Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
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Readings for Reflection: September 2004
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

Personal Journey: Universal Consciousness
by Claybourne Mitchell, AAFM Attender

I am a member of an organization called the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology (FCRP) and have attended its meetings for 20 years. It was founded in 1943 by a group of Jungian Quakers and meets annually over the Memorial Day weekend. The current meeting location is Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania (about 20 miles east of Harrisburg).
The usual format is a plenary speaker who conducts four sessions of two hours each on a particular subject for the typically 125 to 200 attendees. There are four sessions of two hours each with small groups of 5 to 15 that discuss related subjects such as dreams, soul searching, forgiveness, or healing.
Plenary subjects of the past included Psychiatry and Religion, Search for Inward Peace, Paradoxes of Life and Death, Essence of Manhood and Womanhood, Exploring the Myths We Live By, Embracing the Mystery of Change, and Understanding Patterns of Denial. Speakers have included Ira Progoff, Robert Bly, Matthew Fox, Joseph Campbell, Elise Boulding, Marion Woodman, Michael Conforti, and Carol Pearson.
Attendance is typically 50 percent or so of Friends and the remainder a medley of agnostics, atheists, ex-Baptists, and Catholics, former priests and nuns as well as Jewish members who attend synagogue. If asked why they attend FCRP, the most common reply of this mixture of current and former faiths is that they find organized religion a place of ritual and ceremony but unrelated to the spirituality they are seeking.
The Planning Committee of FCRP is studying a vision for the next 20 years. I have offered the following suggestion:

VISION for 2024 CE --- FCRP is an organization committed to the precept that every individual is treasured as a creation of universal consciousness. We believe this consciousness pervades earth and endows each individual with heritage that dates to the beginning of time. We foster awareness of this heritage and the responsibility of every individual to continue personal growth in harmony with a Universe that continues to evolve. We function as a national conference with associated newsletters, publications and workshops to encourage pursuance of psychological and mental development of all peoples.

Consciousness, for me, includes but also surpasses basic survival skills and ordinary intelligence. It means the capability to see a rainbow of colors in a flower or a beautiful sunset and feel the need to sit down and look at it longer; to hear melodious music and want to dance; to gaze at the night sky and wonder about the origin of so many millions of sparkling points of light; to smell freshly baked bread and deeply inhale more aroma; to touch a newborn baby and feel overwhelmed by its innocence, wonderful precision, and beauty.
I have no scientific evidence to support my contention of universal consciousness but I believe in it. Why should earth be any more special than the multitude of other islands in the Milky Way and the Universe at large? If, as is generally believed, gravity is universally operable throughout this huge expanse of space, why not consciousness? Who knows, perhaps they’re the same phenomenon. Whatever the truth, we know earth-people have it and evidence is increasing that dolphins and other life forms of non-people also do.
I am seeking insight into my spiritual identity and the state of my consciousness. I honor those intangible qualities in myself and all others who are similarly seeking. I plan to continue my personal growth and development as part of my participation in FCRP activities and Ann Arbor Meeting.

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