Monday, December 26, 2011

What are THE texts of the Inclusive Spirituality movement (the BIG I)?

As part of its mission to help indentify the "inclusive theology, spirituality and consciousness" of the emerging "Big I" (Interfaith-Interspiritual-Integral Spirituality) movement, the BIG I Conference ( would like to sponsor a committee to look at and identify THE current and past texts that help us indentify what it means to be an "Interfaith Minister," "Integral Minister" or "Interspiritual Minister" in the world today. I would suggest that while the prelimary results will be presented this February at the BIG I Conference, this could be adopted as a standing committee of the CIC-USA or the World CIC programs for on-going development.
QUESTION BEFORE US IS: What are the texts that EVERY Interfaith-Interspiritual-Integral Minister should read as part of their professional understanding and their prophetic call to serve in this movement? (This is beyond the sacred texts identified with the specific wisdom traditions that are the core of our spiritual movement.) What are the gaps in our documentation that need to be filled (written about) that will move this sacred calling forward?
Brother Nomi Naeem OUnI has agreed to chair this prelimary committee. He is very well qualified for this work in light of his professional responsibilities at the Brooklyn Public Library. His email is
As a starting place, let me suggest four or five texts that might need to be on the list:
1. The World's Religions (Dr. Huston Smith)
2. The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions (Br. Dr. Wayne Teasdale)
3. Integral Spirituality (Dr. Ken Wilber)
4. Seeking the Sacred (Rev. Dr. Stephanie Dowrick)
5. Cosmosophia (Rev. Dr. Theodore Richards)
WHAT DO YOU THINK? What should or shouldn't be included?
If you are interested or know of someone from your seminary or group or ministry that is willing to serve on this committe, please contact Brother Nomi for inclusion into this effort. The BIG I Conference is an incorporated ministry of the Council of Interfaith Communities of the USA ( PLEASE share this call to participate with others from your community that you think have an interest in identifying these texts and having this list published.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What is an Abrahamic Minister?

Yesterday I was chatting with Rev. Jean Leone OUnI, Secretary General of the Order of Universal Interfaith which I claim as my ecclesiastic home.  I suggested that it was, perhaps, time for OUnI to endorse and seek a school that would educate for ordination, a new kind of interfaith minister--not universal, and yet one more than just eccumenical--an "Abrahamic Minister" that would minister to communities from the three principal Western monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  I think it is a timely and needed step in bringing the faith paths into a greater discussion of their common theism through the common patriarch of Abraham. 

Recently the Claremont School of Theology was touted by the national media as the first "interfaith seminary."  While we all know that this is incorrect (it was The New Seminary in 1981), it is the first Department of Education accredited seminary to train three different faiths under one roof.  But there are still walls between the members of each faith path and, therefore, there are walls between the clergy that are produced.  What if someone was trained in all three paths to serve all three paths? THAT would be an "Abrahamic Minister." 

It seems my humble county in Virginia needs an "Abrahamic Minister."  I will be opening a fellowship for all three faiths descended from Abraham to come together in co-worship, service, education and community building.  I am doing this because I've been asked by several families of mixed marriage from the three faiths to create an "inclusive space" for them to stay together and share their united path of spirituality.  I will honor that calling.  BUT, I am trained by the Christian faith and need to find education that moves beyond the original mandate as an interfaith minister.  I need to become skilled in the Torah and the Qu'ran as much as I am the Bible.  So where do I go?

Rabbi Rami Shapiro and I are already working on the first common "holiday" that will bring the three faiths together on at least one day every year.  We are working to celebrate the first "Feast of Abraham" in 2012.  The day will bring the faiths together to share a meal and discuss Abraham as a common thread to all three faith paths.

There is a market now open for any school that can help me meet the calling to become an "Abrahamic Minister."  .... So what do you think?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It is time to remember "Cincinnatus" as a role model of selfless service.

This is a history lesson that we need to remember now.  At a time when we are looking for role models for service in spiritual ways and in the secular (including service in government), now is the time to remember Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.  He was called to government service in Rome at a time of crisis--an enemy was knocking on the front gate.  Appointed as a dictator, he did his job in 16 days "saving" his city and country, and then gave up his title and returned to his farm and the plow.  That was "selfless service."

His example was evoked by General George Washington and all the officers of the Continental Army and their French allies.  When they finished their work of "independence" they created the "Society of Cincinnatus" for fellowship and then returned to their own plows in the colonies.  George Washington was offered the "kingship" of the new nation but turned it down.

In the United States, our congressional representatives received full pensions and benefits for life after one year in service.  Many laws passed by congress excludes those who pass the law.  This is not selfless service.  This is not a very good role model.

Learn more about Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus at:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Second Axial Age: The Rise of the Co-templative

I believe that it is time for a second Axial Age to rise up on the Earth.  German Philosopher Karl Jaspers first used the term, "Axial Age" or Achsenzeit (Axis Time), to describe the period between 800 and 200 B.C.E. when spontaneously, there was a new consciousness about humanity and its self awareness.  Professor Mark W. Muesse described one of the conditions that led to this change as a rise of "individuality" all over the world.  People saw themselves as "individuals" and started to ask questions like: Where did they go after death?  Why were they alive?  Who were they really?  Individual religious patterns emerged all over the world to answer those questions.  It was the rise of the "I." 

I believe that the work and philosophy of Ayn Rand is about as far as we can go.  Politically and economically, the "I" is a burden on most societies around the world.

It is time for a new thought paradigm.  We have already seen calls for "unity consciousness" and "collective identity."  The shift is already entering our vision range and something new has to happen.  Perhaps the "Occupy Movement" all over the world is the time to make the change.  It is time spiritually for the rise of the co-templative.  Our personal spirituality is no longer just based on the "I" of individual "salvation" or "enlightenment" or "consciousness."  Now is the time for spiritual people to see that their collective spirituality is also important to the health and sustainability of the world.  Community is as important as individuality.  This knows no artifical barriers like nationality or religious label.  If this paradigm rises up, then we are truely entering the second Axial Age.

Are you a co-templative?  Join me at:!/pages/Community-of-Co-templatives/232780583445355.

Rev. Tim Miner OUnI

.....and the response from Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

I believe we are in the early decades of a Second Axial Age.

I believe the Second Axial Age began on September 11, 1893 when Swami Vivekananda delivered his speech at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions then held in Chicago, IL saying,

“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with  violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.” (For the full audio of his speech go to

I believe the Second Axial Age was strengthened when the astronauts of Apollo 17 turned their cameras on the earth and presented us with the icon of our time: the earth floating in the blackness of space. And I believe it was strengthened yet again with the uplifting of the Divine Mother as an archetype of divinity. But none of these should signal the end of the “I” or the ultimate value of the individual.

I disagree with Rev. Tim that the “I” is “a burden on most societies around the world.” On the contrary, I would suggest that for hundreds of millions if not billions of human beings the freedom of the “I” has not yet fully dawned. Even in our own country the fully liberated “I” is not yet realized, and our religions, schools, politics, and media-marketing-consumption-capitalism complex are doing their best to see it never is.

I also disagree that the philosophy of Ayn Rand is the logical endgame of I-focused living. There are many other ways for the “I” to develop.  Why focus on Rand when we have yet to tap the work of William James, Abraham Maslow, Carl Jung, and Viktor Frankl?

As for the Occupy Movement being an example of a new unity consciousness, I just don’t see it. While I support the protest, pitting the 99% us against the 1% them does nothing but feed into the
us/them paradigm we need to overcome. Further, I wonder if the Occupy Movement (along with the Tea Party Movement) isn’t simply a distraction from the fact that we live in an oligarchy that is so
wealthy and so removed from the needs and concerns of the 99% that nothing we do within the system can impact the system.

I wonder if the model we need isn’t Occupy Wall Street but something akin to Gandhi’s general strike against the British occupation in India, and the Selma Bus Boycott. We have to stop participating in the system that is exploiting us.

What if we stopped participating in a society based on personal debt and wage slavery? What if we went back to the roots of our country and created a system of community based on the pursuit of happiness rather than wealth? What if we shifted our money from the Too Big To Fail/To Influential To Jail banks to local credit unions? What if we stopped gambling on the stock market? What if we embraced and expanded local currency movements, co-ops, and Community Supported Agriculture? What if we stopped caring about our three credit scores because we stopped buying on credit? What if we all followed the advice of Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest and Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford in Your Money or Your Life?

I wonder if we who are proposing new models of spirituality shouldn’t also promote new models of governance, economy, and community as well?

I don’t know but I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We're NOT Inclusive Unless EVERYONE Is Included

Rev. Tim Miner  M.Div. OUnI
Okay, let’s cut to the bottom line right away.  We are NOT inclusive unless EVERYONE is included.  Period.  That means we have to include faith paths that we don’t agree with (practices) as well as paths we don’t believe (truth) into our scope of influence and to send invitations to them for our spiritual events.  This includes religious fundamentals.  There are several reasons why I think this is the only way.
The first is to provide logical consistency in our “theology.”  In my beginning apologetics class in seminary we learned about the “self-defeating argument.”   The fundamentalist’s argument against the inclusive theologies is that “your inclusivity doesn’t include me.”  For example, in the book Integral Life Practice: A 21st Century Blueprint for Physical health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening the authors state that one could be “attuned to an Integral spirituality” so long as one believes that it will “subtract (and there is no way around this) ..the belief that one’s own path is the only true path to divinity” (199-200).  Since there are fundamental paths that claim that they are “exclusive paths to a relationship to God” then their argument goes something like this.  “If your path doesn’t include my path then you are not really inclusive and therefore you are an illogical contradiction—a self-defeating argument.”  But what if we did accept the fundamentalist position as part of the included families of human spirituality?  While they may not feel their position is welcome, we would welcome them and we would be the ones consistent in our theology.  Author Samir Selmanovic, who wrote the book, It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian,”  told me that to keep the fundamentalists from being afraid of the inclusive movement, we will need to be ready to rebuild the mosque or church of a fundamentalist group when it is destroyed in the next disaster.  I think he is quite right.
The second reason to include everyone is that practices and spirituality within the fundamentalists’ religions offers us some lessons worth learning.  The “centering prayer” of the Christian faith and the Charity of the third pillar of Islam are only two of the ideas that I think we can all benefit from in our spiritual lives. 
Third, and finally, fundamentalists are spiritual people that we are called to serve in our inclusive ways.  As a chaplain I recently performed a Christian baptism at the request of the young parents.  A woman was crying in the back of the ceremony.  Later I talked to her in a private context and she had a story she needed to share with me.  In a private place she confessed to me that she had been brought up in a strict Christian background.  She was now living with a married man.  It was obvious that she was feeling guilty about her situation.  I asked her what she thought she should do and she said that she needed to get right with Jesus and God.  The act of declaring one’s life for Jesus Christ and accepting the salvation that comes from that is as sacred as any event in fundamental Christianity.  We were on our knees together and I led her through the text of the Christian Bible that would be her guide toward that event.  We prayed together.  Later that evening I called a local pastor of a Christian church to ask him to take this woman under his wing for the “discipleship” that she needed to return healed to her root tradition.  Had she been a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or any other path, I would have done what I could do to heal her according to HER traditional path.  She hurt as a Christian and it took a Christian fundamentalist ceremony to heal her. 
So we are not going to be inclusive unless everyone is included or at least invited to participate in our movement.  If they make the decision to not join us then we aren't the ones being exclusive. 
Peace and Shalom and Al-Salam and Namaste.
Rabbi Dr. Rami Shapiro OUnI
Let me be very clear: 1) Tim is right; 2) I hate that Tim is right; 3) Tim is still right.

When I first read this I thought the solution was to burn down all the religious institutions I disagree with and then offer to help rebuild them again. Slowly. But that isn't what Tim meant at all. He meant we have to sit down and chat with people who think we are spawn of the devil. We have to make room for them in the Big I of Inclusivity and Interfaith.

Actually I like talking with fundamentalists. They are clear about what they believe and not hesitant to share their beliefs. So on the chatting level I have no problem. My problem (and that is all it is MY problem) is that sometimes when we welcome those who disagree with us we end up catering to them as well. This is especially true when liberal Jews seek to engage truly Orthodox Jews in joint events.  Suddenly we, the liberals, have to live as Orthodox Jews so that we can enjoy the company of Orthodox Jews who have no appreciation or respect for our liberalism at all.

The challenge is to create a gathering where no one has to cater to anyone. Is this possible? I have yet to see it in the Jewish world.  What would this look like? What could such a gathering accomplish? If there is a constituency that will not budge, will the rest simply surrender? That is what seems to be happening with the Democrats in Congress vis a vis the Tea Party folks. The two party system is dead; we are all Conservative Republicans now. Except for Bernie Sanders.

The point is not to support one side or another, but simply to note that the most intransigent seem to win. Will this happen to the Big I Tent as well? And if not, why not?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

What is an Interfaith Minister? Interspiritual Minister? Integral Minister?

Interfaith Minister? Interspiritual Minister? Integral Minister?  What do the terms mean?  Three ministers share their perspective.  Please add your own comments at the end of this post.

Chapter 1: I am an Interfaith Minister
Rev. Tim Miner OUnI

I am an “Interfaith Minister.”  It says so on my ordination certificate from an interfaith seminary.  Despite all the books I’ve read, retreats I’ve attended and discussions I have had, I still wonder if I really know what that term means.  Perhaps this discussion will help.

I was called to the ministry to serve as a chaplain.  Chaplaincy was created as a way to provide “soul-care” within invading armies in distant lands by the Romans over two-thousand years ago.  A smart emperor realized that if the army could provide “hope” to its soldiers facing the dangers of their profession they would fight better.  Religion became an instrument of the state and it was always the “official state religion” that had the representatives present.  With the start of the religious wars within Europe, emerging political and spiritual leaders realized that besides hope, the chaplains could provide “moral justification” to the soldiers—God was on “our” side!  It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln ordered the Army to hire Jewish rabbis to serve as chaplains during the United States’ Civil War in 1864, that any country had a multi-faith chaplaincy program.  Being a chaplain became a profession and chaplains were not seen as much as representatives of their church, which they were, but as “a spiritual resource” of a commander to meet a need.  There are many examples of rabbis administering Catholic rites before battle during the wars of the 20th century because they were the only clergy available.  It was and still is expected. 

Chaplaincy also became part of the culture where ever humans faced their mortality and danger.  That these places were usually public created significant challenges in our pluralistic society in the United States.  Now they are in hospitals, hospices and support fire and police activities.  Unless there is an immediate need, chaplains usually respect the boundaries of religious labels and territory.  However when the need is there they rise to assist if possible.  I am still in awe of one of my seminary classmates, a Jew, who was serving as a volunteer chaplain in a hospital when a new-born with severe birth defects came into the world for only a few short hours.  The child was born to Hispanic parents who spoke no English, and my classmate summoned up his best college Spanish lessons to administer the Catholic rite to the dying child to give hope to the child’s parents.  Chaplains still give hope and L.O.V.E.  They Listen, Observe, Validate, and Empower.  They serve whoever they are with usually with a “ministry of presence” since most don’t know how to serve everyone spiritually.  That is about to change now with the creation of the “Interfaith Minister.” 

In my opinion I should be trained to serve the spiritual needs of all people of all faiths.  This means that I come to them where ever they are and based on their beliefs I will meet their needs right now with the tools of ritual and spiritual counseling that are appropriate for the client.  I do not judge the correctness of their belief.  I minister to that belief to provide hope and LOVE.  Many Interfaith Ministers have been doing this through life celebration services, usually weddings, for over thirty years now.  I would like to see Interfaith Ministry go deeper and meet more needs of their world.

It will take a lifetime to know the prayers and ceremonies that I will need to serve all people of all faiths.  I should be comfortable with the holy texts of as many faiths as possible.  I should try to learn as many spiritual languages as I can.  As a role model, I look to the work of Reverend Dr. Huston Smith, is the author of the book, “The World’s Religions.”  He lived the life of each of the faiths he studied to truly understand them.  When I had the blessed fortune to speak to him, his advice was to me was to… “dig my roots as deep as I can in my own faith, soar as high as I can spiritually, and spread my wings as wide as possible to embrace as many people of different faiths as I can.”  This, to me, makes me a more effective Interfaith Minister and it gives me the chance to give as much hope and LOVE as I can to a hurting world.

(Tim is a co-founder of OUnI and the Executive Director of the Council of Interfaith Congregations of the United States.  He serves as an accredited law-enforcement chaplain at the local and federal levels.)

Chapter 2: I am an Interspiritual Minister
Reverend T. S. Pennington OUnI

I became an ordained interfaith minister in June of 2008. I understand the role of an interfaith minister is to know enough of the tenets, rituals, language, prayers, and spiritual constructs of various faith traditions to meet the needs of those they encounter, especially when those individuals are in crisis. I deeply admire those who dedicate their lives to such profound service.

They can serve in an increasing variety of institutions:
           Hospitals and hospices
           Treatment and therapy centers
           Military bases
           Police and fire stations
           Colleges and universities

I know many interfaith ministers who are providing the traditional rituals of weddings, baby blessings, memorial services, funerals and other creative rites of passage to the growing number of persons from mixed religious backgrounds or who would label themselves as “spiritual, but not religious”. There are some who are stepping up into the challenge of forming communities and congregations that are dedicated in heart-felt reverence to the teachings and scriptures of several different religious traditions.
I started studying the various religions of the world about forty-five years ago. So I guess that it makes sense that much of the work I do now is with local and national interfaith groups that promote dialogue and understanding between faith traditions. But for the far majority of this time, I have also walked the path of a mystic. I cannot decide whether to describe my path as being from across many traditions or from no tradition.

Andrew Harvey is often described as a modern mystic. He writes about mysticism in several different traditions. In my work with Andrew’s ideal of Sacred Activism, I have identified the cause that breaks my heart the most is when people would use something that is deeply sacred to them, their religious tradition, as a reason to hate, imprison, persecute, and kill a person of a different faith. I believe one of the main duties of an interfaith or interspiritual minister is to stand in love and compassion for everyone involved against such injustices.

Stephen Prothero in his book God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter writes “The world’s religious rivals do converge when it comes to ethics, but they diverge sharply on doctrine, ritual, mythology, experience, and law. These differences may not matter to mystics or philosophers of religion, but they matter to ordinary religious people.” I agree with his viewpoint is that everyone needs a basic knowledge of all the major faith traditions as a basis to understand each other. But that will not serve as a solution to the rivalry that exists between them. It is by having that deep wisdom contained within all these traditions became centered in one’s heart that these differences between the traditions lessen in their significance. So I interpret this statement as an invitation for ‘ordinary religious people’ to become mystics.

Brother Wayne Teasdale coined the term Interspiritual in his book The Mystic Heart Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions. I resonated to the core of my being with his message of becoming a mystic in these modern times so that humanity may no longer use their religious differences as a justification for their hatred and acts against another person. For me, a mystic is a person who goes beyond the dogma and rigid structures of their faith because their heart is so broken open by the suffering of this world, and yet they stay madly, passionately in love with all manifestations of the Divine they see in their everyday life.

In my eyes, an interspiritual minister is an interfaith minister, who is also a mystic. Therefore, they must also have a basic knowledge of the mysticism within the various faith traditions, they will encourage and counsel a person as they follow their path towards becoming a mystic, and they promote religious and theological conversations between the world’s religions from their mystical foundations rather than just sharing their tenets and rituals. Because of their trans-traditional insight, an interspiritual minister brings a unique perspective and “heart-space” presence when addressing social situations characterized by uncertainty, unrest or tragedy.

 (T.S. is a practicing Interspiritual Minister and leader of the forming interspiritual community within OUnI.  He is a D.Min. candidate at Wisdom University.)

Chapter 3: I am an Integral Minister
Lynne Feldman OUnI

Finding Meaning in Our Lives
“Reflections on The Ten Challenges, Chapter 1: “Discovering the Still Small Voice Within.”

Within the Introduction to the text The Ten Challenges I have discovered the thesis of why I am committed to the concept of Integral Ministers and mentors.  Within the various professions in which I have engaged over my life---political speechwriter, educator, lawyer, Integral program generator, meditation facilitator---I find myself consistently advocating for finding meaning within one’s life. 

Child, adult, seeker, criminal, addict…they all seem to be bereft of a sense of ennobling meaning to this precious human life, and are in their own distorted ways trying to fill up that hole in their bellies, as Felder puts it.  From the first pages of this book I have been won over by his argument, and have turned to Victor Frankl for inspiration and guidance.  I deeply believe that what we are facing at our core psycho-spiritual issues that must be dealt with by both disciplines and within an Integral framework.

Frankl came from the literal cauldron of the Holocaust, and noted that among those given a chance for survival, it was those who held on to a vision of the future -- whether it be a significant task before them, or a return to their loved ones -- that were most likely to survive their suffering. I found it ironic that Frankl took from Nietzsche’s perspective that “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how." (Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in 1963, p. 121) 

After his time in the camps, he returned to work and created his theory which he named logotherapy, from the Greek word logos, which can mean “study, word, spirit, God, or meaning”.  Logotherapy postulates that a will to meaning is the root of all human motivation, and once again I must agree with Frankl.

Frankl also uses the Greek word noös, which means mind or spirit, and calls us to pay attention to noödynamics, whereby the tension in striving for some worthy goal is necessary for health.  Once again I am in full accord, having written papers on this for publication and presentation.  Experts in the area of adult development and spiritual growth all concur that there must be some tension, some dialectic, in process that spurs growth.  Persons and organizations that refuse to permit, or repress, tension in their lives fail to grow; they are stagnant; they do not evolve.  Evolution and spiritual transformation can be a messy and painful process, but it is a process toward life, toward meeting our destinies, toward leading fulfilling lives.  Educators call this the “sweet spot”, where the educator presents just enough tension and novelty that the student is intrigued and challenged to reach toward the next more complex level of understanding, a level that provides more spacious and greater capacity for enjoyment and understanding.

In The Ten Challenges, Felder begins with a discussion of Frankl, the society from which he emerged, and at whose hands he was tortured: Germany in the 20th Century (at least pre-Treaty of Versailles) was at the apex of social, cultural, and scientific advancement. 

Yet look what happened to ordinary human beings in a few short years.  By the 20th Century, philosophers, scientists, and social scientists could appear confident that humanity was on a trajectory toward some type of utopia where science would lead the way to greater and greater opportunities.  We looked down on indigenous tribes that seemed oh-so-primitive in light of our traditional societies, where we had replaced base instincts with our “sophisticated” social traditions and norms.

Today, however, we hardly even have that, and the wreckage of the 20th Century turned into a further nightmare upon the birth of the 21st with 9/11 and the rise of suicide bombers.  So where does morality come from today, or a sense that life is worth living, that it has innate meaning and thus we must place moral and ethical constrictions on our free will?

 Most attempt to find guidance in social conformity and religious conventionality.  Social conformity turns out to be a trap, with materialism given to us as the ultimate meaning:  “I shop, therefore I am.”  Our religious institutions exist to perpetuate fairy tales and to offer what Wilber calls translations of how nicely our egos are doing, and how good we are if we follow the dogma and rituals.  Tradition and traditional values are quickly disappearing from many people's lives.

My teenage students cried out year after year about the increasingly difficult job of figuring out how to make their own choices in life, to find their own meaning. How bereft our young are in their creation of a sense of meaning and a guide for making decisions!  I saw them beg me for guidance in this area, which I attempted to do, but for which I paid a heavy price.  By answering their need, I posed a serious threat to the administration of the school that only wanted the students to memorize facts and regurgitate them back on multiple choice tests.

What I have seen from the work I have done in my life, and for the Integral programs that I hope I can bring to life at One Spirit, is that Frankl is correct about our current sense of meaninglessness in life and how this leads to what he calls the mass neurotic triad: depression, addiction, and aggression.  It is ironic that the only source of meaning for today’s youth is to get involved in sports, and that only encourages aggression, win/lose, either/or thinking.  Even my students threw up their hands when every activity (including chess) that they asked the administration to provide HAD to be accompanied by a competition: no chess club unless there is a chess league and the chance of chess trophies!  The students were not even permitted to play chess for the sheer joy of it.

Frankl offers paths to meaning: (1) the first he calls experiential values, by which he means any sensory interaction with something we love, such as art, music, friends, and nature; (2) the second path is through creative values, or by doing something that we love, such as making music, singing, quilting, building a house, serving a meal; (3) the final path he calls attitudinal values, and those include what we might call virtues such as compassion, and the bravery achieved through suffering.

This may appear to be a roundabout way to explain what and why Integral ministers are going to be of critical concern as we advance into the 21st Century.  Imagine the teens asking an Integral Minister about how and with whom to have sex; about abortion and birth control;  Imagine a parent with a critically ill child asking the Integral Minister about the ethical implication of various treatments; the middle-aged child asking for guidance about the proper treatment of an aged parent with dementia; and seeking succor at the end of life…..

With the Integral framework in use, with the Integral Minister capable of creating sacred space with those who seek guidance, with knowledge of the developmental stages, co-arising interior and exterior individual and collective contexts in which they both process, and with the highest good of the individual the community, and ultimately the Kosmos being considered in providing guidance, permit yourself to dream how this would play out, in contrast to what we see today……

Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961), the great Austrian physicist, won the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his discovery of wave mechanics, and was a notable commentator on the disappointment of the track record of Western religions.  For those who have entered onto the “conveyor belt” of religion at an early age, we know that exposure to the dogma begins with morality tales and fairy tales that are well aligned to the child’s spiritual, cognitive, moral, and emotional levels.  The egocentric belief that God, or the Holy Figure, is someone to whom supplications and prayers for personal achievement can be addressed.  Unfortunately, many people do not develop/evolve spiritually or cognitively beyond these levels.

For those who do evolve developmentally to a more inclusive and wide-ranging understanding of religious adherence, they tend to adhere to the Golden Rule, caring for the sick and poor, and loving one’s neighbors and one’s enemies.  The limitations exist at an ethnocentric level, where homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, distrust in governmental institutions and profound ignorance of science limit the possibilities of worldcentric care.

The young today, research has shown, see all religion as characterized by intolerance, hypocrisy, homophobia, and judgmentalism.  They would rather walk away from religion than squeeze themselves into this narrowing cocoon.  Where are the pointing-out instructions to the Transcendant, to the Ultimate, to the Reality about which we intuit?  Where is the Love for ALL?  To What or to Whom can we turn for heart/mind guidance?  Some would rather throw it all away, this natural human function.  Even the religious institutions seem to have thrown away their historic role in healing body/mind/spirit in lieu of fighting political/cultural wars. 

Our Integral Ministers will return to the great Wisdom Traditions as well as to the great scientific advances of today and of the future.  They will carefully assess the psycho-spiritual level of those who seek their guidance and then provide them with a developmentally appropriate path along the sacred conveyor belt, with additions of appropriate “sweet spot” disorienting dilemmas, as koans for each individual’s next step. Within that sacred journey, we will no longer doubt that this human life is precious beyond meaning.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Religious Recipe for Inclusivity is All in the Labels?

The format for this blog is changing to a point-counterpoint presentation to allow for a wide variety of opinions.  Today’s blog also contains a commentary on Integral Spirituality which is specifically mentioned in the post. We hope you will enjoy this and comment freely.  Please contribute to future posts by submitting your ideas.

by Rev. Tim Miner OUnI

So what are Inclusive Theology and Inclusive Consciousness?  Well, I think the recipe for this comes down to how we treat the labels. We all have “labels” that we use.  As humans we seem very interested in our religious labels.  Whether Christian or Jew or Buddhist or Muslim or Interfaith or InterSpiritual or Integral, we seem to like our labels.  As history has shown we are even ready to die for our labels.  Last year I walked into a classroom on the last day of an online class called “Me to We” where we were trying to foster a spirit of looking beyond ourselves.  After standing up to introduce the work of trying to build organizations that foster a unified expression of Interfaith, I was verbally challenged at the break by a fellow student for not including “African American-Women-Muslim-Jews” like her in the effort.  My response was to reassure her that the effort included people "just like her" since it included people who graduated from her interfaith seminary.   She was using one set of labels (individual) and I was using another set (organizational).   Labels can create problems.  Perhaps this quote says it best:

“Identity is a concept of our age that should be used very carefully. All types of identities, ethnic, national, religious, sexual or whatever else, can become your prison after a while. The identity that you stand up for can enslave you and close you to the rest of the world.”  (Murathan Mungan, contemporary Turkish poet)

Identities and labels can be prisons.  Identities and labels can be walls.

So what is “Inclusive Theology and Consciousness?"  I don’t think it is a “blended religion” like the folks at one interfaith organization called us.  Rami Shapiro, in his opening address at the first Tennessee Interfaith Harmony Breakfast earlier this month said, “We are not looking to create a new religion, but to help foster a new religious sensitivity. We are not interested in blending religions or laying claim to a false and facile religious unity, but to helping one another find in our differences insights of spiritual genius that can transform our lives.* So we are not going to puree the world’s religions and serve them together without any labeling of the ingredients.

I would like to think that what we are trying to do is create our own version of a religious “stew.”  Everyone comes and stays with their labels and identities intact.  Community therefore must extend beyond the individual’s cultural spiritual identity to find something that is more than what we were before. That is, we take a hearty helping of the “carrots of Christianity” and add equal amounts of the “beef of Buddhism” and the “peas of the Pentecostal” all mixed in the “juices of Judaism and Jainism” and the “spices of the Sikhs.”  All the labels of the ingredients are still there but our identity is with the “stew of Spirituality” now. 

With the emergence of Integral Spirituality on the world scene, we now have a whole new palette of labels to use.  We can now identify with our state or stage or our place on all the different lines of development.  How will we use this information?  Will it be used to judge others?  Will it become like spiritual DNA or will it allow us to come closer together?  I pray that it is something that will ultimately bring good to the world.  It all comes back to how we use the labels.

*Please read the whole address at the Facebook discussion page:!/topic.php?uid=168156629876439&topic=412

by Rabbi Rami Shapiro OUnI

Labels and labeling are natural to human beings. The human ego, misreading life as a zero-sum game of winners and losers, seeks security in numbers, and thus divides the world into competing camps.  Religion is part of this process. Rather than admit that “the Tao that can be labeled is not the eternal Tao,” and thus develop a spirituality that cultivates humility, curiosity, and compassion, we try to prove the truth of our label by eliminating those who believe differently than us, either in this world or the next.

Can Inclusive Theology and Inclusive Consciousness change this? Or have we just created another set of labels?

Honestly, I don’t know. Part of me says we should just drop labels altogether. Another part of me says that’s impossible. At the moment I use the first part to free the second part from taking labels all that seriously.

That said, let me take up Rev. Tim’s stew metaphor. Without leaving the food paradigm altogether, let me offer this alternative: Rather than a stew, perhaps Inclusivity is a bag of Tootsie Roll Pops®.

Open a bag of Tootsie-Roll Pops and you will find a host of flavors.  Each flavor is unique from all the others, and you may prefer one and truly dislike others. I, for example, love Cherry and dislike Orange.  And yet my willingness to taste all the flavors shows me that if I go to the heart of any of them I discover the same Tootsie Roll center they all share. Knowing this allows me to respect all flavors without having to eat them all.

So with all due respect to Tim, I opt for my bag over his pot, and individually wrapped pops over a simmering stew.

(Note:  Rami received no compensation from Tootsie Roll Industries for his product placement.)
Rami teaches world religions for Middle Tennessee State University, writes for Spirituality and Health Magazine and has his own blog at

Commentary on Integral Spirituality
By Lynne D. Feldman, OUnI
Integral Minister

One of the numerous intellectual gifts emanating from the prodigious mind of Ken Wilber is the distinction between religion and spirituality.  It explains why I, as Jew by birth and training and a recent Buddhist practitioner, can sit, spellbound and in an altered state, while Michael Pergola induces Christ-consciousness in me.  It also explains why I quickly left a conversation with an Orthodox Jew as he proclaimed that his community does not contain or stand for homosexuals.  With whom do I have the most in common, and why?

Wilber’s Integral approach is often misunderstood as a heady and hyper-intellectual exercise devoid of applicational potential to matters so intimate and ultimate as faith, religion, and life’s meaning.  The trouble has been that one must learn the framework of the theory before one can apply it, and many find it too daunting to bother.  Yet once inside it, so many have discovered that Integral is just….so, just life lived with more awareness of self and others in all their frailties and potentialities.  “Oh, I knew that already,” most comment once inside. So instead of my teaching Integral theory, let me jump into the thesis and explain how the Integral approach clarifies, corrects, and opens us up to a vastness only glimpsed at by the sages.

Looking at our photo album we can trace our individual physical evolution from helpless babe to strutting 20-something, to wherever you happen to be on life’s conveyor belt, or ladder, or whatever metaphor you might use to explain where you were, where you are now, and where your potential appears to lie for the future.  What was I thinking back then speeding around drunk in that red Corvette, you might wonder, as you hide the incriminating photo from your own teens?

We can do the same with our nation; we can trace back to the indigenous peoples who originally settled here, to the Spanish and French, Dutch and English and their often abhorrent treatment of the Native Americans, and then flinch as we recall our not-too-distant treatment of African-Americans as not-quite humans.  What were they thinking back then?

We can look at our planetary photo album and see the respect for human life in some areas as distinguished from the marginalization of life in others.  What are they thinking as they stone to death a young woman who became a rape victim?

All humans begin life at the base of the ladder, and then culture (and DNA) mediates to affix some of us or entire nations at various rungs on the ladder.

Regardless of their religion or belief system, if they are demeaning of women and “others”, oriented toward magical beliefs, pre-conventional and egocentric, regardless of their self-determined religious label, they are at a low, beginner’s rung of our potential developmental ladder, or conveyor belt.  They might indeed have sharp spiritual experiences, and these will be translated by them to fit into their pre-existing cultural belief systems.

If another group holds that every word in their holy text is absolute, divinely offered, which must never be seen as metaphorical or allegorical, and that only those born into the ethnocentric group or who join in the belief of the triumphalism of this and only this religion, well then, they are more accepting, but still affixed to a level that cannot see any breadth or depth beyond the confines of their culture.  Once again, spiritual experiences are open to all humans at every level, and those experienced by folks at this rung of the ladder will be interpreted as confirming their triumphalism.

Moving beyond these self-imposed limits we come to the mental-rational attitude toward religion.  Our holy beings are seen more as half-divine, half- mortal in a way that is not difficult to accept.  This is a broader, deeper, more tolerant of diversity and more accepting of other rational beliefs.  Adherents to this level of religious adaptation are approving of world-centric concerns of individual choice such as pollution, infant mortality, or child slavery wherever it occurs, and their thinking tolerates post-conventional ideas.  The same rule of spiritual translation applies here.

It gets interesting at the next stage of human/individual development when profound spiritual experiences enter the pluralistic level of development.  Their ability to stay within the confines of the established churches becomes harder to stomach, and rewritten texts, siddurs, and bibles along with new names and visions become the norm at this pluralistic stage.  Note too, that as we go up this ladder, we find fewer and fewer companions along the way.  Humans are reaching the top rungs not of our potential, but of current human developmental levels.

At the Integral, or post-post-modern, or post-metaphysical level of individual development, I sit with Michael Pergola and understand that his Christ-consciousness is my Keter, and at the top rungs now, we have no need to differentiate our felt-senses of our constantly evolving spiritual experiences with different names or terms.  Christ-consciousness, the Sefirot, and the 8 vijnanas point like the Big Dipper to the same North Star of spiritual knowledge.  Religious labels drop in the Face of the Divine.

“All is One” at this level.  We can dance together in the spiritual commonality where the conveyor belt of each wisdom tradition aims us, if we have the maturity, compassion, understanding and fortitude to make the journey.

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Thoughts on Inclusive Theology, Symbols, and Interspirituality

I read Tim's blog with great interest. I believe symbols ought to speak clearly and powerfully to us. You don’t need a website to explain the Christian Cross or the Unitarian Universalist Wisdom Chalice. Sure, those unfamiliar with these traditions might want to know more about the symbol, but the symbol should speak on its own without the need for lengthy explanations. With all do respect I don’t think the OUnI symbol does that.

If Interspirituality is to catch on, if an Inclusive Theology is to capture the hearts and minds of spiritual seekers, it must speak plainly, and its symbol, whatever it is to be, must be self-explanatory.

If I had to offer something, I would suggest the enso, the open circle drawn by Zen calligraphers. A circle represents inclusivity, and an open one speaks to our openness as a community.

Similarly we need a concise way to articulate our path. I would offer this as my “elevator speech” for Interspirituality: Interspirituality cultivates respect, compassion, humility, justice, creativity, and courage by sharing those texts, teachings, and techniques of the world’s wisdom traditions—spiritual, artistic, and scientific—that promote these values within and among all humanity, and between humanity and all other life forms.

My “elevator speech” for Inclusive Theology is similar: Inclusive Theology understands God as the source and substance of all reality who is met in with and as everything we encounter. Inclusive Theology hones the mind for this God–realization by promoting those scientific, artistic, and spiritual techniques that move us beyond exclusivity of ego and tribe toward the inclusivity of nondual awareness. 

Neither of my speeches is polished nor perfect. I offer them as catalysts for your own thinking.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro OUnI
Middle Tennessee State University

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Symbol for All Religious Symbols...

I suppose that the first thing that every "brand" needs is an eye-catching logo.  That includes religious expressions as well.  When "interfaith" came onto the landscape decades ago, the logo usually had several, if not a dozen or more different logos to represent ALL the faiths.  Collections of symbols like that are now used everywhere in the world of "interfaith."  The problem is, no matter how much you try, you always leave somebody out.  Everyone has their own idea about an icon that best represents their faith and belief system--a symbol to rally around.  Organizations sometimes use the "circle" to represent "...and everything else" to  show that they are trying to be inclusive. However, my first exposure to an organization like that gave me grief when I included them in an "...and everyone else" phrase during a religious ceremony.  Everyone wants to feel included as much as everyone else is included which  pretty much invalidates the whole idea of using a "catch-all." 

So what symbol should you use to show ALL the world's religions and spiritual expressions?

The Order of Universal Interfaith (OUnI) created its own symbol to show all expressions as equal.  The design is called the "Touch of the Divine" and it is based on the ripples on a pond....

The gold dot at the center represents the "touch of the divine" in the universe.

The first circle is drawn around the dot and it is silver in color.  It represents the "wave of human spirituality" which went in every direction.

The second circle is drawn around all that and it is bronze in color.  It represents the wave of all the world's organized religions and forms of spiritual expression.  Each a point on a circle.  Each equal in stature.

A horizon-line divides the circles into a top representing "reality" and a bottom "reflection" to represent the mystical.

There is a website devoted to explaining this symbol at

Rev. Tim Miner OUnI
a co-founder of The Order