Intimacy, A New More Fractured Light
Reflections on the 90th Anniversary Retrospective
June 2017 Blog
I have fallen in love with New Thought many times.
The first falling occurred in the pages of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I had no name for this stream of belief, but I knew that I loved the March family and their way of living that defied the norms of the day: educating their daughters, racially integrating the school they ran, and believing in the innatecreative power present in all living things.
I continued to fall in love with New Thought teachings as a teenager through Emerson’s mesmerizing and sometimes troubling essays and Marcus Garvey’s inspiring reconciliation of the call for inner personal transformation and outer community transformation.
When I fell in love with my husband, who was at the time beginning ministerial school in the Centers for Spiritual Living denomination, it came into my awareness that so many of the ideas and beliefs that I’d fostered over the course of my life were in fact part of this great stream of teachings originating in North America called New Thought. There was a riverbed, with a name, wide and deep enough to hold many of the beliefs that felt most intuitive to me.
A little over a year ago the wonderful Kathy Mastroianni, Executive Director of the Science of Mind Archives, and I were asked by the Science of Mind magazine staff to help support to a 90th Anniversary retrospective of the magazine and denomination that would run for a year in every monthly issue.
What this would mean is that we would spend this year, coffee in hand: re-reading many of the Science of Mind magazines, dating back to 1927, pouring over almost a century of denominational board minutes and old letters, and diving into the historical context. We then would create an article or timeline highlighting moments in our history.
We have been Marty McFly and Dr. Emmet L. Brown, our time machine the Science of Mind Archives, and through this we have been gifted a strange, beautiful, and intimate window into the lives, words, struggles, fads, and beliefs of the people who breathed life into Religious Science.
We adopted a practice of trusting that the content that called to us was what needed to be shared more broadly as it was not possible to share all our findings in a monthly article. Our trusted magazine staff project lead, Holli Sharp, helped to direct and tame our verbosity!
Kathy and I looked to the magazine’s monthly themes and diversity as primary focuses of our research. To honor our core principle of Oneness we attempted to highlight leaders within this movement across multiple intersections of diversity knowing that often when history is shared it is shared only from the perspectives of people from certain demographic groups and we wanted many voices represented in the retrospective.
This project exposed us to some bracingly beautiful and painful moments. I cried when I read how Ernest Holmes refused to let any of the Religious Science schools be racially segregated before the Civil Rights Movement. My skin tingled when I realized that there were more female than male writers in the first issue of Science of Mind magazine in 1927, something unheard of at that time in any magazine let alone a religious publication.
I squealed with childlike delight when we found articles by the extraordinary writer bell hooks and Yolanda King, MLK JR’s daughter. We journeyed through multiple wars, cultural shifts, technological changes, the separating and then coming together of our denomination, the rise of the prosperity gospel, September 11th, and so much more. We got to see how language shifts, but how the core tenants of Oneness, peace, and creative agency for all of life remain the center of every article and decision.
This year has been a time of great political and social unrest in our nation and world. I would never have imagined that some of my greatest teachers in how to meet that which is overwhelming would be our Religious Science forbearers: the magazine writers who penned words of hope and an absolute belief in the human capacity to transform during the deadly and tumultuous days of WWII.
I was pained when, at times, it was difficult for us to find many writers and leaders of color that had been highlighted in the magazine and in our denomination’s written history. I ached when we did not unearth much that spoke to the Civil Rights movement at the time it was occurring. I think that when we embark on a journey to celebrate all we have been and all we have created we also get to look at the places where we have room to grow.
I have fallen in love with New Thought teaching many times, but this year through this 90th Anniversary retrospective project I have fallen into intimacy with this philosophy and denomination. Writer Cheryl Strayed says, “The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.”
Through delving into these archival materials, which is to say our stories, I got to look hard, risk, stand in awe, and see just a little bit more clearly, through the fractured light of this new found intimacy, how Divine this thing called life really is and what a gift this philosophy and denomination are in the world.
*You can also go back in time and find what wisdom is waiting for you there. Many of the materials and archived Science of Mind magazines can be found at the Science of Mind Archives website.
Rebecca Ann Hiraoka lives in New Mexico with her husband Rev Masando Hiraoka, who is a minister at Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living, and their many plants. She originally hails from Los Angeles California and has spent time living in Central America and studying community based healthcare and restorative justice in Cape Town South Africa. Rebecca graduated from Stanford with a degree in Medical Anthropology with a focus on cultural systems of care and religious practice. Her background is in low-income communities’ and women’s wellness care, writing, and faith-based non-profit work. She currently serves as the Development Manager for Circles USA, an organization committed to alleviating poverty. Rebecca has served as a cultural competency and diversity trainer and is the Chair of the Centers for Spiritual Living Diversity Commission. Her passion is found in exploring how people from different cultural contexts find meaning and ways of caring for each other and share those wisdoms out with the greater world. Her great joys are reading, swimming, long talks and walks with friends and family, writing, making pesto, eating good bread, and hanging with her husband.