IT ONLY ADDS

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by Rev. Geoffrey R Usher

Sixty years ago, when I was a primary school child in Adelaide, life was very different in many ways from what it is now. We did not have television. We did have trams – but not today’s “light rail”. Space travel was still the stuff of science fiction.

We can marvel over the scientific and technological changes which have taken place within my life-time. We can be prompted into speculating on what the world will be like in another 50-60 years from now. We can wonder whether artificial intelligence will ever become a reality, or whether the space-docking stations will ever evolve into settled space colonies.

These are moot questions. Just as I, in my childhood all those years ago, could not know what changes I would see in my life-time, so I cannot know what will come in the remainder of my life-time, let alone the life-times of my children, or beyond.

One thing we can know, however. If religion is to serve us in those future days and years; if it is to live up to its promise of establishing wholeness in the self and in the world: then it needs to be prepared so that it may meet what scientific and technological developments are to be born.

We will need to work on it. It will not be easy. New human achievement and expanded knowledge have always been a struggle for religion.

No matter the age, no matter the advancement: much of religion has been threatened by scientific discovery and technological innovation to the point where they have been viewed as a menace – a threat – to both theology and morality. That view has rarely resulted in good.

Read the rest of this sermon here.

A life of unlearning – A spiritual journey to authenticity

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anthony-venn-brownPlease join Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship in welcoming Anthony Venn-Brown as our speaker on 23 January.  Services are held each Sunday as follows.  Visitors welcome.

Service:  10:30 – 11:30 followed by coffee, tea and biscuits

Location:  Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre, upstairs gallery.  16-18 Fitzroy Street, Kirribilli, NSW

  • What happens when you come to the realisation that the Christian belief system you have built your life on, caused you to live in denial, reject and even destroy your true self?
  • How do you reconcile a belief system that tells you your homosexuality is an abomination and makes you unacceptaple to God and those close to you?
  • What do you do when you have more questions than answers?
  • How can you separate what is eternal, universal truth from what is man made truth?
  • What price would you pay to be true to yourself?

Anthony Venn-Brown was an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God and high profile preacher in Australia’s Pentecostal mega-churches. But there was a problem. Behind the scenes of a successful ministry he was fighting a secret battle. For 22 years he tried to change his sexual orientation through psychatric treatment, ex-gay programs, exorcisms and 16 years of marriage. Falling in love with a man at the age of 40 was the catalyst that forced him to face the reality; he was, is and always wiill be gay.

In front of a congration of 800 people, believing his faith and his homosexuality were irreconcilabe, Anthony resigned from the ministry and walked away from the church and his faith. Whilst now out of the closet about his sexuality another closet of denial and unresolved issues about his faith and spirituality had been created. Thus began his ‘Life of Unlearning’ everything he had believed God and his homosexuality…….in order to find the truth.

Anthony’s award winning autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning – A Journey to Find the Truth’  is in its second print and has assisted people around the world to reconcile the percieved conflict between their faith and sexuality. He is also the co-founder and president of Freedom 2 b[e] ; Australia’s leading network for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian  backgrounds.

Anthony has become an ambassador for the LGBT community building bridges and breaking down the walls that have separated religion and gay and lesbian people. In 2007 Anthony’s name appeared on the inaugural list of the  25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians, and again in 2009 in acknowledgement of his pioneering work in the area of Christianity and Sexuality.

Let’s Dream Together

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( A talk presented by Candace Parks on 11 July, 2010. )
Although still relatively unknown in Sydney, Unitarianiam has quite a following in the US.  Gary Kowalski is a well-known Unitarian minister and author from Burlington, Vermont and in line with the strong sense of community and support amongst Unitarians around the world, Gary has kindly agreed for his talks to be used by other smaller congregations – especially those without a minister.
Born and raised in Vermont and having attended university in Burlington, Candace feels a strong connection to Gary’s views and manner of expression.  This talk in particular showcases his sense of humour.
To read the talk or listen to it in Gary’s own voice, go to http://www.uusociety.org/sermons.html and select the talk for March 21 2010.  Enjoy!

The Seven Principles: my reflections

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Written and Delivered by Ginna Hastings in January 2010

To live with some sort of spirituality for many people means to try to make meaning out of the chaos of life.  Justice is not always done.  Bad things do happen to good people.  What is right in one situation isn’t right in another. For many, religion is a way to find answers.  Others fall onto clichés such as “it was meant to be” or “God closes a door and opens another one”.

I am not sure I need a defined god to determine what I need to believe.  After all, we never really know IF there is a god, and IF this god has a clear idea of what we should ALL do with our lives in this chaos we’re living in.  We can only surmise. I believe I need to decide life’s meaning for myself rather than have a theology dished out for me.             On the other hand, for me, ignoring the search for meaning, getting wrapped up in selfish material pursuits or political power also does not satisfy me either.  That’s why I come to church: to find inspiration.

I have come to the conclusion that LIFE IS A GIFT.  And, IT IS NOT THE DESTINATION THAT COUNTS SO MUCH AS THE JOURNEY.  With this conclusion I bless my grandmother, Virginia Hastings, who shared this wisdom with me at a young age – and her journey WAS difficult!

So why does Unitarian Universalism bring me a religion I can live with happily. As you know, our faith does not have a particular theology, nor does it exclude one. Yet UU’s are, to me, some of the most moral people I know. Unitarian Universalism does not stop at being humanist.  It gives me the Seven Principles with which to negotiate down life’s unpredictable journey. Through the Seven Principles I can find significant meaning among the chaos of this life.

On first inspection one could read the Seven Principles and see them as almost “motherhood” statements.  Most reasonable persons in a democracy would agree with them.  One is inclined to say, “Yea, yea, fine, so what’s next?”  Well, not so fast….  Which gets me to the topic of this talk, the Seven Principles .

Principle 1: We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Yes, but easier said than done.  In dealing with others we frequently find people who are disagreeable, and/or whose ideas we adamantly disagree with.  In our own self centered view, it takes mental discipline to still recognize the inherent worth and dignity of others. We can stand up to bullies, tyrants and principle-lacking individuals who manipulate matters to their own advantage and at the same time acknowledge the inherent worth and dignity in them.  It is indeed a challenge to acknowledge worth and dignity in those we don’t respect while at the same time standing up to their destructive behavior.

On speaking on the first principle, Jim Nelson, chief minister of Neighborhood Church in Pasadena, said, “In essence – be kind.”  Kindness seems to be a lost value in our society.  It is viewed as weakness.  It is viewed as getting in the way of pleasure, or of self-serving goals.  As UU’s, we can make kindness itself into a satisfying pleasure, a value, something worth doing.

This first principle gives us a belief, reactionary to Calvinism, that we are ALL worthwhile.  Now.  Incomplete.  Confused.  We do not need “saving” by a god.  Our individuality is to be celebrated, along with that of others.  It’s even okay to love ourselves. We don’t even need a specific god to love us to love ourselves.

With this great gift of the first principle comes an enormous responsibility as well.  It forces us to accept life with its confusing diversity and chaos just as it is, and still seek love, still acknowledge the worth and dignity in others and ourselves.  As UU’s we need not, indeed CANnot shrink from the endless exploration of the inherent worth and dignity of every individual in our lives.  Looking for the worthiness in others becomes a lifelong challenge.

Principle 2: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

It is easy to see all those poor people who are recipients of racism, sexism, economic injustice etc. etc.  We seek justice for them.  That’s a given.  The press tells us about it all the time.

But, are we limiting others by putting anyone – even those not obviously oppressed –  in boxes that limit them in our eyes?  Are we dismissing the need for justice and equity in others by blanket generalizations?  Without true, endless efforts to apply compassion to justice and equity, we are not living this principle.  It’s a challenging responsibility.

Charities these days are often complaining about “compassion burn out”. As Unitarian Universalists, we cannot afford to let compassion burnout hit our hearts.  Our religion is not just one of reason alone. It is one of an endless supply of heart and love as well.  This is its biggest challenge.

Unitarians in the past have been great initiators in movements to achieve human equality in our society. – the abolition of slavery, votes for women, laws against racism and sexism and so much more have been a result.  Indeed right now in the USA Unitarians ban together to educate society education society to understand and acknowledge  that denying the legal advantages of marriage to same sex couples denies justice, equity and compassion.  What are WE doing in this country? Are we speaking out on this particular issue loudly enough?  Ah, a challenge!

Principle 3: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

This is where we get to the “g word”.  Yes, I mean what most religions discuss: GOD. Understanding the divine as we understand what the divine is, or isn’t, is most definitely essential to our own spiritual journey.  We can’t escape it.  This is why Unitarian Universalism also presents us with the great traditions of knowledge and wisdom that come from all religions – even the Bible. These are the Six Sources of our Faith that come from all the world’s great traditions.  Therefore we Unitarians must be prepared to accept Muslim Unitarians, Buddhist Unitarians, even, dare I say it, Christian Unitarians among our midst as we head on our own spiritual journeys.  It’s okay to discuss God, but sometimes Unitarians try so hard not to offend those who do not believe in God that they do not mention God.  There is no solution.  It’s okay to mention God, and it’s okay to not believe in images of God that others have created, but as Unitarians we don’t have to.  That’s the key!

One thing I see as a weakness of Unitarian Universalists is that many are “smart” – often well educated, and intelligent. Sometimes pride in our own intellect and reason becomes our god.  The result is an arrogance that proves exclusive and contrary to the traditions.  The traditions, if read and followed thoughtfully, keep us humble.  We are all just “works in progress.”

Principle 4: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Yes, just recognizing and valuing the right we have for this free and responsible search for meaning has got us Unitarian Universalists into a bit of hot water, perhaps literally, over the centuries.  That we, and everyone, ARE free to choose beliefs is such a valued freedom.  UU’s tend to get almost high on this freedom.

With this right of personal spiritual exploration comes an enormous responsibility. We are responsible for thinking through what we know, hear, read and decide upon.  We are dedicated to thinking through carefully what we believe using not only logic and reason, but also intuition and compassion that comes from our inner soul.  This requires constant self-honesty with ourselves and with others. It takes time.  It requires courage.

For example, does one speak up at work about an injustice to a co-worker even if it threatens our own job?  Do we stand up to bullies rather than take a “peaceful” road of complacency?  Do we speak out at union meetings when we feel our union bosses are speaking for their own power rather than for the needs of the workers?  A free and responsible search for meaning means living what is meaningful. It is not simply an intellectual exercise. It takes enormous courage.

In our congregations we also need to learn from one another.  If what you learn and what I learn from our different experiences is shared, it makes us both richer.  Each different carefully studied belief or idea held by a member of our congregation adds to the fabric and strength of our Unitarian cloth and of each other.  It is what makes us unified in diversity .

Principle 5: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

Within our congregations, the democratic process may seem easy.  We propose, we discuss and debate, we vote, we decide, and we act.  Ah yes.

This principle does not, however, give us the right to ego.  Having things our own way may not be democratic.  Sometimes we have to cede to the wider community’s needs and wishes over our own to be heard.  Should our behavior prove destructive towards others then it is unacceptable. We need to be open to one another.

In the wider community we Unitarian Universalists have proven effective in using the democratic process to promote justice, equity and compassion by banding together and speaking out.  Many laws today exist because of just such work in the past. However, such changes took time, persistence and hard work. The democratic process cannot exist without an orderly society, and to this effect we must behave in an orderly way.

Principle 6: The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;

Yes, right, when Superman comes again!  It is easy to dismiss this principle as another motherhood statement while being “pie in the sky” in nature.  It’ll never happen.  Well, it may not in our lifetime.  But if it is not our goal, it makes our journey meaningless as members of society.  By working towards peace, liberty and justice for all we may not win “the battle”.  But we don’t reach for this goal because it is achievable right now.  We reach for it because it is right, and it is right NOW.   Who says UU’s aren’t dogmatic?

Principle 7: Respect for the interdependent web of al existence of which we are a part.

This principle, the most recently added, is sometimes viewed in a narrower focus than perhaps was meant.  Some Unitarian Universalists are pantheists.  This is where their understanding of this principle stops.  Others boil it down to scrupulous recycling of their waste or buying or even voting Green.

The wider issues of this principle are also challenging.  Forrest Gilmore in Brandenburg says that understanding ourselves as part of the interdependent web of life is something even greater than being “green”.  The seventh principle reminds us that “we are what we have come from, and to what we belong.” (P. 112-113).  In itself, the seventh principle is an enormous statement of hope and commitment to the healing of our world, our human world as well as our environmental world. Perhaps I may now quote part of the Lords Prayer here: ‘thy kingdom come on earth”.

It requires us to change, grow and think differently for the sake of the interdependent web of life that we are a part of. It propels us to work to create a society of compassion, harmony, and justice with courage NOW and with hope in the future, and the future of our descendents.  It’s an ideal we may never achieve, but heading in that direction is what it’s all about.  To ignore this principle because it is probably unattainable is to deny hope in the basic capacity of human beings to improve.  One might as well give up on life as we know it as to give up on the seventh principle

I became a Unitarian Universalist because these Seven Principles challenge me to live thoughtfully and carefully, carrying the burden of a huge responsibility along with freeing rights.  I am responsible for my own conscience.  I am responsible for my own actions, while, at the same time, being very much a part of the wider society and environment.

The Seven Principles are, then not to be seen as rules or simple guidelines.  They are not an intellectual exercise alone. They are designed to motivate us towards an examined, purpose-driven life while at the same time achieving an acceptance of life’s complexities, with love, courage and hope.  The Seven Principles are there to challenge us individually and collectively.  They are what teach us to live as Unitarian Universalists.

Buber claimed that a community is defined by the centre that holds it together.  Without a center to hold it together it is like a doughnut, and will not grow or thrive. In Unitarian Universalism there is no central theology.  Nevertheless, we cannot discount the meaning and purpose that the Seven Principles bring to our lives and our community, for they are what our “faith” is about.

Perhaps in the new year we can all examine the Seven Principles and what they mean specifically in our lives.

Human Seasons, Religious Needs

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From Janet’s 19 July Service, which generated much interesting discussion…

Earlier this year, I had the unexpected pleasure of learning about the work of Robert Kegan – a noted Harvard Psychologist who has spent his career charting the upward movement of consciousness across the life span.  (repeat)

What does that mean?  It means understanding how humans make meaning and how our meaning making systems change as we age.  He has been able to disprove the long-held believe that human complexity, like height, stops growing at adolescence.  That’s right – there is finally some good news about getting older.

Kegan’s work immediately resonated with me (even beyond the age stuff).  It highlights, among other things, how different people at different phases of evolution see the world differently – how they create reality differently, and construct a world that makes sense through their own eyes.  It also explains why it is so darn hard to help groups of people to work together – they are all viewing the world through their own unique lens. 

But, it also got me thinking about something else…if humans’ meaning making systems change over time, then don’t their religious needs?  As Unitarians, we accept that concept quite easily – the free search for meaning.  But what about people from other belief systems?

I asked this question on an online forum of students of Kegan.  A student of the subject of psychology and religion gave me this answer, which I found especially insightful:

whether an individual believes in god or not, is not nearly as important as how they do that. The how of religion is a much more important question that whether we might be religious or not, since religion is our way of making sense out of our existence”.

So, I started to make this connection…the complexity of our meaning making systems and our desire for and needs of religion.

Let’s talk a bit more about that complexity…

Kegan’s work describes several distinct stages of human evolution across the life span.  He talks about these as being a subject-object relationship – the stuff that is so much a part of      our meaning making systems, that we are subject to it and cannot see it.  We might also think of this as a ‘me’ and ‘not me’ relationship…our ability to take steps back from our ‘me’ and see ourselves and the world from any vantage point.  Clearly, this kind of stepping back is not something everyone can do.  For example, an infant can’t do it.  But, it is something we can start to do as adolescents.   Here are Kegan’s words from an interview with EnlightenNext Magazine

RK: In adolescence and early adulthood, a transformation occurs in which we essentially develop the complexity to internalize and identify with the values of our surround—an epistemology that enables us to be truly a socialized member of the tribe. Socialization, from a psychological point of view, is the process by which we become more a part of society because the society actually becomes more a part of us. Thus, the self feels whole, connected, and in harmony through its identification with a set of values and beliefs that both make the self up and simultaneously preserve its intimate connections—relationships to the bigger tribe or to the culture of which one is a part. So a person who has reached this level is able to think more long term, more abstractly. Based on the particular tribe or culture, one constructs a set of values with which one is identified. And we call this the socialized mind, or third order consciousness.

The Kegan phases of adult development in complexity I will talk about today are just 2:  This 3rd order consciousness, or what Kegan calls the socialised mind, and the 4th order, which we will come to later.  As Robert has just explained to us, the socialised mind is subject to others views and values.  People in this mind find their meaning and comfort in the values and measures of others.  They pick up their ideas wholesale…they like the priest and his book.

If you are not familiar with the work of Jeanette Winterson, I highly recommend her first book,  ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’.  I think it tells a story about human evolution and religious needs quite beautifully.  The book is the story of a young girl looking back on her life being raised in an evangelical household whose world is overturned when she falls for another girl. 

She begins the story by telling us how her mother viewed the world:

JW “Like most people, I lived for a long time with my mother and father.  My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn’t matter what.  She was in the white corner and that was that. 

She hung out the largest sheets on the windiest days.  She wanted the Mormons to knock on the door.  At election time in a Labour mill-town she put a picture of the Conservative candidate in the window. 

She had never heard of mixed feelings.  There were friends and there were enemies. 

Enemies were:  The Devil (in his many forms); Next Door; Sex (in its many forms); Slugs

Friends were:  God; Our dog; Auntie Madge; The Novels of Charlotte Bronte; Slug pellets…

The book soon shows us that Winterson will make a transformation that her mother has not yet made.  Winterson describes the book both as autobiographical and not. 

Her mother is subject to the church and its beliefs and that is all Jeanette knows.  Yet, she begins to be able to see ‘me’ and ‘not me’ as separate.  The church is still very much her life, but soon she can see multiple vantage points.  These vantage points cause her to confront most of what her mother and the church have taught and to begin to select which of those beliefs she chooses to keep as her own.   Kegan calls this move to the 4th order the self-authoring mind.  According to Kegan’s research, 79% of the population never transforms beyond the 3rd order (58% of middle class and above). 

RK: Now, the transformation that is most common to the period from twenty-five to fifty is a move out of this orientation of being shaped by one’s surround to become what we call self-authoring. This is fourth order consciousness. While this particular transformation doesn’t happen for everyone, it does take place with considerable density. In our highly pluralistic postmodern world, we do not have a homogeneous definition of who we should be and how we should live. We’re living in the midst of a rapidly expanding pluralism of tribes, which means that there are competing demands for our loyalty, faithfulness, time, money, attention, and so on. Thus, the stance of being shaped by our surround is actually insufficient to handle modern life. Rather, we are called on to have an internal authority by which we ourselves are able to name what is valuable, or respond to the claims and expectations on us, sort through them, and make decisions about which ones we will and will not follow. So we are not just made up by or written on by a culture, but we ourselves become the writer of a reality that we then are faithful to.

It is these competing demands that cause us to abandon our 3rd order thinking.  We begin to ask questions.  We begin to put into question what we once took for granted.  We begin to objectify what we were previously subject to and start to cobble together ideas from multiple sources and make our meaning in a self-authoring way.  But it happens in stages.

James Fowler actually dedicated his life’s work to studying these stages.  Here is how he defines the stages of faith.

The third stage is labeled Sythetic-Conventional faith. The majority of the population finds its permanent home in this stage. Usually arising in adolescence, this stage demands a complex pattern of socialization and integration, and faith is an inseparable factor in the ordering of one’s world. It is a stage characterized by conformity, where one finds one’s identity by aligning oneself with a certain perspective, and lives directly through this perception with little opportunity to reflect on it critically. One has an ideology at this point, but may not be aware that one has it. Those who differ in opinion are seen as “the Other,” as different “kinds” of people. Authority derives from the top down, and is invested with power by majority opinion. Dangers in this stage include the internalization of symbolic systems (power, “goodness” “badness”) to such a degree that objective evaluation is impossible. Furthermore, while one can at this stage enter into an intimate relationship with the divine, one’s life situations may drive one into despair (the threshold to the next stage). Such situations may include contradictions between authorities, the revelation of authoritarian hypocrisy, and lived experiences which contradict one’s convictions.

The life situation that drives Winterson into despair and causes her out revolution is when she falls in love with another woman, Melanie.  She now faces this contradiction of convictions…the church vs. love. 

JW :  I knew that demons entered wherever there was a weak point.  If I had a demon my weak point was Melanie, but she was beautiful and good and had loved me.  Can love really belong to a demon?  What sort of demon?  The brown demon that rattles the ear?  The red demon that dances the hornpipe?  The watery demon that causes sickness?  The orange demon that beguiles?  Everyone has a demon like cats have fleas.  “They are looking in the wrong place,” I thought.  “If they want to get at my demon they’ll have to get at me.”  I thought about Robert Blake.  “If I let them take away my demons, I’ll have to give up what I have found.”

And, in fact, it is that sense of giving up that is the first sign of transformation from socialised to self authoring.  It signals the beginning of a journey.  And, often a painful one that involves letting go.  This is Fowler’s 4th stage of faith…

The fourth stage is known as Individuative-Reflective. This is primarily a stage of angst and struggle, in which one must face difficult questions regarding identity and belief. Those that pass into stage four usually do so in their mid-thirties to early forties. At this time, the personality gradually detaches from the defining group from which it formerly drew its identity. The person is aware of him or herself as an individual and must–perhaps for the first time–take personal responsibility for his/her beliefs and feelings. This is a stage of de-mythologizing, where what was once unquestioned is now subjected to critical scrutiny. Stage four is heavily existential, where nothing is certain but one’s own existence, and disillusionment reigns. This stage is not a comfortable place to be and, although it can last for a long time, those who stay in it do so in danger of becoming bitter, suspicious characters who trust nothing and no one. But most, after entering this stage, sense that not only is the world far more complex than his or her stage three mentality would allow for, it is still more complex and numinous than the agnostic rationality of stage four allows.

Letting go of the meaning-making system might also mean letting go of the people, as it does in ‘Oranges’.  In Winterson’s book, she makes a deal with her demon and repents to buy herself some time.  But time does not change much.  When Jeanette’s character is caught with her second girlfriend, the church once again intervenes and tries to drive the demon from her.  By this time she is more self authored and she can objectively see what before she was subject to:

JW:  The days lingered on in a kind of numbness, me in ecclesiastical quarantine, the in a state of fear and anticipation.  By Sunday, the pastor had word back from the council.  The real problem, it seemed, was going against the teachings of St Paul, and allowing women power in the church.  Our branch of the church had never thought about it, we’d always had strong women, and the women organized everything.  Some of us could preach, and quite plainly, in my case, the church was full because of it.  There was an uproar;  then a curious thing happened.  My mother stood up and said she believed this was right:  that women had specific circumstances for their ministry, that the Sunday schools was one of them, the Sisterhood another, but the message belonged to the men.  Until this moment, my life had still made some kind of sense.  Now it was making no sense at all.  My mother droned on about the importance of missionary work for a woman, that I was clearly such a woman, but had spurned my call in order to wield power on the home front, where it was inappropriate.  She ended by saying that having taken on a man’s world in other ways I had flouted God’s law and tried to do it sexually.  This was no spontaneous speech.  She and the pastor had talked about it already.  It was her weakness for the ministry that had done it.  No doubt she’d told Pastor Spratt months ago.  I looked around me.  Good people, simple people, what would happen to them now?  I knew my mother hoped I would blame myself, but I didn’t.  I knew now where the blame lay.  If there’s such a thing as spiritual adultery, my mother was a whore.”

And now we know that she has objectivity.  She is maturing on her journey toward being self-authored.  She has seen the line between ‘me’ and ‘not me’.  And she can objectify both her mother and the church.   I suspect many people in this room have had some kind of ‘not me’ moment that signalled a transformation. 

Eight years after writing Oranges, Winterson used the following words to describe the work:

JWEveryone, at some time in their life, must choose whether to stay with a ready-made world that may be safe, but which is also limiting, or to push forward, often past the frontiers of consciousness into a personal place, unknown and untried.”

But the next question you might be asking is what drives this movement of choice?  In Winterson’s case, there was a compelling, emotional event – relationships with woman that put her values of love and faith in conflict.   But, for most of us, it is more subtle than that.  Kegan points out that emotions associated with transformation do not always equal transformation.  You have to have an interest in bringing about transformation in relationships to yourself and others, or as he says ‘to separate the rose from the perfume’.

Here is what Kegan has to say to the question ‘what is it that drives human development?’

RK “Now you really are asking a religious question about what is the nature of life itself… If you ask me about ultimate motives, I would say that it’s all going somewhere. The process by which each living thing in the universe organizes and reorganizes itself—which is transformation—is a process by which each living piece, or part, is, in a certain way, better recognizing its true nature. And this is a declaration of faith here—its true nature is ultimately its participation in a single intelligent whole. Prayer is sometimes described as an expression of our dependence on this force that is bigger than ourselves. And that may be so, but our own transformation is an expression of God’s dependence on us. That’s what we are called to do, what the universe needs of us. And each living thing in the universe has the opportunity, through the process of transformation, to move toward a more complex form.”

We each have the opportunity, yes.  But, not everyone’s God calls them to do it.  In fact, some people’s gods (or at least their human representatives) might take issue with this transformation to a new meaning-making system – making that transformation even more painful.  Not all religions choose to teach about transformation to a more complex form. 

Maybe people join some religious groups when their needs are socialised and depart as they become self authored.  And maybe it is it the self-authored folk who the Unitarians catch.  But somewhere someone has a goal of membership retention and that person has probably not heard of Bob Kegan or James Fowler.  In a perfect world the those religions and the Unitarians would get together – them recruiting early and us taking over when things get more complicated.  Each church would become a place for the people for whom it is best suited. 

Somehow we can accept as fact that primary school is a place for young minds and secondary school for older ones.  Our teachers do not feel rejected when we graduate.  Science has shown us that this meaning-making evolution is a natural part of our human development.  Yet, the churches fight hard against the thought of a changing meaning-making system.   Some churches seem to want to put a gate around our beliefs.  But just as we cannot hold back an approaching storm, there can be no gate – our religious needs have seasons or their own.

“I could have been a priest instead of a prophet.  The priest has a book with the words set out.  Old words, known words, words of power.  Words that are always on the surface.  Words for every occasion.  The words work.  They do what they’re supposed to do;  comfort and discipline.  The prophet has no book.  The prophet is a voice that cries in the wilderness, full of sounds that do not always set into meaning.“

 Jeanette Winterson