Crawley Interfaith talk

I had the pleasure to give a talk for the friends of Crawley Interfaith Network on Thursday 17th May 2012.  Below is an invitation, a list of books and the talk.  From time to time I will add more information.

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1 An invitation to ‘Interspiritual Dialogue’ 

If you are at all interested in Interspiritual Dialogue please contact me.

I don’t want to start another organization – I much prefer to be of service to esteemed interfaith groups such as the one in Crawley.

As a start I think it would be good to learn about some of those who have made wonderful contributions to Interspiritual Dialogue, starting with Wayne Teasdale – because he sets a framework.  Others who help to set the framework are

Eckhart Tolle – in understanding a pan-religious spirituality

Karen Armstrong – in gaining respect for the world’s great Faiths from a historical perspective.

Ken Wilber – the great thinker of our time in bringing together eternal spirituality & personal & social development.

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2 Initial List of Books – in relation to Interspiritual Dialogue (more to come)

NB If books are not your primary cup of tea start with my on-line video course HERE

The books to start with

The most important one to start with is The Mystic Heart by Bro Wayne Teasdale HERE

Eckhart Tolle – start with Stillness Speaks

Karen Armstrong – see HERE – covers mainly historical perspectives however I recommend A Short History of Myth and her Case for God which I suggest is read in conjunction with Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith & Revolution!

Ken Wilber – for your general intro start with this The Simple Feeling of Being HERE – For your head The Marriage of Sense and Soul – and for your heart Grace & Grit

Abraham Joshua Heschel – Who is Man – perhaps the most important book ever!

Robert Aitkin & David Stendl-Rast The Ground We Share

The best stuff I have ever read about the psycho-spiritual nature of fundamentalism is in Chapters 7 & 8 of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory

More comprehensive book list to follow.

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3 THE TALK – NB You may use sections freely but please have the courtesy to give an attribution with a link back to this page.

Karen Armstrong:

Compassion, the Golden Rule &

“Let’s meet in the ‘Garden of Oneness’”

A talk for Crawley Interfaith Network Thursday 17th May 2012

by Roger Prentice – onesummit  AT gmail DOT com

(replace AT with @ and DOT with . NB no spaces)

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1 INTRO:
This evening I speak not  from any superior position or understanding but as someone running to keep hold of the garment of the Beloved.  I am frequently forgetful – but the perfume of the Beloved always returns in some way.  When I forget to forget I remember my Lord since as Ibn al Arabi says speaking as Him;

i am closer to you than yourself,

than your soul, than your own breath,

why do you not see me?

why do you not hear me?

2 WHAT ARE THE 2 FOCUSES OF TONIGHT”S TALK?
This evening I am speaking about Karen Armstrong and her book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life AND about something I am calling the ‘One Garden Project’.

3 WHAT HAS KAREN ARMSTRONG DONE FOR INTER-FAITH UNDERSTANDING?
KA – is one of the greatest ever servants of inter-faith understanding – I am a great admirer.  She ranks, in my view, with such figures as Huston Smith about whom I will mention more later.

Her prodigious publishing of accessible histories and accounts has widened the audience and built many bridges – as evidenced by the almost universal esteem in which she is rightly held.

4 ON WHAT IS KAREN ARMSTRONG’S BOOK CENTRED?
Karen Armstrong’s book is centred on compassion and the Golden Rule.  Compassion I suggest  is the necessary condition for the operation of the Golden Rule.  The Golden Rule I suggest is the ethic that arises out of compassion – and is one of the unifying threads found in all of the great world faiths.

Her book has 12 steps, 12 as in Alcoholics Anonymous, programme.

5 FROM WHAT DIS-EASES DO WE NEED TO BE FREED OR HEALED?
It’s interesting to ask that if compassion and the Golden Rule are the medicine what is the addiction from which we need to be freed or healed?

Some of the diseases, the negatives that keep us apart, or at worst keep us in aggressive alienation, are;

materialism
the need to define ourselves via those we learn to hate
excessive cynicism
exclusivity
fundamentalism  etc.

6 IS FUNDAMENTALISM AN IDEOLOGICAL MATTER?
Most books about fundamentalism are about ideologies and clashes between ideologies.

I want to mention three psycho-spiritual insights – one from a Quaker friend, one from a Marxist ex-Catholic and one from Karen Armstrong.

The Quaker friend, Harvey Gillman, in a talk he gave some months ago says;

the fear of being alone, of being out in the world, of being without boundaries may lead us to look backwards to a time when we knew our place and when we were not confronted by otherness.  This is the root of fundamentalism, which is the theology of exclusion.

The Marxist says that at its root fundamentalism is ‘fear of annihilation’.

Karen Armstrong says, fundamentalism is ‘lust for certainty’.

‘The theology of exclusion’, ‘fear of annihilation’ & ‘lust for certainty – three fascinating characteristics of fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism then isn’t about ideologies it is about having mature adult individuals ie. it is about whole and healthy, balanced individuals.  If we had those in greater abundance the poison of fundamentalist ideologies wouldn’t take hold of sub-communities.

7 FROM WHICH DIS-EASE DO WE MOST NEED FREEDOM?
Of course ultimately we need to be freed from self – the small self – the ultimate illusion.  This is the goal of being mystically related to the Mystery of the Whole.

8 WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE EXISTENTIAL QUESTION?
At root is the question that I decided was the ultimate, “What is it to be positively & fully human?”  After 15 years thinking about this issue my answer was – ‘the 3 Cs to be caring, creativity & criticality – all within the 4th C of Community.’    cf Wilber

All true religions are humanistic – that is they want to produce the best of what it is to be human.

To lose the lower self is the central and ultimate goal of spiritual paths.

9 WHAT IS KAREN ARMSTRONG’S 12 STEP PROGRAMME?
KA’s programme aims at transforming these negatives.  Such transformation requires a whole set of conditions, social and personal, including;

a sense of confidence and security in our own beliefs and cultural heritage

respect for others & for diversity

trust

issues of identity (and purpose)

issues of security

wise teaching of the young

These relate to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’.

I am sure that these are all part of what KA is working for via the book and her organization to which she dedicated the $100,000 prize which she was awarded by the TED organization (Technology Entertainment Design).

We need to free ourselves from these negatives.  KAs book presents 12 practical steps.  She says we should;

1   learn about compassion – from the story of stories in the world’s great faith traditions
2   examine our world – to help find our own special contribution
3   generate compassion for yourself – forgive self & others
4   deepen empathy – including from the arts
5   practice mindfulness
6   act to deepen our inner life – so as to act  effectively in the world
7   relate to the Whole, the Mystery, the Unknown – and learn humility and empathy
8   speak to each other – via deep listening and true dialogue
9   expand the circle of who is ‘in’ – letting go of tribal egoism
10 seek the knowledge that unites – knowledge that can show us common ground
11 recognize the oneness that is within and beyond our human being
12 love your enemies

So – there is much wisdom and good practice in her book.

10 WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? –  Two suggestions.

Firstly a study group based on the book.  We ran such a group in Seaford – there are some issues in my view.

Secondly – bringing information about and support for using Compassion and the Golden Rule as the core ethical and spiritual teaching for schools.  A friend did this in her very successful ‘beacon’ primary school.

11 BUT TO WHICH RELIGION DOES KA BELONG?
An interesting question remains – religiously what is KA?   A jew, a Moslem, a Christian a Buddhist, a Baha’i …… – a closet Humanist?

Clearly she doesn’t want a label – but can she be other than a Universalist?   Universalism is related to Oneness and to Non-duality.

The universal-hearted seek to dialogue with and exchange spiritual nourishment with those of all true faiths.

12 DOES TWELVE STEPS TO A COMPASSIONATE LIFE’ AMOUNT TO A TURNING-POINT IN KA’s LIFE?
With the Compassion book she seems to have reached a turning point, a realization about the importance of the experiential and of the golden mystical vein to be found in all the great wisdom traditions.  There are hints of these things going way back in her books but winning the prize and being given the $100,000 seem to have brought  about some kind of turning point or epiphany or shift toward the experiential.

There are some criticisms.

13 DID SHE SPEND THE MONEY WITH THE RIGHT GROUP OF PEOPLE?
Should she have spend it the money with the meek & the oppressed?

14 WHICH IDEAS ARE CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH UNIVERSALISM?
For me it is the Interspirituality of Brother Wayne Teasdale and something I call Spiritual Federalism by which I mean

one who, whilst devoutly part of the tradition that claimed her/him extended her/his heart and mind, in dialogue with others – so as to create a ‘space’ for oneness, beyond the particularities of belief systems and words – and born out of contemplative dialogue and deepened presence.

About Interspirituality Wayne Teasdale said;

“In a nutshell Interspirituality means that when you have entered the world of the Heart, the question of who is right or wrong with regard to belief or creed is pretty much irrelevant”   Wayne Teasdale

Teasdale considered that;

“Interspiritual dialogue can underpin a new kind of inter-religious dialogue”   Wayne Teasdale

15 WHO LIKES GARDENS & WHAT IS THEIR METAPHORICAL VALUE?

Wherever people from different faith traditions sit down and take tea together they are in ‘One Garden’    Now I turn to inviting you to participate in the One Garden Project – or create one of your own

Please raise your hand if you like gardens?

Please raise your hand if you have visited the Alhambra?

Please raise your hand if you have visited the Alnwick Gardens – at the castle where the films Harry Potter were made?

Please raise your hand if you have visited the Baha’i gardens in Haifa?

The Garden of Oneness about which speak is a virtual or spiritual a space where we can meet & be one.

16 WHAT IS THE THE ONENESS GARDEN ‘PROJECT’?
The project is about honouring wonderful individuals who have reached out from their own belief systems and culture – to recognize others and recognize the same light at the core of those belief systems and culture.

17 WHO ARE SOME OF THE GREAT TEACHERS WHO POINT US TO THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE ONENESS GARDEN?

Here are some of them.   The first four are especially useful in understanding Universality, Interspirituality & as I’m suggesting Spiritual Federalism.

Brother Wayne Teasdale – Interspirituality
Eckhart Tolle – in understanding a pan-religious spirituality
Karen Armstrong – in gaining respect for the world’s great Faiths from a historical perspective.
Ken Wilber – the great thinker of our time in bringing together eternal spirituality & personal & social development.

-0- The rest of this course includes:

Shaikh Kabir Helminski
Abdu’l-Baha
Brothr Stendahl-Rost
Thich Nhat Hahn
Eknath Easwaran
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Quaker Universalism
Deng Ming-Dao – Taoism
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Albert Einstein
Prof John P Miller
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Huston Smith
John Hick
John Daido Loori
Thomas Merton
William Johnstone

18 HOW CAN WE DEEPEN OUR INTERFAITH ACTIVITIES?
Let’s meet frequently in the Garden of Oneness – in which we honour own own tradition and culture but freely and securely have communion and dialogue – and tea – with others.

Let’s study those great teachers and dialogers whose hearts and minds have reached out to others – Karen Armstrong being a leading example.

Let’s support the struggles of the oppressed wherever they might be.

19 WHAT IMAGES & METAPHORS ARE THERE FOR ENJOYING THE ONENESS?
Smell the perfume – ignore the label

Drink sweet, pure water from any well you find – the source is the same.

Remember that the One Summmit has many pathways,

Remember that the Oneness Garden – has many gateways.

So

It is a garden in which we can all serve – a space beyond the clamouring assertions of belief-systems, theology and words – beyond the ‘Kingdom of Names’ and concepts.  We can sit and smile and be in that space.  The space pointed to by all the mystics, not just the Zen masters.

Karen Armstrong has taken a well-deserved place in this group of great teachers who can give us the confidence to enjoy truth, beauty and goodness from all of the great faith traditions whilst honouring the one to which we belong.

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Invitation to participate in a Karen Armstrong  compassion day organized by Harvey Gillman at the Brighton Friends Meeting House on Saturday June 9th

For a list of beautiful quotations please email me.   (To follow)

NEWSLETTER
If you would like my newsletter and updates please let me know drop me an email at

onesummit  AT gmail DOT com

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You can also sign up to this blog i.e Soul Needs on WordPress.

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