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June 1, 2023

Which Instrument are You in the World Spirituality Symphony?

by Marc Gafni & Mariana Caplan

Below are a few thoughts we would like to share in simple and clear terms in regard to why evolving a World Spirituality is the urgent need and great adventure of our time. We have jotted these thoughts down, also catalyzed by in-depth conversations with Ken Wilber and Tami Simon, who we are working closely with in catalyzing, articulating, and serving the emergence of the an authentic World Spirituality that has the potential to provide a context of meaning for hundreds of millions of people. This is a work in progress, but here are some preliminary thoughts.

Let us begin with a bold and audacious statement—not on our personal behalf, but on behalf of an incredible group of committed individuals from around the world who are coming together to catalyze and incarnate a new movement of spirit: World Spirituality. We believe that we are being called to articulate a vision of World Spirituality that speaks compellingly to the hundreds of millions of people who have moved beyond the religions or beyond exclusive identification with any one tradition. We believe that this may be one of the vital next moves in the evolution of consciousness.

We believe that World Spirituality is a desperately needed unifying principle which remembers and reminds us that what unites us is so much greater then what divides us.

Before we go any further, however, we must state clearly and unequivocally that if unifying means leveling of differences which so often characterized the early ecumenical movements, then this word can and does not describe the impetus of world spirituality. World Spirituality is emphatically not, in any sense or form, a World Religion.

World Spirituality is more like a symphony. In the symphony there are many instruments. Each one is sacred. Each one has its unique music. Each contributes a particular texture and depth of sound to the symphony. But all of the instruments are playing music. No instrument can claim to be the music itself. Each one bows before the lord of music.  In that general sense, World Spirituality engages the world’s religions as well as the great wisdom traditions—ancient, modern, and post-modern.

Each instrument plays a unique and gorgeous sound. Each often has a unique medicine or insight. By ancient traditions, we refer primarily to the great systems of religion and philosophy. By modern traditions, we might refer, for example, to neuroscience, or to the various schools of psychology. By post-modern traditions, we refer to the insights of deconstructionist writers, phenomenology, and some of the social sciences.  Each great tradition has insights in a particular area. Each has a particular medicine that we need. Each also sometimes overreaches in its claim that its particular insight is the whole story. The part pretends to be a whole and is rightly critiqued for its overreach with the tragic result that the baby is often thrown out with the bathwater.

World Spirituality seeks to be in dialogue with all of the great traditions and articulate a framework in which all of the traditions have an honored place at the table and can benefit from the insights of each. The job of World Spirituality is to try and cogently articulate a big picture in which a person might be able to find himself or herself in order to locate themselves in a context of meaning and purpose.

In the current situation, many people at the leading edge who are born into the post-modern world unconsciously assimilate its critiques of the great traditions. If they remain with the wish to engage spirit at all, they are then left to meander along trying to find their way. They are confused and unable to orient themselves to a genuine worldview of meaning that compels, delights, and infuses their everyday life with meaning and direction.

World Spirituality speaks equally to the hundreds of millions of cultural creatives around the world who feel that they cannot locate themselves in a tradition at all; as well as those firmly ensconced in a tradition who might feel that their identity and hunger is not exhausted by that tradition. They experience themselves as dual citizens—deeply involved in their tradition, but also art of the broader global community of spirit at the same time.

In World Spirituality one of our key goals is to create a series of writings that might help seekers feel like they have some direction and gentle guidance on the way, which helps them to identify: What are the issues that need addressing? What are the general forms or types of practice that need to be engaged in order to live an integrated life on the spiritual path of life? In a sense, we would like to help people cultivate discernment as they try and find their way grounded in spirit on a genuine path of obligation and freedom.

There are five important reasons why a World Spirituality is both possible and necessary today in ways that it was never was before in history:

To begin with, for the first time in history, the core challenges to survival that we face are not local to a particular religion, country, or region. They are world challenges, ranging from the very real threats to the ground we walk on and the air we breathe, to world hunger, to the danger of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a rogue state, to the most pressing issues of social and economic justice. There is no place left to hide in the world, and the old spiritual truths of the essential oneness of everything, the interconnectivity of it all, is no longer a hidden teaching, but an obvious truth for all to see.

Next, whenever new life conditions come to pass, a new evolutionary leap in consciousness and culture is required to meet them. The global challenges we face require the evolution of a new spiritual consciousness in which we realize that what unites us is so much greater then what divides us: a World Spirituality.

Thirdly, for the first time in history, there is a critical mass of people who have reached World-Centric consciousness. These people have expanded their circle of caring and concern beyond their ethnocentric affiliations. They are at home in the world and feel responsible for the world as a whole and not merely for their country or religion.

Fourthly, for the first time in history, the most profound teachings as well as living teachers from all the great systems of spirit are readily available in non-coercive and open-hearted form, not only to people of that particular religion, but to all who would come to study and practice.

Finally, for the first time in history, the notion of dual citizen is readily understood and available. Not only can one be a dual citizen of two countries, but it is possible to remain committed to one’s native or chosen spiritual tradition while at the same time being a citizen of World Spirituality.

For the first time in history, there are hundreds of millions of well-educated people who, although they cannot find their homes in the traditional religions, are searching for a compelling universal set of spiritual principles by which they can live their lives.

Mission Statement:

Evolving a World Spirituality is the urgent need and great adventure of our time.

The yearning to articulate a World Spirituality is rippling across the globe in the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people. For some people, the classical religions have lost their power. They seek a path of practice and commitment that transcends the traditions. For others, their intuitive desire is to transcend and include the traditions. They seek to live as dual citizens, rooted in their tradition, even as they locate themselves as citizens in the broader community of World Spirituality.

A World Spirituality based on Integral Evolutionary principles, rooted in the shared truths held to be self-evident by all great systems of spirit and gnosis across historical time, is urgently needed at this moment in history. Evolving an authentic life rooted in commitment and freedom articulated and lived in the principles and practices of World Spirituality is the next great step in spirit’s unfolding.

The Center for World Spirituality is writing a series of groundbreaking books and creating new templates for spiritual practice, education, and community. The templates are at once rooted in the past, present, and future. Welling up from an integration of the leading-edge emergent evolutionary insights taught by spirituality, psychology, and the sciences, World Spirituality paves the way for the next stage of evolution, seeding the ground of hope that is our collective memory of the future.

The Center for World Spirituality intends to function primarily as an academic and public policy action think-tank. Its aim is to catalyze, host, and evolve the trans-lineage conversation within the Integral, Evolutionary, and broader spiritual and cultural communities with the clear intent of humbly and audaciously participating in the evolution of consciousness. We believe World Spirituality is necessary for the next stage of humanity’s evolution. Let it be so!

Mariana Caplan, PhD, is a psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, including the forthcoming: The Guru Question: The Perils and Awards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher and the seminal Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment. Her recent release, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, won five national awards for best spiritual book of 2010. She has spent 20 years researching cutting edge and controversial topics in Western Spirituality, and focuses her consultation and psychotherapy practice on somatic approaches to healing trauma and spiritual issues. She is the co-founder of The Center for World Spirituality and an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies and Naropa University. She has degrees in cultural anthropology, counseling psychology, and contemporary spirituality, and is a teacher and practitioner of yoga philosophy and asana.

Dr. Marc Gafni holds his doctorate from Oxford University and has direct lineage in Kabbalah. He is a Rabbi, spiritual artist, teacher, and a leading visionary in the emerging World Spirituality movement. He is a co-founder of iEvolve: The Center for World Spirituality, a scholar at the Integral Institute, and the director of the Integral Spiritual Experience, as well as a lecturer at John F. Kennedy University. The author of seven books, including the national bestseller Soul Prints and Mystery of Love, Gafni’s teaching is marked by a deep transmission of open heart, love and leading edge provocative wisdom. Gafni is considered by many to be a visionary voice in the founding of a new World Spirituality and one of the great mind/heart teachers of the generation.

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