With over seven billion people on the planet and a lot more coming, learning to get along and live (love) together is essential to our survival. In a crisis our best nature surfaces-but we seem unable to sustain a sense of true community and remain in the heart of compassion for more than a few CNN weeks at a time. Understanding this, A Fresh Cup of Tolerance offers a revolutionary theory of Universalism-providing a pathway of hope for a troubled and divided world. In doing so, it addresses some of the foremost dilemmas of our time: * Environment * Globalization * Feminist and gender issues * Religious strife * Oppression * Poverty * War * Prejudice. Theologically, it systematically explores: * Our world's multi-layered views of God * Our place in the world * Good, evil, sin and suffering * Ongoing revelation * Spirituality in the digital age * Love and community * Spiritual liberation. Nevertheless, A Fresh Cup of Tolerance is not just a pleasant, vanilla treatise on love; it's a living, breathing, dynamic faith-in-action theology free from rigid words (scriptures), beliefs (dogma) or practices (rituals). Pulling from centuries of global religious tradition - including teachings from Native American, Asian, pagan and neo-pagan Goddess, Judeo-Christian, Islamic ways of life and more - this truly Universalist theology serves as a "call to action"; for those individuals desperately seeking a world full of loving relationships and respect.
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A Fresh Cup of Tolerance
Universalism: The New Religion of Tolerance
By Tom Norris
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Dr. Tom Norris
All rights reserved.
The Spiritual Masters Conference
Picture a weeklong roundtable conference at the Los Angeles Sheraton Gateway. Attendees include Buddha, Jesus, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Moses, Kuan Yin, Muhammad, Isis, Mahavir (Jain), Krishna, Quetzalcoatl (Mayan), Ceridwen (Druid), Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Grandmother Twyla (Seneca) and many other great spiritual masters and shamans humanity has looked to over the ages for answers, support and comfort. The roundtable topic is, "Applying the Great Truths of All Time to the Twenty-first Century." It is a daunting task, but they are excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity to update all of their hard work and potent messages. Fortunately, unlike some of their followers, one cannot imagine any of these commanding teachers raising a hand to the other, even in the midst of their most heated, passionate debates. Rather, we observe an earnest, collegial atmosphere of respect throughout — with a healthy dose of humor — whether there is agreement or disagreement. Why would they fight and argue? They know they are all messengers of a higher truth from a higher source. The challenge is bringing this truth down-to-earth, which is the purpose of the conference. Are these truths still useful, helpful, relevant and timely?
The conference begins as various panels address transitioning from the Old Age to the demanding postmodern New Age realities at the beginning of this millennium. The conference then dives headfirst into the deeper waters of theology with a number of intensive seminars entitled:
On the Nature of God
On the Nature of Revelation
On the Nature of Humanity
On the Nature of Love and Community
On the Nature of Good, Evil, Sin and Suffering
On the Nature of Illusion
On the Nature of Liberation
On the Nature of Divine Purpose
Although much of humanity might be surprised, it is to no one's surprise at the conference that they reach a general consensus on a new theology of Universalism. The conference participants are amazed that their various followers never really "got it," although the words and signs were everywhere. Anyone delving into any of their teachings and work could not possibly miss the familiar themes of loving the Creator, loving the gifts of creation, and loving each other. They wonder how people could have missed the point that Muhammad would never kill another messenger, even of a faith different from Islam, any more than Buddha would harm a mosquito or Jesus would fail to turn the other cheek. The attendees emphatically agree it is long overdue for this world to actually start practicing what they had been preaching and teaching for millennia: tolerance, love, justice, compassion and peace. After all, it was their love for humanity and all of creation that inspired these teachings in the first place. They believe in us and in our world! From this conference emerges a unanimous Spiritual Manifesto of Universalism. Each signer pledges their full support to help humanity finally understand and accomplish their God/Goddess potential. They embrace Jesus' words, "You are gods!" (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34) and "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these ..." (John 14:12). They acknowledge the Buddhist truth that each of us is already a Buddha, even if we don't know it yet. They affirmed our promise and potential.
The conference (and this book) might happily have ended there on such a high spiritual note. However, the spiritual teachers realize the subject is incomplete if they only cover the need for dialog and the new theology. This new religion is not just a pleasant philosophy of love. It is not just an airy fairy philosophy of life or theology of belief. It is a living, growing, changing dynamic; one that cannot be imprisoned within rigid words (scriptures), beliefs (dogma and doctrine) or practices (rituals). It is a faith-in-action theology. Consequently, as weary as they are, the spiritual masters engage in two final decisive seminars, overall entitled Praxis (Living Practice). First is the Praxis of Light Living. Fancy words and declarations are not enough. How do we translate a theology of bringing light into the world — into our homes, our families, on the street, to the battlefield, and into our communities? And so begins the writing of a blueprint for loving ourselves and others that can only lead to a happier, healthier life and world.
Part II of the last seminar, the most difficult in light of our global corporate economy, confronts the Praxis of Light Working. As employers and employees, bosses and subordinates, owners and workers, the 1% and the 99%, how do we bring the great spiritual truths into the office and workplace? How do we move organizations, companies, governmental agencies, Mom and Pop stores, and corporations to a higher standard of quality, integrity, honesty and respect? In Hinduism, this is called Dharma. The conference participants are astounded once again that humanity, with all its advancements, still has not figured out that these spiritual principles will serve to enhance profits and abundance in ways that allow all to finally participate in the vast bounty of creation. And so, again, the creation of a spiritual blueprint begins. It outlines a means for the marketplace and the workplace to also be a place of light — again with the realization it can only lead to a happier, healthier life and world for all.
The conference members complete their task with the sense of a job well done. As they embrace and say their goodbyes, they each leave with the renewed hope that the men and women of this planet will hear their words and their vision for a New World of Love, Tolerance, Hope, Peace, Joy and Plenty. Their work is done. Now it is up to us. Such is the task of A Fresh Cup of Tolerance.CHAPTER 2
A New Day
Now let all rejoice. Seek the Light, that the power of the stars which is in you, may live.
Jesus in The Pistis Sophia
A new day is upon us. Some are calling it the New Age, others Postmodernity or Poststructuralism. Whatever the name, this millennial dawn brings mighty winds of change, even revolution. We are undergoing a vast revolution in technology and science, but of equal importance is the profound revolution in thought and perspective that is the landmark of postmodern beingness. Like all revolutions, this one has its battlefields — Absolutism vs. Relativism, Secularism vs. Religiosity, Objectivity vs. Subjectivity. And, we cannot forget all the old schools of racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, handicappism, patriarchy, and religiocentrism versus the new schools of pluralism and universalism. Lest you think this is just a metaphor, some of these battlefields are still killing fields. As these words are being written, men, women, and children are being tortured, maimed and murdered on the front lines of hatred, prejudice, and fanaticism. These issues are deeply involved in: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the civil strife in Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Northern Ireland; the Arab Spring uprisings; the rise of the fanatical ISIS movement; the war of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan against educating women, which has led to death and violence against schoolgirls, their families and teachers; violence against women in schoolyards, homes, streets, fields and offices around the world; genocide in Darfur, Sudan; the Arab-Israeli Conflict of the past six decades — and we could go on and on. There are far too many examples of this war between the old and the new, between Feudal Cultures, the still powerful vestiges of Modernity, and the newly-emerging Postmodernity. Sadly, these age-old wars have always been the enemy of true community, and if there is anything that defines the heart and soul of this book, it is the quest for community.
The potential for true community is always present, it's in our spiritual DNA, but continuity in community is much harder to attain. We have seen the same pattern repeat itself over and over — after 911, Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Indonesia, and the earthquake in Haiti. In a crisis, our best nature surfaces — but we seem unable to sustain this sense of community and remain in the heart of compassion for more than a few weeks of intense CNN coverage. For many years as a Social Worker and Psychotherapist, I worked with the victims of child abuse, domestic violence, trauma and sex crimes. When I entered the ministry, it became my spiritual priority to seek a means to sustain a loving community for longer periods — whether it is within the family, the church or the larger society. A theology of Universalism offers a pathway of hope.
This book addresses these issues head on, but in an explicitly postmodern way. It is certainly not a deconstructionist postmodern treatise that attempts to question everything from before and then tear it down limb from limb. Rather, it lays down a constructionist postmodern challenge, which asks us to question, revise, overcome, change, and even revolutionize what has come from the past — without tearing it all down. The past centuries are neither good nor bad in and of themselves; they are simply what they are. Sometimes terrible things happened in those times, and we might choose to judge the people who carried out those actions. However, we either did not live then and do not know how we would have acted with the moral knowledge and social programming of those days; or we did live then (via reincarnation) and must bear some karmic responsibility for those days. Moreover, the past got us from there to here and I am grateful for many of the accomplishments of the Modern Age. I enjoy air conditioning in South Florida and I really don't want to travel by horse 25 miles to my university campus to teach my classes. Perhaps, one thing that will become clear from this book is that the old Aristotelian model of "either-or" thinking is not a postmodern attribute.
As the subtitle asserts, Universalism is the new theology of tolerance, even with regard to the past. It proposes a new way of spirituality very much built upon the learnings and teachings of the Old Age, the past. Nor is it the only New Religious Movement (NRM) out there by any stretch, for one of the defining characteristics of postmodern activity is its tremendous diversity. Yet, by exploring the Universalist aspect of New Age spirituality, much is learned about traditional religion as well as related NRM movements, particularly the transition from modernity to postmodernity.
This book was created to thrust all of us outside the restrictive box of our standard social, religious and societal programming. It aims to push us to rethink our values, belief systems, and perspectives on life, creation, Creator and created. This re-evaluation often strengthens the underpinnings of our values and belief systems. It allows us to own them, as we have now thought through the implications of what we have been taught. We can truthfully say we have used our God-given brains and discerned what works for us and what does not — a very postmodern, individualistic vantage point. At times, the book unabashedly presents an emotional and passionate discourse on contemporary life and religion, so it clearly moves beyond the academic world into the gritty plane of the home, office and street. In this way, perhaps, we can strengthen the transition from the Old-age to the New Age. We can build upon the many prophecies of hope; that this coming age will be one of harmony, understanding, knowledge, tolerance, and peace.
A Fresh Cup of Tolerance is broken down into four parts over nineteen chapters. Part I, The Dialog, begins the discussion of what the Universalism Movement is about, from a historical perspective and as a postmodern spiritual venture. Part II, The Theology, takes a systematic theology approach as it explores Universalism from all angles in chapters covering:
Just Who is this God Guy or Gal Anyway? (On the Nature of God);
Ask God.Com (On the Nature of Revelation);
Ye are Gods! (On the Nature of Humankind);
Pandora's Box (On the Nature of Good, Evil and Suffering);
Seeing Through a Glass Darkly (On the Nature of Illusion);
All You Need is Love (On the Nature of Love and Community);
Free at Last, Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, We are Free at Last (On the Nature of Liberation); and
All the World's a Stage (On the Nature of Purpose).
Part III, The Praxis — Light Living, begins a journey through spiritual ethics and practice. How does one implement and live a Universalist way of life (Lifeway)? Finally, Part IV, The Praxis — Light Work travels beyond the individual and challenges us to envision a society and human organizations that live by these pluralistic and tolerant ways of living; Universalism in the workplace.
All of us in the field of theology and religious studies owe a great debt to Ninian Smart. He proposed viewing and analyzing religion from seven dimensions: ritual, doctrinal and philosophical, mythic and narrative, experiential and emotional, ethical and legal, organizational and social, and material and artistic. Although we do not follow his dimensional analysis method exactly, you will see each of these dimensions poking their heads up throughout the book. Additionally, I have added a few other dimensions for consideration as well: psychological, geographic, socio-economic, socio-plitical, gender and environmental. To be effectively universal, a Universalist theology must naturally embrace such an all-encompassing approach.
How do we begin the conversation? This book starts by addressing the contemporary, fundamental religious issues and strains in the world. How are our Postmodern visions engaging these deadly spiritual trials, including the new movement of Universalism? We initiate the discussion on the desperate need for tolerance in a world of nations and peoples at war with each other and within themselves. Upon that foundation, we can move to the section on The Theology (Part II), which lays out the structure of a new Universalist Theology. Finally, we finish by envisioning how that theology can be put into living practice in The Praxis — Light Living (Part III) and The Praxis — Light Work (Part IV).CHAPTER 3
A New 21st Century Earth
For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, I am a Jew.
How many times throughout history have we heard a prophet or an oracle thunder dire warnings foretelling horrendous tragedies to befall humankind, followed by belated promises that it does not have to end that way? How many times has a great spiritual leader, a Jesus, a Buddha, a White Buffalo Calf Woman, a Muhammad, a Temple Doors, or a Gandhi come along to guide us to a better way? How many dreamers, utopianists, philosophers and idealists have described a vision of a better world? From the very first inkling of human thought millions of years ago, how many opportunities have we had to choose a different path? When we weren't beheading or belittling them, how many times have we listened to these visionaries about their visions of hope? Forget the big picture of our life journey; have we even attempted to incorporate their hopes and dreams into the simple, ordinary moments of our day? For most of us, the answer is no, or at best, very inconsistently yes. But will there be a time when they might finally be heard, that we might finally listen? Will there be a time when their visions might finally be imagined and fully realized? Will there be a time when we might begin to finally live up to our promise as individuals and as a species — the promise that we are capable of being so much more? I say yes and why not now!
There comes a time when the old is renewed and the new is really new. There comes a time to harvest the human wisdom of five million years. There comes a time when evolution in heart, mind and spirit demands creative new ways of believing, thinking, and being. There comes a time when the choices before us are so compellingly clear that only the most spiritually blind and ignorant could possibly miss the signs. There comes a time for the evolution (or revolution) of heart and soul to finally emerge, to become more than potential. Has not the time come for us to finally grow up?
Excerpted from A Fresh Cup of Tolerance by Tom Norris. Copyright © 2015 Dr. Tom Norris. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter I: The Spiritual Masters Conference, 1,
Chapter II: A New Day, 5,
Part I: The Dialog, 9,
Chapter III: A New 21st Century Earth, 11,
Chapter IV: Escaping the Sheeple Herd, 21,
Chapter V: Why be a Universalist? Because God is a Universalist, 33,
Part II: The Theology, 41,
Chapter VI: Just Who Is This God Guy or Gal Anyway? (On the Nature of God), 43,
Chapter VII: Ask God.com (On the Nature of Revelation), 57,
Chapter VIII: Ye Are Gods! (On the Nature of Humankind), 65,
Chapter IX: Pandora's Box (On the Nature of Good, Evil, Sin and Suffering), 73,
Chapter X: Seeing Through a Glass Darkly (On the Nature of Illusion), 91,
Chapter XI: All We Need Is Love (On the Nature of Love and Community), 103,
Chapter XII: The Freedom Express (On the Nature of Liberation), 111,
Chapter XIII: All the World's a Stage (On the Nature of Divine Purpose), 133,
Part III: The Praxis--Light Living, 147,
Chapter XIV: Lost in Translation (Universalism and Sacred Texts), 149,
Chapter XV: Reflections on a Societal Theme, 155,
Chapter XVI: The New Paradigm, 177,
Part IV: The Praxis--Light Work, 189,
Chapter XVII: Structure or Prison? (On the Nature of Organizational Structure),
Chapter XVIII: Who's in Command? (On the Nature of Organizational Leadership), 207,
Chapter XIX: Stay the Course (On the Nature of Organizational Mission), 231,
Appendix 1: A Universalist Spiritual Manifesto, 247,
Appendix 2: The Little Church That Could, 255,