Presented here are the founding concepts of the Temple of The Boundless Heart. It is meant simply as a jumping off point, and also as a way for readers to assess whether they resonate with the concepts and premises of the Temple. There are so many interesting ways one might go when birthing a church, but to avoid the common religious pitfall of presenting a bunch of cool stories and mystical mumbo-jumbo without a clear underlying direction, the philosophy is laid out first, as directly as possible.
This handbook, while sincerely written as a church's founding document, is not meant to imply any sort of divine connection or moral authority. It is a codification of the rational, humanist basis for the Temple’s conception. As with everything related to the Temple, it is meant to be questioned, cross-examined, and dissected. To that end, it starts with the simplest precepts and concepts, and evolves from there. Readers are invited to call into question any ideas at any level. While adopting the presented philosophy in everyday life will require agreement on some basic concepts, understanding the philosophy should not. Nothing contained here will require “faith” as a prerequisite to comprehension.
While no spiritual claims are made here, neither are any denied. The question of spiritual and magical beliefs are left open intentionally, to be explored and shared by each individual, as they will. The hope is that this philosophical framework will assist with, and never limit, that exploration.
There is no claim of special understanding or transmission-from-above (or below) implicit in this writing. It's not that kind of church. It is based on lived experience, lots of analysis, and the wisdom of uncountable other individuals. Everyone's perspective is valuable, and no one is considered an authority. The philosophy is presented with no other motive than the hope of creating a basis for a community of sovereign, empowered individuals in mutual support of one another, within the context of the madness we know as modern life.
The philosophical goal of the Temple is based on a simple concept. Everyone deserves a good life and we can get closer to that goal by evolving as individuals and as a culture. What is a good life? You decide. It's a life where you can be yourself and have the experiences you want to have, without interfering with others doing the same. Movement towards this goal is twofold. On the one hand it means expressing yourself and living without conforming to the expectations or judgements of others and, simultaneously, it means allowing and encouraging others to do the same, without expectation or attempts to control. That is the premise of the Temple philosophy in its entirety. No prescriptions will be made for what people choose for themselves, only that they do choose for themselves, are honest about their choices, and allow others that same grace.
While the empowered individual is a major focus of the Temple, it also is an attempt to create a community that allows each of us to know each other, grow together, and, at best, be something like an extended family. We are all bound by the common gift of our human lives. While each person has their own unique perspective, gifts, and struggles, we all share in the mysterious adventure of being people on Earth in strange and interesting times. Finding some balance and grace in our situations, helping others do the same, and growing as a family is the communal goal of the Temple, a goal that works in parallel with the genuine individuality that is simultaneously encouraged.
These are big goals. The Temple takes a protopian stance on all of this. This means that there is no claim of perfection, only a sense that we can do better, and that we might as well try. We are imperfect beings, and the Temple is an attempt to create an environment in which we can always learn and grow towards lives that are more genuine, full, and free.
But Why a Church?
Churches are commonly recognized in our culture as the environment where philosophical ideals are made manifest. In the collective consciousness, they are the format in which sacred spaces are created and sacred missions are shared. “Church” is simply the language that we use to describe an organization built on an ideal or belief. While in many circles churches have a bad name, and for good reason, the concept of a church is appropriate: a group with which we connect to and communicate about a deep underlying meaning and way of being in the world. Just about anyone who has been part of a church can tell you that the community is stronger than what you'll find in most other parts of our society.
The Temple of The Boundless Heart will never seek to recreate the dogmatic, judgmental, and irrational systems found in other churches, especially those based on hierarchical and controlling religions. Rather, it is intended as a counterpoint to these systems. Recognizing the value of community support, physical gathering, and shared ideals, the Temple s designed specifically to allow for these positive parts of a church to exist without the very serious psychological downsides of priestly classes, guru worship, blind faith, culty behavior, and harmful beliefs.
Axioms of the Temple
The Three Aspirations - Truth, Freedom, Love
Truth, Freedom, and Love. These three ideas encapsulate the philosophical goals of the Temple of The Boundless Heart. Each represents, as the saying goes, a road and not a destination. The aspirations are not only impossible to achieve completely, they are also impossible to define completely. Nonetheless, they point in a direction that we can at least try to describe. The more we can understand and express these concepts, the more easily we can move in that direction.
Truth is both an internal and an external phenomenon. Internally, we recognize truth as who we really are, our genuine thoughts and feelings, unfiltered by outside judgements. Externally, we recognize truth as shared experiences and understandings of the world. As an aspiration of the Temple, the goal is to recognize, reveal, and express the truth as we understand it. While judgement, desire, and preconceptions will constantly skew our views of the truth, the point for each individual, and the advantage of working as a group, is to eliminate these distortions and refine our understanding of truth as best we can.
Each of us is the master of our internal truth. No one outside can force it to change, or define it for us. But while each individual has the right to define and express their internal truth, honest self assessment shows that even our personal beliefs have some solidity and are not subject to our whims. While we might have some control over our internal beliefs and ideals, these things don’t turn on a dime the moment we want them to change. We think thoughts that we don’t particularly like. Being human, we find ourselves conflicted, and of two minds. These things do not contradict our internal truth, but rather are a part of it. The aspiration of internal truth is simply to understand and acknowledge what we experience within, even when it seems to be inconsistent or undesirable.
External truth, like internal truth, is a slippery subject. We agree on some things outside ourselves, and disagree on others. No one can claim absolute knowledge of outer truth and so we are each left to make our own assessments. Despite this, we do share a world and some understanding can be shared between individuals. Is there an ultimate truth? Who can say? But it does seem to be advantageous to see things from different angles and perspectives. When you are warned that an object is burning hot, you will likely listen and not test for yourself. On a grander scale, to understand a shape as complex as our Earthly existence, it is helpful to view it from many angles. To this end, the aspiration of the Temple is to support each other in increasing and sharing our individual understandings of external truth. We have a better chance of understanding a larger truth by sharing honestly our personal experiences than we do by trying to gather enough data on our own or, at worst, being secretive or deceptive with each other about what we experience.
Freedom has layers like an onion. There are external circumstances that take away our freedom in the most overt ways. There are government and corporate structures that inhibit our freedom to be our selves. There are social dynamics and norms that interfere with freedom through pressure and shame. There are our own addictions and habits that create internal patterns that can be the most difficult of all to get free from. The Temple of The Boundless Heart seeks to support all individuals in achieving as much freedom as possible, from all of the above. We encourage each other to be in control of our own lives and support each other on this journey. Are we ever completely free? This is unknown, but we can keep moving in that direction.
Why is the quest for freedom such an important tenet of the Temple? Our desire to be our best selves requires a freedom of motion that allows us to follow our true will and to define ourselves from within. What value is the human experience if we are not able to choose how to live? How are we to evolve into our greatest selves while embroiled in control structures imposed on us from outside or in?
If nothing else, the Temple represents a humanist philosophy. We care for each other and seek to make the lives of all beings as healthy and fulfilling as possible. The Temple exists to create an environment for people to work together towards this goal. It is founded in care for all people and, ultimately, all things. This is simultaneously selfish and selfless, as we each benefit from attaining the greatest good outside ourselves.
Of all the aspirations, love may defy definition most of all. It comes in many forms, from primal and simple to mind-bogglingly, heart-wrenchingly complex. Ultimately, Love is an embracing. It is an acceptance and appreciation of our Earthly experience and the individual aspects of that experience. We can feel it for people, for nature, for things, for ideas, for activities. It is an opening of our selves to things that are (ostensibly) not ourselves, or sometimes to parts of ourselves that we discover and have hidden away. It is the opposite of cynicism, of despair, of fear, of the rejection of life. While love may hurt at times, even at its worst it is always the pain of growth.
The Three Actions - Honesty, Respect, Sharing
While the three aspirations are broad, idealistic, and defy definition, the three actions are tangible, more easily defined and achievable. They correspond exactly to the three aspirations and are the practices through which we can manifest those philosophical goals. While the directives of the actions are clear, enacting them effectively takes practice and attention. As with all things suggested by the Temple, sincere attempts to act in this way is encouraged as a way to improve our lives and the lives of others. That said, the actions are encouraged only, and should never be seen as commandments or a means to judge others.
While truth is elusive and “Ultimate Truth” may not even exist, being honest is something everyone can do. It is simply expressing oneself without intentional subterfuge or falsehood. While we may not know external or even internal truth completely, we know when we are misleading someone. We know when we are presenting things in a way that is meant to promote a false story rather than transmit an understanding. In order for people to understand each other and their lives, deceptive communication must be avoided at all costs. The reasoning is clear: life is incredibly confusing even when everyone is being honest. Adding a layer of falsehood on top of our already confounding experiences can only muddle things further. Furthermore, when we are honest, especially about ourselves, we can connect with others more effectively and reach further into our own depths to understand our true nature. This is a core goal of the Temple: to know ourselves and others as completely as possible.
The action of honesty deserves some further situational analysis. Does it mean that you tell everyone everything about yourself? Clearly not. Volunteering deeply personal information can be off-putting, and demanding personal information from others even more so. Everyone has the right to say “I don’t want to talk about that” when asked. Likewise there is no obligation to listen to every detail of another’s experience. All that said, deep, authentic communication can open doors to understanding and healing and even when it is difficult it is often worthwhile.
There is also the question of omission. As a rule, if you intentionally leave someone believing something that isn’t true, they will feel misled and you will be denying them some understanding of the situation at hand. This creates all the same confusing problems of telling someone an untruth. Regarding what sort of things are important not to omit, ask yourself if you think the person would feel upset or betrayed if they discovered you had not told them this information. Be honest with yourself about whether you are leaving something out in order to avoid conflict or paint a picture that is skewed in a way that benefits you.
Further complicating the practice of honesty is the fact that we are often not black and white in our thinking. It is common to feel more than one way about a situation, or to hold multiple conflicting ideas. The best way to be honest in this situation is simply to express your multiplicity as clearly as possible. People might be uncomfortable with a lack of clarity, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Beware the temptation to only express the side of your thoughts that other people want to hear. Doing this will almost certainly cause trouble down the road.
In the best cases, being completely honest is easy and free flowing. Sometimes though, the practice of honesty requires us to tell people things they don’t want to hear, and that can be a painful and difficult process. Still, not telling someone the truth does not change the truth. When we communicate as clearly and openly as possible, we create the potential for addressing difficult situations. Keeping truth hidden through dishonesty or omission creates an isolated, lonely life at best and often becomes a ticking time bomb of hurt feelings and drama.
For people to achieve their highest potential, their autonomy must at all times be respected. Our lives are our own to live, and whether we agree with people’s choices or not, we all need to be allowed to follow our own path. Attempts to control those around us are both futile and hurtful. Respecting one another and the choices made by each individual is a necessary ingredient in supporting each other.
It should go without saying, but it should be clear that true respect demands consent in our interactions with others. If a person does not consent to the sort of interaction you are having with them, respect their wishes. No one is obligated to communicate with you, be touched by you, serve you, or submit to your wishes in any form. If everyone moved through the world with this in mind it would prevent almost every form of violence, coercion, and abuse. While physical consent is absolute and clear, there are some complicated aspects of consent when it comes to communication. It can be extremely difficult when someone refuses to listen to something you have to say, and it may feel like your freedom is being limited. It seems that in pretty much every case it is ultimately ineffective to try to force someone to listen to you. More effective courses of action might be to wait, enlist the help of a mediator, or communicate in writing.
It is also worth noting that the respect referred to here should not be confused with the kind of respect that authority figures feel entitled to. Respect is never about deferring to the will of another, but rather it is about allowing people to live in the way they choose. Through this practice, we can be individuals and still coexist and, at best, cooperate. Differences can be celebrated and valued, rather than stifled, and we can reach our full potential without detracting from the potential of others.
The practice of respect interacts positively with the practice of honesty. While honesty allows each person to make the most informed possible choices, respect is the acceptance of those choices. Of course it does not mean you will always agree with the choices made. Think carefully before commenting negatively on a person’s choice that has nothing directly to do with you. When you feel the need to communicate about a choice you don’t agree with, the key to being simultaneously honest and respectful is to state your opinion without attempts to control. As difficult as it may be, respect also means avoiding judgmental and shaming behaviors. Given the culture we grew up in, it will probably take us all some time to learn to communicate in this way, but how else can one be both completely honest and still respect other people’s free will?
Life is a lot easier when we don’t have to go it alone, but we live in a world where real sharing is a rare thing. Everyone has something to share. Sharing resources is great, but sharing stories, time, and space are important too. Being willing to give, especially when asked, makes life not only easier, but less lonely. Wealth and prosperity aside, sharing your true self, your hopes and dreams and innermost thoughts, can be one of the most inspiring and fulfilling gifts that you can give. Sharing our time and emotional energy is absolutely vital in creating a deeply nurturing community. Also known as "mutual aid", this is the idea that in a healthy society everyone works together to make sure everyone's needs are met.It is also important to recognize that we live in a time of irrationally distributed resources. Some of us become quite wealthy doing easy jobs that we enjoy, while others work themselves to the bone and barely scrape by. Our world is literally dying of over-accumulation and exploitation. The Temple seeks to fight this trend by promoting outrageous generosity and working consciously against social norms of entitlement and materialism. There are certainly things that we can do might be more directly related to love, such as compassion and acceptance, and such things are very important to the Temple's philosophy as well, but in a time when sharing is almost a revolutionary act, this action seems the most relevant.
This is not a call to give when you have nothing to give, or even when you don't want to give. Over-extending and self-sacrifice doesn’t serve anyone, but when you do have something extra, and especially when people are suffering for lack, consider how you might share. Don't we all ultimately benefit from the people around us having their needs met? Even so, it is important that sharing is done in a spirit of love, and never in an attempt to create power dynamics over others. It is also important to share responsibly, and to manage your time, energy, and resources. It can sometimes be difficult not to become a crutch or a wasteful person. Sharing well will take some attention, but even so, give, give, and keep giving. We will reach abundance together, by sharing, not by hording and clutching.
Hows and Whys
Strategy Not Dogma
All of these ideas are simply strategies for creating a better life for ourselves and others. They are simple ways of having a positive effect on those around us while staying empowered to be our true, best selves. But they are only that… ideas, strategies. This is not a dogma or a recipe for judging others; that would defeat the purpose. It is an attempt to help remove some of the stresses of this world and support each other in being free and real.
The Temple of The Boundless Heart is not a church that claims moral superiority or shames people for “sin”. It is a church designed to create rational, healthy ways of living together as autonomous but cooperative beings. It is also a church that can evolve. There are no sacred cows here. Everything is open to discussion and certainly as people adopt these ideas, we will learn and refine their expression and implications.
There is no pope or authority in this structure. The most important figure in the Temple of The Boundless Heart is always you. The goal is for each individual to be supported in following their most inspired, true path. The goal of this system of ideas should never be to control others or define their lives or paths for them. It is designed with the sole purpose of living together in harmony but not conformity. To this end, nothing is forbidden. There are no rules per se, only aspirations and encouragement and a common commitment to do our best in a world that none of us completely understands. It is unlikely that anyone will ever become perfect examples of the ideals presented here. We will all make mistakes and stumble on the path. Let us pick each other up, accept our shortcomings, and keep trying.
We Have To Start Somewhere
It cannot be stressed enough. We are imperfect beings, living in a society that is not only difficult to navigate, but seems to be intentionally designed to prevent us from interacting in the ways described here. Still, if these ideas resonate with you, as they do with many people, adopting them as a personal culture will help make them a reality. If you feel that the culture you were raised in is broken and unhealthy, why not take a leap and try creating a new one?
This all sounds fine and good until we come face to face with how screwed up we actually are as individuals. We must be patient with ourselves and patient with each other. Part of the purpose of having a Temple is to collectively acknowledge what we value and aspire to, but it is important to recognize that every one of us has a long road to travel and a lot of things to learn. Try to see the best in yourself. Try to see the best in others. Keep trying. This can't be repeated enough. Keep trying.
Simple Not Easy
The concepts presented here are meant to be as uncomplicated as possible. On the surface, they might even seem simplistic. There is no faith required, no special knowledge to be revealed, and no unseen spiritual presence to be understood (or obeyed). The Temple philosophy is intentionally expressed as a straightforward, humanist, optimistic philosophy. It is an experiment, a hopeful movement towards a more fulfilling world, a stab at a better way of life than what our culture generally offers. Rules and intricacies can be such a distraction from the simple goal of living together happily.
But make no mistake. Although the ideas presented here are quite simple, none of this is easy. It is not at all easy to be completely honest with people, and it is basically impossible to know ultimate truth. Furthermore, when people are being honest and true to themselves, it is often not easy to respect them and their choices and to encourage their freedom. And of course, when people make choices that we don’t like, it can be exceedingly hard to continue to love and accept them.
Despite the inherent difficulties, the Temple of The Boundless Heart makes explicit goals of these protopian ideals. We have all grown up in a deeply unhealthy and damaged society, with its dysfunctional social programming and its core of selfishness. We are all imperfect and prone to mistakes, and beyond this, even when we are at our best we are all unique and often not in agreement. To be in community with one another despite our struggles and differences, to learn together and forgive each others missteps and offensive moments, this is a high aspiration. It will always be an experiment, and there will always be further to go. The Temple is a manifestation of the desire to walk this difficult road together as strong individuals, and to find personal direction and strength in community with others.