Spiritual Wisdom

We invite you to submit to us selections from the great spiritual teachers of your choice, as short as a few sentences or not longer than 2,500 words (if the selection exceeds 250 words, you must secure permission from the publisher yourself and send us a copy of that permission). We will try to post in this place some of those teachings from different traditions. We offer here articles from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and spiritual-but-not-religious traditions that are all part of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Most of the articles below appeared previously in Tikkun Magazine.

Spiritual Wisdom

Detail of tile from a mosque exterior in Turkey

The Voice of God vs. The Voice of Pain — Julie Oxenberg talks with Michael Lerner

ON RECENTLY REREADING Rabbi Michael Lerner’s book Jewish Renewal, clinical psychologist Julie Oxenberg wrote him her reflections under several headings, to each of which Rabbi Lerner responded, below. Julie Oxenberg then wrote this introduction to the exchange.
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Abortion: A Spiritual Perspective By Rev. Ama Zenya

WHAT WOULD a Spiritual Progressive perspective on abortion look like? I invite you to consider first that it will be pro-choice, not as a knee-jerk liberal stance, but because choice is a divinely given power. It’s one of the sacred responsibilities for each of us spiritual beings having this human experience. To deny women the power to choose what impacts our bodies is to deny our humanness, just as slavery or forced labor denies humanness by denying personal sovereignty.
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God as the Suffering Servant by Tony Campolo

IN ANY RELATIONSHIP, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPRESS LOVE AND POWER at the same time. Whoever is exercising the most power is expressing the least love, and whoever is expressing the most love is exercising the least power. In expressing love a person must give up power, hence loving makes a person vulnerable.
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Spirit and Science in the Vedanta By Michael Nagler

IN AUGUST OF 1932, MAHATMA GANDHI WAS IN PRISON WHEN NEWS REACHED him that the “Paramount Power,” the British Raj, planned to introduce separate electorates for the untouchables and the caste Hindus. Believing that this would amount to a “vivisection” of India, what was he to do? On September 13th he stunned the nation by announcing that he would embark on a fast unto death the following week until the hateful measure was withdrawn. The “epic fast,” as it came to be called, succeeded brilliantly, but it had come close to costing him his life. To those who asked what had possessed him to do it, Gandhi calmly replied that he had heard the voice of God. Even in India, there were those who said that Gandhi was hallucinating.
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A Crisis of Prosperity: Could Small Again Be Beautiful? by Father Richard Rohr

A FRIEND CLEVERLY CALLED WHAT WE ARE FACING “a crisis of prosperity.” Compared to most humans who have ever lived on this planet, most of us Americans are still quite comfortable, quite secure, and quite healthy-even amazingly so. But the worldview that formed most of us for the last forty years was one where there were no limits to our growth, our achievement, and the earth’s resources. We now and suddenly know better. It is a shock that is still sinking in slowly and with great resistance.
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Freud and Buddha By Mark Epstein

TRAVELING IN ASIA IN MY EARLY TWENTIES WITH MY AMERICAN Buddhist teachers (Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Richard Alpert), I woke up one March morning, still a bit Valium-encrusted after an all-night train ride from Bangkok, to find myself in the forest monastery of a Thai meditation master named Ajahn Chah. The monastery wasn’t just in the tropical forest; it was constructed out of it. Ruddy wooden buildings rose on stilts over neatly swept dirt strewn paths. Bird calls mixed with the ringing of chimes, the murmurs of the monks and the faint residue of incense from the temple. Ajahn Chah met with us after we shared the monastery lunch. It was obvious to everyone why we were there, we were part of a pilgrimage of psychologically-minded Westerners pillaging the wisdom of the East, trolling for some seed or shoot that might take root in American soil–we hurriedly constructed a question so as to generate a reply. I can no longer remember our question, but Ajahn Chah’s response still lingers.
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One God, Many Images By Arun Gandhi

In the mid-1930s when the leader of the “untouchable” caste, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, threatened to leave the Hindu religion and adopt a new one, scores of Christian and Muslim missionaries flocked to India hoping to convert some 160 million who were condemned to the lowest status in life. They stood on street corners and denounced Hinduism and offered equality and respect to those who would convert. A few did, but a large majority shunned these overtures. Several weeks later a Christian missionary, a close friend of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, asked him why the lower caste did not accept this offer.
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A Perspective on Jewish Renewal By Shaul Magid

IT IS TIME TO BEGIN THINKING about writing the history of Jewish Renewal in America. This is not because the Jewish Renewal movement is over. Quite the opposite: Jewish Renewal, just one generation old, is quickly becoming part of mainstream American Judaism and is now at a threshold moment.
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The Opening Chapter of Qur’an- Its Ecological Interpretation by Asghar Ali, Engineer (Mumbai)

IN ANY RELATIONSHIP, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPRESS LOVE AND POWER at the same time. Whoever is exercising the most power is expressing the least love, and whoever is expressing the most love is exercising the least power. In expressing love a person must give up power, hence loving makes a person vulnerable.
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Spiritual Wisdom Confronts Psychology: Faith Based Psychotherapy By Richard Schiffman

Does psychotherapy work? The answer–if one has the patience to plow through the morass of often contradictory research–is a resounding “maybe.” Ever since London psychiatrist H. J. Eysenck published his controversial study in 1957 purporting to show a negative correlation between psychotherapy and psychological healing (the more therapy one received the lower the recovery rate!) a debate has raged about how effective Freud’s talking cure actually is.
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Is There Room for Spirit in Science? By Fritjof Capra

Is there room for Spirit in science?

Over the past two decades, a new conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. It is a systemic view of life, based in part on new discoveries in complexity theory. In this new view, the biological and the cognitive aspects of life–in other words, body, spirit, mind, and consciousness–are understood as integral parts of a unified whole.
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Easter: What Happened to Jesus? by Walter Wink

CONSIDERING THE WEIGHT THE EARLY CHURCH ATTACHED TO THE resurrection, it is curious that, subsequent to the empty-tomb stories, no two resurrection accounts in the four Gospels are alike. All of these narratives seem to be very late additions to the tradition. They answer a host of questions raised by the gospel of the resurrection. At the core of all these accounts is the simple testimony: we experienced Jesus as alive.
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