Friday, January 31, 2014

The "New Atheism"

Atheism has come into its own over the last few years primarily, it seems, as a reaction to American Fundamentalist Christianity. Led by the "Four Horsemen" (pictured left) this "New Atheism" has grown in popularity.

However, like nearly anything else, for me, the novelty has worn off. The truth is that, I have grown quite weary of the New Atheists despite the joy I find in watching them intellectually rend the most superficial and farcical aspects of religion....of which there are, admittedly, a great many.

Over the years of reading their books and watching innumerable debates in which members of the Four Horsemen (as they are collectively referred to) tear down the most preposterous ...arguments for the existence of God I have come to notice a pattern. I have come to notice that the New Atheists are at their best when they are able to intellectually overwhelm the shoddy arguments of simplistic religious fundamentalists. Their weakness is however, where religious thought is concerned, that they never really wade out, intellectually speaking, past the shallow end of the pool. The deepest understanding of God challenged by the New Atheists is...perhaps...the bad argumentation of the oft quoted C.S. Lewis...and that's only because he has the cache of being a British Intellectual of sorts. Lewis did go to Oxford after all. Lewis' arguments for belief in God are still, in my opinion, weak and full of inconsistencies. That anyone still refers to Lewis' Trilemma, his "Liar, Lunatic or Lord" argument still leaves me scratching my head.

None of these professional critics of religion...and that is what they have become...reflect on deeper or esoteric spiritual thought. Through their good arguments against bad religion, countless people reject the possibility that we are more than delusional meat sacks who erroneously believe there is more to reality than that which can be measured and quantified.

When the New Atheists, as a whole, have the courage to look at the God of Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, Ramakrishna, Rumi, Plotinus, Jewish Kabbalists or sophisticated polytheistic religious thinkers, I'll have greater respect for their rather extreme anti-theist arguments. I won't agree with them, but I'll have greater respect for their absolutist points of view. The New Atheists will never tackle the issue of a more sophisticated conception of the Divine because one has to study for well as practice certain order to experience the "God(s)" of the mystics. The New Atheists and their devotees seem painfully unaware that there are many sophisticated and nuanced experiences and understandings of what most in the West call "God."

It's far easier to poke fun at the God of Christian Sunday School than it is to look deeper. To be fair to the New Atheists, there is a great deal to make fun of. What the New Atheists...and their nearly cultic following does well is provide a needed counterbalance to the tide of know-nothing, dumb, fundamentalistic religiosity that is growing more and more common in the U.S. For that, I salute them.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Affirmations, Speaking to Your Subconscious Mind

(What follows is a subchapter of a book I was writing when I was around 23 years old. This was initially written for a New Age as opposed to Pagan audience and the presentation reflects that reality. Though my current style of writing is arguably more sophisticated and my point of view no longer New Age, the information herein is still valid even now, 19 years later)

"A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words...the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt."
‑Mark Twain

Affirmation has often been considered one of the centerpieces of spiritual/emotional change, especially during the heyday of the New Age movement. Though the practice of affirmation can be invaluable in regards to any growth process, it can only be considered an adjunct to inner work, not a replacement for it.

Affirmation, at its best, is literally the construction of thought. I call affirmation the construction of thought because in essence that's what it is. When creating affirmation, you are setting the tone for your thought patterns. In so doing, you are acting in a fully responsible manner in regards to your mental self.

By using affirmation, you are able to consciously silence the voice of your own inner critic, the part of you who is constantly negative and judgmental. This critic, actually your ego, has in its interest your failure because in that way it will be vindicated, "I told you so, see that's how the world really is".  
Using affirmation allows you to rewrite the subconscious scripts of your reactions. Instead of being at the mercy of past influences, you decide what you wish to think, and when you wish to think it. This ultimate level of responsibility will, with time and intention, afford you the ability to form entirely new positive belief structures. By creating new belief structures you will be able to experience life on more loving, more spiritual and more abundant terms. 

At its worst, affirmation is denial and self‑deception. I say this because the use of affirmation is questionable without first changing the subconscious patterns which so greatly impact our lives. Using affirmation without changing the beliefs, releasing the constricting emotions and ending the twisted desires that form the faulty perceptions through which you see the world, is equivalent to using chewing gum to patch a crack in the Hoover Dam.

Two influences, our beliefs and our emotions, are the final arbiter of our thought processes and this is a truth that cannot be circumvented by any amount of positive thinking. 

Early on, when I first started to study alternative forms of spirituality and holistic practices, I quickly started to work with affirmation. Up to that point I had read many accounts of those who had transformed their entire lives via positive thinking. Wow, I thought, if someone could seemingly cure themselves of life a life threatening illness, imagine what I could do, with my comparatively small problems. I was very enthusiastic, because I saw these practices as exactly what I was looking for. 

My greatest concerns ranged from getting girls to notice me to stopping the incessant taunting of my peers. These, besides my interests in metaphysical pursuits, were my greatest considerations at the time, as befitting a fourteen year old. 

In earnest, I began composing affirmations. I committed myself to allowing only positive thoughts and feelings. I continued with some fortitude for nearly a year, at which time I, thinking back now, must have seemed either extremely self‑righteous or saintly pious. 

I avoided everything I considered, in my very inexperienced perceptions, to by non‑spiritual. Anything from profanity to disobeying the teacher was to be stringently avoided for fear that one misstep would doom the process. In other words, I became an extremely repressed adolescent who felt nothing near the cosmic love I was promised. 

All through this period, I continued to compose affirmations and keep a "positive" outlook, at least on the exterior. To the outside world, I must have seemed like the most well adjusted adolescent in all the Wyoming Valley. I seemed kind, always turned the other cheek and respected authority. When I sought to make friends, I always searched among the underdogs and outcasts who weren't "cool" enough to enjoy the company of most others. I guess that I felt that it was my duty to befriend the unbefriendable.

Internally, I was being ripped to shreds. In order to only think positive thoughts, I swallowed all of my anger, hurt, fear and disappointment. In public, and also in private, I was completely inauthentic. Not only was I wearing a false face towards those around me, I was denying the truths of how I felt even to myself. I felt that if I faltered and allowed a "negative" thought to enter my mind, or felt a "negative" feeling, all would be lost. Eventually, any gesture of kindness that I would make would be an act of duty, not an act of love. Because of my repression and denial, my spirituality became a mask as well, a mask I would wear so that I could at least seem like a spiritual person. 

In all fairness, I can't say that such denial and self‑deception was recommended in the books that touted the value of affirmation. But sadly these books usually failed to include information on the necessity of releasing limiting beliefs and emotions.

Now seeing my life honestly for what it was at the time. I see that I allowed myself to be mistreated by my peers and turned all the darkness that rose up within me onto myself. Finally, erroneously believing that affirmation didn't work, I turned my back on the whole concept of positively impacting my reality through thought. 

Years passed before I learned the truth that affirmation does work, but it doesn't work alone. Affirmation, in order to produce permanent change, must be used in conjunction with the appropriate inner work. This cannot be overemphasized.

The most important concept to consider when using affirmation in the process of Reimagining, is that you are the source of all changes in your life and that your life experience is a mirror image of your inner reality. 

Any affirmations you may use to institute changes outside yourself, from your relations with friends or family, to increased financial abundance, or even to bring you a new job, are actually serving to align your inner world to the harmonious flow of the universe. 

I think it was the author Emmet Fox who said that no one has ever gained what wasn't already theirs by way of their consciousness, it is because of this that their is no way to manipulate others or your life through any process of growth and change.

Creating Affirmations
For something so powerful, affirmations are extremely easy and fun to create. By giving yourself the time and effort required to learn this valuable technique, you are acting as a conscious and responsible person who is functioning out of self‑love .

The Ground Rules:
1.  Write it down.
2.  Be as positive as possible.
3.  Keep it short.
4.  Keep it very specific.
5.  Let it speak to you.
6.  State it in the present tense.
7.  Use "I" instead of "you".
8.  Make sure that you, not others, are the focus.
9.  When creating a new belief, use an affirmation similar to the belief to be replaced.
10.  Begin to think in affirmation.

These Ground Rules are the fundamentals for successfully working with affirmations. Slight deviation won't necessary doom your efforts to failure, but may make your affirmations less effective.

1. It is very important to write down all affirmations you wish to use with any consistency. The act of writing seems to make the affirmation more real and less ethereal. Writing also helps you to remember your affirmations. Because your subconscious accepts the repetitive, it is important to always read or repeat the affirmations as you first created them, unless they no longer speak to you.

This is most important when you have created an affirmation to counteract a specific belief. When working with a positive belief that you've used to replace a limiting belief, such as during the Halls of Belief meditation, you must read or repeat the new belief exactly as you wrote it during the meditation.

When you write your affirmations, don't do it by wrote, instead really feel the letters of the words as you do. Feel and mentally repeat the affirmation as you pen it. In this way you are convincing your subconscious that you are serious and intent upon the work you are doing.

2. Being as positive as possible means that you use only supportive words when creating affirmations, words that accentuate the not only the possible, but the probable. The following words should be permanently removed from your mental repertoire.

Can't               Never             Should             Try

Perhaps           Maybe            Hurt                Angry

The subconscious mind has a propensity to focus on any negative words you may use, so it is important that these and other limiting words be excluded from any affirmation that you create.

Being as positive as possible also requires that you have some indication of the vocabulary of success. The vocabulary of success includes those words that are positive, uplifting, inspiring and even dramatic. A short list of these words follow:

Gorgeous        Energized       Unstoppable   Awesome

Captivating    Joyous            Loving            Extraordinary

Superb            Driven            Monumental   Brilliant

Vibrant           Phenomenal    Courageous    Blessed

Excellent        Spectacular     Fantastic         Wonder

These words and others like them will, should they be included in your affirmations, serve to motivate and revitalize both your conscious and subconscious minds.

Keeping your affirmations as positive as possible means that you focus on what you do want instead of what you don't. For example, instead of saying "I am no longer judgmental of myself or others", say instead "I am a loving and spiritual person who looks with acceptance upon myself and others ". 

3. It is important to keep your affirmations as short as possible while still conveying the fullness of the idea you wish to express. A good rule of thumb is this, if you find that your affirmation has become quite a long run on sentence, it's too long.

The shorter and more concise the affirmation, the more psychological and emotional impact it's going to have. The longer the affirmation, the more difficult it will be for you to remember it without varying its content.

4. When creating an affirmation, in order to work, it must be specific. It should only express one idea at a time. Save multiple affirmations for multiple affirmations. The subconscious enjoys simplicity. Straightforward, direct statements containing the essence of one idea are far more likely to be accepted than long, grandiose pronouncements expressing several ideas at once

5. For an affirmation to have the desired impact, it must capture you. You must feel the power of the words being conveyed. It must be able to draw up in you an emotional response such as love, joy, acceptance, confidence, hope, etc...

Concepts are driven into the subconscious via currents of emotion, repetition, or both. Because you want the affirmation to override your preexisting programming, you are advised to "feel" the impact of the words you use in your affirmations. Otherwise, it may take your subconscious mind a very long time to accept what you are trying to make it believe.

6. The subconscious mind works to achieve whatever is currently in its programming to the letter. This means that if you place your affirmations in the future tense with words or phrases like "one day" and "soon", your dreams will always be in the future tense. Your dreams will not manifest in the now if your subconscious always sees them as being manifest someday.

For example, instead of "Soon the job of my dreams is going to come to me." try "The job of my dreams is mine in accordance with the truth of my being."

Some people can become timid at the idea of phrasing their affirmations in the present tense, perhaps because they think it’s hubris or for fear that affirmation doesn't work and they'll prove it to themselves. By phrasing their affirmations in the future, the latter type of person never really put their affirmations or themselves to the test, the test involves risk and without risk their can be no success. 

7. When communicating with the subconscious whether via affirmation or the direct changing of belief, use "I" instead of "you". This is important because your subconscious mind accepts all concepts introduced to it verbatim. The use of "I" makes certain that your subconscious understands that the affirmation is concerning you and not another. This establishes you as the focus of all your positive efforts.

8. The outer reality you experience is a manifestation of your inner reality. This, one of the most basic metaphysical truths, also applies when you are working with affirmation. Concentrate on creating changes in your own beliefs and perceptions, not in the actions or behavior of others, this is what will bring about the changes you desire into your life. 

Writing affirmations, along with all inner work, is rightfully practiced in order to bring you closer to the truth of your own spiritual nature. The outward effects which occur because of that work, the success, love, abundance and joy are simply manifestations of your true spiritual birthright.

For example, Sarah has a terrible marriage, one marked by constant bickering and emotional abuse. Instead of looking at what this relationship reflects within herself, she decides to use her belief, intention, choice, and affirmation to change his spouse. In this case not only will his attempts very likely fail, she will be acting out of his own sense of powerlessness. 

She will essentially be telling his own subconscious mind that her spouse is responsible for her experience of the relationship. By reinforcing her victimhood, she is strengthening any beliefs she may possess regarding her personal weakness and causing the further entrenchment of her own negative patterns.

Should you attempt to use affirmation, or other processes, to bring change in others, you are acting out of accord with natural law. By doing this you are betraying your own lack of faith in the truth that you create your own reality by your own beliefs, choices, intentions and desires. You will be only more deeply entrenching your own weakness.

9. It is important, when replacing an old belief with a new, to construct the new belief with the same syntax as the old belief. As I have stated before, the subconscious thrives on similarity, and this practice allows it to accept the new belief more rapidly because it phonetically appears similar to the old. This process is enabling you to, in effect, superimpose a new believe over an old.

For example, if you find that you carry the belief, "My life is so difficult.", change it into, "My life is full of pleasure". You'll notice, the new belief has the same number of syllables as the old, and because of this the subconscious will be more likely to accept the new belief as true.This concept is most important when changing old limiting beliefs; it can be useful to remember it when crafting affirmations to support a new belief. Though it isn't entirely necessary, it can prove helpful for you to give all related affirmations the same syntax structure as the new empowering belief you wish to instill.
10.  Allow yourself to calmly focus on your affirmations throughout the day, and allow yourself to feel the positive emotions that will spontaneously bubble up from within you. 
Make your affirmations the mainstay of your thoughts, let them come to you while you work, play, or just daydream. The more reinforcement you give the positive changes you wish to make, the more likely they are to become permanent.
Sample Affirmations:  Here is a collection of affirmations I have created regarding a  number of life issues.  These can serve as inspiration for you when you create your own.


I love myself  more and more every day.
Love comes easily and effortlessly to me.
I allow the power of love into my life.
The abundant power of love transforms me.
I embrace myself and my life with love.
My love for myself allows my life to be filled with miracles.
Every day in every way I allow more and more love into my life.
I surrender myself to the power of love.
I allow the love of my Higher Self to transform my life.
I express the love within me to all the world.
I am an example of the power and beauty of love.
I give and receive love easily.
I am an expression of divine love.
I live in the transcendent power of love.
I am vulnerable with those I trust.
I allow myself to be moved by the care and love of others.
I attract the right love relationship into my life now.
My relationships are filled with the wonder and magic of love.
I allow others to reflect to me the beauty of who I am.
All my relationships are built upon the courage of intimacy and trust.
The truth of my spirituality is reflected in my relationships.
I allow the power of love to be evident between (Insert name) and I.


I am filled with energy, enthusiasm and vibrant good health.
I release any constricting emotions and fill my heart with love.
Love is the power of miracles and I allow my health to be miraculous.
My body, mind, emotions and spirit are aligned in the power of love.
I trust myself to create my own optimum health.
Health and vibrant energy are mine.
Every day in every way I become more and more healthy.
I willingly learn the lessons of my body, mind, emotions and spirit
I accept and release the lessons of my health and watch it improve every day.


I accept the will of God into my life.
Every day in every way I come closer to the love of my Higher Self.
I allow myself to reflect the light and love that is God.
I learn from my mistakes and surrender the lessons to God.
I allow divine love and forgiveness to enter my life.
I allow myself to reflect the love of God to all those in my life.
My life reflects the beauty and transformative power of God.
My spirituality is reflected in all I do.


The universe is a place of limitless opportunity and abundance.
I allow myself to claim the abundance that is my birthright.
I allow my successes to reflect the truth of my inner nature.
I can have it all.
I trust in my higher self to grant me my desires of abundance.
The world is a place of love and abundance.
My success is determined by my heart, not by what I am told.
I can be successful and spiritual at the same time.
I give thanks to the divine for the incredible abundance in my life.
I step out of the word I know and claim the abundance that is mine.
As a spiritual person I am willing to meet the obligation of my success.
I not only create success, but the results of my success.

Shakti Gawain, author of the bestselling book "Creative Visualization" recommends that you use references to some spiritual source when creating your affirmations because it imbues them with spiritual power.  I am in agreement, as long as your personal concept of divinity supports your empowerment.  Affirmations are not prayer, nor are they meant to be.  In creating affirmations you are taking responsibility for yourself, in this case taking responsibility may require that you uncover what deeply held beliefs you may carry regarding your personal perception of the Divine Source. 

Deep down, if you believe that the Creator is angry, vengeful, jealous, etc..., it is extremely unlikely that you will get the same results with your God centered affirmations as the person who believes that S/He is Love, Light, Happiness and Joy.

In this case I recommend that you change your beliefs about God, then, and only then, should you include any references to divinity in your affirmation work.  This will not only give you a more real perception of the divine, it will allow your affirmations to work even more magically and more powerfully than they otherwise would. 

In some of the above examples, there are affirmations, outside the category of Spirituality, with references to the Divine.  Use these as springboards from which to create your own spiritually centered affirmations.