Growing up in fundamentalist and evangelical churches in Appalachia during the 1970s, I often heard it said that what we needed was revival. Moreover, during the course of my studies, I occasionally ran into references to the great awakenings of the 18th and 19th century which helped to set the tone for much that followed in the religious and political life of 20th century America. Today, however, we often hear that religion is out of style and that church attendance is declining. Has the Lord abandoned us or have we abandoned the Lord?
Strange as it may sound, it seems increasingly clear to me that neither is the case. While many forms of religious identity and worship may in fact be collapsing, there is considerable evidence that a new and utterly unexpected awakening is already underway. Having been exposed to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and others, several years ago– and through my contact, since then, with a wide variety of Facebook friends from around the globe –it has become increasingly evident that people around the world are “waking up” and “seeing” life in an entirely new light. While many– perhaps most –of these people would not describe their awakening in explicitly Christian terms, the reality of their awakening and the fruit of the Spirit in their lives is undeniable. This worldwide phenomenon may be loosely described as “nondual awakening” (aka nondual “awareness” or “seeing”). The quality of this awakening is such that it seems to bring people from many different religious backgrounds– including many self-described atheists and agnostics –into the calm-unity (pun intended) of the Way, the Truth, and the Life which, together, we recognize and honor. We honor this Way not as a system of belief or as an object of dogmatic faith, but as the light of the world that we know ourselves TO BE–the ineffable REALITY that I AM. Indeed, these words of Jesus regarding the proper place and protocols of worship have never been more apt:
“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).
Like any recognizable cultural phenomena, this “movement”, as such, is subject to the same stupidity, hypocrisy, bickering, and profiteering that all other movements are characterized by. But make no mistake, all our conflicts– and all the world’s conflicts –notwithstanding, good news is in the air. Eckhart Tolle describes our situation as follows:
“At the present time, the dysfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating. Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time, although the worse is more apparent because it makes so much noise” (Stillness Speaks).
Indeed, this arising new consciousness seems to reflect the beginnings of that which was described as a bare possibility by H.G. Wells (writing nearly a century ago) in his Outline of History:
But out of the trouble and tragedy of this present time there may emerge a moral and intellectual revival, a religious revival, of a simplicity and scope to draw together men of alien races and now discrete traditions into one common and sustained way of living for the world’s service. We cannot foretell the scope and power of such a revival; we cannot even produce evidence of its onset. The beginnings of such things are never conspicuous. Great movements of the racial soul come at first like a thief in the night, and then suddenly are discovered to be powerful and world-wide. Religious emotion—stripped of corruptions and freed from its last priestly entanglements—may presently blow, through life again like a great wind, bursting the doors and flinging open the shutters of the individual life, and making many things possible and easy that in these present days of exhaustion seem almost too difficult to desire (“The Next Stage of History”, emphasis added).
No doubt there will be setbacks– many a slip between the cup and the lip, to say the least –but there is no reason to despair. In the words of William Samuel:
During the final days already in progress the dissolution of all that stands between ourselves and a full knowledge of the Truth will come. The Light is already here. New ideas are coming into common focus and old landmarks are being taken away. Cherished notions, oft the pillars of society, are crumbling with the shifting sand they stand on. Everything that appears to hold mankind in bondage will finally give way. Freedom will out. The New Light is irresistible because it is already the only real fact” (The Awareness of Self-Discovery, emphasis added).
Is this a utopian vision? Not from where I stand. The dynamics of duality and suffering– and the necessity of death and resurrection –will remain. The way of life will always be the way of the cross. But after a long desert wandering, the promised land seems to be in-sight. Even so come, Lord Jesus:
The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).