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


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  2. As I read Rabbi Rami's thoughts on symbols I am struggling to think of any religious symbol that is "self evident." One needs a book (The Bible) on the life of Jesus to understand why the Christian Cross is a symbol for a religion about "love" when it stands for Roman torture and execution. Every person who has seen me wear a UU chalice asks what that is. Every religious symbol has a rich meaning that comes from historical or theological foundations. The fact that Rabbi Rami took several sentences to explain why an open circle would be his choice proves my point. There is only one picture that I can think of that is almost universal for love, acceptance and inclusivity.... mother's open arms. That's an "open circle" that needs no words to explain. What do you think?