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The 21st Century Church: “Absolutes” the Church Must Embrace Or Die: Part One

posted by smcswain
21st Century Church: Absolutes the Church Must Embrace or Die: Part One

21st Century Church: Absolutes the Church Must Embrace or Die: Part One

The popular group Hozier has a hit song “Take Me to Church.” Lest you think, however, the title reflects the current youth culture’s longing to return to the Church they have abandoned, think again. One line in the lyrics goes like this:


“If the heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week”

A fresh poison each week.” Sobering words. And, representative of what many young people think and feel about the Church today. To say the Church across all denominational lines is suffering is an understatement.

Christian Century says there is an average of nine church closures every day in America.
The Bishop of New York recently declared 100+ parishes will close or merge in their Diocese.
According to the Pew Forum, the Millennial generation has all but abandoned the Church.


It would not take much to conclude the Church is dying. And, in its present form, I suspect it is.

I have written extensively on this subject before, as many of you know. And, while some mistakenly think I, too, have left the Church, I have actually stayed.

Admittedly, I am not involved in the same ways as I have been in the past. Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope to “be the change I’d like to see,” as Gandhi used to say. I believe a viable future exists for the Church in all its historic dimensions, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical alike. I am working toward this end.


My own feeling is, however, the 21st Century Church future lies in offering “absolutes” to young people who do need boundaries within which to safely forge a real world faith. Those boundaries, however, must be grounded in facts, in honest inquiry, and in intellectual integrity.

Unfortunately, the Church has too often wrongly assumed what those “absolutes” must be. In other words, the Church that keeps trying to resurrect old, worn-out ways of thinking and believing, and pretend while doing so that those absolutes have never changed throughout its history, has decided already on its preferred destiny: the graveyard of history.

Old absolutes?

Here’s a sampling of some of the old absolutes to which dying churches and church leaders still cling today…


1. The Bible is inerrant and infallible.
2. Adam and Eve were real people, the first two to walk on planet earth.
3. Creationism is a credible explanation for the origin of all things.
4. Evolution is just a “theory” and, therefore, it is evil.
5. Theism or the belief that God is a superhuman who resides somewhere just above the clouds who favors his followers and answers their prayers.
6. Original sin is an infectious disease that automatically separates everyone from God.
7. Substitutionary atonement or the belief God that sent his son Jesus to pay the price for sin.
8. Homosexuality is abhorrent to God and, even if it is a genetic phenomenon, it must be rejected or held in submission.
9. As the only way to God, Jesus is going to return to earth one day and condemn all unbelievers to hell.
10. Hell is, therefore, the final destiny for anyone who does not believe in Jesus.


There are other “absolutes.” But these may be among the more familiar ones. It is many of these “absolutes” that I see Millennials rejecting outright. In other words, if you want to know why this generation has left the Church, look no further. You’ll find many of the reasons in these antiquated beliefs.

I have listed below a few of the “absolutes” a new generation of believers are embracing. These absolutes are among those the 21st Century Church of the future must embrace with both enthusiasm and devotion, if viability is the desired outcome.

I am convinced, however, survival is not the interest of many church leaders. In fact, there seems to be a kind of victimology disease from which many church leaders are suffering today. When I was in seminary, we called this disease a “martyr complex.”


Many blind leaders today have actually duped themselves into thinking that the widespread departures from their churches is somehow the fault of those leaving. It’s as if those leaving are in the wrong. That their faith is faulty. That what they believe is misguided.

It is, however, the same age-old blindness Jesus came up against repeatedly. As Father Richard Rohr has correctly noted: “Jesus was never upset with sinners; he was only ever only upset with people who thought they were not sinners.”

And, guess who thought they were not sinners?
It wasn’t those outside the Temple.

No, it was the religious leaders in Jesus’ day who were wrong.
And, yes, it is the religious leaders in our day who are wrong, too.


Church leaders who cling to old ways of believing and refuse new ways of understanding “the greatest story ever told,” are victims of their own blind stupidity. They mistakenly think a change in their theology is a compromise of their beliefs.

They remind me of the stubborn Protestant preachers during the days of the Civil War. Many of the white, southern preachers proclaimed to their death their mistaken belief that slavery was ordained by God.

Slavery was never ordained by God and, as an erroneous belief, it could never be defended.

But defend it, they did…even unto their deaths.

History would be their judge and their judge history was.

For churches today to defend narrow-minded beliefs as “absolutes” shared by God himself is to adopt a similar path that leads to a similar end. No, there won’t be another war over such beliefs, I don’t think.


Instead, what will happen is what we see happening all around us today. Slowly, but certainly, methodically, people by the hundreds at first, but now by the thousands are quietly leaving these churches, or mindlessly participating for the sake of the kids, but they have little to no interest in what is believed, proclaimed, and promoted.

Such churches have become theaters of religious entertainment – those that appear to be thriving, anyway. The others – the ones whose death is more visible – are slowly becoming church museums like their counterparts in Europe.

For these churches and their leaders, I have a feeling history is about to repeat itself and, once again, preside over a slow and painful graveside eulogy.


Before mentioning the absolutes the viable Church of the future will embrace, however, I offer first this analysis for consideration:

My feeling is, there will always be a few “mega” churches around that stubbornly cling to old “absolutes” or worn-out ways of believing. Their seminaries will continue to produce mindless robots of mediocrity dressed up in collars and conditioned to hammer away on a building nobody really wants to build anymore. By their sheer size, however, they will successfully deceive themselves into thinking that their size means everyone attending agrees with their narrow theology and, worse, that God actually favors their narrow-minded thinking.

But they are wrong.
In both instances.


Those of us who try to carefully and honestly study these things know for a fact that such churches lose as many people each year as they appear to gain. In some instances, in fact, they are actually losing more members than they are gaining.

Nevertheless, they give the appearance to the uninformed that they must be reaching the multitudes.

They are not, however.

The real truth is, they are treading water, so to speak. Their actual numbers are declining. Revenues are diminishing. Layoffs are occurring within their staffs. Anyone on the inside knows this.

What keeps people coming, however, is the good music; the fact that their preachers are superior motivational speakers; and, mostly, the activities for children and youth against which small, struggling congregations could never compete.


There may be a few other reasons that create the illusion of growth. But this one thing is clear: for the most part, the growth these churches seem to be experiencing has nothing to do with widespread agreement among attendees with what is either preached or believed by their leaders. Other reasons draw them and, among the most prevalent I’ve identified already. The only other reason is because they have grown disillusioned by their former church and/or rigamortis has set in and they have lost interest in sticking around for the church’s funeral procession.

Strangely, however, church leaders seem to miss this salient reality.

We have just such a mega church in our city that fits this description.

Were it not for the multiple sites the church keeps starting here and there, the fact is, their annual report would show nothing but declines in both membership and attendance. By starting all these churches and combining their growing numbers with their own declining numbers, they successfully maintain the illusion of growth.


The real truth is, however, the mother church is suffering. People are leaving. Revenues are diminishing. Layoffs are occurring. Insiders…that is, the few in the know…are growing more and more disenchanted with what is all too apparent to those leaving – hypocrisy at the core of the beliefs.

Are they still big? Yes, of course. Do they still have “dynamic” worship services? How could they not? Their musical staff is made up of professional musicians, “the cream of the crop,” as we say in rural Kentucky.

Facts are facts, however, and truth cannot be hidden in the baptistry. The future looks rather bleak for this church and many other mega churches like it.

Conversely, we also have in our city a church like the one I believe will be the growing, viable 21st century church of the future. It is experiencing growth and vitality already and it has for many years.


More interestingly, however, it is a “city” church and, while others around it are declining and dying, it is growing, thriving, and has the healthiest mix of young and old I have seen in any church in America. And, I have been in literally hundreds of them representing virtually every denomination within Christianity.

More importantly, however, this city church embraces a different set of Christian “absolutes.” The kind I have briefly outlined below.

Consequently, in this Part One of a two-part post, it is my intention to outline the “absolutes,” core values, or beliefs that this church not only embraces but the absolutes I believe the viable, 21st Century church of the future will embrace as well.


In Part Two, I will more fully elaborate on these absolutes. Here, I mention them only for your reflection.

1. The universal need for union with God.
2. The innate goodness within all people.
3. We are a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints or a hotel for paying customers.
4. All people are created equal and equality for anyone is equality for everyone.
5. When we say everyone is welcome, we actually mean EVERYONE. Including the LGBT folk.
6. The Bible is our guidebook. It is not our “rule” book and certainly not our science text.
7. Jesus is “our way” to God. But we know our God is bigger than any of our beliefs about HER.
8. Doubts and questions are encouraged here. In fact, we believe faith is forged through doubt.
9. Stewardship is about money but also justice for all people and the care of God’s planet.
10. Heaven is not about “golden streets” any more than hell is about “flames and torture.”


Just like the others, these, too, are only a few of the core absolutes the thriving 21st century church of the future will embrace. But they represent some of the more important ones.

I remain hopeful.

As Saint Paul put it, “…old things are passing away. Behold all things are becoming new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And, none too soon, in my own opinion.
And, in the opinion of the 3,500 people who will choose to leave the Church before the end of this day.

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.


All that Really Matters in Any Religion

posted by smcswain
All that Really Matters in Any Religion

All that Really Matters in Any Religion

“In essentials unity…in non-essentials liberty…in all things charity.”

I have heard this phrase for the greater part of my religious life. In fact, I am pretty sure I have used the phrase myself. It is a much more helpful position to adopt in this world of multi-religious beliefs.


I have heard it used among Christians and, since there are more Baptists than there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream, for example – not to speak of all the other denominations within Christianity – I suppose adopting this as your modus operandi can be helpful. But, if there is anything the internet has done for us, it has made many of us delightfully aware of just how varied the religious and/or spiritual landscape is here in the U.S. alone.

America is close to passing India, and actually may have passed it already, as the most religiously-diverse country in the world.

How will we survive this? Will we survive it?

I think the jury is still out on this one.

But my own conviction is this: as long as we insist there are “essentials” in any religion that are regarded as “non-negotiable” then I suspect the disagreements, followed by the debates, and, ultimately, then the divisions (that seems to be the inevitable progression of things, doesn’t it?) even between people within the same religious tradition will answer the question of human survival…the question of the future of humanity.


It is a big question for which there are no little answers. Which explains why “Rapture-minded” Christians have booked their flights early to escape the madness they’re secretly scared but certain is about to unfold.

I think that rather “big” of them, if you ask me. Frankly, I’m a little more inclined to think Jesus’ method of “facing the music” is a little more in keeping with his way of dealing with opposition and difficulty. Love embraces. It doesn’t look for an escape hatch to imaginary freedom.

But don’t take my word for it. Try reading what we Christians call the Gospel. It’s a little radical I know but it is the “WAY” of Jesus. Which is of course what Jesus meant by “way, truth, and life.” It’s not the way most choose, but one “narrow and difficult” (Matt. 7:14).


When it comes to “essentials” in any faith tradition, however, tell me something: Who decides what the essentials are?

My beloved Catholic friends say, “The Church, Scripture, and Tradition.” But you can’t even get two Catholic Popes to agree on what within any of these is really “essential.” Pope Benedict and Pope Francis represent two vastly different views of what’s “essential.” Don’t let anybody tell you differently. They do.

My friends among Protestants and Evangelicals say, “Sola Scriptura” – I love that one.

Frankly, I’m at that place in my spiritual pilgrimage where I have decided there are no “essentials.”

Except maybe one.


And, interestingly, a Catholic Franciscan framed it pretty well. I suspect Father Richard Rohr, OFM may be on to something, when he says, “The only absolute essential is your union with God.”

Isn’t that all that really matters?

And, isn’t it true, if we add anything else, we are only admitting we have not found our own union with God to be “essential” enough?

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.


Change: The Two Vital Steps to Lasting Change

posted by smcswain

Change. Sooner or later, everyone wants to change something.  We begin each new year resolving to make changes…



In our relationships;
In our priorities;
In our health;
In our personal fitness;
In our eating habits;
In our ambitions;
In our careers;
Even in our beliefs.

Within weeks, however, many of the changes we set out to make begin to slip. Before long, we fall back into familiar patterns. It’s not only frustrating, we are disappointed in ourselves.


As a leader and trainer, as well as a private coach to a select group of clients each year, I am frequently asked, “How can I make a change that will last?” Leaders often express their desires to see changes in their company or among their workers. What they do not know is that the changes they want to see around them are often the same changes that they need to make themselves.

Coast to coast, I have observed and coached CEO’s, leaders in major companies and organizations, businesses and communities, as well as religious leaders from within every faith tradition you can imagine. It was not until I became honest with myself, however, and observed my own lifestyle and patterns of behavior, that I made the most vital discovery about change.


The most vital ingredient in change is closer than you think.
It is actually much simpler than you might think, too.

The spiritual master, Jesus himself, once hinted at this vital ingredient to lasting change when he said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Metaphors, of course, but potent metaphors, to say the least. Whatever else may be concluded, it is clear Jesus is saying, “Salt and Light both effect change…by their very presence…instantaneously and conclusively.”

Light dispels darkness just as salt, when added to anything, results in instant change. Once you salt something, you cannot un-salt it. Once light has illumined a room, even if the room is later plunged back into darkness, things inside the room are never the same.


The Most Vital Ingredients to Lasting Change

Therefore, the ingredients to lasting change, even enduring change, are two-fold:

1. Ingredient One is an Inner Motivation: The motivation for change must occur inside you.

Lasting change can never imposed from outside yourself.

A Great Big Example of This is War

It seems our country has a hard time learning this rather obvious lesson. We mistakenly think, for example, that war is the answer to all unwanted conditions. Our recent war with Al’caida seemed successful at first. All of a sudden, however, that victory seemed only to produce a more formidable enemy whose ruthless and barbaric beheadings of innocent people are unimaginable.


Admittedly, this is an extreme example but the principle surely applies.

You cannot force another to change. Diplomacy, therefore, is almost always the preferred action to take. Only when we sincerely and respectfully attempt to understand another, but especially an enemy, as well as humbly concede where we might be wrong, do we create the possibility of negotiating a better outcome.

Again, both sides must have a willingness to admit to error and culpability. Each must make concessions and be willing to make change. If both will not, however, then sometimes drastic measures have to be resorted to…but, only out of necessity in order to effect change. Drastic actions, however, as in war, should always be a “last” resort. Too often, it seems we are impatient with the time factor necessary in making lasting change.


The Change Must Come From Within

It is the same with personal changes you might wish to make in your own life.

Changed forced on you, or imposed too quickly, or coerced by someone with more authority than you, as from the CEO or the manager above you, usually will not work to produce the results anybody wants. Sure, actions imposed might produce immediate change, but long-lasting change will often backfire. For change to be enduring, the motivation within workers must be tapped. Otherwise, the change will have as much lasting effect as the typical resolution made by someone at the start of a new year.

Even your doctor telling you that, unless you stop smoking or lose weight, you are going to develop diabetes or cancer or, worse, premature heart disease is not enough to produce lasting change in you. Enduring change must come from within yourself.


Change that sticks is change that starts within.
This is where the second vital ingredient comes in.

2. Ingredient Two: The Second Ingredient to Lasting Change is the Pain/Pleasure Factor

I do not remember who said it but I learned just how true it is:

“When the pain of remaining the same is greater
than the pain of making a change,
you will change.”

Lasting change will occur, almost naturally…even spontaneously…with this internal shift in consciousnessb takes place – whatever the subject.  In other words, I learned that when the pain of smoking – which I loved to do for years – became greater than the pain of quitting, I quit.


I had tried for years to quit but with little success.  I refused to listen to my inner voice warning me time and time again to quit. I had good intentions but I never realized the importance of listening to your inner guide.

That is, until the day I suffered a heart attack.

While I denied it for hours while it was happening, I was not surprised by it at all. My inner voice had been warning me for years.  The shift in consciousness, however, brought on by the heart attack itself, resulted in instantaneous and thorough change. I have never had the desire to smoke again.

Now, it would be better to follow  your inner guide. It will not mislead you. But, if you’re stubborn like me, you had better hope you are lucky like me, too. If it takes something as dramatic as a heart attack, maybe then you’ll experience the shift.  What I know is this: until the shift in consciousness takes place, whatever changes you make will be short lived.


The Pain/Pleasure Factor

For years, as I describe in my book, The Enoch Factor, I had serious doubts about my faith and many questions about the practices I saw in my organized religion.  For fear of losing my ministerial job, however, I kept most of my doubts and questions to myself. Like too many other religious leaders, I seldom voiced my complaints about my religious establishment. I too infrequently voiced my objections to many of the beliefs my friends said I had to believe in order to be in their group.  So, I said I believed things that I knew in my heart I did not believe and why? I was afraid not to…afraid of being alone…afraid of losing my place in the religious group where so much of my identity had been wrapped up.


Having lived this way for so many years, I became quite proficient at playacting. I was like a professional, religious actor, auditioning for a part. The only different is that I was auditioning for the approval of others, almost all of whom I was giving way too much control over my life.

Ever made a similar mistake?

The consequence is…you will find a way to fit in, but you will lose yourself in the process. You can hide from others. But you have to sleep with yourself. When you make a whore of yourself, you’ll soon grow tired of yourself.

Trust me, I know

Seems like I read somewhere, too, when Jesus provide a similar warning: “In seeking to save yourself, you actually only succeed in losing yourself” (Luke 9:24).


Yet, isn’t this the way many people live today?
Is this the way you are living?
For some of you, sure it is. That’s why you’ve stayed with this post all the way to this point. I’m writing about me, but it feels like I’m writing about you.

Here’s the good news.

One day, everything changed for me. Permanently.
I’m pretty sure it could change for you, too. Permanently.

For me, I became excruciatingly tired of seeking to live by the beat of everyone else’s drum. Something in me had shifted. I think it was my father’s untimely death that triggered the start of the shift. It is often out of crisis of death that a needed change is birthed. Again, I tell this whole story in The Enoch Factor. That is, if you’re interested.


No longer was my attempt to please everyone else just a minor discomfort, it had become a royal pain in my ass. Pardon the bluntness. But it is precisely my point. Earlier, I would never have been so blunt. Why? My position as a religious leader dictated I should never speak so bluntly, especially around proper and “holy” church people. Their spiritual sensitivities might be too easily offended. And, since they’re paying my salary, I must conform to their expectations.

Do not miss my point while stumbling over the word “ass.” You’ve heard worse. One thing I’ve come to know is that even the proper “holy” people, as I pretended they were, said “ass” and many other things regularly themselves. But that’s another story for another time.


My point is simply, there is of course a place for proper talk. I am being blunt here only as an example. I am hardly suggesting you go about breaking all rules of etiquette. What I am illustrating is just how ill I had become at wasting so much of my life trying to please everybody else and live up to everyone else’s expectations.

And, all for what?

Job security?
A comfortable retirement?
A position of status in my religious community?

Bull! That’s what it all became to me. Bull.

In other words, the pain of remaining the same was suddenly more painful than the pain I had thought about for years that would accompany change. When this inner shift occurred, however, I did change. I left the professional ministry and pursued the life of my dreams.


That was twenty years ago, almost to the day. I’ve never been happier, freer, or more content for having made permanent changes in my life goals, beliefs, ambitions, and dreams.

When this kind of internal shift takes place in you…

You, too, will change

Until the shift internally occurs, however…
Well, the best you’ll ever be able to do is a…

This post first appeared on Dr. McSwain’s own blog under the title: Change: Making Real, Lasting Changes in Your Life.


Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.


“Healing the Divide” – An Interview with Author, Christian Mystic and Church Reformer, Amos Smith

posted by smcswain

Healing the Divide.” That’s the title of Amos Smith’s book.

Fr. Richard Rohr calls it “a foundational work written in a style that will be respected by scholars–yet easily accessible to ordinary Christians and would-be seekers.”

Leonard Sweet, author of I Am a Follower, suggests this: “Read Healing the Divide and eat the mystery. It’s a check-up call to your identity and mission.”


Cynthia Bourgault says Amos Smith’s book Healing the Divide gets to the “Christian mystical epicenter” which will rescue Christianity “from contamination from both the Christian hard right and the sometimes rudderless new age” approach to spirituality.

Amos Smith is a graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary and a pastor in the UCC tradition. As an author, thinker, church reformer, and mystic, Smith sees his mission in life is to live deeply into and out of the mystical traditions within Christianity. In fact, it would be safe to say, he believes this to be his mission in the Church and the Church’s hope for a meaningful future in the world today.


Recently, I had the distinct honor of briefly interviewing Amos Smith by SKYPE. I asked him about this book and several other questions such as the following:

“What do you mean by mystical traditions?”
“What is the divide that needs healing in Christianity?”
“What is happening in the Church today causing its widespread decline?”
“You speak of ‘dualistic’ thinking. What is that and how might it be overcome?”
Why are churches closing and what can be done to turn things around?”


View the interview below but get a copy of Amos Smith’s thoughtful book by clicking here.

One correction: Toward the end of the interview Amos Smith notes that GRAVITY: A CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM is located in Oklahoma but he intended to say Omaha, Nebraska.


LIVING WITH FEARS: How I’m Learning to Manage Mine

posted by smcswain

I think I have always lived slightly afraid of something.

• I am not afraid of being attacked like a soldier must feel on a battlefield.
• I am not afraid of falling off a cliff, although I would be if I did not avoid heights.
• I am not afraid of being struck by lightning because…well…I’m just not.

My fears have always been slightly more subtle ones.

Living with Fear

Living with Fear


Here are a few of them…

• I think my extroverted nature hides my fear of being invisible.

I developed this fear in my young adult years. My father was an expert extrovert and it came naturally for him. That is, whether in a group of two or three friends or speaking in front of a thousand people, Dad was always funny, a great storyteller, and completely at ease in almost any situation.

I, on the other hand, was not. I always felt invisible, almost like a prop on someone else’s stage. I am sure Dad sensed this and was bothered by it. Being the good father he was, he tried to include me whenever he and his peers were chatting it up. I would chime in but only ever awkwardly. I never felt as if I had much to add, however.


For these reasons, and probably many others I am not even aware, I learned to compensate for the fear of being invisible to everyone by working hard to be unavoidable. I became an extrovert, too. But the difference was two-fold: my extroverted personality came across unnaturally.

As a consequence, my auditions for everyone’s approval were regarded suspiciously or interpreted as mere self-promotion. That created a different set of problems for me. The invisibility I feared and sought to avoid was only enhanced instead.

Do you know a similar fear?

• I think my fascination with wealth hides my fear of not having enough.

I do not remember a time when I have not been fascinated by opulence and wealth. I have always imagined having plenty of the latter, which probably explains why I did not dismiss the impulse to buy a Powerball ticket when it recently reached a half billion dollars.


I do not regularly buy lottery tickets. It is an ethical matter for me. But, when the amounts reach planetary heights, I find myself temporarily suspending my principles and trying my luck at planetary travel.

“What harm could there be in that?” I reason. “Besides, ‘Somebody’s Gonna Win…Might as Well be Me!’” (To read a recent post where I outline the actual odds of winning the Powerball Lottery, follow the link to “Better Listener”).

You might recognize the words, “Somebody’s Gonna Win…” as the slogan the Kentucky Lottery Commission used for years to promote the buying of Powerball tickets.


Whenever I feed the fantasy of having hundreds of millions dollars, I enjoy the temporary reprieve I get from the fear of not having enough.

As I do, do you worry too much about having too little?

Sometimes, I fear I might not have enough income for my present needs. At other times, I am scared I might not have enough for my future needs. Is this true for you?

I have been involved in professional fundraising for many years. I always found it amazing whenever I interviewed a retired person whom I regarded as sitting on a heap of investments at least equal to the gold of Fort Knox. I would be amazed at how reluctant some of them could be to turning loose of even a little of their acquired wealth. So much for the “trickle down” myth.


“What are you scared of?” I often wanted to ask. “You, my friend, are sitting on a fortune. Why don’t you share some of it?”

When I finally stopped asking these questions in my head and looked instead into my own heart, as well as my own fears, I understood. They were only worrying about the same thing I feared – the fear of not having enough.

Having more makes no one less fearful. It might in fact make you more fearful. You certainly have more to worry about protecting.

• I obsess over fitness and health as a way of avoiding my fear of death.

My Dad died of an unexpected stroke at the age sixty-seven. He was too young to die and with no prior symptoms about which we were aware. He had been active, played tennis almost daily, and traveled extensively. But one night, unexpectedly, while giving an inspirational talk to several hundred people, he just collapsed in the middle of a sentence.


He never recovered.

And, his death scared me to death.

While that was twenty years ago now, the whole thing still sends shudders down my spine, but not because I am worried about where he is. There was a time I might have been. I was raised in a conservative religious church where most of the preachers constantly questioned whether people had properly prepared for eternity. That was the extent of their beliefs about salvation. They would never admit this. But, if their preaching were an indicator, all they were really concerned about was getting people “saved,” as they called it, so they would go to heaven and avoid hell when they died.

Eternity was not my enemy, however. My enemy was the same as Saint Paul who described death itself as “the last enemy” (1 Cor.15:26).


Death or dying or both frightened me.

They still do.

Over the years, I think I have used my obsession with running and fitness as a means of running away from this fear. You can imagine, therefore, what consternation struck me on July 13, 2014, the day I experienced a heart attack myself but at an age younger than the fatal stroke that stole my Dad’s life twenty years before.

This was not supposed to be the outcome to my fitness devotion. I had been running for four decades to avoid something like this. For months now, I have been on a quest to go deeply into my fear of death, as well as my other fears, and actually understand them, deal with them, and ask the hard questions about how to cope with them. And while I am at it, I have been seeking to know what my faith, if anything, has to say about the fears with which I have struggled for most of my life.


The following is the procedure I have been following on this journey into my inner world. The good news is, I actually think this process is helping me cope with my fears. Maybe something here will helpful to you and your management of fear.

1. I no longer feel I am failing at my faith just because I live with fear. I made this mistake through much of my spiritual life. I would tell people, “Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid,’ (Jn 14:1) so, if you are ever afraid, just know that means you’re not living by faith. Why? Because fear is the opposite of faith.”

That’s a crock of you know what!

Jesus was afraid from time to time. How could he have been human and not be afraid? To assume he was not because of his divine nature, or worse, to say that he was not ever afraid because he was God is not honoring his divinity but robbing him of his humanity.


Big mistake.

What makes Jesus so accessible to me is not his divinity. I am divine. So are you. If that is not what “image of God” in us means, what does it mean?

His humanity makes him accessible.
His unconditional compassion makes him approachable.

Jesus knew fear. What else could he have been feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane? (Matt. 26:36ff). What else could his words have possibly meant: “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Yes, he knew fear.
Yes, I know fear.

It is part of what it means to be human. I showed up in this world, just as you did, as an eternal, divine being having a temporary human experience, as the Christian philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, loved to remind us.


My task, and your task, too, is not to escape my humanity, mistakenly believing there is something inherently depraved or evil about it. Instead, I am to live into my humanity as fully as possible, which is what makes Jesus’ life so remarkable. He showed us how.

It does not mean, therefore, I am less Christian or less divine because I live with fears. It means I am affirming my humanity and accepting its limitations.

2. When I am afraid, and that is more often than you might think, I try to be aware of it. I try to acknowledge and watch like an observer the fear in me. I try to locate the trigger of the fear, too – as in, what might have precipitated it?

I ask myself questions like, “Why am I feeling afraid? Can I name the fear?” And then, I get quiet and watch my inner world, much like a watching a drama on a stage. By doing this, it is as if I’m turning a spotlight on the dark places of my soul. I usually see, too, what it is causing me to feel afraid and I name it, which is half the battle, is it not?


In the past, whenever I have been afraid, I would pretend I was not afraid instead. Or, I would judge myself for feeling afraid as if I were failing. Neither approach worked to eliminate my fears.

In fact, those ways of coping only seemed to feed my fears, the way fuel feeds a fire, making them all the more acute. Inner awareness, therefore, is the key I am using to unlock the mystery surrounding my anxieties. Naming my fears helps, too. Try this approach yourself but let go of self-judgments.

3. Once I am aware of the fear and have named it, I seek to step squarely into it, much like stepping into the shower in the morning. Can you imagine turning on the shower but, instead of soaking yourself freely in the warm shower, imagine trying to dodge the multiple streams of water?


“What would be the point?” you ask.


It is similar with fear. You can no more live free of fear than you can shower without getting wet. To be afraid from time to time is the stuff of living. You cannot avoid it. Nor should you. Fear is necessary.

What is not helpful is the obsessive, compulsive nature of fear. This is what I seek to guard against. And, you must, too.

My approach to avoid the compulsory nature of fear is to step squarely into it…to feel it, not judge it or, worse, try to run from it, as I literally did for years with the fear of dying. I seek to feel my fear instead, much like I would feel the warm water running over my body in the shower. Not because I enjoy feeling afraid. I do not. But I am learning that for me, this is the only way to temporarily cleanse myself of the ill effects of fear.


4. As I fully feel my fears, I then ask God to free me. This is what having a savior means to me. I do not need Jesus for the future. I need Jesus now. I need my faith now, as I recently posted regarding faith. The future, whatever and whenever it shows up, will only appear as another now.

That is true of eternity, too. Whatever lies beyond your last breath is really just another now.

I do not mind admitting either that I need Jesus. Maybe you do not. Good for you. I do, however.

Why? There are times I am weak. And, too much of the time, I am scared.

But, in all such times, I need my faith, which is why one of my favorite stories is that of Simon Peter walking on water. He does so well but then, all of a sudden, he sinks beneath the tumultuous waves.


You perhaps remember the story (Matt. 14:22ff). I like it because I have been right there where he was and more than once.

Sometimes, it seems as if I can walk on water. In fact, I fortunately feel this way most of the time. But there are those days, and moments, when the wind and waves are beyond my control. I feel overwhelmed, scared and even sick right in the pit of my stomach. I can neither explain this nor control it without feeling a need to call on God.

So, I do. And, it works. Is it all imaginary? Maybe to you. Not to me. Whatever God is, I feel she responds to my pleas for help. I get through, too, and go beyond the fears and return to a place of joy and inner peace.

And, it lasts for a while. Sometimes, for a very long while…


And then, the process outline above needs repeating because they return and I repeat it.

Could this be what the spiritual masters meant when they spoke of a spiritual practice?

I think so. But, in any event, it has become my spiritual practice.


Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.


Contentment…In Any and All Circumstances

posted by smcswain

The spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, once wrote, “Accept this moment as if you had chosen it.”

That’s not so different, is it, from what the spiritual teacher, Saint Paul, described, when he wrote, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Phil. 4:11)?




How does one learn to be content? Our advertising world…indeed our entire system of economics…would likely morph into something quite different if suddenly advertisers were no longer permitted to promote products without the clever capacity of creating discontent in consumers.


Contentment is not complacency.
Contentment is not laziness.
Contentment is not avoidance. Nor is it an aversion to goal-setting.

Some measure of discontentedness is, therefore, necessary, isn’t it?

I think so.

Presently, for example, I am not content with where I am professionally and, as a consequence, I am evaluating, setting new goals, and moving my professional life forward.

Contented and Discontented

So is this discontent a failure on my part to live contentedly?

Maybe. That is to say, it could be. Certainly, the potential is there for the displeasure I feel to steal from me the peace I should know.

“So, how do I know when the discontent I feel with where I am in life is a dangerous discontentedness I need to avoid?”


The answer might lie in the question itself.


“When the ‘discontent’ you feel

becomes a state of ‘discontentedness’

let that be to you a warning sign”

Then, what is contentment?
What is it Saint Paul and Eckhart Tolle are saying?

Contentment is Acceptance

Contentment is acceptance of what is.

I no longer seek to blame God, for example, or the Devil or anyone or anything else for that matter, for showing up in my life. Why would I? What could possibly be the point in seeking to attribute to God something so trivial as my situation? Which is why I shudder every time I see an NFL player, or fans, attribute to God such trivial matters as who wins the Super Bowl.


I seek instead to respond to what shows up as if I had ordered it myself, like ordering a dish from a menu in my favorite restaurant.

Now, do not misunderstand. It is not that I regard what has shown up as the consequence of some unconscious wish on my part. Rather, what I am saying is this: whether I like what has shown up or not, is no longer the first and foremost matter.

The first order of business is accepting the fact that what has shown up has shown up. I have the choice of facing it, therefore…of living into it…of accepting it…

Or, I have a choice of resisting it. And, if I do, and I usually do, then I have just created another problem. Not only do I have the situation at hand which I am resisting, but I have now my resistance with which to wrestle as well.


What Contentment Is…

Whenever, therefore, something unpleasant shows up, and it isn’t long before something usually does, I seek to embrace it as much as I can and as soon as I can. I do this by seeking to know and name what I’m feeling about it, accept that feeling, instead of resisting it, and then move on to the situation I am facing.

If all of this sounds infinitely easier than it really is, then you’re reading between the lines correctly. The fact is, I live with much resistance to what is. I am often discontent to the point it becomes a state of discontentment. Which is what I must learn to avoid, and I am learning it slowly, and it is the one thing each of us, to varying degrees, must learn, too.


Now, I should add that, while contentment is acceptance, it isn’t giving up. Sometimes, people mistakenly think that “acceptance” is rolling over and giving in when everything else inside you cries out to fight back.

Contentment is Making Peace with What Is

For example, I did not think I would have a heart attack at fifty-nine. I resisted, and still slightly resist, the reality that I have heart disease. Even to admit this is not a little rattling to me. But it is a fact that impacts every other area of my life and for the rest of my life.

Now, I can accept this…live into it fully…understand the changes I must make so as to prolong my health and life…

Or, I can live in denial of it, which usually expresses itself in the continuation of those behaviors, lifestyle and habits, etc. that likely were contributing factors in premature heart disease.


If I were to choose the latter course of action, which I am not choosing, the possibility of a repeat performance sometime in the not-too-distant future is probable.

I intend to change that outcome. Discontent with what is the state of my health, I choose to act responsibly, not roll over or live in a state of perpetual discontentedness or depression over it.

I will not say, “This was God’s will,” or worse, “God’s trying to teach me something,” or, worse still, “God is punishing me for something.” What good would any of that do? Besides, the theology behind such statements is primitive, puny, and pathetic.

What I do say, however, is that “I am learning to be content with cardiac issue…” and, for me, that means…


  • I am learning to accept myself, my condition, while, at the same time, doing what I may to improve matters;
  • I am learning to forgive myself for ignoring my inner voice, a voice that warned me on multiple occasions to let go of some lifestyle habits I had been practicing for much too long – your inner voice knows.
  • I am learning to relax more and be more…to be more self-reflective and to ask before I impulsively act on things, “Is this really needed?” “What in me desires this so much?” “Is it something I need or want?” “Is this feeding a deeper need about which I am presently unconscious?” “What might I learn from this to take me deeper into life…my life…and, deeper into contentment?”

This is contentment or the acceptance of “this moment as if you had chosen it.” It is the pathway to peace and Your Best Life Now!


Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.


The Beliefs I Was Told I Had to Believe to Be a “Good Christian”

posted by smcswain

If you were raised in a Christian faith tradition similar to mine, you will readily recognize the following beliefs, the following worldview. If you were not, however, this will give you an idea of what I was taught to believe and what many Christians believe still. While I mention only a few below, these are some of the more prominent ones.

Have a mind that is open to all things and attached to nothing.

I was told these were all true…that I was not to question them…and, had it not been for my father and mother who encouraged me to question things nonetheless, I would still be incarcerated in a belief system that is, in my own opinion,  narrow and misguided. I say that, however, knowing many hold these beliefs very passionately. And, for them, they may be sacred, not “narrow” or “misguided.” And, I would not want them to be offended. This has been my conclusion, however. I would only hope others would be discerning, thoughtful, and, just as my parents encouraged me, question everything with an open mind.


As Paul Tillich once said, or some smart person said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt; it is certainty.” Faith, if it is authentic, is made of the stuff of doubt. If you do not doubt and ask questions – hard, honest questions – you aren’t being faithful to anything but a belief system that isn’t even your own. It’s just a collection of opinions you feel obliged to argue about and defend. When you have grappled however with real faith, and it’s fine mixture with doubt, then you come out on the other side with a ring of genuineness in your faith – forged on the anvil of doubt. That kind of certainty is hard won.

And, worth the struggle.

The Beliefs I Was Told I Had to Believe to be a “Good Christian”

• The Christian religion is the correct or “right” religion. That is to say, all other religions
are wrong, and the people who believe in them need to be converted to Christianity or face the dire consequences that await them in eternity (that is, they will go to hell if they cling to their religion and do not renounce their religion and become Christians).


• Jesus is the Savior of the world and the one-and-only-way to God. All other ways may lead to something, but not to God. If you want to go to heaven, therefore, you’ll have to believe in Jesus. Or else.

• God’s word is the Bible. God’s word is found only in the Bible. Be suspect of anything anyone else may call sacred scripture.

Beliefs I Was Told I Had to Believe - Selections Taken from The Enoch Factor

Beliefs I Was Told I Had to Believe – Selections Taken from The Enoch Factor


• The Bible is infallible (without error), at least in its “original manuscripts” — referring to the actual parchments on which the biblical writers wrote their words. (I must add here, however, that no original manuscript has been found. Nada. Not one. Not one even close to the original manuscripts. Furthermore, the earliest ones we have date from the second century and are distinguished by the fact they are filled with innumerable discrepancies between them).

• The family God has ordained is made up of one man and one woman. A few other unions may be permitted, but they are hardly preferred.

• Homosexuality is a sin against nature and an abomination to God. God made them Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.


• Abortion is murder. No exception. No debate.

• If America wishes to remain strong, it had better side with Israel. Israel is God’s chosen nation. Again, no exception and no debate.

• The Second Coming of Jesus could occur at any moment. (I must pause and add here, too, that Jesus said the “second coming” would occur only when people “least expect it” (Matt 24:43-44).
Since many Christians are not only expecting it at any moment but are actually praying for it, they should know they are likely responsible for his delay).

• God is not finished with Israel. Thus, the nation of Israel will play a pivotal role in a pre- or post-tribulation Rapture-of-the-church view of the end of human history.


(Some Christians believe in what’s known as the pre-millennial view of the future, a few believe in what is known as the post-millennial view, and some believe in the a-millennial view of human history, meaning “no millennium.” It isn’t important to go into detail here about the meaning of these different views of “end times.” But if you’re familiar with the Left Behind series of fictional books released over the past fifteen years, you’ve met the most popular of these complicated apocryphal systems of thought. The novels themselves are based on the pre-millennial view of the end, with its special devotion to the futuristic notion known as the “Rapture.” Hal Lindsey first popularized this with the masses of untrained but fascinated followers with his book, The Late Great Planet Earth. If people actually paid the price to study these matters themselves, and of course most Christians have not – they simply get their “theology” on such things for one of these books instead of researching it for themselves. But, if they did, they would know the questionable sources from which these ideas come and most would reject them outright.)


• God is not a Republican, but any God-fearing soul knows there’s no way she would ever be a liberal Democrat. Oops, did I say “she”? That was a Freudian slip of my pen. Christians all know God is neither male nor female but, whenever they think about God, they cannot help but get this picture of a benevolent male, granddaddy who lives above the sky, wears a white robe, has a long beard, a kind face, and a Shepherd’s staff in his right hand. A throne is behind him and two winged creatures stand beside him and he has unlimited power and authority.  (Selections Here taken from The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God).



Yes, these are the things I was taught to believe. There are other things but these are some of the more important things. If you’re guessing I’ve given up on most of these, you’ve guessed correctly.

“Then, what do you believe?” I am asked, and asked often.

I have many strongly held beliefs, as anyone knows who takes time to regularly read the things about which I write. My main belief, however, is this:

“God is…I am…We are…And, love and compassion is really all that matters.”

And, in the final analysis, can you tell me anything that matters more? (Matt. 22:36-40).


Divine Consciousness: What “Being Saved” is Really All About

posted by smcswain

Divine Consciousness: What Being Saved is Really All About

Divine Consciousness

Divine Consciousness

What does “being saved” really mean?

I am sometimes asked, “You frequently use the words ‘conscious’ or ‘Divine consciousness’ or ‘higher states of consciousness’ and, sometimes, ‘awake’ or ‘awakening’. What do you mean by these words?”


What I mean by “Divine consciousness,” or any of these other terms, comes closer to what I understand “being saved” or “salvation” is really all about.

Simply stated, I mean this: That God – whatever God is – is manifesting to me in this…yes, this…whatever THIS may be.

I love the way Fr. Richard Rohr puts it: “God is this…Even This!”

Divine Consciousness: Salvation?

Some religious people mistakenly believe that to describe “salvation” in these ways is really just “New Age” stuff. Many could not explain what they mean when they label it “New Age” except that it is something from which you should run.


Seriously? I think not.

Talk about a word that has lost its meaning over the years. What could be a more misunderstood word than this very good but abused and misused word “salvation?”

I thought for much of my youth and young adult life that salvation was all about eternity. That salvation was about saying something called a “Sinner’s Prayer” so you could be forgiven and go to heaven when you die.

What I believe today, however…what I am experiencing in my own life…is a larger understanding of salvation. It is about Divine consciousness, awareness, transformation, or the “waking up” to a new understanding of myself, others, and the world.

Divine Consciousness: A Self-Awareness

I was raised to think…


…that “being saved” was all about rescuing me from the pits and perils of hell;
…that salvation was all about getting ready for heaven;
…that life now was just a preparation period for the next life to come.

As a consequence, I told others, and I did so for years, that what they needed was “to be saved.”

I grew up in the days of the evangelist Billy Graham. Every young preacher I knew, including yours truly, wanted to be “the next Billy Graham.” I think I even preached a few of his printed sermons, sure I was doing the right thing. And, all because, I mistakenly believed, if I did not, people would be forever lost. And worse, they would burn, but not be consumed, in an inferno called Hell.


I felt guilty if I sat with a stranger on a plane and did not present the “Four Spiritual Laws” and do my best to get him to repeat what we called “The Sinner’s Prayer” and so be saved.

“God I am a filthy, rotten sinner. I deserve to go to hell. Thank you for killing your Son who, though innocent, took my sin upon himself and so paid you off so you could forgive me (it’s all about us, isn’t it?) I am sorry you had to do that to him. But I am grateful you did (it’s all about us, you know). I receive you into my life. Save me from hell (again, you know, it’s really all about us, isn’t it?). Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”



How could grace be grace if I have to do anything, even something as simple as repeat a thoroughly self-centered and utterly self-serving prayer, in order to make it operable?

And, isn’t that the point of the seldom-repeated parable Jesus told of the workers who only worked one hour but got paid as though they had worked all day? (Matt. 20:1-16). Isn’t what hacked off the day-long workers the fact that their employer (God) really wasn’t fair? That grace requires nothing, not even an hour of work, to earn a day’s wage? They had long suspicioned this about their employer (God). And, the truth, THEY couldn’t handle.

Grace isn’t fair, it’s free.

People today, even very religious people, have strange ideas about God. Heck, many of the doctrines of the Church are based on what we know today to be strange ideas about God.


…Grace only bothers those who have not really experienced it.
…Grace is only troublesome to those obsessed with keeping score.
…Grace always gets in the way of those who cannot trust that God has done enough in Jesus already.

Salvation is not about keeping score or saying a Sinner’s Prayer, any more than it is about making a reservation in a hotel called “Heaven.”

Divine Consciousness: What Salvation is Really All About

It seems to me that any honest reading of the words of Jesus would leave any thinking person with an entirely different conclusion than the one embraced by many devout people today.

Wasn’t Jesus far more interested in how people lived today than where they would spend eternity tomorrow? Perhaps not, if you give equal weight to the teachings of Saint Paul or to your Church or to your church’s doctrines and dogmas.


I don’t. Not anymore, anyway.

For me, it is increasingly about Jesus…what he taught, how he lived, and what he asks of those who are serious about following him.


That’s all. And, for me, that’s enough.

As any Christian historian knows, doctrines, and then dogmas, that have developed over many centuries have actually caused at least as much harm as any good they have ever served. Most doctrines and dogmas designed to describe what is really indescribable have only resulted in almost endless debates and, ultimately, division. Which explains why there are more than 35,000 different religions – yes, you could call them “religions” – inside the Christian religion itself.


BTW, don’t bother to say “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” That’s a smokescreen that cleared decades ago.

By any measure, it is madness. There is simply no other way of describing what happens whenever doctrines and dogmas are declared infallible. Sheer madness.

Divine Consciousness: A New Way of Thinking about Eternity

I now realize, at least this is so for me, salvation is simply an immediate Divine consciousness or a progressive Divine consciousness (or, some combination of the two) that God is within me, beyond me, around me…that God is me, ultimately, as well as you and everyone and everything else. God is this universe experiencing itself.

If this is simply saying too much for you at this point, then say, “I-Thou.” That puts the sacred squarely on equal terms. You as “I” and “thou” as “Us” and God as “We.”


How’s that for mouthful?

You see, God is never definable. That’s the real point here.

Yet, this is, of course, what the Christian mystic and Catholic Father, Meister Eckhart was saying, when he said, “The eye through which God sees me is the eye through which I see God.”

“So, do you not believe in an afterlife?” someone recently pressed. They seemed quite ready for a religious fight. Which of course anyone is who feels their “beliefs” are being threatened.

My own feeling is, the clearest sign I am outside of a progressive Divine consciousness is when I get so caught up in some belief that I feel threatened whenever it is questioned. (And, all beliefs will be questioned – until you question your beliefs, you have no beliefs. At best, you have inherited opinions). I know I only feel threatened when I’m stuck in some belief and so feel the need to protect it. As if, a belief, if it were really true, would ever need ME to protect or defend it.


Divine Consciousness: More than Mere Beliefs

“Beliefs are a cover-up for insecurity,” wrote a wise spiritual advisor. “You only believe in things you really do not know.”

Wow! Think about that for even a few minutes.

It is not that I have given up believing in eternity. I just don’t think as much about it as I did at one time. The less I fear where I go when I die, the less concerned I am about tomorrow. You only worry about tomorrow because you are afraid of what it holds. You are only afraid to die, for example, because it feels too much like the end – which, of course, it is. If you cannot accept that, it could only ever mean that you are still attached to thoughts about yourself…your body…your notion that you are just too important to suddenly disappear. This is the little ego in you, and in me,… and it is this little self inside us that loves the imaginary notion it deserves to be eternal.


Not so! Not for me, any longer. For me, eternity is a mere illusion of the mind.

How could there be anything real about tomorrow or next year, much less eternity? Are not these mere imaginations of your mind? If or when any of these show up, they will only ever show up as this moment? Even the instant you die, and the imaginary eternity begins, it is really just another instance of now, isn’t it?

Time is the great illusion of our time. What if we had a divine consciousness about this?

Don’t you find it somewhat silly that we all wear wrist watches as if we could “keep time” or control it? That IS the illusion. Unconsciousness incarnate. Which is why everyone gets so bothered whenever they look at a ten-year-old picture of themselves. Suddenly, it becomes painfully real – and that pain is only ever felt NOW – that time is doing a number on them. Which, of course, it is. Time is killing them.


Eternity is only ever now! And, this is part of what I mean by “Divine consciousness.” This is a new way of thinking about eternity.

William Blake was hinting at this when he poetically said:

“To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”

Divine consciousness, therefore, is just a new way I express my participation in the transformation of my awareness…my presence…my inner and outer life. It is simply the emerging awareness that God is manifesting in this. Yes, EVEN THIS!”

Even these words.

Divine Consciousness: A New Way of Thinking about Everything

You feel it don’t you? Yes, there is something in you resonating with these words. Oh, sure, it may not be in some. A few persons may be resisting these words. If this is you, maybe you should know why. Maybe you should explore what in you feels afraid by these words. What feels threatening to you. “Direct your attention within,” said Rumi, the Sufi Muslim poet. “It is the force within that gives life: Seek that.” You will discover what in you needs attention, if you will.


Meanwhile, divine consciousness is simply transformation. It is to know a salvation that is real…that is now…that is connected to the very real, and sometimes, very harsh realities of your life. Like your past you can’t forgive or the future you worry about almost constantly. And, the present which you miss too frequently.

Now, isn’t THIS salvation, a divine consciousness, a transformation to a higher state of divine consciousness, or awareness, within which you could wrap yourself, as well as occupy yourself, for the rest of this life?

And, maybe even into an imaginary Eternity?

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author and speaker, counselor to non-profits and congregations, an advocate in the fields of self-development, interfaith cooperation, and spiritual growth. His blogs at, the Huffington Post, as well as his own website ( inspire people of all faith traditions. Dr. McSwain is an Ambassador to the Council on the Parliament for the World’s Religions. His interfaith pendants are worn by thousands on virtually every continent, sharing his vision of creating a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable world. Visit his website for more information or to book him for an inspirational talk on happiness, inner peace, interfaith respect or charitable living.

This blog first appeared on Dr. McSwain’s website blog.

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