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Our great transformation: a sermon by Kelly Gerling at Seattle Unity Church


CO2 Movie Image
CO2 Movie Image
Limits to Growth Graph

Good morning.

In her sermon last week on May 25th, Reverend Karen presented us with this challenge:

"What would the world look like if we invited the Divine Feminine into our world fully and completely—in men, in women . . . into corporations . . . into government? How would that be different? . . . This is really what is being called for now in the world—for the Divine Feminine to be more prominent."

Before I describe some ways of responding to Karen’s challenge, I want to share the reason it is so crucial for all that is important to us. (See the CO2 movie associated with this article.)

[The CO2 Movie is on pause]

The 91-second film we’re about to see shows the rise of CO2 to 400 parts per million in recent decades since 1980. Then it backs up and shows the levels in longer spans of time going all the way back nearly a million years, across the last eight ice ages.

[The CO2 Movie starts]

This increase has driven the temperature to rise a degree Fahrenheit in the last century along with the oceans, which rose about a foot.

And the rise of the CO2 percentage is accelerating.

CO2 and the global warming it creates is but one of many factors that add up to the global crisis. There are many other factors from the growth of our population and our way of living. These include:

• Other forms of pollution increasing
• Using more resources per person
• The overall supply of non-renewable resources
• The food we eat, and where it comes from
• The systems we rely on such as transportation systems, food production systems, economic systems, industrial systems, media systems, and more.

See the Limits to Growth Graph, displayed with this article, which shows measures of our way of living over the last century, from 1900, and rough, computer projections to the year 2100.

The Limits to Growth Graph was in reference to the work of scientist Dennis Meadows who co-authored the 1972 best-selling book "Limits to Growth," a book which has proven to be accurate in the many years since it was published. If you do a search for my name and the term “Global Crisis,” a detailed report I wrote will come up with references.

Every few years, the United Nations Environmental Program comes out with a comprehensive update to their ongoing study called the Global Environmental Outlook report, or GEO report. The most recent is GEO 5.

GEO 5 summary statement states: "As human pressures on the Earth System accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded. Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant, adverse implications for human well-being."

Take a look at the Limits to Growth Graph. The largest changes are forecast if we do nothing different for about 2025, and beyond. They are based on continuing on the current trajectory. Business as usual. No major changes.

Pollution, services per person, food per person, population, all related, rise rapidly.

And then global collapse of civilization ensues with the good parts of our way of life diminishing greatly with great loss of life and human services. The changes are due to the effects of warming, ocean acidification, rising seas, resource depletion, uncontrolled migrations, military conflicts, disruptions of ecosystems, loss of global supply chains, available food, and much more.

I’m not presenting this to create unnecessary fear, or depress us. I’m showing this to offer a realistic view of the future if we as a state, and a nation, and humanity as a whole, do nothing differently than we have been.

This is like showing a forecast of the world in 1942 should Japan and Germany win the Second World War. Such a forecast wouldn’t have taken into the account the vast mobilization in America that helped the allies win.

On a recent trip, Karen witnessed a baby nearly fall from a motel window.

Everyone who saw it was shaken at the thought that this baby could fall and be injured or die. Let us be equally shaken as we look at what continued inaction would mean to us, and millions of today’s babies.

How do we address this global crisis?

How do we respond to Karen’s challenge for change?

What would it look like if we invited the Divine Feminine into the power-centers of our world?

It would mean confronting and replacing major aspects of the features of the systems of domination at all levels that caused the very Global Crisis that we must now face and fix.

It would mean building a sustainable world with prosperity for all. That’s Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek vision of our future.

Actually doing that would be a Great Transformation. OUR Great Transformation.

First, I want to paint a picture of realistic strategy by deepening our understanding these human tendencies in ourselves will call DIVINE—the Divine Feminine—the Divine Masculine.

What works for me is an accurate story of the history of humanity.

In the briefest way possible, here is that story according to science.

Humanity’s Story

Humanity was born around 50 thousand years ago in East Africa. The was the first Great Transformation—the birth of humanity.

For the next 40 thousand years, up until 10 thousand years ago, we lived in small bands. We moved around. We hunted and gathered. We developed thousands of languages. We sat around warm, glowing campfires at night and told stories, and laughed and sang and danced. We taught our children. We made tools and tools to make tools. We painted in caves. We played music.

During this time the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine in the form of cooperative men and women, developed societies that practiced egalitarian, cooperative, partnership values. In these bands of 50 or less people, we made sure no bossy tyrants took control.

Anthropologist Christopher Boehm has determined that few people like to dominate and the vast majority don’t like to be dominated. For details, see his book Hierarchy in the Forest.

This is very good news.

The cooperative, divine, loving majority developed ways of confronting and not cooperating with dominators to maintain equality and fairness, love and harmony. The dark tendency to dominate others, to take more than one’s fair share, to harm others for one’s own gain, was controlled. This was done through coalitions of the majority.

This is the basis of our basic human consciousness of love. In this era, mothers and fathers loved and cared for their helpless babies and raised them. This bond between parent and baby became the basis of divinity in men and in women.

This life became the basis of the Golden Rule in practice. You can see it in the National Geographic film “Baka: The People of the Forest,” which I put up on YouTube. These are happy people. They are spiritually enlightened, naturally.

Humanity dealt successfully with the tendency of win/lose domination deeply rooted in human consciousness and behavior.

And then the transition to larger village life and staying in one place began, and the rise of gardening and eventually agriculture. This was documented by historian Steven Mithin in his book “After the Ice.” By 5000 years ago, we had largely made a transition to village life as the Earth filled up with more of us.

Then conflicts between groups began as resource competition for space and food grew.

Then the next Great Transformation began.

The Rise of Empires

Empires and other systems of domination arose.

Large, urban, empires arose based on slavery and economic inequality, mass violence and warfare. This was the Great Transformation towards Empire and its derivatives. Think of the Pyramids as symbols of the power of domination by Pharaohs.

The Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine were crushed in all the societies they defeated through war and slavery. And they crushed their own citizens through economic inequality, peasants and nobles, slaves and defeated enemies.

The Great Religions Strike Back

After many centuries of this Emperial Rule in places like Sumeria, Babylon and Egypt, about 900 BCE, another Great Transformation occurred. Karen Armstrong wrote about this in her book The Great Transformation. She wrote:

“From 900 BCE to 200 BCE, in four distinct regions, the great world traditions that have continued to nourish humanity, came into being: Confusianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece.”

“All of the traditions that were developed during the Axial Age pushed forward the frontiers of human consciousness and discovered a transcendent dimension in the core of their being. . . what mattered was not how you believed, but how you behaved. ” Unquote

This was done by a truly radical, unconventional, challenge to the empirical definition of a person as inferior to the king, as weak, unimportant, inferior, and not divine like the Pharaoh or the Emperor.

Lewis Mumford described this Great Transformation this way:

“No longer was the ideal man a hero . . . like Gilgamesh, Hercules, or Samson. . . . The new prophets were men of a modest humane disposition. . . . Against the personified corporate power of kingship they stood for the precise opposite: the power of personality in each living soul.”

(From his book "The Pentagon of Power: The Myth of the Machine.")

The world’s religions created a Great Transformation to give back our deep, core sense of being good, with behavior to match, who had a direct connection to the Divine. These religions, and those that followed them, brought back the ethics of equality and egalitarian living that we built in the small band cultural tradition, which started over 50,000 years ago.

The world’s religions operated as a countervailing psychological response to domination, even as empires co-opted some religions and, 500 years ago, transformed itself into nation states. This enabled the mindset, the institutions that supported it, and the actions characterizing domination prevailed.

We are still controlled by large-scale systems of domination. The religions were not enough to turn the tide.

Karen Armstrong, in her Introduction to her book on the world religions, "The Great Transformation," said, “We risk environmental catastrophe because we no longer see the earth as holy, but regard it simply as a ‘resource.’ Unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that can keep abreast of our technological genius, it is unlikely we will save our planet. A purely rational education will not suffice.” Endquote.

That is to say, male systems of domination will not provide a way forward to prevent the worst parts of the global crisis.

I’ve often agreed with Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, that religions lacked power, and have been like the wives of mafia Dons who asked their violent husbands to be nicer to people.

How do we move forward then?

What we need is what Reverend Karen asked for, to invite the consciousness of the Divine Feminine into systems that have been, up to now, mostly ruled by men. Systems which have mostly been part of the systems of domination which created the current global crisis.

From companies and corporations; to local and state governments; to our national government; to the United Nations—we need not only TO INVITE the spirit of cooperation, and love and warm concern for people, all people. We also need TO TAKE POWERFUL ACTIONS to MAKE IT SO!!!

We can ONLY do this with the love and the power of women and men together, blending the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine together.

What then are the solutions to the global crisis?

Some of them have been AND ARE all around us.

Our awareness and ability to communicate instantly across Earth are better than anyone ever imagined.

Our entrepreneurial business start-ups are pursuing sustainability. Think of the efforts with windmills and solar panels. Think of Solar Roadways. Think of tidal power stations and new forms of solar energy collection. Think of using virtual reality. Think of empowering children. Think of clear rivers and meadows, mountains and streams. Think of empowering women in the halls of power.

The Gates Foundation is pursuing global health. Many other foundations are doing great work as well. Our church and other churches do great work with providing charity.

This is the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine in action—the spirit of love, of cooperation, of partnership. Not domination. But it is not enough to solve the global crisis. Our national government is a system of domination.

• Dr. King said 47 years ago that our government was “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the world. We still are.

• Our government invades and occupies other nations.

• Our government tortures and imprisons people without due process

• Our government continues the policies of the past which caused the global crisis, like subsidizing fossil fuel companies.

• Our government spies on others and ourselves.

• Our government has been seized by some rich individuals and large corporations.

• And more . . .

OUR Great Transformation

So what is the fulcrum we can use to invite the spirit of the Divine Feminine, the Divine Masculine—the spirit of cooperation and fairness and equality—into our corporations and into our governments? How can our spirituality seize power, democratically?

In short, how can we make Our Great Transformation happen?

By recognizing it is already happening beneath the surface.

Here’s the good news . . .

Transformational change is sometimes is happening, but is invisible. Let’s take marriage rights in America . . . the change was invisible, and then happened quickly.

We can think of transformational change through physical and biological metaphors

Metaphors of underlying change:

• An old wall that has been standing for decades suddenly collapses because of hidden processes of change
• A dam that withstood the pressure of water, suddenly gives way due to invisible processes of change
• A caterpillar makes a cocoon and turns into an entirely different creature—a butterfly, through a hidden process of biological metamorphosis

Changes of the rapidity and magnitude towards a sustainable world require, among other things, transformation of system politics at all levels from our cities, to our state, to our nation, and to the UN.

How would we do that?

Think of the egalitarian, cooperative societies that were prevalent through most of our history. They maintained that through coalitions of the majority, of the weak: to take down any would-be tyrant; to create rules and decisions that benefit the whole group; to resolve conflicts and create equality.

To do this in politics requires going beyond electoral politics or party politics or particular candidates.

We need to study and improve system politics.

System Politics

We need to modernize and democratize our systems of politics. One powerful way is through amendments that introduce and refine the processes of direct democracy. This includes Initiative and Referendum.

And this has been happening.

The thing is, WE’VE BEEN DOING THAT at the state and local levels. We are like the wall, the dam, and the caterpillar. The changes are

Consider the experiences of our state governments, mirroring what other nations have done all across Earth.

Our states have had over 233 state constitutional conventions, have written over 150 new constitutions, and have passed over 12000 amendments. Most states have powerful forms of direct democracy, which empower the majority to make policies they like.

To bring about OUR Great Transformation, we will need to focus on system politics. It is a limiting factor. The system is too corrupt to rise to the occasion without system changes.

We the people of Washington said pot shall be legal.

We the people of Washington affirmed marriage rights for all of our people.

We the people of Washington have originated over 133 laws through initiative and referendum since 1912.

If we are ever to get a national sustainability policy for energy and transportation and fair economics

We’ll need to enhance our system of government with laws and amendments from the people.

Consider that at the national level,

We haven’t voted for a national minimum wage

We haven’t voted for a climate treaty

We haven’t voted for constitutional amendments

We haven’t voted for anything, not even president.

Our amending process through Article Five couldn’t even enable us as Americans to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

We need to fix that.

Here are key questions for my conclusion:

What are the purposes of government?

What do we do if a government fails to fulfill its purposes?

Pause and think about those questions . . . Give them some time . . . Think deeply . . .

One answer is found in our own Declaration of Independence:

The purpose of government:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We all know that famous phrase.

And what follows it is A KEY IDEA for our time, to bring forth the world we envision:

And what do we do if government fails that purpose:

". . . That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

We Americans will need to rise up and create the processes of direct democracy, as so many states and nations have done.

I hope so.

People all over the world are looking to the United States for solutions to the global crisis.

People all over the United States are looking to California, Oregon and Washington for solutions.

People and legislatures in Washington are looking to churches, businesses and citizens, especially here in Seattle, for solutions.

That means that, here, we in our Seattle Unity Spiritual Community can make a difference with our abundance of smart, passionate, caring, loving people. How?

That is for us to decide going forward.

See the image in the slideshow called "Bridge to the Future Image."

This came from one of Reverend Karen’s sermon in 2011.

We need to build that bridge.

Take a look at the "Lunar Lander Image," also from a 2011 sermon Karen gave.

We each need to balance in those factors so we can act as citizens pursuing system politics.

Meg, please turn off the slide.

Susan B. Anthony often ended her talks for the question:

Are women persons?

The answer to that is YES.

We have another question FOR OUR TIME, for OUR Great Transformation:

How shall we make OUR Great Transformation and save our world?

Let us devote our spiritual disciplines to create the capacity to be good, loving, active citizens engaging in system politics.

Let us strive for balance we need with all the factors in our lives can free us to engage in service as citizens to enhance our political and economic institutions.

Let us democratize our corporations to empower them to behave ethically and enhance prosperity for all.

Let us democratize our national government so the American people guide and control it—so it’s OURS.

Let us create reforms governments and corporations in our own State to be an inspiration for those in the other 49 states.

Think of a small child you know.

Let us create OUR Great Transformation for that child.


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