Dr. Michael Clarke – Reawakening the Heart of Religion: Returning Living Spirit to the Center of Religious Tradition

Dr. Michael Clarke Living Spirit

Rev. Dr. Michael Clarke, principal of the Anglican seminary Codrington College in Barbados, beautifully articulates how embodied spirituality can change us and the importance of personal encounters with living Spirit to further us along our evolutionary path. He enlightens us as to the shortcomings of the Church and religion as it is largely practiced in the West in a way many of us may not have heard before, pointing out that the Church fails to take into account that the magnitude of our understanding of divine experience is ever expanding, in parallel with Ken Wilber’s Integral teaching on the ever expanding nature of consciousness, and mentioning that Jesus’ experience as divine man was not intended to be the end all religious experience for all time. As Michael says, “We need to understand the Oneness—we’ve done religion from the duality perspective, from a separatist perspective…missing the whole point!”

Michael is passionate about creating opportunities for people to have personal encounters with living Spirit since having his own earth-shattering experience with the divine. He tells us that when spirituality comes into play, it offers a step upward, a higher place to stand to view the world that allows for Oneness, and describes the separation inherent in our world of duality today as a “wonderful avenue towards unification, appreciation, and understanding.” So, “How do you lift up this thing called spirituality and cause it to be a central part of religious response? Can the Church grow with what needs to happen?” Michael imbues this conversation with a bright, shining light of deep spiritual understanding and invites us all to be open to the “call to be more.” Recorded September 6, 2021.

“This human experience causes us to fall asleep… thus the journey of awakening.”

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Topics & Time Stamps

  • How John met Michael Clarke at an Integral Christianity conference (01:25)
  • Michael’s journey from cradle Anglican to hearing the call to ministry and becoming an ordained priest in 1984 (04:33)
  • Speaking from the perspective of a Black priest rather than an Anglican priest for the first time (05:55)
  • Michael’s spiritual turning point experience and consciousness shift (08:19)
  • Climbing up the Jesus experience as a platform to go higher didn’t end up happening; the Jesus experience was made out to be the highest possible experience (09:16)
  • Michael’s spiritual experience in more detail: finding himself on the floor of the Church and recognizing that there is another dimension of religious experience outside of dogma (10:40)
  • Discovering a path parallel to the theoretical and philosophical with access to divine authority and power—direct experience of the living spirit—has been pushed aside, especially in the West, to focus on the objective (14:51)
  • Our world (and the Church) tends to seek control, but no one can control the direct divine experience of an individual (18:00)
  • How do you lift up this thing called spirituality and cause it to be the core of religious response? (19:38)
  • Looking for a system that would transcend and include Michael’s experience—practices to induce religious response (21:12)
  • Opening to the “more,” the luminous, capturing a sense that everything is expanding (27:13) 
  • Understanding that divine experience is an evolutionary process, forever changing; none of us have it all nailed down (29:14)
  • The difficult of talking about this with people who haven’t had a divine experience (31:26)
  • There is a growing sensitivity to the spiritual but the focus remains on the external journey rather than the inner, contemplative journey (34:49)
  • Speaking as a Black priest from the West Indies: it’s no longer about religion but about the experience of coming into this white culture (36:14)
  • The separation inherent In a world of duality provides a wonderful avenue for unification—for us to move higher and experience the oneness (40:31)
  • We need to understand the oneness—we’ve done religion from the duality perspective, from a separatist perspective, missing the whole point (41:28)
  • Re-examining Jesus as a spiritual being having a physical experience, focusing on the the incarnational aspect of Jesus as human and divine, allows us to look through a different lens and see the possibilities for all of us—we all can go higher (44:37)
  • Individuals are open to the spiritual—the Church just needs to pick it up! Bring it back to the center, invite people to do the work and make the shift (51:56)
  • Culturally, the Caribbean perspective is changing now, loosening the connection with established religion that endorsed slavery, and taking ownership for one’s life journey, asking, what does it mean to be me as a person, as an individual? (55:37)

Resources & References

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Dr. Michael Clarke Living Spirit

The Rev. Dr. Michael A. Clarke, D. Min, graduated from Harrison College in 1978 and matriculated at the University of the West Indies in the same year. Upon graduating from UWI, he offered himself to test his vocation at Codrington College, the Anglican Seminary of the Church of the Province of the West Indies, and upon successfully completing his time there, he was accepted into Holy Orders, ordained deacon, and priested on the Eve of the Ascension in 1985. Dr. Clarke pursued a career in the full time ministry of the Church until 1990, when he left the diocese to study and work in the diocese of Toronto at St. Peter’s Church and St. Paul’s the Apostle Church, while pursuing his Doctor of MInistry degree studies at the Toronto School of Theology, Trinity College, University of Toronto.

Dr. Clarke was instrumental in creating the Anglican Youth Ministry Service, an agency of the diocese of Barbados, which was set up to provide a service to parishes enabling those in Youth Ministry with the opportunity to develop their skills and allow for a greater engagement of young people within the Church in the several parishes. He served in this capacity from 1994 – 2001. In 2015, Dr. Clarke was invited to serve the Province as principal of Codrington College, ex-officio to the Provincial Commission on Doctrine and the Provincial Commission on Ministry.


Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell


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