© 2008 June Johnson

Some of you remember the importance you placed on a promise made to you in your childhood. That promise becomes part of your reality. You look forward to it. You count on it. Then, when inexplicably that trip to the beach, that special bicycle, or that visit to Grandma’s farm fails to materialize, it feels as if something you already had has been taken away from you. There’s a sense of betrayal.

There’s another kind of promise we hold as a child, the sense of who we might become if we develop our potential.

Looking at the idea of promise and development from another direction, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross draws attention to a quote by Roy and Jane Nichols which states: ". . . it is the promise of death and the experience of dying, more than any other force in life, that can move a human being to grow,” . . . to become “all that is truly you and at the same time, more fully human."

Let’s look at these aspects of promise, defined in my dictionary as: 1) an agreement to do or not to do something; a vow; and 2) an indication, as of a successful prospect or future; [a] basis for expectation. My intention is to show the spiritual relationship between keeping our promises and the unfoldment of the promise of our spiritual being .

To do that we’ll explore: 1st) the unique power of a promise; 2nd) why at times promises seem to mean so little; and 3rd) why we learn to keep our promises.

The Unique Power of a Promise

The Reverend Florence Becker, founder of the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church in San Francisco, taught that Promise is a spiritual substance with both force and intelligence, and comes from the same invisible spiritual substance out of which spiritual bodies are made. In fact, she said: “Promises hold spiritual substance together .”

Promises hold spiritual substance together

“Hold Well Your Promise” . . . It has direct bearing [on bringing] the finite (brain) and the Infinite (Soul) together. . . . If you want to enhance your spiritual unfoldment, don’t break promises . . . . .Broken promises take life from you . . . I can’t put this in your consciousness too strong!

According to the late Spiritualist counselor and minister, the Reverend Miriam Bostwick:

The delusion is that we make a commitment to someone else. As we cannot grant to another what we have not yet granted to ourselves, the truth is, all of our commitments are made to our own soul; and other souls feel the effect. And because we have incurred a duty to our own soul, those commitments are waiting to face us.

2. Why at Times Promises Seem to Mean So Little

In her book, More On the Conquering Soul , the Reverend Miriam Bostwick devoted a chapter to what she termed “The Broken Promises Game,” based, she said, on the operation of the sense functions of Deception, Desire, Fear, Guilt, and Selfishness. She wrote:

The Broken Promises Game is played when, through lack of control over our desires, we are unable to keep a commitment to our own soul, or we make unrealistic promises, or give away spiritual opportunities, and/or suffer the pangs of guilt. . . .We break our promises because there is no self-control.”

Keeping a promise requires the employment of personal responsibility.

“Responsibility,” as defined by the Reverend Miriam Bostwick, “implies the ability to respond when it is contrary to the desires you may entertain at the moment.” Therefore,

Some people are unable to make commitments because they are so controlled by their desires. They do not have the discipline to commit themselves to something for fear another desire will be playing louder at the time the commitment is to be fulfilled.

Encouragingly, she stated, “Self-control is a conscious choice of all experience ,” it is when that choice is made without the input of the spiritual conscience that we make selfish choices.

Self-control is a conscious choice of all experience

To reach a level of consciousness that enables us to keep our commitments, she said, requires the “counterbalancing soul faculties” of Commitment, Consideration, Discipline, Duty, Encouragement, Personal Responsibility, Promise, and Self-Control.

She suggested:

In asking someone to make a commitment, be specific in communicating exactly what you want. . . . once you get a commitment from them to do something, follow through with a definite time or plan. . . . You have to be very strong inside yourself to get something done by another person [to avoid getting into an emotional battle]. Calmly get a specific commitment for a specific time on a specific day to avoid opening the door to license.

She concluded:

The desires of the mind fluctuate so rapidly that it is unwise to depend upon a promise, unless it is God’s promise, because we do not know the stability of the person who made the promise.

3. Why We Learn to Keep Our Promises

As expressed in the Spiritualist Declaration of Principles, once we become aware of universal laws, we realize our happiness depends on learning to adhere to them. To break a promise is to disobey one of nature’s physical and spiritual laws.

Each stage of awareness builds on the foundation of the physical, emotional and mental development of the previous stage of awareness: Good health habits, fair play, building friendships, the discipline of chores and schoolwork, seeking positive mentors, learning to live constructively with our life choices, and helping others. Gradually we develop a conscious daily practice of concentration and meditation which supports an appreciation for service and an awareness of the self beyond the ego personality.

As the Reverend Miriam Bostwick stated, “We cannot trust the mind. The [personality’s] levels of consciousness are selfish and its one and only priority is to serve the level that is in control at the moment.” Limited to the brain of the physical senses, the ego personality tends to create an obstruction between the physical and spiritual man. To discover who we truly are, seekers must eventually go inward to explore beyond the mind’s self-created construct which has been telling us who we think we are.

Spiritualist Principals recognize that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any soul here or hereafter. Eventually, we will all progress in awareness.

One of the happiest aspects of the Reverend Florence Becker’s teachings is the presentation of specific strategies we can choose that help speed up this process of development. She recommended:

If someone wants to extract a promise from you, say, ‘I’ll see.’ Think on it, discern (see with the mind's eye, mentally understand.) A lot of things people press us to do, say ‘I’ll see,’ and reflect. Right will be revealed from wrong .

This step is an important one which recognizes that “your thought or word is one of the greatest powers in your life.”

The Reverend Miriam Bostwick also recommended that we “learn to pause before making promises;” reminding us that although each level of awareness has the right to express, “it does not mean we must express on that level, for we are never without choice.” She advised:

Use the personality but never forget it is not your soul. Use the personality wisely to accomplish your spiritual duty. If you forget the personality is not your soul, you will pay a terrible price because the personality will try to get spirit to serve it.

Instead, she asked us to consider that “A commitment to God is freedom from the authority of the brain .”

A commitment to God is freedom from the authority of the brain

She said, “in giving up our spiritual commitments, we give away our spiritual opportunities. This is an obstruction to our receiving. You are out of the flow . . . .”

“In time,” she offers, “when we reach a level of consciousness where nothing is more important than a commitment, the commitment will be kept.”

Keeping our promises keeps the promise of our spiritual being unfolding in our lives.

Following up on and keeping our promises is one of the most profound spiritual practices we can undertake. The development of Commitment, Consideration, Discipline, Personal Responsibility and Self-Control helps us mentally, emotionally and physically attend in a timely fashion to what we know needs our attention. According to the Reverend Florence Becker, “If you do something about it now . . . in employing Personal Responsibility you open the floodgates to Spiritual Substance, for if you use Personal Responsibility you realize God in Action . . .”

If you use Personal Responsibility you realize God in Action

Let us remember the Reverend Florence Becker’s teaching that Promise is soul substance, and her admonition: “If you want to enhance your spiritual unfoldment, don’t break promises . . . . Think on it . . . Broken promises take life from you.”

In the Reverend Miriam Bostwick’s chapter on promises, there is a quote by Wayne Oates:

The promises we make and keep endear the heart; the promises we make and break, break us apart .”

June: Essays