The Daily Bread of Personal Spirituality
It is the food which you furnish to your mind that
determines the whole character of your life.
~ Emmet Fox ~
At times, it is helpful to use the words of others. Take, for instance, the opening quote by one of our favorite spiritual teachers. Here Emmet Fox concisely expresses the idea that our lives are largely a manifestation of what we think: “GIGO” — “Garbage-In, Garbage-Out” — to cite an acronym from the early days of electronic computing. If we program ourselves with low quality thoughts, that’s likely what we’ll experience in day-to-day living.
If you’re not familiar with Emmet Fox, you owe it to yourself to do a bit of research. He was one of the clearest — and most user friendly — metaphysicians of the 20th century. Whether in a pamphlet “The Golden Key” or one of his books, his writing is always refreshing, stimulating, and thought-provoking.
The Sermon On The Mount is one of our favorite of Fox’s books. In it, he analyzes these most famous of Jesus’ teachings virtually line by line, surprising us with new ways of looking at what was said. In the chapter on the Lord’s Prayer, Fox teaches about the phrase “Give us today our daily bread…” He suggests that it is an essential building block for personal spirituality, describing “eating” our daily bread as a highly individualized experience of the presence of Spirit:
“… the act of eating food is essentially a thing that must be done for oneself.
No one can assimilate food for another. One may hire servants to do all sorts
of other things for him; but there is on thing that one must positively do for
himself, and that is to eat his own food. In the same way, the realization of
the Presence of God is a thing that no one else can have for us….”
This is a universal idea. When it comes to “Daily Bread”, the flavor of your faith doesn’t matter. What matters is that you “chew” on the slices of your own spiritual ideas. In Big Love, we refer to this process and practice as developing your own “Personal Spirituality”. Based on our personal experience and our own research and reflection, we’re each responsible for our own spiritual viewpoint.
In saying this, we’re not suggesting that anyone abandons the rich resources of spiritual wisdom that flow from the world’s religious traditions. To do so would be tantamount to throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Instead, what we’re called to is to do our “homework”, culling out what has heart and meaning for us.
Some call this developing a “personal credo” — a statement of beliefs fully “owned” by the person creating it. Typically, a personal credo includes such ideas as the nature of one’s belief (or not) in the Divine, one’s view about the relationship of the self to the Divine, other persons, and creation, and how (and perhaps why) things work in the world.
We just finished reading a new book that contains what we’d call an excellent example of a “personal credo”. The book is Finding God In the Waves by Mike McHargue, a.k.a. “Science Mike” from his podcast and blogs. In first half of the book, Science Mike describes his journey from being an Evangelical Southern Baptist to atheist and back to Christianity.
But, his return to Christianity is more along a self-defined basis — a personal credo — rather than a commitment to the conventional creed of a specific Christian denomination. His “credo” (our word, not his) consists of (ten) “Axioms About Christian Faith”. He explains the background and development of each of them in the second half of the book.
What struck us about Science Mike’s “Axioms” (copied and pasted below) is the way he carefully articulates each of his beliefs and the impact of each on a personal and collective basis. Furthermore, they incorporate insight and knowledge from both spiritual and scientific perspectives. In this way, they are particularly appropriate for our times.
We’re not advocating for (or against) these Axioms (although, for the most part, they work for us). Instead, we’re offering them up as an example of an articulation of “Personal Spirituality”. We are especially impressed by the clarity of their expression — presented in plain, common-sense language that is easy to understand.
This final point is an important thing to remember: personal credo work does not need to be “fancy”. Au contraire — it needs to be simple and clear so that it is easy of recall and to use in everyday life. It is, after all, “Daily Bread”. It’s okay to spread a bit of butter and jam on your slices. But, for the most part, it’s the bread itself that is the substance that keeps your going.
So, now it’s your turn…. create and enjoy a personal credo meal that is both nourishing and meaningful!
Olivia & Steve
“Science Mike’s” AXIOMS ABOUT CHRISTIAN FAITH
FAITH is at least a way to contextualize the human need for spirituality and to find meaning in the face of mortality. Even if this is all faith is, spiritual practices can be beneficial to human cognition, emotions, and culture.
GOD is at least the natural forces that created and sustain the universe as experienced via a psychosocial model in human brains that naturally emerges from innate biases. Even if that is a comprehensive definition of God, the pursuit of this personal, subjective experience can provide meaning, peace, and empathy for others.
PRAYER is at least a form of meditation that encourages the development of healthy brain tissue, that reduces stress, and that can connect us to God. Even if that is a comprehensive definition of prayer, the health and psychological benefits of prayer justify the discipline.
SIN is at least volitional action or inaction that violates human consent or produces human suffering. Sin comes from the divergent impulses between our lower and higher brain functions and our evolution-driven tendency to do things that serve ourselves and our tribe. Even if this is all sin is, it is destructive and threatens human flourishing.
THE AFTERLIFE is at least the persistence of our physical matter in the ongoing life cycle on Earth, the memes we pass on to others, and our unique neurological signature in the brains of those who knew us. Even if this is all the afterlife is, the consequences of our actions persist beyond our death, and our ethical considerations must include a time line beyond our death.
SALVATION is at least the means by which humanity overcomes sin to produce human flourishing. Even if this is all salvation is, spiritual and religious actions and beliefs that promote it are good for humankind.
JESUS is at least a man so connected to God that he was called the Son of God, and the largest religious movement in human history is centered around his teachings. Even if this is all Jesus is, following his teachings can promote peace, empathy, and genuine morality.
THE HOLY SPIRIT is at least the psychological and neurological components of God that allow God to be experienced as a personal force or agent. Even if this is all the Holy Spirit is, God is more relatable and neurologically actionable when experienced this way.
THE CHURCH is at least the global community of people who choose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even if this is all the Church is, the Church is still the largest body of spiritual scholarship, community, and faith practice in the world-and this practice can improve people’s lives in real, measurable ways.
THE BIBLE is at least a collection of books and writings assembled by the Church that chronicles a people’s experiences with, and understanding of, God over more than a thousand years. Even if that is a comprehensive definition of the Bible, study of Scripture is warranted to understand our culture and the way in which many, many people come to know God.
[Reproduced by permission of publisher: McHargue, Mike, Finding God in The Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science, New York: Convergent Books, 2016, pp. 255 – 256]
It’s Your Turn!
Take a shot at creating of “Personal Credo” of your own. Here’s how:
First, select the most important topics to you about your spirituality — they might include – God, your relationship to God, your relationship to other people and all of creation, how you receive inspiration (e.g. via prayerful meditation), how you manifest things (e.g. mindful action), how you intend to use your credo in daily life, and what you do to mark key events (e.g. joyous celebration, etc).
Then record your basic “beliefs” about each.
Finally, contemplate your work and revise as necessary (a key step — one you may wish to make part of your regular spiritual practice over time as your views will likely evolve with experience).
It’s often helpful to do this with others. Sharing and discussions often bring clarity — and affirmation. You might be surprised how your views are similar to those of others. Let us know if you’d like personal support.
If you’re willing, please share your responses in the comment section under this blogpost as it appears on the Big Love Community Facebook page.
Big Love News:
The more we observe and consider the events of the day, the greater our sense is that the world is trying to find a new way of being and doing. And, that fuels the flames of Big Love. How about you? Are you seeing it? Are you feeling it? Share your insights — we (and others) would love to hear them!
If there are topics you’d like us to address, please send us an email from our “Contact Us” web page.