find a life partner (which I accomplished until her death in 1999, and which therefore is now renewed); (c) to impact my world favorably; and (d) to express myself creatively.
When? Deadlines are inappropriate. The process is never-ending. Neither perfection nor the universe in which we live is a constant. Change is the process of existence our impact can therefore make a difference and in turn, we and our intentions change.
I am perfect!
I am what I am. Perfection is not a quality, but a judgment. At best it is a match between the Self as an instrument and the purpose to which it is addressed. In a world of change, such a match is always in flux. While negativity and self-condemnation are indeed to be avoided, it is dangerous to think of oneself as perfect and hence incapable of improvement. And it is certainly the case that, in retrospect, I should have been a more self-initiating participant in many household chores, etc., that would have completed my wife's image of a life partner!
Keep your word!
Here, my father's impact upon me is recalled. For him, as for me and my siblings, the reverence of our selves and of others for our family name as standing for truth and fidelity was paramount. Success was never equated with material gain. Keeping your word was always a major factor in defining the acceptable life.
Short term goals
Goals are not short term. 'Action steps' that bring one closer to and ultimately to achieve goals can be short term. In my occasional 'preaching' (in or out of a pulpit), I ask that one avoid setting goals too small and easily reached. It is like climbing a small hill and sitting on the pinnacle. The result is a limited view and a sore butt. Goals should engage the whole person”one's strengths, skills, vision, resources and experience”to achieve a dream that represents one's role in the divine symphony that is the Wholeness of Life. That doesn't mean you can't have a to do list for the coming week!
George Oppenheimer, Jr.
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