Thank you to Rev. Lori Hlaban and her warm and engaged congregation for this wonderful opportunity to speak about the Parliament of the World's Religions. Thank you Rabbi TZiPi for the sweet and personal introduction!
Richard Tarnas is professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and is the founding director of its graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness.
"From a philosopher whose magisterial history of Western thought was praised by Joseph Campbell and Huston Smith comes a brilliant new book that traces the connection between cosmic cycles and archetypal patterns of human experience. Drawing on years of research and on thinkers from Plato to Jung, Richard Tarnas explores the planetary correlations of epochal events like the French Revolution, the two world wars, and September 11. Whether read as astrology updated for the quantum age or as a contemporary classic of spirituality, Cosmos and Psyche is a work of immense sophistication, deep learning, and lasting importance."
Professor Tarnas revealed that he wrote Passion of the Western World (the book praised by Campbell and Smith in the above quote) in order to gain street cred among academics before publishing Cosmos and Psyche! Astrology is often controversial with regards to its influence on individuals, personality and especially as a forecasting tool. History, in retrospect, provides powerful proofs for this ancient science. And in my mind no more profoundly than in his chapter on the Axial Age, that great blossoming of spiritualty in the sixth century BCE. Click on book cover to visit the Amazon page.
The following excerpts illustrate the point:
"It is now time to examine the only period in recorded history when all three of the outermost planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, were in a virtually exact triple conjunction...that extended from the 590s to the 550s BCE. These decades constituted the very heart of the great Axial Age that brought forth the birth of many of the world’s principal religious and spiritual traditions... This was the age of Buddha, bringing the birth of Buddhism in India; of Mahavira and the birth of Jainism in India; of Lao-Tzu and the birth of Taoism in China, which was followed a decade later by the birth of Confucius, Lao-Tzu’s younger contemporary. This same epoch coincided with that sudden wave of major prophets in ancient Israel—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Second Isaiah...n this same era the Hebrew Scriptures were first compiled and redacted. The traditional dating for the immensely influential Zoroaster and the birth of Zoroastrianism in Persia, ...has long centered on the sixth century. In Greece, the period of the triple conjunction exactly coincided with the birth of Greek philosophy itself, as the first Greek philosophers, Thales and Anaximander, flourished during these decades of the 580s through the 560s, and Pythagoras, towering figure in the history of both Western philosophy and science, was born. In Greek religion, Orphism was emerging and the oracle of Delphi was at the height of its influence...
The great figures and events, ideas, movements, awakenings, and transformations of the collective consciousness that were brought forth during this prodigious epoch have pervaded the subsequent evolution of humankind. I found it most impressive that the era universally acknowledged as the single most significant in the entire religious and spiritual history of the world coincided with the only exact triple conjunction of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, the very planets whose cyclical alignments were associated with archetypal meanings so precisely relevant to such an extraordinary global epoch of spiritual awakening and cultural transformation."
In response to the announcement by the host of the radio quiz show "Truth or Consequences" that he would air a program from the first town that renamed itself after the show, Hot Springs, NM won the honor officially changing its name on March 31, 1950. And, to my mind ironically, the program was broadcast from there on April 1st or April Fool’s Day.
On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly, generally an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly before the buzzer went off. If the contestant could not complete the "Truth" portion, there would be "Consequences," usually a zany and embarrassing stunt. From the start, most contestants preferred to answer the question wrong in order to perform the stunt.
At this juncture of history, political theater has become a twist on this improbable theme. The President of the United States has chosen to “answer the question wrong” (even the most straightforward and earnest questions posed by respected journalists and concerned citizens) with shockingly wrong and inane answers, and following the game show format, seemingly in order to perform “zany and embarrassing” stunts in front of the widest audience imaginable. The notable twist is that we the people are the ones who are and should be embarrassed. And as for POTUS, it is well known that those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are unable to see themselves as others do and he seems completely immune to shame.
I have been heartened to see that even among those most politically aligned Senators and members of Congress there is backlash about this violence being done to truth. Perhaps nowhere more eloquently and stridently than in Senator Jeff Flake’s scathing message to the Senate from the podium on Jan. 17, 2018. He opened his remarks saying “Mr. President, near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident...” So, from our very beginnings, our freedom has been predicated on truth. The founders were visionary in this regard, understanding well that good faith and shared facts between the governed and the government would be the very basis of this ongoing idea of America.” The speech was lengthy and full of salient details and I will only quote a few of his particularly pungent remarks:
“It is for that reason that I rise today, to talk about the truth, and its relationship to democracy. For without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.”
“2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth -- more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. It was a year which saw the White House enshrine “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods.”
“It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. “The enemy of the people,” was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader. And, of course, the president has it precisely backward – despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”
“No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions. And Mr. President, an American president who cannot take criticism – who must constantly deflect and distort and distract – who must find someone else to blame -- is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.”
“We are a mature democracy – it is well past time that we stop excusing or ignoring – or worse, endorsing - these attacks on the truth. For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost.”
When in college I majored in Philosophy and was drawn to the field by a class I took in Ethics. A close study of ethical traditions throughout human histories and cultures inseparably links ethics to truth telling. As some of you are aware I serve as an Ambassador for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and in preparation for a talk I recently gave to a Quaker Meeting on the Parliament’s Mission, Vision and Approach I re-read the Parliament’s initial declaration at the first modern Parliament in 1993, Towards a Global Ethic. I had forgotten the great emphasis that was placed on the importance of truthfulness. This document was drafted by Hans Küng, President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos), in cooperation with the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religion’s staff and Trustees and experts. Küng is a noted German Catholic Theologian who has long been willing to speak truth to power and was stripped of his authority to teach Catholic Theology in part for his stance against the dogma of Papal Infallibility, a notion that is close to the understanding that many have of the authority of the President of the United States.
Towards a Global Ethic details four major principles or directives. This document draws on many of the world's religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions, identifying the Golden Rule: “What you wish done to yourself, do to others!” as an "unconditional norm for all areas of life". It asserts that these four principles "can be affirmed by all persons with ethical convictions, whether religiously grounded or not". The third principle is Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life of Truthfulness, which upon careful consideration are inseparable precepts. Although I encourage everyone to read this beautifully crafted, well-reasoned document in its entirety (click this link) I am quoting the entirety of this third principle as central to the issues I’m addressing in this article:
3. Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life of Truthfulness
Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives of honesty and truthfulness. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless lies and deceit, swindling and hypocrisy, ideology and demagoguery:
b) This is especially true
d) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:
To reiterate these points made by Küng and adopted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, “Speak and act truthfully! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No woman or man, no institution, no state or church or religious community has the right to speak lies to other humans.” This imperative is noted as “especially true” for four named groups: journalists and those charged with the public trust of media; artists, writers and other creatives; political leaders and parties of all stripes; and representatives of religion. The declaration repeatedly uses strong, emotive language with words like “courage”, “sincerity”, “humaneness”; it forcefully points to consequences. And so Truth or Consequences is not just the namesake town of a defunct gameshow, rather it is the pivot point about which the ancient Greek, dual-faced mask of tragedy and comedy spins so precipitously.
Unity of Hilton Head held its second annual Interfaith Harmony service in alignment with Governor Henry McMaster's proclamation of January as South Carolina's Interfaith Harmony Month. Among the faiths celebrated were Bahá’í, Islam, Judaism, Native American, New Thought, and Taoism. Here below 21 slides each of which have a Time Stamp in upper left hand corner if you would like to quickly navigate to that segment of the video which was made from the audio and these slides. Here's the link to the video: Unity of Hilton Head Interfaith Harmony Service.
Last Sunday January 14th the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Charleston hosted an event in alignment with the observation of January being South Carolina’s Interfaith Harmony Month. The evening featured presentations from different faiths on Angels and Experiences. The event ran from 4 to 6 PM and offered food and drink for all, I especially enjoyed a dish prepared by our hostess Shaila Shroff’s husband Vijay.
Our Hindu hostess selected and introduced the topic. Later on she shared her considerations of the concept of angels from both a Hindu and physicist’s point of view. The first speaker was Dinesh Sarvate who is a trustee of the Temple and Cultural Center and has had priestly duties there as well. Following was Muskan Singh, a Sikh who sang a beautiful song in what I believe was Punjabi, the language in which most portions of the Guru Granth Sahib (one of their sacred texts) was written in. She was followed by her grandfather Gajindav Singh who had a career as an educator in New York. IPSC’s chair Dr. Adrian Bird spoke next, he also serves as Visiting Professor of Christian history at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte. Howie Comen a long time interfaith activist and a private detective, shared interesting material from both Judaic and Islamic perspectives. Radhika Pande chanted a lovely prayer for us, and finally Herb Silverman spoke from his perspective as an Atheist, he serves on the Mathematics faculty of College of Charleston.
Adrian and I found the topic interesting in several ways which have resulted in an ongoing email conversation. During his presentation he expressed surprise that in his years of teaching no one had posed a question about angels in his seminary classes. Several of the speakers addressed how we commonly recognize certain kind and caring people as angels. Mr. Silverman shared that he was not expecting to find much agreement with the other speakers and although he disavows supernatural angels he was very comfortable with the notion of natural, human angels. All in all a fascinating and enjoyable evening with a generous and thoughtful group of people. Thank you Shaila.
Today as we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King I was moved to make this triptych image to illustrate the spiritual genesis of Dr. Kings Non-Violent philosophy. It is well known that King was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s successes using nonviolent resistance. King argued that the Gandhian philosophy was ‘‘the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom’’.
What is perhaps not so well known is that Gandhi was deeply influenced by the American writer Henry David Thoreau whose book ‘Walden; or, Life in the Woods’ was required reading when I was a High School student in the 1970’s. Thoreau’s lesser known ‘On Civil Disobedience’ came to Gandhi’s attention while working his first job as a lawyer for an Indian company in South Africa. The ruling white Boers discriminated against all people of color. Gandhi became an outspoken critic of South Africa’s discrimination policies. When the Boer legislature passed a law requiring that all Indians register with the police and be fingerprinted, Gandhi refused to obey the law. He was arrested and jailed. While in jail, Gandhi read the essay “Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau.
Gandhi adopted the term “civil disobedience” to describe his strategy of non-violently refusing to cooperate with injustice, although in later years he preferred the Sanskrit word satyagraha “devotion to truth”. I find it delightfully ironic that an American writer’s work should find its way to Africa and influence a man who changed the history of the Indian sub-continent and then found its way back to America where it continued to be profoundly influential. Today I celebrate all three of these spiritual giants.
On Sunday January the 14th I'll travel to the Midlands, North of Columbia to speak in Newberry, SC . This is my first venue of 2018 and I am in the process of arranging as many talks as I can through October to raise awareness of our work and promote the upcoming Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto this November. If your congregation or other organization would like me to speak please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event was in alignment with the Governor's proclamation naming January as South Carolina's Interfaith Harmony Month and is our second annual. We focused on getting to know one another and celebrating our diversity, we sat in a very large circle and at a center table and at four corners of the room we had bread from many traditions and olives, dates, figs and such so that at the midpoint of our gathering we could literally break bread. Our keynote speaker was brother Saif Ullah who was born and raised in Beaufort county in a prominent Christian family and whose heart was called by Islam over twenty years ago. As Muslims are rather rare down here it was the first time that many of those gathered had met one, had heard them speak of their faith. There were readings and songs from several faith paths and everyone seemed to have had a fine time.
I traveled up to Columbia to participate in Interfaith Partners of South Carolina's sharing of Governor Henry McMaster’s formal proclamation naming January 2018 “South Carolina Interfaith Harmony Month.” This was a news conference at the State House lobby on Thursday, December 28, 2017, at 10:00 AM. Click HERE to see the video I produced of this 15 minute event, apologies for several technical and logistic shortfalls. This is the fifth year that IPSC has worked with the Governor's office to obtain official endorsement for the importance of interfaith work. There area a number of events around the state specifically aligned with this proclamation, for a listing to help you find one in your area visit this PAGE at the IPSC website. Here is a quote from our chair Dr. Adrian Bird from the press conference which really captures the essence of who we are as IPSC:
"At a time when much of the global and local rhetoric drives the idea that we, as human beings, need ‘protecting’ from one another, Interfaith partners of South Carolina and local chapters across the State instead encourage us to ‘know’ one another, building relationships of trust, helping to overcome walls of ignorance that divide us. IPSC will speak the language of protection if and when religious voices are excluded or prejudice drives destruction. But ultimately it is only in knowing one another that we truly learn to see and relate to each other as dignified human beings."
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