Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spong and Universal Consciousness

Our Thursday study group (Thursdays with Jesus) finished reading John Shelby Spong's, Eternal Life:  A New Vision, Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell.   His thoughts were well-received by most of the group.   Some hadn't read him previously.  We watched a few on-line videos of his speeches and interviews when we discussed his book.  

I have great admiration for him, so much so, that I even named my dog for him, "Shelby."   He takes seriously modern scholarship, challenges outdated dogmas, and is a strong advocate for equality.   The church could use more like him in my opinion.  

In this book he takes on the issue of whether or not there is an afterlife.   Most of the book is a fun deconstruction of religious claims.   He rejects supernaturalism, theism, eternal rewards and punishments and much more.   He advocates living fully in this life.  At the end of the book he embraces something he calls "universal consciousness."  With this concept he says he believes in life after death.   He writes:


The goal of all religion is not to prepare us to enter the next life; it is a call to live now, to love now, to be now and in that way to taste what it means to be part of a life that is eternal, a love that is barrier-free and the being of a fully self-conscious humanity.  That is the door way into a universal consciousness that is part of what the word "God" now means to me.  This then becomes my pathway and, I now believe, the universal pathway into the meaning of life that is eternal.  p. 204

I agree with most of what Spong writes especially his deconstruction of religious supernaturalism.  I do find myself befuddled regarding this universal consciousness business.    If I had him in the room with me I would ask him to explain to me what the difference is between universal consciousness and no consciousness.

Beginning January 5th we will be reading, Deepak Chopra's The Third Jesus.  I have never read anything by him so I am looking forward to the adventure.  

If you are interested in stimulating conversations, order the Chopra book and join us Thursdays from 10:30 to noon at FPC Elizabethton.



  1. John –
    I have not read Spong’s book, so don’t know what he means by “universal consciousness.” However, I have read Fox and Lloyd Geering and a little bit of Jungian thought, and I would say that the difference between “universal consciousness” and “no consciousness” glides along the line between mysticism and concreteness. Eternal life based on a concept of “universal consciousnes” suggests to me a kind of Tibetan Buddhist understanding that once we leave this life, we may choose to return remembering we were here before – or not remembering.

    But before we get caught in the insistence that physical reincarnation is impossible, consider that knowing we are one with the Universe – that we are part of the stars – that we came from them and return to them – is part of the concept Spong may be getting at. Lloyd Geering (and others) have suggested that conscious humanity is the Universe conscious of itself. To extend that beyond hubris, maybe on another Class M Planet, the consciousness resides in another kind of being (Horta??)

    I also keep in mind the law of physics that says, matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed. So – as that old mystic the Apostle Paul said – we are transformed by the incarnation of the Anointed One, and not only that, we are ourselves the incarnation of that One.

    So at death, we become part of the living Universe.

    This is one of those mystical (and natural) states of mind that may be necessary in order to get the Gospel of John.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. So at death, we become part of the living Universe.

    So you do think you, or I, or anyone will experience something different after death than you, I, or anyone experienced before birth?

  3. Well, logically (I suppose), we go back into the same mystery we came from. But -- maybe take on a different species of consciousness? Who knows? Here's where the Tibetan consciousness idea might come in. The trick is to remember from life-to-life -- which according to their system, the Lamas do.

    It sure would be cool to remember all the mistakes I made in this life so I don't repeat myself the next time around.

    I'm only partially serious here. As Paul said, now we see as in a glass -- darkly -- but then we shall see face-to-face.

    So -- We shall see.

  4. That philosophy is as good as any and better than most.

    Iris DeMent sings mine.