Here at the beginning of both a new year and new decade, Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon reflects on the spiritual concept of “renewal” and ways we might keep that notion and its power activated in our lives. He reflects on the opportunities that our calendar (primarily the Christian calendar in this case) provides for us to renew, to gather energy afresh, and to release what is worn down, not working, and that does not represent our highest ideals. The rituals that precede these special days/seasons even allow us to mimic deterioration in fun but symbolically potent ways. Dan also takes us into the heart of what renewal means and how it is best instantiated within our core selves through daily spiritual practice that allows us to tap into far deeper sources of energy and greater abilities than what our simple will-power alone can provide. (Insert your own instances when your “resolutions” didn’t last much past the first few days of the year or season.)
This show continues the conversation with Phil McLemore, a yogi in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda and also a Latter-day Saint, this time focusing on Christmas and its various symbols and the opportunities the season provides for better understanding Jesus and, more widely, Christ, the divine consciousness of God in every part of creation. Phil and Latter-day Faith host Dan Wotherspoon first discuss the importance of understanding things related to our divine development through myth and symbology rather than worrying if this or that story or account of something miraculous really happened historically. It’s an important shift to make, allowing us to read scripture, situations, others, and all of life with new and fresh eyes, for in each is much that we can draw on for strength and insight for our journeys.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the divine feminine more widely, then take front stage as Phil pulls wonderful wisdom from every aspect of what she represents as a virgin, as pregnant with Christ consciousness, as giving birth, and much more. The turn next to what the inn and innkeeper represent. What about the cave/stable? How can we look at the shepherds and the wise men/magi (and their gifts) more expansively? Elizabeth and Mary, each carrying in her womb a powerful, God-conscious child can also be seen as much more than simply cousins communing together during their pregnancies. And more!
Yogi Phil then takes us into greater depth, sharing some of the teachings and practices of Yogananda in relation to Christmas, and he then offers us a powerful meditative practice that will help take us deep in the meaning of this holy season and the patterns and archetypes playing themselves out in its stories and symbols, and even more importantly, within each of us as we journey toward divine consciousness and communion. Will we allow ourselves to be open to its many gifts?
Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (HarperOne, 2015, new edition)
Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth (HarperOne, 2009)
Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon (HarperOne, 2010)
Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the various rituals and ordinances that take place in LDS temples are considered to be the highest expression of God’s love for us and the path of human ascension. And for many church members, especially the ones who have really leaned into temple ritual, it is. But for a significant number of others, most likely a majority of those who have participated, temple experiences baffle them or even become sources of deep internal conflict or discouragement, or they even play a role in their choosing to leave Mormonism, either through being less involved or even fully removing themselves from its membership records.
In this episode, my very good and wise friend Jody England Hansen and I acknowledge the experiences of participants all along this spectrum of reactions, but discuss the temple and ritual in general through the lenses of myth and ritual studies, symbolism and archetypal energies and truths, and our own experiences with the temple, including key moments from our own journeys with the temple that have led to our own shifts toward greater appreciation of what gifts lie within when we let go of certain preconceived notions and wrong-headed rhetoric about the nature of the endowment and other ordinances. A key feature in our journeys through life and in faith must be a willingness to allow our world views to expand as we accumulate more and more experience. What can seem like THE truth at one time in our development must be able to yield to the lessons found in all the complexities life will lead us into. And an absolute key in all of this shifting must involve embracing mythic truths and rich symbolic methods that teach us in ways that are impossible simply through what our minds alone can discover.
I think you will find the discussion herein to be challenging but also liberating, unusual in its frankness while also empowering. May it be so!
Dan Wotherspoon, “Why Ritual ‘Makes Sense,‘” Sunstone, Fall 2016
Charles Randall Paul, “The Sacred Secret Open to All: Ye Are Gods,” Sunstone, May 2009