This last week I had the great privilege of attending a special gathering at the UN Chapel in New York. The event was to mark the closing of the UN Week of Spirituality and was orchestrated by the UN Committee on Spiritualty, Values and Global Concerns – CSGVC. It was also the launch of a series of events called the Road to 2020, which includes an ever growing number of organisations and various movements coming together.
Having arrived in New York a few days earlier to meet and connect with some people, I found myself attending a networking breakfast for the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. Having been involved in interfaith work over the last decade, I was most excited to be among such great company as I had known of the work of One Spirit for many years. This particular breakfast was marked by opening remarks by Dr. Kurt Johnson and One Spirit co-founder Rev. Diane Burke. Both of these talks were excellent with Dr. Johnson taking us on our journey through the stages of religion and one of his specialities, the transition from interfaith to interspiritual.
Diane Burke went on to portray a beautiful panorama of the diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs as existing in a kind of healthy eco-system and her insightful remarks certainly got me thinking.
The big challenge in dealing with the reality of a plurality of ways of seeing the world spiritually, is the ever present duality of the right/wrong dynamic. It is indeed hard to see past this from the usual perspective of the world. As Einstein said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. In this regard the work of Ken Wilber in offering a framework called Integral Theory outlining the various stages of development in spiritual “waking up” and “growing up” seems to offer a useful map for understanding the challenges, conflicts and contradictions as well as the upside – the value and meaning of faith perspectives.
Rev Burke’s remarks on the ecosystem brought to mind the various discussions around such things as bio-diversity and eco-diversity. We well understand that in a rainforest all the various elements work together for the good of the whole, whether they be the massive trees, ferns or even fungi and moss.
Could this not also be true in a spiritual sense? What if a plurality of healthy beliefs might actually make the whole system stronger? Some groups are devoted to earth spirituality, others to indigenous wisdom; some focus on the non-personal aspects of the Universe and others on the personal nature of God. Do these necessarily need to be in conflict with each other or could they be seen to coexist in a beautiful Garden of rich and flourishing diversity? It is an interesting thought and more work needs to be done in distinguishing between a healthy, creative belief system and an unhealthy, destructive one, – which as we know remains all-too common.
So it was with such thoughts resounding around my head that the event in the UN Chapel unfolded. And what a beautiful display it was! In the magnificent multi-faith space of Tilllman Chapel, 140 attendees experienced a gloriously rich display of Theodiversity! With presentations ranging from the works of Christian mystics to Rumi poetry and dance, from beautiful Sant Mat-inspired teaching to the prophetic vision of Haile Selassie, from musical visions for a future of increasing harmony, to quotes from Pope Francis and teachings from The Urantia Book.
Afterwards the enthusiasm in the Chapel was palpable as almost everybody stayed on to talk and to connect and to revel in the positive vibes. The renowned author and spiritual teacher Andrew Vidich summed it up the next day “I would like to express my profound appreciation for the dedication, joyous service and heartfelt love which poured so effortlessly into this event. The joy and Godly presence was present and shining brilliantly connecting us all in one grand matrix of LGHT. It is a glorious reminder of the power of collective grass roots action to transform our world and ourselves.”
Chair of the working group for the CSGVC, Sharon Hamilton-Getz shared “The music and artistic talent in the sacred Tillman Chapel glorified the Creator, inspired us all and was an awesome Finale to the Week!”
So, if it’s true that a healthy diversity of spiritual and theological beliefs can work together in a vibrant eco-system of Theodiversity then maybe, just maybe, this planet might be in better shape for the future than we thought.
In any case one thing is sure – there are more people working towards this positive future, in more ways and on more levels, than any one of us realise.
May Peace Prevail on Earth!
Image credit: Rajiv Sankarlall