"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Christianity's Teachings of 'Higher Consciousness' Largely Lost in the West

"Through our awakened presence, or higher consciousness, the universe becomes conscious of itself."

When was the last time that you heard a message like this at your church, temple, synagogue or mosque? Have you ever heard anything like this from a televangelist, from a "Christian fundamentalist"? 

Traditionalists, who may be skeptical of what sounds like a New Age mantra, may be surprised that this basic truth of all of the world's wisdom traditions comes from a mainstream Protestant minister, based in the mid-west heartland of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ted Nottingham, an author, publisher, television and video producer, and the Disciples of Christ pastor at Indianapolis' Northwood Christian Church, may be one of the most unheralded, yet most progressive theologians of our day. His message of the pressing need for each of us to awaken consciously to the Divine at the core of our being, and the Divinity which pervades and underlies the entirety of the universe, is based not on the surge of interest in higher states of consciousness and the synthesis of physics and spirituality, but on a deep and profound understanding of scripture and early (particularly, Orthodox) Christianity.

The above quote, from Nottingham's YouTube video on "Theosis" - or, the process of' God-realization that was at the heart of the early Church's teaching, and which remains at the heart of Orthodox traditions - is, in fact, a message which is ubiquitous across the world's great wisdom traditions; a point acknowledged by Nottingham.

With an extensive knowledge of varied spiritual traditions - from ancient Judaism, to the Desert Fathers, to G.I. Gurdjieff - Nottingham proposes an engaged, deeply personal and transformative practice of Christianity, one designed to tap the transcendental potential of each of us in a world where spiritual realities are too often overlooked or absent.

Theodore (Ted) Nottingham on YouTube
One of his most recent videos, "Rediscovering Christianity," is a well-reasoned and persuasive appeal to re-examine the basic tenets and message of the world's largest religion; to look at how and where its essential tenets have been lost or obscured; to go beyond the historical "baggage," "bloodshed," and "modern misrepresentations" of Christianity, and to look at it anew for its relevance in the 21st century.

Nottingham's basic message throughout his writings, sermons and videos is that there is "a new quality of consciousness" available to each of us, a message that has been lost in most instances. (Other must-see videos by Nottingham on Christianity, include "The Inner Teaching," and "The Watch of the Heart," an essential Eastern Orthodox methodology and discipline  for overcoming the ego.

"We have made impotent that which is the very source of our life, within us and around us, Nottingham says. "We've lost sight of the invisible within the visible."

He urges the viewer to get over the Darwinism versus Creationism debate, and the modern controversies over science versus faith, to move beyond the "absurd levels" of Christian fundamentalism, in order to rediscover the potentiality of Christianity's "holistic dimension" that has been largely lost in the Western Christian tradition.

Nottingham's voice and message is one that is needed in the public discussions on faith, higher consciousness, and human potential. He is, at once, a welcome antidote to both the narrow fundamentalism and the evangelical atheism of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins et. al., as well a passionate advocate of humankind's potentiality.

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