Editor’s Note: Thomas Berry often wrote about spirituality, the sacred and the divine. Here are three articles related to Thomas Berry’s sense of the sacred. The third article on the “Interspiritual Movement” did not come out of the Thomas Berry community as such. It is presented as additional new spiritual/religious movements will be presented in these Musings in the future to provide insight into the ferment of creating contemporary spiritualities for the ecozoic age.
SENSE OF THE SACRED BERRY QUOTE
A note from Peggy Whalen-Levitt, Executive Director of the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural world:
Here’s the quote from Thomas’ Foreword to Thomas Merton’s When the Trees Say Nothing. This quote is the foundation of our two-year program for educators, “The Inner Life of the Child in Nature”:
There is a certain futility in the efforts being made – truly sincere, dedicated, and intelligent efforts—to remedy our environmental devastation simply by activating renewable sources of energy and by reducing the deleterious impact of the industrial world. The difficulty is that the natural world is seen primarily for human use, not as a mode of sacred presence primarily to be communed with in wonder, beauty and intimacy. In our present attitude the natural world remains a commodity to be bought and sold, not a sacred reality to be venerated. A deep psychic shift is needed to withdraw us from the fascination of the industrial world and the deceptive gifts that it gives us…Eventually, only our sense of the sacred will save us.
Thomas Berry, Foreword, When the Trees Say Nothing(Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2003), 18
THE META-RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT
In the end, to Thomas Berry, the transition that is needed from the Cenozoic to the Ecozoic can only be compared to the great classical religious movements, the emergence of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Taoism, the spread of Christianity and the rise of Islam. Each of these movements involved a widespread change of consciousness and a new orientation in life. The movements spread through the intellect, but perhaps even more by some unconscious force that entered the human spirit and changed human culture.
Thomas speaks of the coming transformation as a meta-religious movement. One of the meanings of the prefix “meta” is “more comprehensive” or “transcending,” and this is the sense in which Thomas uses “meta.” What he envisions is a more comprehensive or transcending religious movement. This movement is more comprehensive because it involves not simply a segment of the human community, but the entire human community, even the entire geo-biological order of the planet, and it is transcending because it is not a replacement for existing religious traditions and cultures, but an overlay that establishes a new context and dimension of sacred experience.
This meta-religious movement is grounded in, first, a functional cosmology, one that is based in the universe story as we have come to know it through observational science and as it has been interpreted by Thomas and others, in its psychic, aesthetic and moral dimensions; second, a spiritual dimension derived from an apprehension of the mysterious unfolding of the self-organizing, creative, emergent processes that have given and continue to give form to the universe in both its macrophase and microphase realities; and third, a recovery of intimacy with other-than-human nature and its aesthetic and numinous dimensions.
Yet, ultimately, this movement passes over such a rational analysis into the realm of celebration. “For in the end the universe can only be explained in terms of celebration. It is all an exuberant expression of existence itself” (p. 170). We, the humans with our special capacity for conscious self-awareness, become the celebrants of this vast cosmic liturgy. We do this with dance, as in the great Sundance of the Lakota Sioux tribe in North America. We do this with a revival of archetypal symbols such as the Great Journey, Death-Rebirth, the Cosmic Tree, and the Sacred Center recast in the story of an emergent universe. We do this with a renewal of spiritual disciplines and communal observance, especially as these are revitalized with sacred wonder of the emergent beauty of existence and the sacred process that has brought all of this to be and sustains it in being.
And we join in this celebration not only with our own kind, but with all of other kind. For religion, and so this meta-religious movement, is in its most profound dimension a dynamic reality. This grand liturgy is not only a celebration of what is, but what can be, and to engage in its celebration is to be empowered to realize the potential of what can be, and to heal. We have arrived in a time of peril. “[T]he damage that has been done is immediately the work of humans. [Yet] now the entire universe is involved in the healing of the damaged Earth in the light and warmth of the sun” (p. 20). To grasp that we are involved in such a universe…for this we lift our songs of praise.
When we join with all people on Earth of various backgrounds and traditions, and with all others in the larger community of life, in this meta-religious movement, we celebrate the universe.
Excerpt from Herman Greene, “Thomas Berry’s Great Work,” The Ecozoic Reader (Fall 2000).
Page references are to Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999).
THE INTERSPIRITUAL MOVEMENT
By Herman Greene
There are different terms for relations between religions/faiths/spiritualities among which are “interfaith” and “multi-faith.” A recent movement is coalescing around the term “Interspirituality.” This movement led by Kurt Johnson, David Robert Ord, Ken Wilber and Ed Bastian, among others, is based directly on the work of Father Thomas Keating and Brother Wayne Teasdale and indirectly on a host of figures dating at least back to Swami Vivekananda and his speeches at the first Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893. In those speeches he stated among other things:
The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth, or the air, or the water? No. It becomes a plant. It develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into plant substance, and grows into a plant.
Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.
The Interspiritual movement is focused not on relating different faiths to each other, but in assimilating the spirit of different faiths so that each faith may grow. Other elements of this movement are “do-it-yourself spiritualities” and new spiritualities and, generally, the growth of spirituality and values in a growingly secular world. One survey found that only a third of the world’s people are actively involved in one of the main religious traditions. Each of these traditions is being brought into contact with other religions and two-thirds of the world’s people are of diverse spiritualities.
In February, 2014, in New York City, the Interspiritual Association came into being. Here are the common principles of this association, which were been developed through a series of events dating back to 1983.
HISTORICAL CONSENSUS POINTS— it was noted in discussion that there appears to be clear historical consensus across the interspiritual community about various statements already published over the years by the movement. These include:
- Nine Elements of a Universal Spirituality from Wayne Teasdale’s The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999).
- Nine Points of Agreement of the 30-year process of the Snowmass Initiative.
- Seven Points of Interspiritual Education developed by Kurt Johnson and Robert Ord.
- Assumptions regarding the origin and development of Interspirituality, Wayne Teasdale’s major points as summarized by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord.
Nine Elements of a Universal Spirituality:
- Actualizing full moral and ethical capacity
- Living in harmony with the cosmos and all living beings
- Cultivating a life of deep nonviolence
- Living in humility and gratitude
- Embracing a regular spiritual practice
- Cultivating mature self-knowledge
- Living a life of simplicity
- Being of selfless service and compassionate action
- Empowering the prophetic voice for justice, compassion, and world transformation.
Nine Points of Agreement (from the 30-year Snowmass Inter-religious Initiative):
- The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality to which they give various names: Brahma, Allah, (the) Absolute, God, Great Spirit.
- Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
- Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.
- Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality. Faith in this sense precedes every belief system.
- The potential for human wholeness—or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana—is present in every human.
- Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.
- As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it remains subject to ignorance, illusion, weakness, and suffering.
- Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment isn’t the result of one’s own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness (unity) with Ultimate Reality.
- Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it’s regarded as personal, impersonal (transpersonal), or beyond both.
Elements of Interspiritual Education:
- Teaching interspirituality itself (the journey from interfaith to experiential interspirituality)
- Teaching sacred activism (the inherent connection of being and doing)
- Cultivating higher consciousness (unity consciousness as an actual experience)
- Nurturing individual formation (personal maturation in authentic universal spirituality)
- Teaching integral (the integral vision and the developmental view of history)
- Community building (building authentic communities of all kinds)
- Ministry development (developing interfaith and interspiritual ministry from conventional roles—in religious institutions, chaplaincy, hospice—to entrepreneurial initiatives, creating new roles for interfaith and interspiritual ministry).
Assumptions regarding the origin and development of Interspirituality (Wayne Teasdale’s major points as summarized by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord)
- Human consciousness and heart have been evolving toward a maximum potential regarding the kind of being humans can be and what kind of an earth we can create
- This has been going on since the known origin of the cosmos, as material evolution and as evolution of consciousness
- This is recognized in a fundamental tenant of the interspiritual vision, that the evolution of world religions has been one unfolding experience reflecting the gradual growth of human maturity
- This trend is anchored in the universally unfolding experience of “unity consciousness” or “awakening,” the experience of profound interconnectedness, no separation, and the world of the heart
- This unity consciousness has been emerging through all the world’s spiritual traditions
- Historically we have witnessed this unfolding in myriad identifiable threads in the world’s philosophies and religions
- This unfolding has implications for how we develop our collective skills so that this consciousness can manifest in the world in tangible skill-sets working toward global transformation
- This has implications for the innumerable realms and arenas of endeavor, represented by all humanity.
For additional information about the Interspiritual movement, see http://interspirituality.com/ and Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord, The Coming Interspiritual Age (Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing (2012).