Religiosity & New Forms of Spirituality Working Table

Beyond Spiritual Borders

Our working table of about 18 people was a diverse group, including people from Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as from contemporary spiritual currents such as the Ethical Cultures Society, various spiritual healing disciplines, and Silo?s Message. Considering the question of spirituality and social change, we found that, as exemplified by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the two go hand in hand: spirituality lies at the heart of social change.

We began by sharing experiences - important spiritual experiences from our personal lives. It seems that profound spiritual experience generally begins in one of two ways: with an epiphany, an experience of overwhelming joy or comprehension - or with a crisis of non-meaning. Either way, one sets out on a search, moving with great intention in a new direction, seeking either to deepen a positive experience, or to find a way out of non-meaning.

Our personal experiences had many qualities in common - such as an expansive internal force, coming from within, something no one can take away from you; a sense of certainty, of no doubt; an all-embracing sense of being beyond time and space; a profound feeling of well-being, without fear, full of serene joy, wisdom, love, understanding. With such registers comes a desire to continue this process in time, moving toward greater and greater depth and clarity of experience.

Although such experiences are personal, we found that they generally occur in a social context, in relationship with others - as if spiritual transformation cannot take place in isolation. One feels a need to reconcile, not only with oneself, but with life, and with others. One senses that all human beings are connected, are the same - that, as one person put it, "I am you in another form." A strong desire to move toward others begins to unfold, impelling the individual into the social sphere, toward contact with others of greater and greater diversity.

Spiritual experience brings with it a desire to create a world that reflects this positive inner experience: a world coherent with our awareness of the Sacred within us and around us. This is the source of the impulse toward positive social change, an impulse intensely present in today's world. It seems that just as personal crisis can send an individual off on a personal search, social crisis can thrust a whole society into a search - a search for universal connection and reconciliation, a search leading toward collective spiritual transformation on a planetary scale.

As we see it, the next step in this process of planet-wide spiritual evolution must be the creation of spaces conducive to profound connection among human beings of all backgrounds and beliefs - spaces for the convergence of spiritual diversity. As has already begun to happen in certain spiritual ambits, including the worldwide Parks of Silo's Message, we need to create environments where every form of search or belief is welcomed and validated - religious or spiritual, atheist or agnostic. We need to create spaces we can come together to discover together the common experience that is fundamental to all spiritual expressions: the experience of the Sacred, of the Profound - of the greatness within every human being and among us all.

Facilitators: Mark Lesseraux, Mark Farrell