March 9, 2017

In The Image and Likeness

This week, I continue the blog series “Walking the Unity Talk” with this third installment titled “In The Image And Likeness,” which explores Unity Principle #2. As before, I will compare UCOH’s statement of this key truth principle with the one articulated by Rev. Ellen Debenport in her book, The Five Principles: A Guide To Practical Spirituality.

We will continue exploring the deeper truth implied by Unity principles, and offering some thoughts on how to more fully live the power of their truth in the world and in our lives. This particular principle is fertile ground for spiritual exploration, and the possible avenues for discussion are rich enough to write a book. I say that to say that due to space and time limitations, this article may stir up more questions than clear answers for you. However, I hope it stimulates your imagination to think about Unity Principle #2 in a new way.

Truth Principles Are Universal

I remind you that there is no single, standardized version of the Unity Principles. There are many different articulations of them to be found. For our purposes, I encourage you to heed Rev. Debenport’s advice. “Don’t be distracted by the specific language. Pay attention to the essence of the teachings.”

Remember that “truth principles” attempt to articulate universal laws applicable to everyone, at all times. If a “truth principle” is true for one, it is true for all. It must apply universally and without bias. Otherwise, it cannot attain the status of principle. For example, human beings need oxygen to live. This is not true for some humans. It is true for all. Therefore, it is a truth principle, a law of nature that applies to everyone, everywhere, all the time.

It is the same with spiritual principles. Our “work” is to, as best we can, understand for ourselves the essence of spiritual truth implied by the Unity principles. Having done so, we are then to discern what that truth means in and for our lives and, most importantly, how to live in alignment with that truth. Although truth principles apply universally to everyone, not everyone rightly applies truth principles universally in their lives.

Two Takes On Unity Principle #2

With respect to Unity Principle #2, failing to apply it universally to everyone, everywhere is to fundamentally misunderstand, or altogether ignore, the inherent goodness that is the essence of every single human being on the planet. Failing this is to fail at what is, perhaps, our single most important spiritual task: to recognize the innate Christ potential that resides within each and every one of us, without exception. To this end, at Unity Church of the Hills (UCOH), we state Unity Principle #2 as follows:

We are Spiritual Beings created in God’s Image. The Spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.

In her book, The Five Principles, Rev. Debenport articulates Unity’s second principle as:

Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore, they are also inherently good.

Both of these statements share one unequivocal truth in common. We are “inherently good.” Not some of us, all of us. Our inherent goodness is an extension of the truth stated in Unity Principle #1 that God is the “One Power, One Presence” in the “Universe and in our lives” and that God is the “absolute good” everywhere present. Being created in the “image and likeness of God,” which is “absolute good,” then we too are “inherently good.” UCOH’s statement of Unity Principle #2 is unequivocal in its insistence that “all people are inherently good.” Learning to see this truth in and for everyone, even those we fear, is the foundational walk for those who desire to live in accordance with truth principles.

Spiritual Beings or Human Beings?

A close analysis of the other ideas articulated by Unity Principle #2 reveals subtle differences in statement, though perhaps, not in essence. For example, in their respective first parts, UCOH’s statement identifies us as “Spiritual Beings,” while Debenport’s version identifies us as “human beings.” Further, UCOH’s statement evokes “God’s Image” and unequivocally equates our essence with it, while Debenport’s refers to a “spark of divinity” that lives within our being. This “spark of divinity” equates to the “Christ spirit within.”

UCOH’s articulation comes closer to a statement that our foundational identity and “spiritual” essence is equivalent to God’s “image and likeness,” while Debenport’s implies their is more a “spark” of God’s essence, the “Christ spirit,” that lives within our “human beingness.” One is not right and the other wrong, they are both merely attempting to articulate the nature of our being. However, from my point of view, I believe UCOH’s statement is closer to a complete statement of principle, because It builds on the truth implied by Unity Principle #1. It directly addresses our essential nature, not merely a “spark” of “Christ spirit” that lives within.

In the Image and Likeness of God

UCOH’s statement of Unity Principle #2 resonates directly with the Creation account in Genesis 1:26-27, which references that humankind was created in the “image and likeness of God.” This idea, classically known as the Imago Dei, forms the heart of perhaps the key philosophical and theological debate of all time. What is the image and likeness of God? Even after centuries and millennia, there is no single consensus as to what exactly constitutes the “image and likeness of God.”

Predominantly, the debate becomes bogged down by humankind’s insistence upon largely viewing God in anthropomorphic terms. In other words, mankind largely views God as having a physical, human form. It makes it easier for us to relate to a body than to a principle, or universal law. However, when we refer to the “image and likeness of God” in terms of the human form, we limit not only our experience of God, we also limit the expression of our own potential as “Spiritual Beings created in God’s Image.”

Created To Be Creators

What if, instead of viewing God in physical terms, we view God in terms of creative principle, or spiritual law? If God is simply the Creator, and we are each of us created in God’s image and likeness, then, it follows, we are created to be creators. Not some of us, all of us. Being creators is our most fundamental spiritual identity, our authentic selves. Being a creator is, in truth, the image and likeness of God to which we most fundamentally identify.

Everyone is created to be a creator. The variable between us is whether we are creating consciously or unconsciously, for good or otherwise. However, even if and when we miscreate, intentionally or unintentionally, Unity Principle #2 would still hold that we are “inherently good.” Our bad creations or miscreations as it were do not change the foundational “inherent goodness” that we are.

No Short Cuts On The Master’s Walk

Being able to hold someone as being “inherently good” when they do something to harm us or to cause fear within us is the master’s walk. If we viewed everyone who appears different from us, whether by gender, culture, race, religion, politics or socio-economic status, as a creator first created in the image and likeness of God, just like we are, how would our communications be different with them? Would the way we think about them and our perceived differences shift? Would we maybe begin to find a common ground where we believed none existed before?

We have to ask ourselves, do we really believe that we are spiritual beings created in God’s Image? Do we really believe that we are all inherently good? If so, how are we to live our lives to express their truth? These are deep and important questions. If we are to walk the Unity talk, these, and others like them, are the questions we must answer for ourselves. Once we have answered them, we must live in accordance with the answers. This is the master’s walk. There is no short cut and no one else can walk it for you.

In the next installment of the “Walking the Unity Talk” series, we will explore Unity Principle #3. Be on the lookout for that installment in the coming weeks.

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