Introducing the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog with a global vision based on Integral principles

An Enlightenment of Fullness for the rising dawn of the 21st century

Spirit’s Next Move is moving!

Thank you for visiting, a spot which has been the home of the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog for the past several months. As part of our organization’s web presence reorganization, we have moved the contents of this blog and will no longer be posting here.

You can find the new Spirit’s Next Move daily blog, better than ever, on the Center for World Spirituality’s main site at You can find new daily material on the left sidebar of the site. Thanks once again for sticking with us … we look forward to seeing you on the new site!

Exploring the Unique Self and beyond (Part 4): Eros – in search of Enlightenment


By Hans Jecklin

Eros needs human consciousness to become enlightened. He cannot do it by himself. Only enlightened human consciousness can embrace the huge evolutionary span wherein Eros manifests as what I understand a primordial driving force of evolution: Supreme Grace.

We can see with awe how on all levels of manifestation – from matter to spirit – a similar pattern of attraction between wholes leads to connection and unification into ever-greater wholes: Eros at work, guided by a greater intelligence.

When we look at human relations and love, it is interesting to watch Eros at work on many levels, most of them being unconscious: Survival instincts in many guises – physical, vital, emotional, mental – that do not differ so much from what we can observe in the animal world. Beyond the realm driven by instincts, it is very likely that what Jungian psychology understands as projection of anima or animus on a partner is a human accomplishment: It means that we are attracted to the other by what we believe to be missing in ourselves.

This the nature of Eros which Socrates relates in Plato’s Symposium as a teaching he has just been given by the sage Diotima: Eros as an aspect of human nature that incessantly searches and creates outer connections which he can not escape to lose, until he finally understands his true history and fate.

This is Diotima’s story: When the divine Aphrodite was born, the gods celebrated a big feast. Befuddled by the delicious nectar, Poros – an incarnation of wealth and abundance – took a rest in the garden and fell asleep. Penaia was attracted to the vicinity of the Gods by her innate nature of need and greed. She cunningly lay down by Poros’ side and conceived Eros from him. Eros, as Penaia’s son and unaware of his father, was a poor, rough and scrubby fellow, scouring barefoot and with no shelter. However, he also carried within him an unknown heritage which made him a searcher for the good and beautiful. Brave, courageous and ingenious he was, inspirited by an indefatigable drive for insight and truth. He felt happy whenever abundance smiled to him, as much as he was heartbroken when all abundance had again melted away between his fingers. “Lacking Goodness and Beauty, he strives for what he believes to be in need of” was the beginning of Diotima’s  teaching to Socrates, leading to the realization that “If he gave birth to the supreme Truth within himself, he would be granted the Love of God and attain immortality.” Socrates, convinced by Diotima’s message ended his report to the symposium by sharing his insight “that there is no better guide to enlightenment than Eros.”

Looking back at my own path from the present, through all delusions, confusions – material, emotional, sensual – and notorious dis-enchantments, I can now fully and with great gratitude appreciate Eros’ play of consciousness, driven by an unalienable longing for the One Love and Wisdom: Eros unveiling as pure Grace.

This is the moment when we may wish to honor all imprints from past illusions and deceptions held in our body, asking for healing and transformation by the grace of our Unique Self. Only now, an enlightened Eros can play within us, liberated from all needs and bonds. This is – to my understanding – conscious Love, in full freedom: a most precious gift, to be handled with loving awareness and care! For ourselves and the other!

The Daily Wisdom: One Love


By Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

To really get the great esoteric teachings of one love, to know love as the strongest force in the Uni-verse, we first have to understand that love is not just a feeling. Rather, love is the motivating force driving and animating the entire Uni-verse. Love is not merely a human emotion. Love is both the currency of connection between human beings and the essential Eros that drives the evolutionary process as a whole. Love is the Eros of all relationship even as it is the very Eros of evolution itself. Personal and impersonal love are one. One Love. Evolutionary Love.

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell

Where Americans import conservatives from overseas

Gay Methodist

By Joe Perez

In certain places in America, conservatives are so scarce they’ve begun to import them from abroad. Specifically, in Tampa, Florida, where 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. While liberal American Methodists pleaded for tolerance for gay people, conservatives from overseas compared homosexuality to bestiality.

A report on Huffington Post:

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year’s General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church’s bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

With nearly 8 million members in the U.S., the UMC remains the country’s largest mainline Protestant denomination. But United Methodism is shrinking in the U.S. and growing in Africa and Asia, shifting the balance of power to overseas conservatives. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates gathered in Tampa live outside the U.S.

Thursday’s debate put the denomination’s wide diversity on display — as gays and lesbians pleaded for recognition of their “sacred worth” and an African delegate, speaking through an interpreter, compared homosexuality to bestiality.

The conservatives won the day, proclaiming publicly that “homosexual acts” are “incompatible with Christian teaching” in the largest mainstream Protestant denomination in the U.S.A. Of course, it’s their right to run their church as they see fit and nobody is forcing anybody to be part who doesn’t find a welcoming home there. And of course, many of us would much prefer that if the conservatives can’t at least be willing to agree to disagree, then they would stay quiet.

But then again, we aren’t really the folks the Methodist leaders are speaking to. They say they are speaking to the world, but they are really addressing only those willing to listen, mainly their flocks which are increasingly hailing from the developing world and less so North America and Europe. Thus, the fate of gays and lesbians in the “first world” is tied to the fate of gays and lesbians everywhere. There is no progress on the LGBT dignity front in America if the LGBT folks in places like Bangladesh and Uganda and Argentina are left out.

Thus, religion is providing a uniting thread linking the fate of persecuted minorities everywhere. Today there are Methodists in every country, or almost every country, where there are Christians. And where people share a common religion, if their religion leaves them out, they will share a common persecution. Fear will rule over love when love grows too weak.

Our fates are linked because in the final analysis We are Them and They are Us: there is only one True Self, and it expresses itself (sometimes in beautiful or expaseratingly crazy ways) through homophiles and heterophiles, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and in all the ways that Love does its thing, same-to-same or same-to-other or what have you.

And our fates are linked because we cannot know Love unless we also stand in the unknowable, the Fear which does its own thing, other-fear or same-fear, homophobia or heterophobia. As each of us heals our homophobia, one by one, Spirit releases a bit more Fear and evolves a little closer to an even more radical expression of Love.

Ultimately gays will find liberation only in the most difficult, blessedly difficult, of paths: by linking gay/human rights to the quest for recognition of their “sacred worth” in every religion in every land. Until then, we can expect conservative religionists to gain clout not only abroad where they are more abundant, but also in the U.S., where their leadership is imported by groups like the United Methodists with deep international linkages.

Religions which intertwine internationally link people deeply and profoundly towards a common goal on the human adventure. The news about the United Methodists may suggest that this is a bad thing, that somehow foreigners have a veto over the collective consciousness of American Christians.

But the reality is more complex. The internationalization of spirituality is a good thing when it lifts the boats of people in distress, requiring religious adherents in privileged countries to work on behalf of international development, forcing those invested in the gay rights struggle in one country to seek universal human rights worldwide.

World Spirituality participates in such global linkages, helping to build the bonds which one day can be tunnels for human liberation to emerge out of fear. An Integral approach to gay rights requires a global view, invested as it is in expanding the degree to which we are all more deeply accepting of our humanity and sexuality.

Photo Credit: Religion News Service

The Daily Wisdom: Love breaks out…

Cell Dividing

By Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

This movement of love and Eros, which is visible in third person from the simplest cellular level to the most advanced human level, is at all times felt in the second person as love. In the realized human being, love breaks out.  This is, finally, love revealed. Because evolution is the constant increase of complexity—paralleled on the interior by the constant increase of consciousness, whose inner relational quality is love—in the evolved human being who has reached the level of self-transcendence, the operation of love itself breaks into consciousness and becomes a prime motivator for individuals.

Why disgust is important from a spiritual perspective


By Joe Perez

One of the most important insights of the Integral Framework is that it helps us to integrate psychological research regarding the basis for our worldviews with our spirituality. For instance, when we learn that many (but not all) liberals and many (but not all) conservatives are more likely to hold a common psychological type or structure-stage which per se is neither good nor bad, and for which they are not morally accountable, then we become less judgmental of them.

Thereupon we learn to dis-identify with exclusively liberal or conservative impulses as we locate within our own psyche the basis upon which liberals and conservatives usually hold out their warring worldviews as the only one worth belief. This change in political beliefs is associated with the arrival of a more expansive identification of the self and the world it inhabits. The self holds more of a both/and perspective rather than either/or.

Now it turns out researchers are constantly giving us greater understanding of how this all happens. Writing on Towleroad, Chris Mooney reviews the evidence to substantiate the fact that there appears to be no rational basis for the belief that children are harmed by same-sex marriage and unions. But Mooney’s main point is not political, but psychological. He argues that there is a psychological basis for differences in belief among liberals and conservatives regarding gay marriage, and it has to do with feelings of disgust:

There are a small number of Christian right researchers and intellectuals who have tried to make a scientific case against same-sex marriages and unions, by citing alleged harms to children. This stuff isn’t mainstream or scientifically accepted — witness the APA’s statements on the matter. But from the perspective of the Christian right, that doesn’t really matter. When people are looking for evidence to support their deeply held views, the science suggests that people engage in “motivated reasoning.” Their deep emotional convictions guide the retrieval of self-supporting information that they then use to argue with, to prop themselves up. It isn’t about truth, it’s about feeling that you’re right — righteous, even.

And where, in turn, do these emotions come from? Well, there’s the crux. A growing body of research shows that liberals and conservatives, on average, have different moral intuitions, impulses that bias us in different directions before we’re even consciously thinking about situations or issues. Indeed, this research suggests that liberals and conservatives even have different bodily responses to stimuli, of a sort that they cannot control. And one of the strongest areas of difference involves one’s sensitivity to the feeling of disgust.

recent study, for instance, found that “individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images, such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images.” In other words, there’s now data to back up what we’ve always kind of known: The average conservative, much more than the average liberal, is having visceral feelings of disgust towards same-sex marriage. And then, when these conservatives try to consciously reason about the matter, they seize on any information to support or justify their deep-seated and uncontrolled response — which pushes them in the direction of believing and embracing information that appears to justify and ratify the emotional impulse.

The key takeaway, for my purposes today, is that when we look at our beliefs and those of our neighbors about important subjects of concern to us all, we are not looking at beliefs formed strictly out of either emotional or rational bases. Beliefs can also be almost instinctual, rooted in primordial feelings planted deep in the reptilian brain. In a sense, debates about gay marriage can turn into a show of force between a mature human perspective and a reptile perspective rationalized with human defense mechanisms.

Perhaps disgust is not something quickly changed, but it is a conditioned reaction that can be changed given the right amount of time, inclinations, and technique. But anyone concerned with making positive changes in the world needs to know this information and develop strategies smart enough to account for more of reality. And that is one way to characterize the Integral perspective on which World Spirituality is grounded: it is based in reality, and a commitment to continually embrace and include as much of it as possible… and perhaps, by extension, be disgusted by as little of it as possible.

The Daily Wisdom: The Perception of Love

Lao Tzu

“Lao Tzu” by Jane Small, an artist on Fine Art America | Available for purchase at

From The Mystery of Love:

For some passages in the Zohar, the mysteries of the cherubs are virtually a synonym for unity consciousness. The Zohar understands the union of the cherubs as symbolic of the union of all opposites. This is what mystic Abraham Kook means when he writes, “While all qualities have their opposite, good and evil, life and death, and even holy and profane–there is no opposite to the Holy of Holies.” The Holy of Holies is the place that overwhelms all distinctions. That which unites opposites, writes Kook, is love. It is love–the perception of the infinite Divine in all of reality–that allows us to embrace both paris in the opposition as glimmerings of the one.

The Chinese master Lao-tzu saw this clearly when he said all opposites arise simultaneously and mutually:

Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense.
Having and not having arise together
Difficult and easy complement each other.

To suggest otherwise, writes Chuang Tzu, is not “to apprehend the great principles of the universe or the nature of creation.”

What does all this mean? Ultimately reality is a unity of opposites. What that means is that there are no real boundaries. True wisdom is the sweetness of integration and union. Ultimately the world of two does not exist in the deepest reality. To love is to reach for the radical divine presence in all that is. To love is to know that ultimately there are no boundaries. And yet the road to the circle in which everything is on the inside is through the line. Ethics is the Hebrew mystic’s path to eros.

The Daily Wisdom: Your Unique YES

Mountain Flower

By Marc Gafni

Reprinted from Your Unique Self (forthcoming, Integral Publishers).

Love is a perception of the infinite specialness, the full uniqueness, of the beloved. To love another is to say Yes to their Unique Presence, to their Unique Being and Unique Becoming The greatest of love affairs begins with a simple imprint of Yes.

Remember, we come into this world trailing clouds of glory with core knowledge of our omnipotence, beauty, infinite power, and infinite potential. And then we hear a chorus of voices for the first ten years of our lives, and the only word they seem to be saying is No, No, No. We gradually come to associate maturity with saying No. When an idea or new direction comes up, our first response is why it can’t work. We are brilliant at it. Even the most simpleminded person becomes a genius when it comes to saying No. We can think up twenty reasons why it will not work before we can think up two reasons why it could. We have all become Dr. No with advanced degrees. But somewhere deep inside, the Yes remains, an eternal child of your Unique Self. We know on the inside of the inside that Yes is the answer.

One of the great literary masterpieces of the twentieth century is James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce spends reams of pages portraying the No reality encountered in the streets of Dublin by the main character, Leopold Bloom. Joyce masterfully maps the life of the archetypal human as a series of unnecessary losses. The death of Bloom’s son and father, his daughter’s leaving, the passing of his youth, and finally the adultery of his wife. Yet in the last scene of the book, Bloom returns home to his sleeping wife. Nevermind it is a recently desecrated bed. Nevermind he sleeps with his feet at her head. It is still home, the erotic haven of the inside. The book ends with a crescendo of Yes. As his wife feigns sleeping, we float along in her stream of consciousness, finally concluding with reminiscences of the early ecstatic hours of her and Leopold’s love. It is a definitive return to Yes:

And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes

The Yes here is sexual. The sexual in this passage models the eros of life. The overwhelming perfume of this sexual Yessing signifies hope, promise, and possibility in the most expanded erotic sense. For the sexual is the full ecstatic urgency of the urge to merge and the urge to emerge throbbing inside of us. This final Yes has magically transformed the seven-hundred-plus pages of modern existentialist Nos. It was James Joyce who reminded us that Yes is a feminine word that signifies the end of all resistance.

The high priests entering the Holy of Holies once a year say Yes with every step. The cherubs murmur to each other, “Yes, yes.” The Temples of God and Man are built with Yes stones. The Presence of God is a great green light that says, “Yes, you are gorgeous. Yes, I need you.” The Uni-verse is an open entryway, crowned by a neon Yes sign. To be lived as love is to know that—as Wallace Stevens reminds us.

After the final No comes a Yes. In those heart-opening moments when truth suddenly bursts through your everyday routines, you know that the purpose of your life is to uniquely incarnate in the story of your life the love-intelligence that governs the Uni-verse. Are you willing to utter a sacred “Yes!” to your conscious participation in the evolution of consciousness?

To awaken and say Yes to the unique invitation, delight, and obligation of your life is the reason you were born. It is the only authentic source of joy and meaning in your life. When you slumber and say No, your loneliness, fear, and contraction live in you, through you, and as you. When you awaken and say Yes, you are living as Source. When you awaken and say Yes, Source lives in you, through you, and as you.

Photo Credit: josef.stuefer

The Nightly View: Thorny questions about reincarnation. The status of women in Pakistan.

Pakistani Women

A few cosmetic changes tonight: I’ve updated the name for this column to The Nightly View and removed numbers from this and The Daily Wisdom columns.

Thorny questions about reincarnation

The worst thing to be reincarnated into is an animal, because you can’t learn, says a past-life specialist who ponders questions such as the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Andrea Chalupa interviews Dr. DeBell, a specialist in past-life regression therapy, on the Big Think blog:

Since death isn’t the final liberator, according to Dr. DeBell, the ticket out is living life unflinchingly by the Golden Rule—treat everyone else as you would want to be treated. Working out your “golden rule” muscle makes it stronger over time.

“I am not surprised,” he says, “that given the complexity of trust or humility or applying the golden rule and the amount of progress I see myself and others making in one lifetime, that it takes many lifetimes to master them.”

One of his most useful regressions, he says, was finding himself a cave man suddenly killed by an animal attack, and was surprised that he was still alive. “I experienced,” he says, “that early phase of my soul’s development in a way that helped me come to terms with the very slow pace of development.”

After growing up in a religious Protestant household, he stopped believing in God at the age of 21. Two decades later, after spending most of his career as a psychiatrist in community clinics in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, he met a spirit guide while practicing self-hypnosis. His exploration in soul self-knowledge reminded him of a feeling he had when he was around eight-years-old, and reading an article in National Geographic about reincarnation. Back then, “Something inside of me reverberated, and I knew it to be the truth.”

This level of self-searching, DeBell says, took him “a couple of years to learn, because I’m scientifically oriented.”

Fifteen years later, he would return to that childhood conviction by founding his own private practice, with his wife, Susan DeBell, where they walk patients through the lessons they’re still working out over lives. For anyone interested in past-life regression therapy, DeBell advises to focus on questions that feel important and have a curiosity about yourself. An open mind is necessary to silence the mental chatter. For those eager to graduate, DeBell recommends, “focus on the process instead of the goal. Any goal can limit us.”

So what happens to the Hitlers, Stalins, al-Assads, Jong-ils, Cheneys?

“God didn’t create Hitler,” says DeBell, “but he certainly created the situation for a Hitler. That is what free will is about.” As for the world’s “bad guys,” they are souls who simply flunked. “It’s like somebody who is put back a grade,” he says. “You find yourself as the big kid in kindergarten. That’s rather humiliating.”

In regards to, say, former Vice President Dick Cheney, America’s very own Mr. Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life, who drove us into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and profited from it, DeBell’s answer, “Dick Cheney could be a very young soul. His soul was dropped into power, and couldn’t handle it.” He added, “It’s not up to us to judge.”

What’s the ultimate punishment? “Coming back as animals is a punishment,” he says, surprisingly, “because you can’t learn. Being unable to learn is the ultimate punishment. It’s like being frozen, you’re trapped. Hitler could have been a lab rat thousands of times.”

As much as my own experience lends support to the belief in reincarnation, I can’t speak to any particular knowledge of the nature of reincarnation as an animal. I find it curious that DeBell doesn’t think animals can learn. The more we learn about animal communication and knowledge, the more it seems we are surprised to find them more human-like than we previously imagined.

The status of women in Pakistan (and beyond)

Mona Eltahawy, the New York-based award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, and Zara Jamal, a Canadian writer, received notice today on the Genealogy of Religion blog by Cris. The most vehement and strongly worded statement comes from Eltahy, who is quoted as saying:

Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.”

What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either.

Chris also looks to Pakistan, where Zara Jamal reports things aren’t any better. In [Zara Jamal’s] To Be a Woman in Pakistan: Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival, we glimpse a small world of suffering. Jamal prefaces the six stories with this odd observation:

Westerners usually associate the plight of Pakistani women with religious oppression, but the reality is far more complicated. A certain mentality is deeply ingrained in strictly patriarchal societies like Pakistan. Poor and uneducated women must struggle daily for basic rights, recognition, and respect. They must live in a culture that defines them by the male figures in their lives, even though these women are often the breadwinners for their families.

Chris writes:

Is Jamal suggesting that the abuse of these women is a byproduct of free-floating or traditional patriarchy? If so, my questions to her would be how did this patriarchy develop and how is it maintained? It surely isn’t by vague obeisance to tradition or patriarchy. The “mentality” and “culture” that Jamal mentions are anchored in and justified by a particular reading of Islam, even if she wants to minimize or not.

The challenge for World Spirituality to help to bring smart, rich spiritual perspectives into the trenches of the oppression of women in many parts of the world. I think the beginning of such a response must not happen merely in blogs such as this one, but by the people closest to the scene. What of the women and men who are co-creating complex lives in the midst of oppressive traditional patriarchal structures? What wisdom do they have about how to find additional measures of security, freedom, love, and joy? Let’s hear straight from them.

Surely we know that an ideology which simply tells us that a class of persons such as Middle East women are dupes of oppression is overly simple and disempowering of them. The question, “Why do they hate us so much?” which Mona Eltahawy voices, is but a moment of anger in a more complex discourse which includes moments of love and forgiveness and wisdom. We must listen to all their voices, and the voices of the men in their lives, and hear ways in which new openings are emerging for liberative changes. The call of evolution, the power of God in history, is none other than the force of liberation, and our answer of that call is the nature of justice.

Photo Credit: Photosenses

Daily Wisdom: It Depends on Love

ShadowyBy Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

It depends on Love

The technology for shadow integration is love.  Shadow causes a transformation of identity.  Love is the evolution–any force that transmutes shadow to light.

The inner magic and mechanism of love makes it the ultimate technology of Unique Shadow transformation.  The nature of that magic and mechanism is an essential sacred understanding necessary for your Unique Self enlightenment.

In order to integrate your shadow, your unlived life acting out and demanding attention, a transformation of your identity must occur. The key Aramaic phrase used by the Unique Self masters to describe the nature of this path is be’chavivut talya milta, “It depends on love.”

Photo Credit: Raphael Borja

The Nightly View: The price of limerence. A good lunch break. What Barack Obama really believes.

Lunch Break

The Price of Limerence

Let’s leave aside for a moment all the mushy poetic and theological language about love. Let’s put on Ebeneezer Scrooge’s worldview and simply ask: how much money is love worth?

Well here’s a short YouTube video that explores that very question. Among the interesting findings: Hearing that someone loves you for the first time is worth the equivalent happiness of $267,000. Being married is the equivalent of receiving an extra $100,000 per year. Committed long-term love live on average 15% longer, so finding a relationship that lasts per life is the equivalent of making another $23,000 to $30,000 extra per year.

The speaker says, “Love is democratic. No matter who you are or how much money you have, people all over the world are feeling it.” Amen.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish.)

Working at your desk sucks. Americans should take lunches like the French do.

Orion Jones writes on Big Think:

By deciding to take a midday break, and taste the food you are going to eat anyway, you will refresh your mind and have the opportunity to mingle with co-workers. You may even get some sunshine. “By taking those few moments to breathe,” said Levy, “you come out feeling refreshed and invigorated. At work, time spent chatting with colleagues can lead to great ideas and cross-pollination between departments. And if you’ve broken bread with colleagues at lunch, it’s going to be easier to approach them in the professional sphere.” Giving yourself a half-hour lunch will increase your productivity, not decrease it.

Paying attention to our daily routine, making it more harmonious with our True Self — or at least make our ego a bit happier and more well-adjusted — is one of the surest routes to finding divinity in the ordinary.

Want to know what Barack Obama really thinks about religion?

Religion writer Jeffrey Weiss has followed Barack Obama’s statements on religion from the beginning, and he says there’s no better statement of what he really believes than this:

On the one hand, among the oldest and most complete texts are Obama’s two memoirs. Dreams From My Father has a long account of his journey of faith — from the child and grandchild of people who were indifferent or hostile to organized religion to crying in the pew of a Chicago church. The Audacity of Hope has an entire chapter titled, simply “Faith.”

But for me, the uber-source is a remarkable interview Obama gave in 2004, when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate and long before he was even whispered about as presidential timber.

He sat down with Cathleen Falsani, then a religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. She did a news story off the interview at the time. Later, when Obama became a bit more important than a mere senate candidate, Falsani posted the entire transcript of the interview on her own website. You can read it here.

Here’s how Obama explained his approach to his faith back then:

“I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim. And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.”

And here is how he explains his attitude toward specific doctrines:

“I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.”

And here is where he starts to explain how his understanding of his faith helps inform his ideas about governance:

“I think it’s perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about… I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same.”

For the next eight years, he’s come back to the same basic themes: That he’s motivated by his understanding of the Christian social gospel as an inspiration for his personal service and as a guide for the kinds of policies that he pursues. But he rejects narrow and sure interpretations of religion. And he’s careful to say that government policy must not be narrowly tailored for any faith or none.

But what nobody seems to have done (yet) is to ask Obama about his own spiritual experiences, prayer life, and any mystical intuitions. Has he had any experiences of divinity or enlightenment, and what conclusions has he drawn about that?

Or, if no journalist wants to go on the record asking about that, why not simply ask him: What does “spirituality” mean to you?

Photo Credit: MR MARK BEK

Daily Wisdom: The Imagination


By Marc Gafni

From my book, The Mystery of Love:

Sex models the erotic, but it does not exhaust the erotic. One of the core qualities of the erotic is imagination. The Zohar, the magnus opus of Hebrew mysticism, says explicitly in many places, “Shechina is imagination.”

In Common usage “imagination” is implicitly considered to mean “unreal.” Indeed unreal and imaginary are virtual synonyms. To undermine the reality of an antagonist’s claim we say it is “a figment of his imagination.” In marked contrast, the Hebrew mystics held imagination to be very real. Indeed it would not be unfair to say that they considered imagination to be “realer than real.”

The power of imagination is its ability to give form to the deep truths and visions of the inner divine realm. Imagination gives expression to the higher visions of reality that derive from our divine selves. Language and rational thinking are generally unable to access this higher truth. But the imagination is our prophet, bringing us the word of the Divine, which speaks both through us and from beyond us. This is what the biblical mystic Hosea meant when he exclaimed their God said, “By the hands of my prophets I am imagined.”

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney