The Coming Interspiritual Age by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord
This book was a new line of thought for me, bringing together a view of the world’s religions from Brother Teasdale that was new and unique. The author’s write at the beginning of the book that the concept of interspiritual relates the sharing of ultimate experiences across all traditions, including the mystic spirituality found in each faith tradition as opposed to a religious fundamentalist position (7-8). In gauging this definition, this seems to include those who hold lightly to their religious faith in terms of issues of discarding views of a more exclusivism type. In his quest for unity of consciousness, Brother Teasdale outlines his foundational pillars in 8 points, ranging from an ecological awareness, a unity among religions, non-violence, and shared common thread between humanity. Drawing heavily on the New Age proponent Eckhart Tolle and others, this list brims with confidence in a nondualism framework.
Though I didn’t find much that was good in the book, I did find a few points that were worth mentioning. In the chapter on The Spirit Realms in Everyday Experience, the author’s write, “In practice, scientists like James Watson and the British scientist Richard Dawkins come to the discussion with preconceived notions of what can or can’t be true. Usually these are based on the scientific presupposition that the modern discussion of spirituality is the same pre-rational superstition of primitive humanity and thus irrelevant” (184). Part of their dismissal of things regarding spirituality is that these ideas can only come about by way of naturalistic occurrence. There is no room in Dawkins view that most world religions teach about the nature of their worship, namely that it is found in supernatural revelation. The two authors quickly surmise that Dawkins and Watson are the least bit objective and rational in their inquiry’s because they set up their own rules for rationality at the outset.
I believe this book rightly understands religions of the East having the shape of a consciousness faith. These religions sometimes have a ‘God’ portrayed but are often more equipped with speaking about the qualities of such a being (263). Furthermore, they have many sacred texts but also include nature as being part and parcel of the divine property. There is a difference here in revealed religion and consciousness religion both in the way that revelation is mediated but also the way stories are told about the way the Divine being has made the universe. Furthermore, there is a major difference in the way revealed religion’s followers look upon their sacred books (the Bible for Christians and Koran for Muslims).
This book is wrought with problems concerning religious traditions. At the beginning in the discussion of nondualism, the authors indicate that God-consciousness is part of the goal of interspirituality. The writers indicate that, “Nondualism points to unity rather than dual or separateness, in the special sense that things can appear distinct while not being ultimately separate” (23). In other words, each referent for God or a Divine being, an ultimate source in all religious traditions is actually the same though they appear different presently. I just think this is a way of not actually fully understanding what religious traditions like Christianity have to say about things like the Trinity. If God is revealed in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit in Christianity, how is he also ultimately the Emptiness as in Buddhism? Most Christians might draw some ethical connections between Buddhism and Christianity, but to saw that in the end these realities point to the same entity is a belief that doesn’t square with either religion’s teachings.
I also think this book is also radically dishonest in its approach to certain religions. Failing the grasp the nature of such religions as Islam and Christianity, the book is more of a New Age smattering of beliefs that fail to grapple with the real differences in religion, at the level of both humanity and in understanding God. I’m not convinced that measuring the heart of spirituality in each faith tradition will bring about global change because this view fails to recognize the way in which humans approach the world, from a radically disjointed and disoriented approach, praising that which is evil and deploring that which is good.
If you are engaged in New Age religion, this book might be another book in your collection to read. Yet, as a Christian, I cannot recommend this book to others. It doesn’t do justice to respecting the belief system of most of the major world religion’s but seeks a mystical unity found in other faith traditions.
Thanks to SpeakEasy for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for review.