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#2574 - Monday, September 4, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz


In this issue is an article by Rev. Dr. Rodney Romney, in which ordinary human lives and events of the world intertwine with themes of transformation and nondual realization. Thanks to David Hodges, one of the pioneers in online nonduality, for this beautifully written contribution.    


THE CHALLENGE OF AN INTERSPIRITUAL AGE
Rev. Dr. Rodney Romney
August 20, 2006


About six years ago, shortly after my retirement
from the Seattle First Baptist Church and before
Beverly and I moved back to Idaho, I was walking
around Green Lake in Seattle, when I met a
friend, Jamal Rahman, who was a minister from the
Islam community.  He was accompanied by a tall
man I did not know, and as we approached Jamal
greeted me and asked if I would mind escorting
his friend around the lake while he ran some
errands. Assuring us we needed to get acquainted,
Jamal dashed off, leaving the two of us to
introduce ourselves to each other.  We exchanged
first names and continued to walk.  It was a bit
awkward at first, because our only connection had
just deserted us and left us together as total strangers.

Gradually, as we walked, we revealed more than
just our first names.  I told him my full name
and that I was a recently retired Baptist
minister.  He told me that he had formerly been a
member of a Roman Catholic monastic community but
had left that order to become a monk in an
interreligious community called Sanyassa.  When I
asked what brought him to Seattle, he said he was
on a tour for his most recent book, "The Mystic Heart."

At that information, I would have dropped my
teeth had they not been securely rooted to my
gums.   "You're Wayne Teasdale," I gasped, as
though he might not have known it.  "I'm reading
your latest book right now, The Mystic Heart.  I
can't believe I'm having this walk with you."

He smiled and said, "And you're Rod Romney,
pastor of the First Baptist Church.  I've just
read your book, Wilderness Spirituality, and I
can't believe you're a Baptist."  In the middle
of the path we stopped and embraced like old
friends reunited, even though we had just met.

On the rest of that walk, we chatted like
longtime friends.  When we returned to the spot
where we had first met, Jamal, the one who had
dumped us off on each other, was waiting with a
big smile.  "I knew you two needed to meet," he
said.  "You both have a great deal in
common.  For one thing, you have each outgrown
your religious traditions for something more universal."

Wayne Teasdale died a few years ago from
cancer.  It was in his book, "The Mystic Heart,"
that I first read about the age of
interspirituality, a radically new approach to
our life as a human family in a world that grows
increasingly more divided.  He outlined this age
with the following seven qualities:

1. The emergence of ecological awareness and
sensitivity to the natural, organic world, with
an acknowledgment of the basic fragility of the earth.
2. A growing sense of the rights of other species.
3. A recognition of the interdependence of all domains of life and reality.
4. The ideal of abandoning a militant nationalism
as a result of this tangible sense of our essential interdependence.
5. A deep, evolving experience of community
between and among the religions through their individual members.
6. The growing receptivity to the inner treasures of the world's religions.
7. An openness to the cosmos, with the
realization that the relationship between humans
and the earth is part of the larger community of the universe.

These shifts have slowly become part of the
religious thought and culture of the third
millennium.  Perhaps the spirit of Wayne Teasdale
is hovering about and that he is aware of the
seeds that he has sown for the common good of the
inhabitants of this planet, particularly during
this violent and uncertain time in which we are now living.

Thomas Berry, a popular writer of our time,
referred to himself as a geologian, meaning a
theologian for the earth.  This is spirituality
attaching itself to ecology.  The Hindu and
Buddhist, the Sufi, the Jewish, the Muslim, the
Christian, and indigenous peoples-all are slowly
but surely becoming united in a movement that
links ecology and spiritual traditions together
in a common enterprise that today is called
interspirituality.  An aphorism from the Hindu
tradition says it well:  "The paths are many, but
the goal is the same."  We are trying to save our
earth and expand our sense of spiritual connections.

My question regarding interspirituality is
this:  if ecology and religion can be yoked
together, can politics and religion find some
common ground?  I agree with what Senator Ted
Kennedy said recently, "Our current 'stay the
course' strategy in Iraq is a failed
strategy.  The bloodletting shows no sign of
letting up.  Recent weeks have brought warnings
that the situation may be even worse.  Once we
said that we were there for the liberation of
Iraq, but it now appears that what might emerge
is an all-out civil warâ?¦  Prime Minister Tony
Blair in Britain has agreed that Iraq could fly
apart at any moment.  Yet President Bush
responded to these warnings by saying:  'You
know, I hear people say civil war this, civil war
that, but the Iraqi people have decided against a
civil war.'" Senator Kennedy concluded his
remarks by saying, "So President Bush continues
to whistle past the graveyard, and will continue
to do so as long as Congress ratifies his failed strategy."

I think what I am most saddened about is what
must be happening to the souls of own young men
and women who are fighting in Iraq, as they learn
to kill, demean and torture other human
beings.   I wonder if we will ever be able to
turn this current tragedy into a higher
realization, where we can move beyond politics
and be touched by something ultimate.

Teasdale wrote this in his book, "In experiences
of tragedy, in the death of a loved one, for
example, we leave our local awareness for a while
and are brought into a higher realization; ¦it
takes us beyond ourselves, into a mystical
experience, where we are touched by something ultimate." (page 70)

I had that experience this past week.  Before my
older brother died about a year ago, he asked to
be cremated and to have his ashes scattered in a
canyon in the Little Lost River Valley, where we
had grown up.  We (his two brothers and one
sister) agreed to do that.  So this past week,
about twenty members of our family met and camped
out in Sawmill Canyon at the head of Little Lost
River Valley.  On Saturday we drove over the
rough, nearly impassable mountain road leading up to Bell Mountain canyon.

In that canyon my father, a native of Utah, had
spent all of his adult life prospecting for
gold.  During that time, he met my mother, a
daughter of a rancher in the Little Lost River
valley, and when they were married, he took her
up into that isolated canyon to live in the log
cabin that he had built.  In that canyon, my two
older brothers and I were conceived, and there we
learned to talk, to walk, and to explore a world
that was in many ways our own private Garden of
Eden.  When my parents were divorced, our Garden
of Eden ended, and we left that canyon, only
going back on rare occasions to visit our
father.  He died in l952 at the age of 53, and
was buried in Murray, Utah, after which there
were no more trips to the canyon.

I was totally unprepared for what happened to me
when we went back to that canyon this past week
to carry out the last wishes of my brother.  As
we stood in front of the cabin which my dad had
built, which was now starting to fall down, I
felt an emotion welling up inside of me that left
me totally speechless.  The family was gathered
around, waiting for me to say the appropriate
words, but instead of words, all I had were
tears.  Tears for the broken dreams of my father,
who had lived all his life in a futile search for
gold in that wilderness canyon.  Tears for my
parents, whose marriage had lasted only a few
years.  Tears for the brother who was no longer
with us.  Tears for that tumble-down cabin that
had once sheltered all of us.  Tears for that
rough mountain trail where I had taken my first
steps as a child and where I had awakened to the
beauty and mystery of this world, as well the
pain and separation that often marks the human path.

When I was finally able to speak, I tried to
share a bit of what it had been like to grow up
in that wilderness, where all we had was each
other.  I tried to pay tribute to my brother who
had asked to have his final remains brought to
that place.  But no words could express all that
was in my heart at that moment.  I had entered
into a state of interspiritual awareness, and an
old Hindu aphorism came back to me, "The paths
are many, but the goal is the same."  I was
finally able to say a brief prayer of commitment
and scatter the ashes of my brother around that
old cabin that had been our first home.

We all want to go home, to the place that
resonates with our temperament, our
understanding, and our capacity.  We all want to
be where we know we belong, the place where we
are fully loved and where we can love fully.  For
a moment in that wilderness canyon in front of
that old tumble-down cabin, I felt I had come
home.  Yet I knew the feeling was only
temporary.  I am on my way home, but I am not yet fully home.

Wayne Teasdale said that spirituality is the
whole inner movement of the heart to seek the
divine.  It is a commitment to the process of
inner change, and a personal attachment to a
spiritual way of life and the transformation it brings.
Spirituality is a way to travel, not a place of
arrival.  And interspirituality is the common
heritage of humankind's spiritual wisdom: the
place where we share mystical resources across
boundaries of different religious
traditions.  Teasdale said that we are now
entering the interspiritual age, where more and
more people are no longer isolated within their
own homes or native traditions, but are exploring
other traditions, finding what is useful in their
own growth.  Life, I think, always seeks to
change us into more compassionate and concerned
human beings.  If the war in Iraq could do that,
then perhaps it will have been worth it.

I was interested to read recently that Billy
Graham, the famous conservative evangelist, in
his final years has now become more moderate and
inclusive.  He is no longer a literalist,
believing that every jot and tittle in the Bible
has come directly from God.  He now believes that
God loves everybody, regardless of what label
they have.  As he has come to his journey's end,
he has found refuge in a new hope and
humility.  This marks the beginning of
interspirituality for him, whether he calls it
that or not.  It is a journey I believe we will
all take sooner or later, if we keep our minds and hearts open.

Teasdale said there is a threefold summit and
goal of the spiritual life, which is the found in
all religious traditions:  nonduality (from the
Hindu tradition), enlightenment (from the
Buddhist tradition), and love (from the
Christian, Sufi, and Jewish
traditions).  Together these three qualities take
us to the mystical summit, the cosmic shore, or
whatever we wish to call it, where we all
differences disappear, because we have become
one.  Any individual who arrives at this final
integration, says Teasdale, is a mystic.  He or
she has found a deep, inner freedom to reach out
to everyone and everything that is.  Jesus said
when we become one, we have reached the inner
kingdom of God, the highest attainment in life.

Each evening, when we are here in Idaho Falls,
weather permitting, I sit out on our deck looking
out across a golf course to the foothills of the
Teton Mountains and the grand expanse of the sky
that marks the close of another day.  I have no
requests, no desires, and no demands.  I observe
no particular form of worship.  I simply sit in
silent appreciation for the God who has given me
life and who loves all creation, human and
non-human alike.  I am grateful for the journey
that has brought me to this awareness of the
interspirituality of all religions and the
interrelationship of all life.  My silent prayer
is that the journey will widen and expand to
include more and more people, for I believe it is
the only way to peace and good will on this fragile earthship.

As you may know, the Golden Rule, do unto others
as you would have them do unto you, exists in
every religious culture.  Confucius speaks of
it.  The Buddhists speak of it.  The
Bhagavad-Gita speaks of it, and Jewish and
Christan teachings speak of it as central to
life. What would happen if we would more fully
and consciously honor that rule as the universal
mandate?  We would see a dramatic improvement and
change in the world. Wars would end, and we would
find our way home to each other and to the
essential truth of universal being.

Spirituality for me today, like prayer, is the
breath of the inner life.  As Teasdale said, "It
is an essential resource to the transformation of
consciousness on the planet, and it will clear a
path for us to build a universal society where
the transformation of consciousness will help us
embrace all that is and assist us in building a
universal age of peace for the good of all humanity and all creation."

To that end, to the building of a new world of
freedom, respect and love, I would dedicate the
remainder of my life, and invite each of you, as
you are moved, to do the same.  We are all on a
journey home, to the place of our belonging, the
place of our freedom, and the place where we are
fully known and completely loved.  Let us journey in love and gratitude.

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