This month marks the publication of The Coming Interspiritual Age (Namaste) by Kurt Johnson and David Ord. The vision they sketch delivers its insights from a multitude of sources and disciplines and comes to conclusions that will be applauded and criticized. Whether it resonates with you or not, it offers an affirmative, healing perspective of a world clearly in trouble on many fronts, so it deserves our attention.
TIO invited interfaith friendly leaders from three traditions – Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism – to review what looks to be a landmark contribution.
To provide an overview of the The Coming Interspiritual Age, TIO interviewed its two authors.
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TIO: The vision unpacked in The Coming Interspiritual Age is vast, encompassing mysticism and science, spirituality and faith, the history and evolution of consciousness, and more. So it would be helpful before jumping in to hear a brief summary of your assumptions and your thesis. What are you up to here?
David Ord: Amid all the chaos of history, we discern a trajectory for our species that is taking us toward a world in harmony. A world that will be “one,” but in a oneness comprised of diversity, not unison. For this to happen, each of the religions that until now have tended to divide based on dogma need to rediscover the spiritual experience at their heart, which was their source, and draw on this to establish a commonality.
Kurt Johnson: I like David’s answer and it leads me to comment on the book’s many contexts and perspectives. When we were asked to explain what a potential Interspiritual Age might look like, I realized we needed to “bite off” the entirecontext in which religion and spirituality must respond to the world’s inevitable globalization — science, sociology, governance, economics, consciousness and brain-mind research, and so on. People have to understand what global trends are real and how differing religions and spiritualities can be a part of a global solution and not just an additional global problem. My interdisciplinary background in comparative religion, mysticism, science, and social science all served well.
If I am a person of faith and practice, what will I have to ‘give up’ in order to understand and resonate with what you see as spirituality’s future for the human family? And what will you urge me to ‘accept’ that may be new to me?
DO: What a person of faith has to give up is their hostility toward, and in many cases exclusion of, those who believe and live differently. What such a person has to accept is that each is entitled to choose their own path based on what calls to them at a particular point in their journey. Unity in diversity means allowing each the freedom to be where they are. Belief and practice becomes a matter of preference, not of “I’m right and you are wrong.”
KJ: Interspirituality is really asking all the religions to return to the lens of the Heart. From this view most people in the world already are able to understand how we have to love each other as one human family. In a globalizing world, we have to realize that although history has given us many different narratives about reality, if we let these get in the way of our fundamental Heart and caring for one another, it always leads to conflict and tragedy. The world’s traditions already hold Heart values as central, but they have often been deflected into disagreements about beliefs and creeds. A global and multicultural world demands that bad habit fade into the past. Somebody had to say it and try to get that ball rolling.
In a few sentences, could you each tell us a bit about what drew you to this project and why it is important to you?
KJ: Of course. For me it was my long relationship with Brother Wayne Teasdale, who coined the word “interspirituality” and predicted the Interspiritual Age in 1999. When Wayne transitioned in 2004, many of us carried on his work. My background as a scientist suggested that a global interspiritual view had to be melded with the modern integral and scientific views — in other words, that globalization is a comprehensive process where spirituality and religion are only part of the ‘story.’ So, when Namaste Publishing approached me about working with David on this project, I saw it as a step in the development of the interspiritual, integral, new science, and world transformation movements.
DO: For me the current project dates back in its essence to when I read The Phenomenon of Man by Teilhard de Chardin more than 30 years ago. At the time I had moved beyond fundamentalist Christianity into questioning. My own journey has been one of evolving out of deeply held dogma into a world-embracing spirituality that honors differences while not necessarily agreeing. So my personal experience of narrowness shifting toward openness reflects the trajectory I identify in our species as a whole. This excites me and inspires my interest in The Coming Interspiritual Age.
What are your hopes for how the book will be received?
DO: People do not have to agree with the many aspects of the book, or even to adopt the overall thesis that we are evolving spiritually toward oneness. Perhaps they see history in a more cyclic way, though I see it as progressing upward. My hope would be that the book does fuel a vision of humanity coming together as one. But I would be happy if it simply fostered greater openness and tolerance.
KJ: I’ve seen already from the advance publicity that many leaders hope that the panoramic view of the book will challenge people from many different traditions to step up to a new level of understanding and, especially, a new emphasis on the shared Heart lens. People might see that time is short for the religions to make a big jump in spiritual and heart-based maturity and that, without this, the world may be in for even bigger troubles. A number of leaders I’ve spoken to hope the book can kindle that kind of conversation. They’ve also observed that an interspiritual worldview involves giving up practically nothing and may also offer important paths toward a global “win-win.” We have a feeling everyone feels this deep in their hearts.