On the heels of this cheesy picture (painted on velvet?) of Barack Obama that recently ran in an Oregon weekly comes the following new-age exploration of his spirituality by The San Francisco Gate's Mark Morford:
Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.
... No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.
Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.
Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.
The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.
Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me. But you gotta wonder, why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long, is so vital to our national identity? Yes, the assassination canonized his legend. The Kennedy family is our version of royalty. But there's something more. Those attuned to energies beyond the literal meanings of things, these people say JFK wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name. It's because he was just this kind of high-vibration being, a peacemaker, at odds with the war machine, the CIA, the dark side. And it killed him.
Now, Obama. The next step. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.
So there you have it. The "spiritual" among us -- not the religious! -- but the spiritual, those in tune with the non-corporeal realm inhabited by the essences of ultimate truth and goodness, believe that Obama is one of them.
After a little digging, bloggers traced the Lightworker terminology to Steve Pavlina, a self-help guru who focuses on New-Age techniques such as "raising your consciousness" in order to increase productivity and increase self-worth. Pavlina explains that people progress along two paths, Lightworkers (who serve others) and Darkworkers (who serve themselves). Lightworkers try to heal. They "expand consciousness." Darkworkers love power. They seek to profit from the misfortune of others, often leaving things in worse shape than they found them. Pavlina writes,
The collective consciousness of humanity is well aware of its condition. It knows the body is unhealthy and is headed downhill. It knows that left unchecked, the darkworker threat will take the body down with it. While this climate gives rise to more darkworkers, there’s also a strong counter-reaction on the rise. The presence of disease is triggering the body’s immune system to increase the white blood cell count. Those white blood cells are lightworkers.
The result is that many people are now hearing this call. It actually began decades ago, but it’s particularly strong today. The body of humanity is acting in its own defense by calling more and more lightworkers into action. Some people are born with this inclination, some have had it for many years, and others are currently waking up to it.
The blogger DoublePlusUndead also links the thinking behind Lightworker/Darkworker terminology to an X-box game, Jade Empire. He also provides this interesting insight into Pavlina and Morford's thinking:
In Jade Empire, you could either follow the philosophy of the Open Palm or the Closed Fist. Open Palm is a philosophy that argues one should always give aid to someone, be in tune with nature, and to know and accept one's place in this world. Closed Fist is a philosophy that teaches self-reliance, to control one's surroundings, and to try and be ambitious. Lightworker and Darkworker operate on similar principles. From Morford's article,
The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics.
Let me repeat Jade Empire's Open Palm philosophy: Open Palm is a philosophy that argues one should always give aid to someone, be in tune with nature, and to know and accept one's place in this world.
The reason you don't see an Open Palm or Lightworker on the national stage is because philosophically speaking, they aren't supposed to be ambitious. This is why Morford is so excited.
For what it's worth, blogger See-Dubya notes that Lightworker sounds eerily similar to "lightbearer," a term infamously used in Isaiah 14 to describe a hubristic Babylonian king who bragged, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." God's wrath was stirred against this king, and Isaiah mocks him in his death, a rotting corpse covered with worms, and says, "Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: Is this the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble?" The King James bible translates the Hebrew "lightbearer" into a name that we all know very well -- Lucifer. Spiritualists, of course, would deny this relationship, because in their understanding this Babylonian king who left destruction and suffering in his wake would in fact be a Darkworker.
Progressive and liberal Christians, and to a significant extent, young so-called "emergent" Evangelicals, have excitedly embraced the Obama candidacy. The reason for this is the underlying hermeneutic of both the progressive and emergent Christian movement, which seeks to animate and personify the word of God in its people through a direct, transformational engagement with the world. Justice and equality are top social priorities for progressives and emergents. And, perhaps even more importantly, a shared vision of a peaceable kingdom. Thus both movements are very passionately involved in peace and justice issues.
For these reasons, Barack Obama's rhetoric about peaceful
negotiations with our enemies, disarmament, health coverage for all
Americans, expanding services for the poor, and imposing tighter
controls on corporations appeals to the kingdom vision of emergent
evangelical Christians. Even here in Oklahoma, Obama is extremely
popular with a significant portion of young, emergent evangelicals.
There is a strain of liberal Christian thought (perhaps best known through the writings of Marcus Borg) that proposes to explain the dual nature of Jesus Christ (fully God and fully human) by suggesting that Jesus was fully human, and yet a "spirit person" so in tune with God as to be indistinguishable in word, thought, and deed from God Himself. According to the "spirit person" understanding of Jesus Christ, he did not reach his full spiritual maturity (or 'enlightenment,' if you prefer) until he was around 30 years old; it was at that time that he was baptized by John (Matthew 3) and officially began his earthly ministry.
Borg fully integrates Scripture and its teachings about Jesus and the revelation of God through the life of Jesus into his understanding of "spirit people," and thus concludes that Jesus is in fact THE "spirit person" -- not just another enlightened spirit leader like the Dali Lama or Ghandi, but a living, breathing son of man who is also the one and only begotten Son of God. In contrast, secular spiritualists generally steer clear of any "God talk" in their writings. But the concepts are similar -- existence on a higher plane of spiritual consciousness, a special detachment from the encumbrances of the flesh (exemplified through Christ in the desert temptation of Matthew 4) that allows an individual to directly embody ultimate truth and goodness. This is what defines a "spirit person." This is what many religious seekers (such as Buddhists) attempt to achieve through meditation and trance-like repetitive prayers.
I mentioned Borg's writings because they seem to fit nicely with other things I discussed in this piece, but I believe that Borg's specific understanding of Christ as a "spirit person" represents the view of only a genuine minority of contemporary Christians. From readings and conversations that I have had with progressive and emergent Christians, I sense less of a "spirit person" understanding and more of an idea that Obama is simply a man who has his theology "right," and thus is interested in directing the United States toward becoming a leading advocate for peace and justice in the world. Or to use good old evangelical terminology, Obama is a man who is "being led by the Spirit."
While Christians see Obama as a man following God's will, secular spiritualists see Obama as an actual manifestation of God (or "The Source," or whatever New-Age terminology the like). Still, it is plain that no candidate in recent memory has stirred-up spirit-talk and God-talk like Barack Obama.
Frankly, I don't know whether to be excited about this or not.