Finding the One in the Many — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Finding the One in the Many

Primal and Indigenous Spirituality

Finding the One in the Many
Sunday, August 5, 2018

Over the next several weeks, I will explore the divine image and likeness in many spiritual streams throughout history and around the world. I can’t even attempt to give an exhaustive study—there are so many wonderful examples from the Perennial Tradition. I’ll simply focus on the religious expressions which have most influenced and broadened my own life.

The Jewish mystical teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes:

To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you speak, the more nuanced your understanding of life becomes. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multilingual. [1]

Shapiro describes Perennial Wisdom as “the fourfold teaching at the mystic heart of the world’s religions”:

  1. all life is a manifesting of a single Reality called by many names: God, Tao, Mother, Allah, Nature, YHVH, Dharmakaya, Brahman, and Great Spirit among others;
  2. human beings have an innate capacity to know the One in, with, and as all life;
  3. knowing the One carries a universal ethic of compassion and justice toward all beings; and
  4. knowing the One and living this ethic is the highest human calling. [2]

I want to emphasize contemplative insights and practices that help us heal our sense of separation and isolation, experience connection and community, and awaken a sense of responsibility for all beings. I hope to show how each of the great spiritual traditions can help us rediscover our True Self—indwelled by God—and live into our fullness as co-creators of our world.

In the words of my friend and one of our CONSPIRE 2018 teachers, Mirabai Starr:

Taoism offers context for the entire spiritual enterprise in the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching: The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. Buddhism affirms that there is only one of us, and therefore we are each responsible for every link in the web of being. Christianity offers us the unconditional mercy of an incarnational God who permeates the whole of creation with love. Judaism urges us to demonstrate our love for God in the way we treat each other and care for creation. Hinduism kindles the fire of devotion for reunification with the Beloved who is no other than our own true Self. Islam shares the peace that comes with complete submission to the One. [3]

All wisdom traditions stream toward the same ocean of union.

[1] Rami Shapiro,

[2] Rami Shapiro,

[3] Mirabai Starr in The World Wisdom Bible: A New Testament for a Global Spirituality, Rami Shapiro, ed. (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2017), vii-viii.

Image Credit: National Powwow Grass Dancers (detail), 2007, Smithsonian Institute creator, photographer Cynthia Frankenburg, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Looking for beauty all around us is a contemplative practice, an exercise in opening our hearts, minds, and bodies to the divine image. In indigenous traditions, such opening practices often take the form of dance, drumming, song, and trance, embodied forms that Western, and particularly Euro-centric, Christianity has neglected. —Richard Rohr
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