White Stone Ceremony
Last Sunday, we took time to contemplate forgiveness, for ourselves and others as we prepared and participated in the Burning Bowl Ceremony. The Burning Bowl ritual is a helpful way to release those thoughts, habits, events and sometimes people that no longer serve our spiritual journey.
We affirm “I release the past and bless this past year with love. I am grateful for all I have experienced and learned. Now begins a new adventure and I look forward to it eagerly!”
When we release, we create an empty space, which will be filled with something! The Universe does not like a void! This morning, I invite you to consider what will fill that empty space.
We look to set an intention for this new year that we have begun. Intentions are a favorite of mine. They help us set the tone for each day and year as well as for our lives.
“Our words have the power to shape and mold the invisible substance of the Universe. From non-form to form, our thoughts create our world and our experience. The law is always at work whether we acknowledge it or not. Change your mind, change your words, change your world. It all starts with I Am….”
The White Stone Ritual comes from Roman history. In ancient times, Roman citizens were given a white stone to designate their citizenship and all the power and privilege that went with it. If a citizen was sent to prison, the stone was taken from them and only returned when they were released to show that their citizenship was restored.
Wonderful imagery as we reflect on our freedom from the past at this time of new beginnings. Can any of us relate to a time in our lives when we had a spiritual awakening that released us from a prison of addiction, or limited beliefs, or guilt or shame? Do you recall that lightness of being that you feel when the weight is lifted?
The greatest freedoms are within us, to claim when we are ready! How wonderful to come to understand this Truth for ourselves. Perhaps that is one of Unity’s greatest teachings: that we create a prison with our thoughts and in our thoughts, we hold the key to our own freedom.
It is certainly not unique to Unity. It is found in writer’s like Victor Frankl, Ellie Wiesel and others, and in many other religions and cultures.
Moving from one year to the next is not as dramatic as finding freedom from actual physical imprisonment or even finding freedom from an addiction. Yet it is helpful to celebrate our power to free ourselves and to claim it once again.
This White Stone ceremony is also inspired by a quote from the Book of Revelation 2:17:
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
The second chapter of Revelations is a series of messages to early church communities. First a message to Ephesus, then Smyrna and the passage we read is to the community in Pergamum. The messages were each a combination of chastising and encouraging.
In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore addresses this passage in Revelations and tells us that Pergamum represents “the intellectual consciousness in man”. As we have learned, our intellect can be a valuable tool, when directed rightly by our spiritual or divine self. And, it can be less helpful when it is directed by our ego self, or that part of us concerned only with what is outside us which we perceive with our senses.
The passage to Pergamum begins in the 12th verse and starts out noting they have faced challenges with faith. Then the author takes them to task for continuing to worship the pagan god Balaam and the teachings of the Nicolaitans.
This was a time of transition for the early Gentile church communities as they tried to separate themselves from the traditions of their past, including the worship of multiple pagan gods. Remember, not all the early Christians were from the Jewish tradition of worshiping one god. Even in the Hebrew community, repeated captures and marriage with captors resulted in frequent challenges surrounding clinging to the pagan gods. The author refers to this as living “where Satan’s throne is”.
Fillmore refers to this throne of Satan as the “adverse mind or that which thinks and acts independently of God mind.” So, Pergamum is invited to repent or to change their thinking. The pagan gods represent those worldly issues that capture our attention and divide our mind between Truth and . . .whatever else we believe holds our good—the economy, a guru, a relationship.
Think on that… the intellectual consciousness is to listen for Spirit, away from that mind that thinks apart from God-mind… whatever else we believe holds our good.
Then comes the passage which is basis of the White Stone ceremony. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that
Jesus spoke often and taught the importance of hearing in a new way. And in this quote, it is clear that we are listening for Spirit. It is a voice of Spirit arising from within us, not coming to us from outside us.
Learning to discern between the chatter of monkey mind or ego mind and the truth of our divine self is part of our journey. We must practice getting the clutter out of the way so this divine self could inform our subconscious and conscious mind with new patterns of thought which we had EARS TO HEAR. This new hearing invites us into the silence to hear more clearly. And it requires us to trust what we hear.
One of the biggest challenges when we begin to hear new messages; messages that are different than our past conditioning, is to trust what we hear. Tools that we use to re-condition our mind are denials and affirmation. We talked about these last week.
Denial and affirmation are the two powers of our mind, our intellect, to align with God mind to deny power to the adverse thoughts and to lay hold of the divine truth in our affirmations. This is our power to “conquer” or to align our intellect with God mind. And To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna.
This “hidden manna” Fillmore says is “the inner substance, that which comes down out of heaven. We eat of it by affirmation. We affirm that we are fed by the one living substance.”
In the Revealing Word, Fillmore says manna is “The bread of life; the Word of God. [Manna] represents the realization that the divine substance is everywhere present, in every part of the consciousness.”
Adverse mind or our human intellect tells us to pay attention to the news, to the economic predictions; to believe every outer condition influences our good. How much sweeter is it to be fed by knowing there is a living substance available no matter what the outer conditions say is possible.
How much more secure we feel when we are able to conquer monkey mind and rely upon the manna others do not see.
Then Spirit will give us a white stone. Fillmore says in this passage the white stone is Faith,
You hold in your hand a white stone. It is a physical reminder of your faith. It is a reminder that there is an everlasting foundation to rely upon. It is a symbol of the realness of our faith. The stone is a way to touch, in our daily lives, the firm belief we hold in our minds.
“And on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Charles Fillmore says this new name is your concept of yourself. No one knows for it is unique to you. It is real only to you and it comes only to you from Spirit. It is for you in this moment, as you understand your relationship with Spirit and what Spirit is speaking to you right now.
Name changes in the Bible signify a new understanding and an increased awareness of God. Whether this is your first visit to Unity or you have attended for years, I invite you to open your heart and mind to a new understanding of your divinity.
Be still and hear the new name Spirit is writing on your white stone. Perhaps it is a new quality finding expression in you. Perhaps it is a word you can’t explain but you can hear. Whatever you hear, write it on the stone and carry it with you into this new year. See how it unfolds. Be aware of it in the coming months. Let Spirit continue to guide you.
I invite you to trust in this now moment, ….as Spirit gives to you in this sacred place…in this moment of Truth…an insight into your divine purpose…an insight into your holy essence, and so in that secret place of the most high, I invite you to allow yourself to hear the new name that is speaking within you.
It may be a title, it may be something like published author…or clean and sober…or grateful…whatever.
Sometimes people who write the word peace, love, or presence, take on a new essence of who they are.
And, as that name becomes clear, just allow yourself to write it on your stone…If a name has come to you, remain quiet and allow yourself to ask for a deeper understanding, to ask if there are any steps to take. In this moment allow yourself to simply open to Spirit, to say, “God in me reveals my true essence. God in me reveals my next step. God as me lives a joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life.”
A prayer for the New Year from Howard Thurman …
Grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.
There will be much to test me and make weak my strength before the year ends.
In my confusion I shall often say the word that is not true and do the thing of which I am ashamed.
There will be errors in the mind and great inaccuracies of judgment…
In seeking the light, I shall again and again find myself walking in the darkness.
I shall mistake my light for Your light and I shall drink from the responsibility of the choice I make.
Nevertheless, grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.
May I never give the approval of my heart to error, to falseness, to vanity, to sin.
Though my days be marked with failures, stumblings, fallings, let my spirit be free so that You may take it and redeem my moments in all the ways my needs reveal.
Give me the quiet assurance of Your Love and Presence.
Grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.