Many of the Western LGBT (either Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered) population today are looking for a spiritual place. In order to understand the depths of this search for spiritual place, let’s look at the word’s Greek origins: plateia (hodos), which means broad way, and is the feminine of platys or broad. A spiritual place is a broad place, where one is free to spread one’s arms and be completely and essentially “me.” Much of Western Religion has led it’s allegiants to the narrow way, based on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:13:
Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.
This verse is literally interpreted by most to mean that there are many who are not going to find the way and that is because they are not looking for that narrow little pathway. But if we look at the root language of that statement we find something quite different. The word narrow, from the Greek language is, stenos, which means narrow and strait. But it is rooted in hestemi, which means something very different. That word means, to cause to make stand, to bid, to stand by—as in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges; and to place, to make firm, to fix, to establish, to uphold, to sustain the authority or force of anything, to be of steadfast mind (Crosswalk.com). Jesus is using the word stenos to bring us to a greater metaphor. Enter, he says, by the way that causes you to stand established, upheld and sustained by our own authority and force, for to do so is to have real life. How else, we might ask here, will a person stand so sustained if s/he is not allowed to be true to his/her truest essential nature?
But that’s not all, for the word broad is platus and originates in the root word plasso, which means to mold or form, and is used as of a potter. The word destruction is apoleia, which means to destroy as one destroys vessels—i.e. those made by a potter?—and to perish—as money perishes. Apoleia is rooted in apollumi, also meaning to destroy or perish. But apollumi is rooted in apo, which means, of separation, the state of separation, the state of separation, or of origin (Crosswalk.com). Now, of course, the Bible, like any other spiritual instrument, is and should be interpreted by the reader, so that one person’s interpretation or one singular interpretation does not take the meaning out of it for another. But from my perspective, this translation changes the traditional and widely accepted version of Jesus’ statement entirely. For it tells us that this broad way has to do with breaking the mold that originated in the notion of separation—of a great divide between humanity and Divinity.
In other words, whichever path we take, whether it is the path that allows us to be our truest Self, or the path in which our ideas about ourselves must be destroyed in order that we might begin to see that we are not nor have we ever been separate from the Divine—we are going to yet see that the Self and the Divine are one. And the truth is that all of us, in one way or another, have had our identities destroyed so that we either have to re-establish it in an inauthentic way, or we learn a deeper truer way. For the LGBT population, the deeper, truer way is to allow their sexual orientation, as one aspect of their authenticity, to be what it is. Their journey to that allowance has often been fraught with internal and external battles of monumental proportions. Yet those who come to acceptance of their own authentic sexual orientation can and often do become deeply spiritual beings.
Interfaith studies allow the student to take his or her own path to the Divine. There is no “hate the sin, love the sinner,” as is the classic response to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the Western religious motif. There is no notion that sexual orientation is anything but yet another way to be an individual thread in the fabric of Oneness in which we all participate.
An interfaith education then studies the variety of paths, ways of being and varieties of wisdom along the way to peaceful relationship to Self, Other and the Divine. All three of those words are capitalized here because each of them is held sacred, holy in its own right.
The lesbian way of being, the gay way of being, the bisexual way of being, the transgendered of being way are each a constituent part of the holy Oneness we all are.
As interfaith studies increase around the globe, The American Institute of Holistic Theology, studies and uses words like interspiritual, integral, and holistic to describe the wholeness and Oneness that allows all paths to lead to deeper more essential, authentic studies of the Divine.
The word interspirituality was coined by Wayne Teasdale, author of the book, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions, one of the books used in the coursework at American Institute of Holistic Theology (AIHT). He defined it as, “the sharing of ultimate experiences across traditions” (26).
The word, integral is based in integral theory, which is a basic all-inclusive framework for spirituality. Ken Wilbur has authored several books, two of which are the texts for two different courses at AIHT, Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World, and Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy. He creates a map of an “Integral Operating System” which includes, among other things, states of consciousness, stages or levels of development, egocentric, ethnocentric, and worldcentric viewpoints, gender and ideas regarding good and evil all based in four different quadrants: Interior-Individual, Interior-Collective, Exterior-Individual and Exterior-Collective (Integral Spirituality 1-21). These studies of the complexities of human inter- and inner-action enable the student to find his/her own deep path to spirituality.
And as we’ve already defined in this blog, holistic theology is a holistic study of the divine that includes all religions and transcends religion to find the mystic core of them all.
Inter-religious dialogue has occurred off and on throughout history. In ancient times, particularly during the Hellenistic period (4th -1st century BC) and in the Indian subcontinent during the Magadha period (546-324 BCE) when Hinduism encounted Buddhism these dialogues took place (Secrest and Fageol).
“More recently, in the west, these dialogues and encounters were brought to public attention in 1893 with the first World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Some interfaith exchange continued, including, in the 1960’s, Vatican II’s conciliar document, Nostra Aetate. This document committed the Catholic Church to the recognition of truth existing in the other religions and to a desire to explore a new relationship with them” (Segrest and Fageol).
As these dialogues increase over time more groups and initiatives are developing including influence on the United Nations regarding the language and ethic of intervention into cultures where religion holds sway.
And as we dialogue more and more we become more invested in the authenticity of each person, whose contribution would be dulled or dumbed down completely if they were simultaneously told that they could not bring the entirety of their being to the table of discussion. The LGBT population has a beautiful contribution to make as they seek and find their own paths to the Divine. And we, at AIHT welcome your participation with open arms. Contact AIHT today at 800-650-4325 and check out the website at www.aiht.edu.
Crosswalk.com. New Testament Greek Lexicon. Public Domain: Salem Web Network. 2103. Web. http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/ (04/30/2013).
Secrest, Freya, Fageol, Suzanne. What to Expect in Interspiritual Spiritual Direction. Lorian Association. 2013. Web. lorian.org/Documents/library/SuzanneFreyaArticle.doc (04/30/2013)
Teasdale, Wayne. The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions, Novato, CA: New World Library. 1999.
Wilbur, Ken. Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston, MA: Integral Books. 2007.