Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-eight

The Forty-eighth Day
(Easter Monday, April 22, 2019)

As-Yet-Unglimpsed Possibilities

“The greatest distinction between the general working philosophy of life and the religious one is the type and quality of the crowning value in the hierarchy of values. When the individual has grown sufficiently to discern that the highest conceivable objective of our dominant loyalty is a growth of meaning and value in the universe which is in that sense super human, we have discerned God . . . It is a steady and progressive process of growth.

“Of course, one can give consent to a philosophy of religion worked out by others long before this period, but it is not part of one’s very fibre. A philosophy of religion developed in the process of devoted religious living can never be lost. It can and is modified progressively, . . . nor is it ever finished. Always it moves toward the as-yet-unglimpsed possibilities of a more magnificent and profound Reality-on-beyond, so long as religious living continues intelligent and vital. The quickest and soundest way to the attainment of a worthy idea of God is not through a type of training which tries to ‘give’ ideas and precepts, insists upon memorization of passages of sacred literature, super-induces conversion under high pressure, and in other ways endeavors to coerce the individual into an acceptance of the stereotypes and facts of a cult. The swiftest and surest way to the attainment of a worthy idea of God is through a progressive development of value-habits and ideals which grows into a progression of loyalties by way of devotion to the highest value at any one time conceivable. Finally, one who persists on one’s quest discovers that the highest value for all human living in growthof meaning. . . .

“Of course, no one can have knowledge beyond the culture of one’s time, but one can recognize the limitations of that culture. Culture-bound individuals tend to have blind spots a to the possibilities of exploration and evaluation outside those which have been recognized and standardized by the social group with which they identify themselves. They do not realize the relativity of the techniques and the appreciation of their culture. They take their age and time too seriously. They do not see themselves as only a long moment . . .  They are culture-centered.

“This culture-bound philosophy can be better understood by contrasting it with its opposite. . . . Such persons engage in great flights of speculative imagination, which take off from the proudest heights of truth that this culture can erect. These speculative ventures suggest a larger perspective than that of their own culture . . . it is Reality-centered rather than culture-centered. It development requires a transcendent point of view and attitude. Individuals, here, cannot know beyond the limits of the knowledge of their culture; but they can realize vividly and stirringly that there is more to know, and that there may be new ways of going about the building of knowledge. Their knowledge is bound by their culture, but the exploration and creativeness of their imaginations are not. They are not tradition-bound as are they with the conformative philosopy. They are not ego-bound as they are with the adventitious philosophy. They are not culture-bound as are they who build on (this) plateau. They have a mystical quality in their living and outreaching. They hold themselves ready for the greater which may emerge. They hold their system of concepts tentatively, ready to re-test and re-shape when greater meaning comes. They will progressively integrate their living in the light of the findings.

“(Such persons) participate actively in the actual living processes which go to make up the realities of the every day; but they seek to discern in and through these, those significant meanings which are pointers toward the wider Reality. They have a vivid sense of the unfinished and fragmentary nature of what this particular culture can real of the Supremely Worthful. A working philosophy of religion, developed through a transcendental viewpoint such as this, is realistic while still being creative; it is tested while still being unbound. It favors limited progression in religious living and in the development of that body of concepts which guides it.” (Wieman & Wieman)

We come to the end of this Lenten Exercise on the forty-eight day, as Holy Week comes to an end. But as that week marked not an end, but a beginning, so should this Lenten experience. If it has succeeded, its users will want to go on building in their own daily meditations and ongoing search for truth and right. Everything they learn and encounter will be worked into their growing outlook. It will become the center and power in their lives. It is the noblest of all life’s experiences.. (Donald Szantho Harrington)


God, You are the growth of creative mutuality in the universe. Grasp us. Guide us. Grow in us. Glorify us. For Your Shining City’s sake. Amen.


Wonders still the world shall witness
Never known by men of old,
Never dreamed by ancient sages,
How-so-ever free and bld.
Sons and daughters shall inherit
Wondrous arts to us unknown,
When the dawn of peace its splendor
Over all the world has thrown.

Men shall rule with winged freedom
World of health and human good,
Worlds of commerce, worlds of science,
All made one and understood.
They shall know a world transfigured,
Which our eyes but dimply see;
They shall make its towns and woodlands
Beautiful from sea to sea.

For a spirit then shall move them
We but vaguely apprehend—
Aims magnificent and holy,
Making joy and labor friend.
Then shall bloom in song and fragrance,
Harmony of thought and deed,
Fruits of peace and love and justice—
Where today we plant the seed.

—Jacob Trapp (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 352)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 191)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.