“Why a new Center for World Spirituality?”, you may ask. We certainly have more spiritual groups, churches, outposts, declarations of specialness, than ever before populating this planet. Indeed it is an easy argument to make that religions and declarations of a special connection to God are causing more wars and divisiveness on this planet than they are fixing. But we are living in an unprecedented time on our planet.
We have two forces converging that are powerful and potentially all consuming for us living on earth today, both urgently calling for a new focal point for a world spirituality. One force combines powerful interlocking threads for change that almost defy description in their enormity and urgency to be addressed. The climate change argument is now virtually conceded by both sides. It is happening with unparalleled speed and devastating consequences. From Japan’s tsunami to international forest fires; from pollution and ocean dead zones to rapidly dwindling resources to sustain an ever exploding population, we are decimating this planet.
Another thread in this first interlocking force is our economic vulnerability. Greece and Portugal hang in the balance. The US Congress just overcame gridlock over raising the debt ceiling. Even by dodging this bullet we still hang precariously close to the cliff of disaster. Leading economic indicators predict major forces that will cause disruption globally in our near future. We seemed to not learn the lessons of near collapse of only three years ago, as the rich and poor continue to go in opposite directions.
A third thread in this interlocking force is our vulnerability to global viruses. We could have new outbreaks of bird flu, or various other contaminants making all of us increasingly vulnerable to a new global epidemic. With our global interdependence for food and water, and our sophisticated transportation systems delivering goods and services at blinding speed, we are more vulnerable than ever to toxins, poisons and other diseases infecting large portions of the planet instantaneously.
Finally in this first force for unprecedented change we have all the breakthroughs that are rapidly changing everything about how we live, locally and globally. We have the obvious interconnections of the internet. From the recent sex scandals to the social outbreaks in the middle east, we are now more than ever a global village. This has brought to the national stage the old quaint saying that if you want to know everyone’s business, move to small town. Our planet has now become that small town. The crisis is that our small town is exploding at the seams.
Simultaneous, explosive, and mind bending advances are occurring in virtually every field in today’s world. In health care, just to name one arena, we are creating nanobots, small micro computers that already can go inside the human body and isolate out previously incurable diseases. We are becoming bionic beings as well, as new discoveries allow us to increasingly replace worn out or diseased body parts with new, better functioning replacements. All of this is highlighting for our species that we may be on the verge of beating death. We may, in the next 20 -30 years, have discovered the means to live forever. The implications for philosophies and all religions are enormous.
The second major force calling urgently for a new center for world spirituality converges around the increasing millions of people around the globe looking for something beyond all the chaos, potential disaster and uncertainty. While major religions and denominations continue to exist, many of these historically thriving churches are struggling to survive. (My own seminary recently graduated 6 students into the ministry. They and many other denominations are having to sell off property and holdings just to continue to exist.)
This holding pressure in major religions is being counterbalanced by a continuously exploding number of people who believe in some spirituality, some force behind the fear, terror and uncertainly of everyday life. Millions of people around the world believe in some spiritual force at work, often vaguely defined and not limited to a particular religion or belief system.
I am very grateful to my traditional Christian roots. I don’t want to see my denomination die. My childhood church gave me a safe haven to meet friends, talk to my ministers about life’s struggles, and know that wherever I went I had a spiritual home.
I believe my spiritual journey to today mirrors the millions around the world believing that there is something, some force behind what is, calling us home. Two threads in this powerful force weave us into a new global connectivity. I grew outside my Christian roots and became exposed to eastern religions and meditative practices. This exposure heightened and deepened my belief in some spiritual force at work. Indeed I experienced in ways I never thought possible my old, familiar Christian bible teachings. Teachings like, “God is love,” “the Word became Flesh,” and “Losing your life is to find it,” all came to life for me through eastern meditative practices and disciplines. So one force calls us inside with a deeper experience of luminosity and love unfolding. Now the words of our childhood church classes come to life in new ways, thanks largely to eastern practices. I have grown to see that a true spiritual path is much harder, more disciplined and yet more rewarding than I could have imagined.
The other thread called me outside myself to a world in need. This outward pull is captured in the African tribal phrase, “when you pray, pray with your feet.” All the while I grew up on this planet that was increasingly becoming a small town, indeed a small town under siege.
While millions like me have had similar experiences in their own growth another converging thread in this spiritual force has continued to develop. The eastern meditators and gurus mostly realized that meditation alone wasn’t going to give us a free pass to heaven. We still have to return to the world with all its challenges and uncertainties.
So here is the paradox. There is growing evidence we may not survive our current world state, a state we have largely put in peril by our own hand. Yet we have, at the same time, a convergence and highlighting of Spirit, Consciousness, of Presence that underlies it all, a Presence that is and will be, beyond what we do or don’t do to save this planet.
Those of us who experience this paradox, this dilemma, increasingly want to find each other, to dialogue, to exchange ideas and hearts, from around the world. We want and need a global connection to one another and this unfolding Consciousness, listening, celebrating and returning to experience Spirit in and through all of life’s uncertainties.
We indeed have become this small town in a whole new way, yet we still search for that church, synagogue, mosque, or other unique ritual space on the hill. We need to find new, emergent ways to enliven our traditional religious roots, now in many cases suffering and feeling challenged to be relevant. And we also are looking for ways to redefine what being a spiritual community means for our time.
Now more than ever we need a Center for World Spirituality. This Center gives us opportunities to reclaim and reinvigorate our new paths, our global interconnectedness, and our deep drive to celebrate and understand it all. One of life’s true paradoxes is this: we are all one, yet we are all uniquely different. A Center for World Spirituality provides a holding vessel for us to find, nourish, challenge and support one another. We can connect virtually and in real time to address life’s tragedies while we celebrate life’s gifts.