The Perennial Wisdom of New Thought

Center for Spiritual Living

February 27, 2011

Sunday Celebrations at the Center for Spiritual Living Asheville have a similar structure and pace to most churches I’ve visited.  The content of these services, however, quickly reveals that the people of this faith community intend literally to think and to live their lives in a very different way than most of us were brought up to do.

I make extra effort to be on time for Sunday Celebrations here because they begin services with a marvelous ritual called Bells and Bowls.  In the sanctuary there are several large quartz crystal singing bowls on stands.   I believe there are actually seven bowls, each corresponding to a note on the musical scale and one of the seven chakras, or energy centers of the body.

A member of the congregation stands at each one.  Each bowl is rung in turn for 4 rounds and after the fourth ring the mallet is moved around the top edge of the bowl until it “sings”.  The sound vibration from these bowls feels like pure celestial energy  and I seem to feel the very cells of my body to vibrate in tune with the ringing.  Finally, the ringing of small Tibetan bells in each of the four directions adds another layer of sound vibration and I feel my consciousness relax into a state of calm presence.

With that the Celebration begins and one of the two spiritual leaders of the Center, Barbara and John Waterhouse,  gives an Opening Treatment,  a form of affirmative prayer that serves as the basis of spiritual practice in this faith.

According to their website “The Center for Spiritual Living Asheville teaches the Science of Mind philosophy originated by Dr. Ernest Holmes as a way of living fully and richly, regardless of outside conditions.”  I’ve started reading Dr. Holmes’ seminal text The Science of Mind: a Philosophy, a Faith, a Way of Life and I find the work inspiring and comforting.

Dr. Holmes recognizes that the philosophy is not original to him in particular.  He has however been one of the 2oth century’s most influential articulators of what is sometimes called the Perennial Wisdom.

Science of Mind, also called New Thought, philosophy claims unabashedly that we are not separate from First Cause, Spirit, Original Creative Power or that which most people call God.   “We shall never encompass God,” writes Dr. Holmes, “and yet we shall always be in God and of God!”

Celebrations at the Center for Spiritual Living, Asheville teach and affirm this philosophy through song, affirmation, prayer (which here is called “treatment”) and The Message, which is delivered by either Barbara or John.

The Waterhouse’s take turns leading services and both are fine speakers who simply glow with love, passion and faith.    There is a band instead of a choir and some of Asheville’s notable musicians can often be heard at these Sunday Celebrations.

I’ve enjoyed Richard Schulman’s keyboards on several occasions.  This Sunday singer-song writer, Chris O’Neill, played a sweet slide guitar alongside a gentleman on harmonica and several more musicians and singers.   The songs reflect the same Science of Mind message:  God is Love. God is All There Is. We are part of God.  God is within us and within everything.  We are Loved. We are Free.

The question becomes, “If I truly accepted this message and lived it, how would my life be different every day? Every moment?”

Mid-way through the service a member took the microphone to tell a personal story of transformation since she began attending services at CFSL, Asheville.   While scuba diving in the Caribbean she had experienced a life-threatening inner ear disorder that resulted in her being hospitalized and treated with doses of pure oxygen for several days.  She revealed how her spiritual practice and faith that the power of God was absolutely available to her had supported her as she healed herself to full recovery.

This morning’s message on the theme “One” synchronized perfectly with the woman’s story of healing.   Barbara delivered the message  with infectious enthusiasm.   The Oneness of all Creation with the Creator, Barbara reminded us, is at the mystical core of all spiritual traditions.    Oneness, she claimed, as opposed to Duality, which she humorously referred to as “Two-ness”, is the great Truth of who and what we are.

However, she acknowledged, it is difficult for us to wrap our minds around this idea of Oneness when Two-ness appears to exist all around us.  This is particularly true when the current circumstances and conditions are not what we want them to be.  We begin to try to “fix” these circumstances and conditions as if, once they are fixed, then we can be happy, content and peaceful.

I do this all the time.  My mind is always “futuring”, especially when I’m in grip of my old habit of anxiety.  What am I going to do to fix it – whatever “it” is?  I confess, I brought that old habit into the service with me this Sunday morning.  An injury in my family, a tragic death in our community, my Representative once again casting his vote with the other side of the aisle in Congress, the Economy, my economy, mulch to be moved in the garden, work to be done at my desk – the circumstances and conditions that were not to my liking were arranged all around me as I sat in my seat at 2 Science of Mind Way.

Barbara reminded us that Science of Mind invites us to re-train ourselves to be “always conscious”, as Dr. Holmes writes, “that we live in a spiritual Universe; that God is in, through, around and for us”.  Since there is only Oneness, we must be One with God already.   This must mean then that God is not withholding our Good from us.  We need not worry about how to fix conditions and circumstances that are not as we want them.  We need not “go to war with the condition” as Barbara put it.  Rather we can ask “What am I begin given in this moment?  What is calling me to be more of who I am in this circumstance? “

For me, in moments like these, I believe I am being called to Trust.  Dr. Holmes writes that “There is a Power in the Universe that honors our faith in It”.   I’ve asked Spirit to guide me.  So let Spirit guide me.  I’m asked in return simply to know that I cannot be separate from God.   I’m asked only to bring myself back to the Peace that is available in this moment.   As I’m sure you can imagine, this requires practice.

That’s why I love CFSL, Asheville.  I’m still taking baby steps in my spiritual evolution.   These Sunday Celebrations immerse me in the practice of remembering that God is All That Is and that includes me — and my mulch.

Center for Spiritual Living, Asheville holds Sunday Celebrations at 9:30 and 11:00 at 2 Science of Mind Way off of Sandhill Road in West Asheville.   They also host a multitude of spiritual classes and workshops as well as Spiritual Cinema every first Friday at 7pm.

My best,


Michelle Smith, Minister and Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant


About themichellesmith

Community enthusiast from the Blue Ridge Mountains of western NC who thinks globally and acts neighborly. Inter-faith Minister and Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant. Founder and Lead Celebrant, Asheville Celebrant. Willing to work for more peace, more joy and more beautiful places to share stories, food, music and dancing, Unwilling to work for raw survival of our species. Prefers dialogue to debate. Believes fundamentally that Duke's is the only mayonnaise worth eating.
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