When we speak of Interfaith Spirituality, we commonly think in terms of dialogue between the various world religions. We imagine great long tables where leaders from various persuasions meet to discuss issues like genocide and plurality. We imagine heated arguments and some minor agreements. And we imagine, we hope, for a time when the agreements will become more major.
Most faiths or traditions can put some energy behind such topics as genocide. But as we can all see, genocide is an ongoing problem in many countries of the world. So though the energy is there, nothing is really changing. But plurality–that’s another ballgame altogether–for it is here that we think that each person in the dialogue must be willing to give up a little piece of his/her own working faith to inhabit someone else’s tradition.
But perhaps John Lennon was right when he wrote the lyrics of Imagine, released in 1972: “Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.” Well, for most of us–that’s exactly what we DON’T want. We want to keep our religion and have peace on earth too. And yet, we can’t imagine how that would work.
But if we study each one of the world religions, and we get down to the mystical core of them all, we find something very, very similar–even the same. We find that when you get past it all–all the dogma; all the rules and rituals; all the ways in which we are somehow, through some ritual, prayer or experience, meant to bring ourselves to a better more noble self–that there is a mystical center.
The word mystical is a mystery to most of us. But that’s a good thing, because the meaning of the word has a great leaning toward mystery. Webster Online defines it as:
- having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence.
- involving or having the nature of an individual’s direct subjective communion with God or ultimate reality.
It even uses “mysterious” and “unintelligible” for its synonyms (Merriam Webster). But, and this is the most important part of this mysterious connection to ultimate reality, everyone who has ever had a mystical experience, knows that they’ve had one.
Throughout world history, there have been people from all religions everywhere, who have had and reported the same mystical experience. When asked to describe their experiences, they describe the same phenomena. They experienced a stopping, a silence, that enveloped and overcame them, in which they were given information about themselves or life, or through which they began to develop an entirely new world view. They experienced periods of euphoria, great and powerful peace and an insistent, if temporary, sense that all is well. And it is these experiences, if shared in an interfaith dialogue, that bridge the gaps between traditions.
But here’s the question left for you to answer: If it is true that people from all traditions are having the same mystical experience–isn’t it just possible that all roads lead to ultimate reality? And if that is true, can’t those of us who know the answer to that question make a real difference in our world?
“Mystical.” Merriam Webster Online. Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2013. m-w.com. Web.