08/29 – Beloved Community: Can Spirituality as Community Realize An Integral Vision?

Jim Lockard

Jim Lockard

“Don’t search for heaven and hell in the future. Both are now present. Whenever we manage to love without expectations, calculations, negotiations, we are indeed in heaven. Whenever we fight, hate, we are in hell.

~ Shams Tabrizi

NOTE: This article is excerpted from my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: A HANDBOOK FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP, and largely rewritten for this publication. I use the Graves/Beck/Cowan colors to identify spiral stages.

In exploring the idea of an integral vision for spiritual communities, regardless of faith tradition, we can look at the apparent decline of participation in organized religion in the developed west since World War II. In Europe[1], North America[2], and Australia[3], secularization has emerged as either the largest, or the fastest growing segment of the population. Fewer and fewer people are going to church or synagogue. Islam is growing in these areas due to immigration/refugees, and, in the United States, due to conversion to Islam in the prison system[4].

In Spiral Dynamics™ terms, the emergence of the Orange (Modernist) level of existence is the major cause of this movement toward a more secular society. The Orange Values System (vMEME) is an individualistic, entrepreneurial level with scientific rationalism as a key component. The mainline religions have, in the main, continued to offer a magical-mythical (Purple to Red) version of deity in a Blue (Traditionalist/Absolutist) construct and organizational style. When people move into Orange, they tend to abandon these religions unless there is some significant personal or business advantage to remaining.

Absent a compelling vision for a transcendent deity and a practical way to express the spiritual principles and values expressed, traditional religious communities are ageing out and closing their doors.

As it happens, there have been several compelling visions created over time. One, which is gaining traction in North America is Martin Luther King, Jr’s vision of The Beloved Community. This vision of a universal concept of love and brotherhood arose in the work of Howard Thurman[5].

…[A] strange necessity has been laid upon me to devote my life to the central concern that transcends the walls that divide and would achieve in literal fact what is experienced as literal truth: human life is one and all men are members of one another. And this insight is spiritual, and it is the hard core of religious experience.

~ Howard Thurman, “The Luminous Darkness”

The question is – What is The Beloved Community and how does it arise?

The Beloved Community is a collection of individuals who are learning how to love themselves, one another, and the universe. Regardless what name we give this idea, it is the same thing – the creation of the experience of belonging and experiencing the wonders of who we are individually and collectively. It is a place where purpose and passion meet, where we practice being the person we desire to be and support others in that effort. It is where faith in spiritual principles is realized as true compassion and service. The Beloved Community is a strong attractor to those who seek spiritual realization. It is not a place of struggle but of continual progress toward a vision. That progress may be difficult, but there is forward motion, of being involved in something vital.

I see The Beloved Community as described below being the ultimate realization of an Integral vision – of Second Tier expressions of healthy self-image in human beings. Freed of ego defenses and open to a greater comfort with different value systems, we can create an environment for The Beloved Community to be born and nurtured. We are in the midst of a sea change in religion and spirituality, especially in the developed west. The secularization of Europe, which began with the end of World War 2, was the result of the failure of religious doctrine as taught by mainline churches and synagogues to help stem the slaughter and suffering of two world wars. North America also began its movement toward secularization, a bit behind Europe. Essentially, both movements are the result of the fuller emergence of the Modernist-Orange Level of Existence and, on its heels, the Postmodernist-Green level. The magical-mythical deities of the traditionalist church could not stand up to the onslaught of a scientific-rational worldview. Out of this, new forms of spirituality are emerging; rejecting the rigidity of religion and its dogma of separation, and embracing ethics, ecology, diversity, and a deeper sense of community.

The Beloved Community is a vision arising from this sea change. It can be seen in several contexts. One is the universal sense of human community referred to by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said:

The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.

And in this statement from The King Center in Atlanta:

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. [6]

Theologian Howard Thurman saw The Beloved Community as a coming together of all people, races, genders, and beliefs, into one universal humanity. This is The Beloved Community in the universal sense. This universal sense of The Beloved Community can be thought of as an overarching goal. It is the penultimate experience that we seek – that of peace and harmony for all.

It is this realized ideal which can be a spiritual basis for human emergence at Second tier, and the realization of higher order thinking and acting to meet the challenges humanity faces in the 21st Century and beyond.

As to how The Beloved Community arises, we can look to the spiral – to Spiral Dynamics™ and the emergence and development of complexity and values systems within individuals and groups. The Beloved Community is inclusive, but it must also be relational; people must be able to communicate deeply and connect mentally and emotionally. Such connection normally happens more easily when there is homogeneity or alikeness present. Diversity often presents some challenges to a group unless and until diversity becomes a valued concept and is extended to become inclusion where everyone has a vital and equal seat at the table. We can see this evolution of values systems when we look at diversity along the spiral.

Diversity … is not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.

~ William Chase

The stages in the Spiral Dynamics Model are best seen as “containers” for information and ideas. Each level of existence offers a different filtering system of interpretation. The values particular to each level or stage determine how events are interpreted and constitute the worldview of anyone centered at that level. When a spiritual leader gives a sermon to a group of people who are operating at different levels on the spiral, she is giving a different sermon to each level present. Here is a list of the levels of existence, or stages, or vMEMEs in the Spiral Dynamics model:

Color               Developmental Level              Description                                                     

Beige               Pre-Tribal                                Individual/Instinctual/Simplistic

Purple             Tribal                                       Communal/Rituals/Animism

Red                 Egotistic                                  Individual/Power Gods/Respect

Blue                Traditional                               Communal/Absolutist/Institutions

Orange           Modernism                              Individual/Scientific/Rational/Status

Green              Postmodernism                       Communal/Egalitarian/Emotions

Yellow            Integral                                    Individual/Very Complex/Flexflow

Turquoise      Holistic                                    Communal/Spiritual/Whole Systems/Globalview


Diversity is a challenging issue at every level of the First Tier (the first six levels – Beige through Green). At Tribal-Purple, anyone not identified as a tribe or family member is suspect; at Egotist-Red, everyone beyond the individual is continually suspect and being watched (the world is seen as a jungle filled with dangers).

At Traditionalist-Blue and below there is a basic difficulty with acceptance of someone who is “other.” The absolutist value system at Blue can make openness to people who are different in appearance and/or values challenging. Modernist-Orange is open to diversity but does not necessarily embrace differences; they are just willing to do business with or alongside them. It is at Postmodern-Green where the celebration of diversity becomes a value – and where inclusion begins to be viewed as a positive goal. But even at Green (which, remember, is still a fear-based level), there is often a reluctance to accept people who express values different than those of the in-group.

This may appear within Green as an acceptance of the values of anyone who is seen as very different, while being judgmental about differences among the in-group. For example, many at Green want those from immigrant cultures to keep their language and traditions, but they demand that those within their own culture who are centered at Orange and below share the same values regarding diversity and that they speak in “politically correct” terms.

The concept of equality for LBGTQ people is a very difficult issue for those centered at Blue, largely because there are, almost always, written authoritative sources from an authority saying that to be homosexual or to engage in homosexual acts is sinful or wrong. Those at Orange may not really care about the issue much but are open to things like marriage equality from a “live and let live” standpoint; Orange is also happy to make money from LBGTQ consumers. Green will tend to embrace the value of marriage equality and will make those at Blue and below wrong for opposing it.

Similarly, different expressions of The Beloved Community will develop at different levels on the spiral. For groups centered at Blue or below on the spiral, anything resembling The Beloved Community will require a high degree of congruence of values and appearance; conformity and uniformity are values at Blue. This is the realm of fundamentalism or absolute belief. Outsiders and others who appear to be different will be suspect until they are fully adopted into the community and accepted by authority figures, and even then, there may be lingering suspicions.

In a community centered at Orange, there will be strong support for one another’s personal growth since Orange is an individualistic level (think of the 1980s “ME Generation”). However, away from the community, the personal life of those at Orange may be very segregated. Remember that those at Orange are interested in status – how they are seen by others – and one way to ensure your own status is to find ways to make others seem “less than” in relation to you or your group.

Also, the Orange level of existence is where the concept of relativism enters one’s value system in a significant way. Absolutist dogma becomes a turn-off and those at Orange are leading the flight from traditional religious denominations in the developed world.[7] Orange is the level at which the suburban mega-church or prosperous synagogue is popular, where some conservative spiritual and social values are acceptable, but it is also acceptable to have wealth and power. As an example, the “Prosperity Gospel” within Christianity speaks to this level on the spiral.

At Green, The Beloved Community might look a bit neo-tribal, as Tribal-Purple values tend to resurface at Green, as in the love of ritual and in more intimate communal ways of being. A Green-centered group, being egalitarian and emotionally focused, is the most likely to be diverse and to value differences – except for major differences of opinion. Green may also bring crystals and essential oils to the spiritual community and look for New Age books and music in the book store. Or they may seek to study the Kabbalah in a synagogue or explore Sufism in a mosque.

It is the Green level of existence from which the great human and civil rights movements of the past century arose. It is Green calling for the inclusion of LBGTQ community members, women, and people of color in leadership positions of various denominations. Someone centered at Green just may have a problem with you if you do not agree fully with their agenda. However, as noted above, Green will not require that people of other cultures fully adapt to the dominant culture; they will be encouraged to maintain much of their home culture. Also, those at Green will be very concerned with what others are thinking and feeling as they want to understand other people better – mainly to keep from causing hurt feelings.

A spiritual community which becomes involved in U.S. immigration issues may see their members who are at Blue being adamant that the laws be enforced absolutely and that all immigrants learn English; those at Orange being willing to work out a pragmatic solution that allows businesses to have workers; and those at Green questioning whether we should even have borders while celebrating those who choose to keep their home language.

It is now common for spiritual communities to be composed of people from several levels on the spiral – Blue, Orange, and Green, perhaps even some at Yellow from the Second Tier. To remain sustainable, these communities will need to expand what is acceptable to include the diversity of value systems that come with the presence of multiple levels of existence. The presence of larger degrees of relativism makes it difficult for many traditional denominations and communities to continue to grow and expand as more people embrace relativistic worldviews.

Accommodating this diversity of value systems can be even more challenging than the issue of diversity of appearance because we are not generally aware that such values systems even exist and are valid, much less that they are tied to specific developmental levels on the spiral. When someone centered at a First Tier values system encounters someone centered at a different stage, he simply sees the other person as somehow wrong or corrupt in their values or morals.

My conclusion is that in the face of such challenges, the best possibility of attaining and maintaining The Beloved Community is when enlightened spiritual leadership is present – either operating from Second Tier[8] or being open at Orange or Green. Such leadership has the awareness of the dynamics present and the competencies to work with people at all levels of the spiral. These competencies include the appropriate measure and use of authority.

Authority will need to be expressed in different ways according to which spiral levels are present. Up until the mid-20th century, what we now call healthy Blue leadership was seen as the ideal. This was usually a man[9], vested with authority by some institution or the founder of an institution. But since the mid-20th century has passed, we are seeing more and more people moving up the spiral into Orange, Green, and beyond. Their view of authority and how one responds to it is significantly different than the traditional values of Blue (although Blue values are still present, they will no longer be primary).

Leadership today must include both the awareness and the ability to expand beyond any individual level on the spiral and include other value systems, or the group will tend to center at the level of the leader or the “in-group.” When values systems are excluded, much is lost, and people centered at the excluded stages will be alienated and less likely to contribute in a positive manner. This makes creating The Beloved Community more difficult, perhaps, but like any other skillset, once it is mastered, it becomes second nature. Therefore, having a knowledge of the emerging field of cultural evolution is essential today.

While those centered at Blue have a strong respect for authority and leadership, those who have moved to Orange generally do not – at least not in the same way. Orange cooperation is not automatic; it must be earned by leadership helping the individual at Orange to get what he seeks. Those at Orange also tend to respect decisive leadership, but not leadership that is locked into inflexible dogma. Those at Orange want to get a divorce when they choose to. They are more likely to see themselves as free agents. In fact, the development of free agency in professional sports was a display of the Orange values system emerging among the players.

At Green, which if you recall, is very egalitarian and anti-hierarchical, the leadership role is more one of a facilitator and coach. Those centered at Green also have less automatic respect for credentials as signs of authority or expertise. It takes a higher degree of leadership mastery to develop The Beloved Community when you have a mix of levels present. However, in any case, leadership is a very important component of any spiritual community.

There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Here, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin speaks to the critical importance of spiritual community in our life. He saw it as a place to be called forward into a great vision – a place where our inner genius and love is allowed, even encouraged, to emerge. This can occur at any level on the spiral, however, where multiple levels are present in the same community, one is better off knowing about cultural evolution and the large role that it plays in human dynamics if one’s aim is to facilitate such a harmonious community.

Absent an awareness of the spiral, our natural response to different value systems is to see them as either wrong, ignorant, or corrupt. This leads to disharmony and missed opportunities to learn to coexist and build something wonderful together. Those centered at Green will tend to respond negatively to the authoritarian leadership valued by those at Blue and to the decisive, bottom-line orientation of Orange leadership. Green values cooperation, collaboration, and consensus. These will most likely be viewed as cumbersome by Orange and dangerous by Blue.

What is the answer? Perhaps it is Second Tier leadership – from the Yellow or Turquoise levels on the spiral.

Integral-Yellow is the first level of the Second Tier. It is individualistic and very complex. Someone centered at Yellow is a true living systems thinker, seeing linkages beyond what most centered in First Tier can see. Yellow is also the first level where fear is not the primary driver as in all the First Tier levels. Think of this fear present in First Tier as “if everyone doesn’t think the way I or we do, we are all doomed.” At Yellow, on the other hand, one sees diversity of thought as a positive element.

When one is centered at Yellow, there is little energy expended toward ego defense; one has a healthy and high self-concept and does not concern herself with what others think of her. Yellow will engage in vigorous discussions about issues without thinking that she is being personally attacked when someone disagrees. She may disagree with the ideas of others and be surprised when they take it personally. Even when she is personally attacked, her response is likely to be self-examination and either an acceptance of a need to change or a recognition that the attack is not valid. She is not crushed by criticism nor is she elated by compliments – she holds her own counsel.

Holistic-Turquoise is a communal and spiritually aware level of the spiral. Here, a global consciousness truly emerges, and one sees that all things are connected in a web of evolving and unfolding energy. The spiritual implications of the Turquoise level are incredibly profound, but a very small percentage of the world population is currently centered at this stage. Additionally, there are profound differences between the theology of most religions centered at First Tier and the type of spirituality which emerges at Turquoise.

Another distinction to be made regarding Turquoise, and to some degree, all the stages, is that of states and stages[10]. A state is a temporary experience of something, such as an experience of oneness or a sense of being out of one’s body during a meditative practice. A stage is a more permanent level of existence. So, states of consciousness, such as those experienced in every tradition by saints and sages can occur at any stage on the spiral. It is important to note that the state experience will be interpreted and given meaning according to the stage occupied by the person having the state experience; or by the stage occupied by those interpreting the experience. This is why some of the saints of the early church were persecuted by authorities who applied a limited understanding to the mystical experiences described to them.

Religious or mystical experiences are state experiences; however, they will be interpreted and understood according to the stage of development of the person having or interpreting the experience. Observers will understand it according to their own levels of existence. A failure to grasp this distinction can lead to a great deal of confusion and conflict and become a major distraction to the vision and mission of a spiritual community.

It’s a recognition that reality as we know it is being animated by an evolutionary current. This is true of the cosmological large-scale structure of the universe. It’s true biologically. But it’s true on a human level, too. The great mystery is living and wanting to transcend itself through us toward greater expressions of beauty, truth, and goodness. And so evolutionary spirituality says that, for lack of a better word, God is implicate, intrinsic to that evolutionary push.

~ Rev. Bruce Sanguin

Only from the Second Tier stages can the entire spiral be recognized as consisting of valid value systems. The reality is that every stage is internally consistent in applying its values to the living conditions in which it exists. Difficulties arise when living conditions become more complex and people continue to apply values which were congruent with a less complex set of living conditions. Even then, the values systems are internally consistent – Blue makes sense to Blue.

Leaders centered at First Tier levels can expand their awareness and their acceptance of difference to a degree, but it does not come naturally, as they are in a fear-based level of existence. So, we see the additional difficulty in creating The Beloved Community when Second Tier leadership is absent. It requires enlightened leadership, but enlightened leaders (whether First Tier leaders who are very open or Second Tier leaders) may not be readily available.

This is a critical area of concern for spiritual organizations and those in such organizations who oversee the education and training of spiritual leaders. While some training and education programs are thorough, very few, if any, currently offer education in the kind of cultural evolutionary which is increasingly important today. And very few provide in-depth personal introspection and shadow[11] work in a supportive, professional environment. Many of these training programs are unwittingly setting their students up for failure.

Many things can and will be learned “on the job,” but it is unlikely that a working knowledge of cultural evolution is one of them – it is simply not in the standard lexicon in our culture. It is, however, an active element in how people develop, interact, and form community.

The result of this organizational failure to provide an evolutionary approach to education and training programs is a cadre of spiritual leaders who are ill-equipped to understand the cultural evolutionary dynamics unfolding in themselves, their spiritual communities, and the larger society. Additionally, there are many who have not done the personal spiritual and psychological work with sufficient depth to help them move beyond the basic fear-based ego needs which hamper the emergence of effective spiritual leadership. At its extremes, this results in abuse; at a minimum, it tends to produce an ineffective spiritual leadership, resulting in spiritual communities which struggle to survive.

I will add a personal caveat here. Those centered at the Postmodern-Green level on the spiral have difficulty with anything approaching rigor or strict standards in education, training, and evaluation. There is a great reluctance at this level to judge the competence or intentions of others, or to subject students to educational processes that make them uncomfortable. This is a growing issue in the larger culture as more and more people move into Green. Enlightened approaches must be found to develop programs and evaluation processes which contain both sufficient rigor and support to better ensure that qualified students achieve success while those who are not well qualified are directed toward pursuits to which they are better suited.

Spiritual leaders who have not done the kind of personal transformation work described above will have great difficulty in rising above their own ego needs in their leadership roles. I believe this kind of work is necessary for two reasons. First, it allows the person to develop a more authentic level of spiritual maturity resulting in the capacity for true servant-leadership and greater compassion based on spiritual principles; second, it makes the transition to Second Tier more likely and perhaps easier. Such work also makes for a healthier existence at First Tier levels.

You have to do the work to develop real empathy. There’s a cost to evolving: if you want your soul to cross the line, there’s no way around emotional work. Face that deep pain, and you gain tremendous compassion for yourself. You feel compassion for those who have hurt you because they were hurt themselves. To really make yourself available to consciously create a new future, you have to do that work.

~ Rev. Bruce Sanguin

The Beloved Community must be a vision-led group and that vision must be toward the realization and the expression of compassion and love. What is often missing from well-intentioned communities is a large enough number of people who have personally realized a sense of spiritual maturity. Without that realization, the capacity to hold one another in both love and accountability from a healthy perspective is diminished.

Holding others accountable is difficult for those centered at Orange, who are more interested in their own individual issues, or at Green, where hurting the feelings of others is taboo. Those at Blue can do it because the rules are written down and must be obeyed but that only works if the other members of the community are also at Blue or below on the spiral, which is becoming increasingly rare as time passes. It has been shown that those centered at First Tier Levels can self-organize and hold one another accountable as a team – see Frederic LaLoux’s book REINVENTING ORGANIZATIONS[12] for examples of this, but these examples are all of organizations with open green or Second Tier leadership.

An understanding of the spiral and the cultural evolutionary dynamics which create it gives a spiritual leader essential information about himself and about the people with whom he is interacting. It also provides a greater sense of the overall dynamics of the culture at large – dynamics which affect the spiritual community in a variety of ways.

The Beloved Community arises more quickly and effectively when there is a clear vision, and few elements inhibiting its formation and development. These elements can include ineffective leadership, poor interpersonal dynamics, and a lack of coherence between the philosophy of the community and the ways that the philosophy is practiced. Any of these can delay or even halt the development of elements necessary for the creation of The Beloved Community.

Spiritual leaders must both practice and model effective and compassionate leadership, as well as positive and empathetic interpersonal dynamics. They must display coherence in the presentation and practice of the philosophy and the vision of the spiritual community. That can be a huge challenge, but it is an essential one.

A sound knowledge of cultural evolutionary models gives spiritual leaders a greater potential to create The Beloved Community at the local level, which then feeds into the Universal Beloved Community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned.

An Integral Vision

The Abrahamic religions arose at a time when the Blue level of existence was emerging and became, for many, transitional vehicles for people moving into the complex structure of Blue’s traditional set of values and expressions. Blue brought right and wrong, ethical constructs, city/states, monarchies, institutions, libraries and more. It replaced the often random brutality of Purple and Red with a more organized form of brutality – you knew what the rules were, they were written down, and enforced absolutely (in the ideal). Hierarchies were clearly understood, and whereas tribes had a rather flat structure, city/states could have dozens of levels, each with very specific expectations, rules, and mores. The Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam served to be a major part of the Blue structure and were deeply involved in civic life in Blue cultures (and still are where Blue is where the ruling class is centered).

With the emergence of Orange and Modernism, we are seeing over half a century of increasing secularization in the developed west. Science becomes the authority, the financial centers the tallest buildings, money the main motivator and source of status. Religious attendance levels off and begins to fall in many places.

The emergence of Green and Postmodernism brings a different energetic to the mix. Green wants to be in community, but not the absolutist communities of traditional churches and synagogues. Green likes intimacy, is not motivated by money, is anti-hierarchical, and wants an experience of religious belief. They also want to be participatory in leadership, don’t want formal membership, and put feelings over outcome. They represent a huge disruptive force in spirituality and religion.

Second Tier Yellow, or Teal in Integral terms, is emerging, but in small numbers, and I could find no research to indicate how or whether people centered at this level will participate in spiritual community. To be sure, second tier leadership is increasingly required in spiritual community, as I have noted earlier. However, there is little evidence to date that second tier leadership is showing up in anything approaching large numbers.

An Integral vision for spiritual community requires a sufficient capacity for complexity to allow systems thinking to emerge. When the vision is contained within the individual spiritual community (tribal), the focus internalizes, and effort is focused on organizational survival. This can generate commitment at Blue and below on the spiral, but not at Orange and above. There, people no longer want to support paying the light bill – they want to see results, personal in the case of Orange, in a larger sense at Green and above. Spiritual leadership must be able to see a bigger picture of greater complexity to attract those higher on the spiral into meaningful community.

There is a larger way of being in spiritual community, especially if the desire is to create an authentic version of The Beloved Community. We can think of this as a both/and position – a strong inward focus on the spiritual principles of the faith tradition which then enables members of the community to engage the larger world from the position of having embodied those principles.

Here the primary aim is not to convert but to selflessly serve the larger community. Nothing is sold or marketed, there is no agenda beyond service, and there is simply a natural expression of compassion and love that has arisen in people who have learned and are practicing deep spiritual principles. Being a part of such a community ignites the desire to be of service in whatever forms the larger community needs at any given moment.

In evolutionary terms, the emergence of a transformational community of practice and realization becomes a strong attractor to those who seek to connect with such an energy. Like attracts like. As Ken Wilber noted in INTEGRAL SPIRITUALITY[13], if the faith traditions do not provide what those higher on the spiral seek, they will leave.

As we grow in our commitment to racial equality or social justice, we have to be very imaginative. We have to find ways that have transformative potential.

~ Walter Brueggemann

The Beloved Community expresses itself in many ways. It can be through formalized outreach programs or everyday interactions with people. It can be in group activities or by individuals expressing embodied spiritual principles inside or outside the spiritual community. It can be members of a contemplative community who never leave their property and who commit their lives to spiritual practices. There are many possible expressions.

The idea is to strive to normalize the expression of love and compassion regardless of the structure or situation. Imagine the power of such a consciousness – a committed group, of any size, functioning at the level of The Beloved Community in prayer, meditation, and service with love and compassion. What kind of effect – seen and unseen – might such a force for good have on the spiritual community itself and on the larger community is serves? Going beyond what is visible, we consider the invisible nature of creating an energetic environment of compassion and connection.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.

~ John Wesley

Let us look at activism relating to social justice in this context.  I realize that each spiritual community has its own policies and practices regarding all kinds of outreach, and some engage in activism for social justice and some do not. I am using it as an example here of what such activism might look like expressing itself as The Beloved Community.

When individuals or groups engage in activism of any kind, a variety of things about them soon becomes apparent. One is their level(s) on the spiral[14], another is the degree to which they are embodying love and compassion, another is the quality of their spiritual leadership. How their emotional and spiritual intelligences (EQ & SQ) have been developed is also revealed. And their energy is revealed by the way that they presence themselves in what they do.

When we see spiritual communities which are both fundamentalist and extreme on the spectrum of activism, we always see one thing – what they are AGAINST. Indeed, activism is often about protesting something – fighting against something while claiming to be on the side of the Will of God as interpreted within that tradition.

Activism within The Beloved Community is focused on what you are FOR, such as the capacity to look at injustice and craft a pro-justice message, as an example. While the motivation for activism is usually that something is wrong, the approach of The Beloved Community is more about what it would look like when made right. We might ask, “What would it look like if we did not have this problem?”

Another aspect of activism by The Beloved Community is that there are clear elements of love and compassion in the message. This does not mean that things are not clearly stated; it does mean that there is a respect for all parties involved. There is no demonization of others, no need to diminish others to make a point or win an argument.

All nations have seen activism by government and various secular and religious institutions in a variety of guises, but it is almost always against something. We have had wars on poverty, crime, drugs, and so on. None of these “wars” have resulted in “victory.” This is not just being kind – although it is always better to be kind – it is the desire to find what is effective. Being against something and waging war on it, or on the people involved, is not effective – do any of these “wars” ever end? It is a never-ending process that drains resources and often destroys lives. The way forward is the way of the compassionate heart.

Instead of a war on poverty, we could have had a program for abundance. The name of the program contains what you want, not what you do not want. Psychologically, you are working toward something, not away from it. It seems simple, but it is powerful. Remember, energy follows attention. And energy is directed by intention. The intentions of leadership and the community direct the expression of energy toward a vision – or away from one.

If someone tells me what she is against, I will ask her what she is for. Until she knows that, she is not ready for change. Until she is ready for change, she will not generate change – at least not the change that she desires.

Practicing avoidance or being motivated by what you do NOT want to happen, is not the way to grow in a positive manner. It does not help anyone find and express their passion in the way that being FOR something does. Being against something does not generate passion; it generates anger. And without passion, there is no energy to carry us and our spiritual communities beyond the inevitable obstacles which arise on any path forward. And it is exhausting to be angry all the time.

Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you care about is called passion.

~ Simon Sinek

Those expressing themselves as The Beloved Community speak from what is possible, not from what is unsatisfactory. They speak from the solution, not the problem. They carry a vision forward; they do not spend energy trying to eradicate something negative. They encourage the emergence of our best future, not a retreat to an uneven past. They know that what is emerging will replace what does not work without a fight; it will simply be obvious that it is a better way to be.

This takes spiritual maturity, spiritual poise, and spiritual muscle. The world of outreach often includes those who possess none of these qualities, and as a result, outreach and social activism efforts are often ineffective and can even be destructive. Those doing outreach, especially in areas which are controversial, must be strong enough, have sufficient EQ and SQ, to face the drama and disharmony while remaining centered in spiritual principles – centered in love and compassion. Otherwise, they can do more harm than good.


Spirituality and religion are at a crossroads in their development in the developed west. How people gather in spiritual community is being redefined, and likely will be in flux for some time. My belief is that having a positive spiritual component to one’s life is essential, both for individual fulfillment and for the well-being of the larger society. It is incumbent on those in spiritual leadership to recognize the effects of movement on the spiral and to develop integral visions in concert with those in their various communities.

We must learn to thrive in fast-changing times, and a sound spiritual understanding consistent with our level on the spiral is critical to that aim. Just as we humans adapt to the increasing demands of a more complex society, so must faith traditions adapt to the increasingly complex spiritual needs of their adherents. It is time to grow up spiritually.


[1] Church Attendance in Europe:

[2] Pew Research.

[3] Church Attendance in Australia:

[4] Islam in US prison system:

[5] Howard Thurman:

[6] The King Center, 449 Auburn Avenue, NE, Atlanta, GA 30312 –

[7] Pew Research Study:

[8] Second Tier is composed of Yellow and Turquoise, and, according to Clare Graves, represents a “momentous leap” from the highest stage of First Tier (Green). At Second Tier, energy does not go into ego defenses and fear is no longer a major motivator. Also, at Second Tier, one is capable of seeing the validity of values at every stage on the Spiral. See, Beck & Cowan, SPIRAL DYNAMICS, Mastering Values, Leadership and Change, Blackwell Publishing, 1996.

[9] With women such as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, being notable exceptions – and very few and far between.

[10] The work of Ken Wilber, especially in his book A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYTHING is a good guide for those seeking more on states and stages.

[11] Refers to Carl G. Jung’s concept of The Shadow – the repressed aspects of a person which, if not dealt with in a psychologically healthy manner, can cause many unconsciously negative behaviors in a person.

[12] Laloux, Frederic, REINVENTING ORGANIZATIONS, Nelson Parker, 2014

[13] Wilber, Ken, INTEGRAL SPIRITUALITY, A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World, Shambala, 2007

[14] See Chapters 4&5 in Lockard, Jim, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership, Oneness Books, 2017.

About The Author

Jim Lockard is a minister, teacher, speaker, author, blogger, coach, consultant and thought leader. His newest book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: A Handbook for Spiritual Leadership, Oneness Books (2017), is available from and other sellers. His blog, New Thought Evolutionary, is very popular among those in spiritual leadership and beyond. Jim served on the Board of Directors of International Centers for Spiritual Living from 2003 to 2012. He is a certified presenter of the Spiral Dynamics™ Model, Theory U™, The Q Process™, Edgewalkers™, and the SQ21™ Spiritual Intelligence programs. Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, he is currently living in Lyon, France with his wife, Dorianne Cotter-Lockard, PhD.         Twitter: @JimLockard


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