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Excerpted from One River, Many Wells by Matthew Fox. Copyright 2000 by Matthew Fox. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"To get to the point of seeing the beauty and value in others' traditions, one must look and listen deeply into one's own."

  Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, Part 5

From the Buddhist tradition, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the centrality of going deep if we are to do ecumenism when he says: "Through the practice of deep looking and deep listening, we become free, able to see the beauty and values in our own and others' tradition." Yet, to get to the point of seeing the beauty and value in others' traditions, one must look and listen deeply into one's own. One must practice some path along the journey that leads to depth. One must enter the well of mystical experience.

To meet another is to meet oneself and one's own tradition, Thich Nhat Hanh insists. "When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own." The implication is that every tradition accomplishes like things in the soul of individuals--so alike are the things accomplished that we become mirrors to one another: We can see ourselves in one another. What we see emphasized by Thich Nhat Hanh is found in all mystical traditions: experience is key. The sixteenth-century Indian saint-poet Dadu once wrote:

All men of wisdom have one religion;
They all have one caste;
They all behold the face of the One!

It has been said that Buddhism teaches that kindness and love are the universal religion.

From the African-American tradition we listen to the voice of a great mystic and prophet, Howard Thurman, who was the spiritual mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Howard Thurman saw what we are calling Deep Ecumenism as the central call of his vocation when he wrote: "A strange necessity has been laid upon me to devote my life to the central concern that transcends the walls that divide and would achieve in literal fact what is experienced as literal truth: human life is one and all men are members one of another. And this insight is spiritual and it is the hard core of religious experience."

He too, like Thich Nhat Hanh, Kabir, and the Dalai Lama, is calling us to experience that of which we speak. Thurman develops his Deep Ecumenism even more explicitly in another place when he writes: "It is my belief that in the Presence of God there is neither male nor female, white nor black, Gentile nor Jew, Protestant nor Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, nor Moslem, but a human spirit stripped to the literal substance of itself before God." 

Thurman had an experience of Deep vs. Theological Ecumenism when he visited India in the 1930s. He dialogued with a Hindu, Thurman speaking as a Christian, for half a day and with little result. Then they shifted gears, putting the discussion at the level of experience instead of concepts. Says Thurman: "We were thus released to communicate with each other as sharers of what each in his own way had discovered of his experience of God. We were no longer under the necessity to define anything but were free to be to each other what was most fundamental to each."

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