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Leslie Gabriel Mezei

 

INTERSPIRITUALITY IN THE WORLD TODAY

 

Leslie Gabriel Mezei, February 19, 2009

 

Spirituality unites us everywhere. I was fortunate to experience a number of aboriginal rituals last Fall on a cruise of the South Sea Islands. The highlight for me was touching noses with a Maori Chief in New Zealand. First, a native woman instructed me carefully to become the Chief of our group, and to represent us in the ceremony.

As I went up on the stage, one of the young warriors in full war paint rushed upon me with a spear. In a challenge, he threw a leaf down on the ground at my feet. Now our fate was in my hands, or rather feet: Had I trod on that leaf, it would be war. But I slowly bent down, carefully picked up the leaf, and backed up cautiously and respectfully. Now all the warriors and dancers and musicians broke into smiles, and the Chief gave us his speech of welcome. In response, I thanked him for opening their village to us and preparing this ceremony and meal. And then I declared, as instructed, "Although we come from far lands, your people are our people now, and my people are your people." Of course, this message was not a new one for me; I felt at home. The Chief and I sealed our unity with a handshake and touching noses twice. Then they demonstrated their skills and dances for us, followed by a meal traditionally wrapped in leaves and cooked in the earth under a fire pit.

By a stroke of luck, I found the proceedings of a 2005 conference in Samoa: Pacific Indigenous Dialogue: On Faith, Peace, Reconciliation & Good Governance. It includes outlines of the beliefs and practices of the various aboriginal peoples of the Pacific. They all declare—as do the religions we know more about—our fundamental unity, our being one in spirit. From this follow the rules of hospitality to all individuals, often even to enemies. Tribal people the world over have been characterized as blood-thirsty savages by some, and idealized by others as wise peaceful people in direct touch with spirit, the one spirit we all live in. Which is true?

I turned the question around and asked myself: What do we seem like to these people? No different! For all our claims of culture and civilization, we treated them no differently then they have treated each other: with periodic tribal wars over territory and goods. And with our modern technology, we often wage war with more deadly efficiency. Yes, we have had our prophets and peace-makers, and so have they. But we are both taking a long time to learn from those messages of peace and unity, and to apply them consistently to our daily lives as individuals, families, and nations, and what is even more basic—and difficult—to our own inner selves. Here is Chief Black Elk, of mid-20th Century America, in The Sacred Pipe:

 

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells, Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all, you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which, as I have often said, is within the souls of people.

 

Maybe we all are Noble Savages. We all have the task of taming our savagery and recognizing, embracing and enhancing our nobility. We are called on to use our physical embodiment for the work of our spirit, for an ongoing evolution on levels of existence of which we are only dimly aware. I know, underlying that sentence there are many assumptions that you may question, and you might use different words.

What is the focus all this? More and more, it comes down to one message for me: The Message of Unity. And increasingly I see it best manifested in what some of us call interspirituality. I invite you to join in this exploration by letting us know your thoughts and experiences, agreements and disagreements.

The banner of this newsletter and website is Interfaith Unity. The theme of unity helps us to select among the wealth of wonderful events and resources available. Much of the activity we report on is of an interfaith and multifaith nature. For some time now, we have also tried to emphasize this newer area: interspirituality. Some credit that term to the late Brother Wayne Teasdale. He was a disciple of Bede Griffith, another Roman Catholic monk who became a Sanyasin and led an Ashram in India. He saw no conflict in engaging in the spiritual practices of both Christianity and Hinduism, or any other. Here is Wayne Teasdale in The Mystic Heart: Finding a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions:

 

We are at the dawn of a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to our life as the human family in a fragile world.  This birth into a new awareness, into a new set of historical circumstances, appears in a number of shifts in our understanding:

The emergence of ecological awareness and sensitivity to the natural organic world, with an acknowledgment of the basic fragility of the earth.

A growing sense of the rights of other species.

A recognition of the interdependence of all domains of life and reality.

The ideal of abandoning a militant nationalism as a result of this tangible sense of our essential interdependence.

A deep, evolving experience of community between and among the religions through their individual members.

The growing receptivity to the inner treasures of the world’s religions.

An openness to the cosmos, with the realization that the relationship between humans and the earth is part of a larger community of the universe.

Each of these shifts represents dramatic change; taken together, they will define the thought and culture of the third millennium.   … We could really name this age after any of these shifts in understanding.  To encompass them all, however, perhaps the best name for this new segment of historical experience is the "Interspiritual Age."

 

Do join me in exploring this hopeful and optimistic vision in future issues of this newsletter.

I wish you well from sunny San Miguel de Allende, a mile high on the great central plateau of Mexico, the historic centre of its revolution of independence. Amid the rich colours and sounds of a Mexican community, in perpetual sunshine, we are also blessed with many artists and programs in English for the expatriates living here. And there is an emphasis on environmental, social justice and spiritual concerns.

At the ceremonial plaza of the vast Botanical Gardens, decorated with the symbols of many spiritual traditions, some 38 groups come regularly to conduct their rituals. At first there were only native groups—not thoroughly Catholic, nor thoroughly Indian, as our guide put it—with full moon ceremonies and a sweat lodge, and now many other types of groups too.

We can find this interspiritual unity wherever we go, if we look for it.

 

Rev. Leslie Gabriel Mezei (leslie@barberry.ca ) is a Minister of the Universal Worship and Founding Publisher (2002) of the Interfaith Unity e-mail newsletter and on-line Resource Centre (www.interfaithunity.ca)