The Church of Conscious Harmony

ConsciousHarmony dot Org

So I've got this record. I'm known for attacking institutionliz(ed/ing) systems such as churches and political parties. If it breeds dependency and robs individuals of their power, responsibility and accountability, then it's likely that I've spoken out against it at least once. That's why it was a large shock to those who know me when they heard I was waking up at the crack of doom to attend a Christian church on a Sunday morning. I've been back four times... and I'm not a Christian.

He asks, "Why do we need community?"
With a pause, he continues:
"To be sure that we're not all crazy on the same day."

You can see why I like this place, can't ya? Humor combined with insight gets me every time. The fact that I never felt threatened or preached "at" means there are no negatives pulling away from this positive. In other words: "it's all good".

The Church of Conscious Harmony is not exactly "near" anything, but its proximity to the expansive Austin highway system means that you can get there if you want to. Because of this, their congregation is not neighborhood dependents just looking for any cult to give them their weakly "god dose" to fill the hollowness that comes part and parcel with the absence of an independent spirit. Instead, those who attend Conscious Harmony are there because it's their choice (choice being a facet of independence)... often by traveling quite a distance.

The church sits amid the outer forested hills of Loop 360. On my last visit, fog blanketed the hills, trees and houses that surround the church. The grounds afford striking views of the land from many walkways and portholes. The architecture and landscaping are an admixture of European, Native American and Zen. In Austin, the best of things are found in fusion. The design of a place is the reflection of its intentions. If this was all I'd've had to take measure with, the church would've already won me over.

I'll go more into the philosophy of the church a bit later...
...but first... storytime...

A quick introduction to our players. Hekate is the source from which the branches of Brandon and I have come into this congregation. Through me, the branches of Gaea and Jill were brought in. Along with Hekate comes her twins--Rayne and Serra--who happen to be two of the main reasons I've come on Sunday (as I rarely get to see these two lovelies otherwise). Finally, we have Tim, who sits in a central, elevated chair in the sanctuary and speaks with the congregation. There are more faces (Amanda, Barbara and more come to mind), but these will do for starters.

Now, to set this stage in motion. Sunday began before we got there, with cooks preparing food in the kitchen for those coming early enough to make the nine o' clock breakfast. Don't miss this part, because the food is spectacular and gives time to talk with many of the interesting members of this community. Also, removing the distraction of hunger increases focus on the sermon. Well played.

Lights blink in the dining hall at a half-hour 'til ten, when everyone will be gathering in the sanctuary. They blink again at fifteen 'til as well. We took the twins to the nursery, playing with them until an attendant joined us... when we had to break Hekate away from her other two aspects. It was time to leave for the sanctuary.

My first really huge plus is given out on the grounds of how much meditation is done, and how nearly everyone enters into silent meditation while awaiting commencement. Once started, there's at least one more group meditation (though many meditate during songs while listening). You can feel the energy difference in the sanctuary--an amplification of the pervasive calm throughout the grounds. To other sensitives in the Austin area, the sensation is reminiscent of the feeling when entering the sanctum of the 360 Buddhist Temple (if not up to that level of infusion).

The songs can use some work, although "Invoking the Spirit" is a favorite even in its simplicity. The others come up short due to this same simplicity, which does eliminate the need to pull out a book to sing from. Pulling out a book would have the negating effect of focalizing each person on the text within the book instead of unifying their attention as a group. At the same time, the other songs don't achieve the same harmony as "Invoking the Spirit". The solo songs that I've heard have all been beautiful in their instrumentation and lyrical meaning. There has been at least one of these every other week I've attended. Lastly, on this musical note, I think there's been a few lyrical changes (for the better) to "Amazing Grace" since last I heard it. Bravismo!

I was originally neutral on the use of the Christian Lexicon, then became very, very positive in how quickly many of these concepts (most of which can easily be given to exclusiveness instead of openness) were clarified and talked about. Without this lexicon, it wouldn't be a Christian community. Clarification changes everything. To add to my giddy delight, Tim speaks with a selection of words taken from psychology and from philosophical works without limiting the conversation solely to the Bible. One of my four weeks in attendance, the Bible was pulled out only twice (the second time being for the Christian Communion, ergo, a requirement). I should note, however, the first time it was pulled out...

The first time was to read a verse from the Beast of Tarsus (Saint Paul, Saul, The Apostle), who most know I have a personal vendetta against. The Beast turned a teaching of Light into breeding dependencies and victims, advocating the place of slave and master, claiming there be but one life, subjecting women to silence and much, much more. Yet Tim was quick to clarify the passage he read so that everyone understood the symbolic meaning instead of the surface level impression that most would take from it. In the end, the use of the Christian lexicon, the clarification of meaning and the additional sources of cosmological knowledge all get good grades from this little judge.

A complaint was raised within our group against the tithing. Since it's only a basket being passed (and without mention of duty or any other source of guilt), I am for it. Putting the option out there is expected, as otherwise the knowledge of how to give back to the church could easily be missed. Also, I know that the church focuses on Native America and other disenfranchised members of our species. In that manner, I'm not against the intention behind the tithing. It does say that the church doesn't have external businesses or other ways to bring in the required funds to manage itself, which is a dependency the congregation will reflect. This negative mark leaves me neutral on the issue. I would hope that the goal is to move towards self-sustaining, which means that tithing may not be a permanent part of this community.

After the sermon, there's coffee and juice in the dining hall.. . and a lot more talking... and playing with the twins. Also, the book store is open. There are many Eastern books mixed in with Christian theology as well as philosophy and select works from Native America. Closing Sunday worship in this form of communion leaves the entire day on a high note, making the experience an enlivening part of the day instead of a drain.

Time to return to the philosophy, as the communion only covers the global "body" of the church. There's more.

The church states that it stands on two legs. There I agree, although I'm going to re-calibrate it to my own measure. One leg stands in the global realm, taken from cosmological books such as the Bible, the works of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and many more. The other leg stands in the local realm, focusing on personal development (mostly through "The Work" expounded by Gurdjieff and refined by Ouspensky, from the Way of the Sly Man into The Fourth Way). The third aspect (my addition) is centering prayer meditation as a unitive force. In this way, the spiritual grounds of Conscious Harmony reflect that of the Reality Principle (∞, 0 and 1). Interestingly enough, the Reality Principle was on the CD that Hekate gave me and is displayed at the top of this post. This symbol was a large part of why I agreed to join Hekate here in the first place.

There have only been a few times when I was questioning the stance taken on independence, so I am mostly positive towards the overall philosophy. It seems there is an internal philosophical contradiction that hasn't been worked out between the Self and the World. It's a common contradiction that doesn't actually exist, however most cultures code our identity with expectations that don't align (or contradict) with the spiritual (universal). Patience, reflection and intentional decoding can clarify the contradiction. Mostly, however, personal development is held as an interest of the community, and so my measure on these grounds is positive.

Because Tim uses multiple sources from which to approach a topic--whether they be books, a dance or the Rolling Stones concert or the Bible--the worldview the congregation is exposed to is an expanding one with many perspectives. This is a huge positive mark! Finally, Tim has talked on multiple occasions on how leadership through example is what each member should take out into the world; not conversion. This last positive ranks so highly with me that I've become a proselytizer for the church even though I can't easily attend myself.

Only in Austin. Only in the city with the motto "Keep Austin Weird" would I ever expect to find myself backing a Christian Church. Because of my stance against such organizations, I don't easily give the power of my word to back any of them. Yet I gladly suggest that any spiritual creatures in the Austin, Texas area visit "The Kerby Lane of Christianity".

Natalie calls these types of Christians "Moby Christians". This is sourced from the open-minded Christian essays written by the electronica artist Moby. I've adopted this term due to her. The Church of Conscious Harmony seems filled to the brim with Moby Christians of the Austin Weirdo variety. I say "The Kerby Lane of Christianity" because Kerby is one of the best representations of the Austin Wierd Scene. The scene is built on the idea of taking any ordinary everyday aspect of life in a city and making a weird version out of it. Kerby itself takes the idea of an IHOP or a Denny's, then transforms it from an old-school grocery store into an organic grocer such as Whole Foods. Conscious Harmony takes Christianity and brings out its more healthy and fun ideals, then builds a family out of them.

Accept no replacement.

Note #1: This review covers only the global aspect of this community, based entirely on my experiences with them on Sunday worship. I haven't taken part of "The Work" of Gurdjieff on Thursday evenings, so I haven't reviewed it here. Andre Oukenav, a Russian friend, turned me on to Gurdjieff in 2003. From my limited experience with his teachings and praxis (as well as those by his student Ouspensky), I would still endorse this "work". It is designed to elevate an individual out of the Realm of the Accidental (chain-reaction) into alignment with the Life Force. While I may have taken the Sufi route to reach this goal, the amount of positives I've seen come out of this "work" are enough to pique my curiosity and to turn others towards it.

Note #2: For clarification, I stated that "I am not a Christian". You can judge for yourself whether or not that statement is true. My belief is that you ARE the Christ... that Jesus wasn't lying when he said "whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do". I've seen the Christ born into one culture after another, taking and being given one name after another. The name makes no difference to me. The word is the same.

with thanks to Hekate for introducing me

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