Previously divided and distinguished traditions are converging into a new river of holiness, a Ganges that carries on its floodtide all who have embarked on the contemporary spiritual voyage. The scenery is fascinating; the passing spiritual landscape a riot of unexpected terrains: A group of sophisticated New Yorkers dressed in fashionable and expensive gear struggle up a mountain to study with a Peruvian shaman, who drums them into trances where they commune with totem figures never encountered on the streets of Manhattan. In a temple in Sri Lanka, a yellow-robed figure sits in deep meditation. The shaved head is expected, but then the adept’s eyes open, and they are Western and blue and belong to a journalist from Dayton who has become a Buddhist nun.
A community of elderly nuns in Montana integrates sweat lodges and other Indian ceremonials into their traditional Catholic retreat program. A Buddhist Vipassana teacher runs meditation retreats for Monsanto and other corporate giants. The wildly innovative Jewish Renewal Movement blends the wisdom traditions of classical Judaism with Sufi, shamanic, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu practices and good doses of transpersonal psychology, spiritual “eldering,” and human potentials work.
Catholic monks and maroon and gold robed Tibetans share and compare meditative and contemplative techniques as they take turns leading morning meditation at an interfaith dialogue at Gethsemane Monastery in Tennessee attended by the Dalai Lama.
Convergence of Love
This fusion and confusion of previously separate and sacrosanct traditions is drawing a new topographic map showing a planet heaving with volcanic activity as the Source pours forth its energy and the lava of Spirit runs through valleys of once and future faiths. Some have ridiculed this eruption of spiritual polyphony, calling it “the Divine deli” or “cafeteria religion.” Utne Reader labeled the phenomenon “Designer God,” and points up the dangers of making up your own spiritual path. Others have argued that the new “mix-and-match spirituality” has deepened the quest, citing as evidence the range of obscure esoteric texts now lining the shelves of mall bookstores or deliverable overnight with a one-click order from an online bookseller.
Our seminars and workshops are filled with exuberant practitioners of crossover spirituality. In their vivacity, I hear words that echo the original Greek meaning of enthusiasm: enthousiasmos, “being filled with the god.” As one Catholic Brother told me, “These other traditions do not contradict my own. Rather, they open the wells of the Waters of Life. When I meditate with His Holiness [the Dalai Lama], I feel as if the deep rivers of our respective traditions are meeting and becoming a mighty flood of spirit and renewal.”
A woman Rabbi concurs: “So, I dance the Sufi dances and chant the Buddhist prayers; I consult the enneagram and peek at astrology charts. Does that make me less in the eyes of the Master of the Universe, Blessed be He/She? I think not. For now that I see the interconnections between all these beliefs, my faith in my own deepens.”
Ultimately, it is about summoning the sacred, not only for our own personal evolution but also to help us become sacred steward of this, the most challenging time in human history.
Awakening to the Mystic Life
Summoning the Sacred is predicated on awakening, on going off robot and abandoning lackluster passivity to engage co-creation with vigor, attention, focus, and radiance. Thus the spiritual or mystical experience is perhaps the greatest accelerator of evolutionary enhancement. Through it, we tap into wider physical, mental, and emotional systems and thus gain entrance into the next stage of our unfolding, both individually and collectively. Once the province of the few, the mystic path may now be the requirement of the many – a unique developmental path for self and world. In a lifetime of studying the art and science of human development, I have found no more powerful, practical and evolutionary practice than what is known as the mystic path.
Perhaps we needed the changes and accelerations of our unique and challenging time to put the flame under the alembic so that such inward alchemy could take place. Add the sufficiency of current shadows and the breakdown of all certainties, and we have the ingredients for the current universal pursuit of spiritual realities. The deconstruction of traditional ways of being may invite the Deep Life of which we are a part to break through.